Category Archives: Dresses

Style Arc Anthea Dress

Don’t you think this dress just begs to be made up for flirty spring and summer wear? So very coquette-ish, n’est-ce pas?

Designed for an experienced sewist, the challenging sew Anthea is described by Style Arc as “…the dress of the season, fitted bodice with a soft falling skirt, can be made with or without lining. This is the dress of the moment; wear it with your favourite belt, pop on the Hannah jacket for a complete look.”

Style Arc Anthea by Sew Maris

I made up my version of this pretty, feminine dress from a piece of silky soft cotton shirting I bought last year, maybe at Sew Expo. Billie’s Designer Fabrics? Nancy’s Sewing Basket? I can’t remember for sure where my purchase was made, but I was saving this fabric for just the right garment. I think it was aging properly for the Anthea, don’t you? Ummm, those whimsical dark navy pinwheels on bright purple and off-white striped fabric are definitely fun and flirty, IMHO.


Obviously you can’t see, but I lined the dress in a very lightweight cotton batiste. No slip. No see-through. Win-win! I also had to lengthen the skirt about 3 inches. For some reason the Style Arc pants are super long and I never have to add length, but the skirts are way short for ummm, a woman of a certain age.

Style Arc Anthea by Sew Maris

I made 4 fitting adjustments to this pattern: 1) petite’d (shortened) the bodice thru the armhole by almost 1/2 inch front and back; 2) added 3 inches to the skirt length; 3) added a forward shoulder adjustment, and 4) dropped the side front dart by 1/2 inch. I think the front fits perfectly! No complaints.


Grrrrr! What’s going on with that back armhole?

Style Arc Anthea by Sew MAris

Hey! Where did this extra length come from? Am I shorter in my back bodice than my front bodice?

I guess I didn’t check the back view carefully enough with my bodice muslin. Sigh. Guess I will get to make friends with my seam ripper again. I am not sure I am up for putting the zipper in again, but I will definitely rip the shoulders apart and pull the back up a bit at the shoulder seam. Maybe that will make the back hang properly enough that I can live with it. Or I can always just throw a cardigan on, right? 😉

Style Arc Anthea Dress by Sew Maris

Just look at it from the front. With a little twirling it looks great! I am totally going to wear this dress with a smile on my face even if I can’t get the back fit perfected, and will just work on tweaking the fit on the next version. This dress is definitely a winner, and there will be more of them coming.

Happy sewing!



Time to get Dress-ed


This is it, dear friends, my entry for The Monthly Stitch Dresses Contest!

As you know from yesterday’s post, my Salme pattern attempt for the contest was a major fail. Luckily I had ordered another small containerseveral new patterns from Style Arc, including the Kate Dress. There also happened to be a bit of suitable knit fabric in my stash, so I was off and running.

Style Arc Kate Wrap Dress by Sew Maris

Fit. Almost perfect. I think the shoulder seam angle could be adjusted a bit, but I am not sure about that. I did my usual petite-above-the-waist adjustment. Unlike some other reviewers on, the skirt length was perfect for me. I am not that tall (5’7″), but since about 5 feet of that is in my legs, the “too-long-for-many” skirt was just right for me. I guess you know why I always have to petite those bodices, now, too! 😉

Style Arc Kate Wrap Dres sby Sew Maris

Drafting. Up to Style Arc’s usual high standards. These pieces just fit together. Period.

Style Arc Kate WrapDress by Sew Maris

Flattering. DVF nailed it, and others have been copying the look for years because it looks great on so many body shapes.

Style Arc Kate Dress by Sew MAris

Styling. I actually really like the little tuck detailing on the sleeves of this pattern, but my fabric was of-the-devil, and I was totally unsuccessful at producing a decent topstitch. No matter what type of needle I tried, the darn thing just wanted to “grip” the fabric when pulling out. I eliminated the tucks on this version, but I like the dress so much I will likely make it again in a friendlier fabric choice and plan to try them again. The right front pleats were easy enough to make, but they are just not very visible in the busy print of my fabric. I think they would be a nice design element on a solid cotton/lycra fabric though.

Style Arc Kate Wrap Dress by Sew Maris

Instructions. Fine, but this dress is so simple you really don’t need them anyway.

Do yourself a favor and order this pattern, and make up this dress. I need to go cut out a few more right now!

Happy sewing!


4 Ways This Dress Failed Me

So are you as jazzed as I am about The Monthly Stitch June 2014 Challenge – Indie Patterns?

First up: the dresses contest! I searched around for quite a while to find a new pattern that spoke to my design aesthetic as well as being um, “age-appropriate” (hate even thinking like that!). I fell in love a little bit with Salme’s Sleeveless Pleat Front Dress pattern. Tailored but still feminine, and pleats! I love pleats!

Salme Pleat Front Dress made by Sew Maris

I bought beautiful voile fabric I loved. I made sure it was light and drapey so the gathered waist would not create a Michelin-tire-man effect.  I printed out the pattern and glued it together. I did add a couple of inches to the skirt length, but did not bother with my normal “petite-ing the bodice” adjustment. The deliberate blousy style + elastic waist casing of the pattern should handle that issue, right? I forged ahead and cut out my pretty, pretty fabric. I also cut out gossamer-thin batiste lining so a slip would not be needed when wearing this dress. Very soon things started to go off the rails.

Floral voile fabric for Salme PLeat Front Dress by Sew Maris

Failure # 1. Pattern marking fail. I did not cut the front bodice on the fold because the pattern piece did not specify “Cut 1 on Fold.” Sometimes sets of pleats have a center seam included, so it didn’t strike me as odd. Yes, the cutting diagram does show the bodice laid out on the fold, but I never look at those stoopid diagrams. I do however, pay close attention to the pattern piece markings. Since I had leftover fabric, I recut a second front bodice. Only this time in my haste I missed adding seam allowances to the bodice (no SA included in Salme patterns). My fault, not Salme’s. Soooo, I decided to get creative and see if I could salvage this hot mess. I played around with a few options available in my stash (it was about 10:30 pm, so stores were not an option), and decided that centering a grey ribbon down the center front was the best available choice. I finished the entire dress, including making a very nice job of the lining, if I do say so myself.

Failure # 2. Pattern drafting fail. Usually there is a curve at the waist edges and hems on women’s patterns, right? Salme drafted this bodice and skirt completely straight at the bodice waist, the skirt waist, and the skirt hem. No bueno.

Failure # 3. Pattern drafting fail. The front bust dart was waa-a-a-a-a-a-y too low. Like not-even-in-the-ballpark too low. I have honestly never had this problem in a pattern. And since saggy girls are usually more of a problem for us slightly older ladies, and this line is designed by a young gal, hmmm. I had to adjust the dart placement. More no bueno.

Failure # 4. Style fail. Wow. A bag tied in the middle came to mind when I tried it on. So.Very.Not.My.Style. I can envision that a more rectangular body shape might look better in this dress style than I do, but all I know is what I had thought/hoped would be an attractive dress was butt uglyvery unflattering. I also think a neckline change would help this pattern. As drafted it just is not really very pretty on the body. My two cents, of course.

Nope, no pix of me wearing the dress. As a matter of fact, I can’t even show you a pix of the dress on my dress form because we had a fit of cleaning and organizing this past weekend. Dress got tossed into box for Goodwill; box was delivered to donation center on Sunday. Uncharacteristically efficient of me, I know. You will have to trust me, this dress was just soooo sad on me. Time to chalk this up to a learning experience and move on, sista! Sorry Salme, I could definitely forgive a style fail due to my bad judgement/body shape, but pattern marking & drafting fails earn low marks with me.

Coming soon: the indie dress that DID work for me, and absolutely meets the requirements for The Monthly Stitch Indie Dress Pattern Contest! Wheee!

Happy sewing!


Simplicity 3775, done and done!

Woohoo! Both Simplicity 3775 dresses are done and ready to pop into the mail this week. I originally blogged about these dresses last week when the basic construction was completed; they were just needing the finishing touch on the neckline, armholes, and hem.

For the black and white polka dot version I decided to use the narrow binding specified in the pattern. This knit fabric is rather thin and soooo slippery that keeping the binding an equal width all the way ’round was a bit of a challenge. I stitched it on my serger, and found that lining up the fold edge of the binding alongside the edge of my foot was the best way to keep things even. (And yes, I did need to re-stitch one section that was too wide! 😉 )

Simplicity 3775 as sewn by Sew Maris

Here is the full view of the completed dotty dress.

Simplicity 3775 as sewn by Sew Maris

The red dress got one of my favorite binding treatments for knits: foldover velvet elastic. I think I bought mine from M & J Trimming in NYC, but I noticed a similar looking velvet elastic ribbon on Etsy.

Simplicity 3775 as sewn by Sew Maris

I used my coverstitch function on my serger to hem both dresses—fast and easy on the red dress and a bit more of a struggle on the thinner knit of the black dress. Applying a narrow strip of fusible interfacing on the edge of the hem really helps minimize the tunneling that can occur, and saying a little prayer while stitching also can make a difference. 😉

I used the same process to apply the velvet foldover elastic on this dress as I did for the 1-Hour Skirt waistband. I love how you can barely see the final zig-zag stitching!

Simplicity 3775 as sewn by Sew Maris

It is always a bit of a miracle if I complete sewing projects in time for the actual event, so I am especially glad my DS’s girlfriend will have her law school graduation present prior to commencement.

Happy sewing!



Dresses for a newly minted graduate

I can hardly think of a more practical addition to a young working woman’s wardrobe than a pretty and comfortable knit dress. You probably have a favorite knit dress pattern; mine is Simplicity 3775 (OOP). I know it is kind of lame that I am recommending a pattern that is not readily available, but it does show up on eBay and Etsy fairly regularly.


My favorite version includes the “ruched” panel in the front midsection, which definitely hides a multitude of sins. I have one crossover style (View D, E, F) and two scoop neck views (Views A, B, C) hanging in my closet right now, and they are without a doubt my go-to-super-easy dresses.

My youngest son’s girlfriend is graduating from Gonzaga Law School next Saturday, and starting work as an attorney later this summer in Spokane. Clothes! After years of schooling a professional woman needs a wardrobe update! I offered to make her a dress for a graduation present. What she doesn’t know is that she is getting two. And at least one scarf.

Simplicity 3775 made by Sew Maris

She picked out this red “spatter” print from an online retailer a while back, and it is turning out to be a really cute dress. Obviously it is still in process, but the basic dress is assembled with only the finishing details remaining. I am planning on binding the neckline and armholes with black velvet fold-over elastic trim, one of my favorite finishes for knit dresses and T’s. Throw on a black jacket + a necklace = instant workplace polish. BAM!


She also LOVES polka dots, so even though the two prints are similar the dresses will not look identical when finished. I am currently thinking I will bind the neckline and armholes for this version with the same polka dot print, but something else may occur to me tomorrow.

Grey chiffon infinity scarf sewn by Sew Maris

Look what I found in my stash this afternoon! It wanted to become a scarf, so I comlied, as every girl can use another scarf. Maybe not with these 2 dresses, but there has to be something in her closet that grey and black goes with, right? What do you bet I find another stash-lurker and make her at least one more scarf before I wrap up her present for the mail? Evidently I must sew multiples right now!

Happy sewing!










Vogue 8873 beats all expectations (by a mile!)

You might be wondering why I made a dress for which I didn’t have very high expectations. I actually did think Vogue 8873 was a really cute dress design, and I am kind of crushing on cowls right now, and I wanted to use a piece of insanely-gorgeous fabric from EmmaOneSocksome great fabric store… I was initially sure the finished product was going to be lovely.

Vogue pattern 8873 made by Sew Maris

Somehow, don’t ask me how because I can’t explain it, I didn’t realize until the project was underway that the waistline was dropped below the natural waist. Yes, the technical drawing/pictures give a hint of this. Yes, the front bodice darts indicated this. But somehow I was not paying enough attention. And a dropped waist on a high-hipped lady usually spells trouble. So I fretted and stewed. Worried that I was putting effort into something that was not going to be wearable. Worried I was “wasting” my beautiful fabric. Worried that my all-too-precious sewing time was being wasted.

So I constructed the dress front and the dress back, and basted the side seams together. I tried it on. And I was stunned. Stunned, I tell you.

Voue 8873 as sewn by Sew Maris

It worked on my figure! It fit perfectly! It was not wasted effort in any way! And since I have at least one wedding to attend this summer I now have a pretty new dress to wear that makes me feel all flirty and feminine. Winner-winner chicken-dinner!

Vogue 8873 as sewn by Sew Maris

The fabric is a super comfy ponte in an inky navy blue paintbrush print. I fell in love with this fabric and ordered several yards (how many months ago?), not knowing for certain what it wanted to become. When I saw Vogue 8873 it was a natural pairing.

The instructions call for this dress to be lined, but I didn’t have any stretchy lining in my stash, and couldn’t find any tricot when I made a feeble attempt to find a suitable lining. I took a risk that the lining was not required. That decision did require binding the armhole with ivory bias Ambiance; easy-peasy. I also lined the pockets with the same ivory Ambiance.

I made my usual “petite above the waist” adjustment, and lengthened the skirt by almost 2 inches. (Thanks be to God, since it ended barely at my knees!) Other than that, a straight size 14. This dress is very easy to sew, and I am thinking about making another version with the bias skirt, maybe in a floaty rayon fabric? In the meantime, I plan to wear the heck out of this pretty frock!

Vogue 8873 sewn by Sew Maris

Geez, too many selfies in this post?!? 😉

Happy sewing!


Butterick 5218 makes a great shirt dress

Spring is in the air, and soon enough cool and breezy cotton dresses will replace sweaters and warm pants. My DD requested this tailored shirt dress ages ago, and it has even been finished for quite some time. Why has it been hanging in my sewing studio closet instead of her clothes closet?

Shirt dress from Butterick 5218 by Sew Maris

See that look? It is the “I can’t believe it took you so long, Mom” look. I get it a lot. My reputation for lots of promises and late delivery precedes me. It is the sewist’s equivalent of having eyes bigger than one’s stomach at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Whatever. How many dresses has she made ME? 😉

Shirt dress from Butterick 5218 by Sew Maris

We bought the blue chambray shirting and red & white babycord fabric in Portland, I think at Mill Direct fabrics, tho I can’t swear to that. She wanted a classic shirt dress with side slits, a few buttons down the front, and roll-up sleeves. I already had Butterick 5218, so we just extended it to dress-length and I cut it narrower to suit her preference for a slimmer silhouette.

Shirt dress from Butterick 5218 by Sew Maris

I had to do a fair bit of fiddling with the front facing piece to get the red & white baby cord visible as the facing. The original pattern was one gigunda pattern piece that folded to the underside, so I had to cut that whole thing apart, add seam allowances, blah, blah. But I love the red accents! And of course I couldn’t stop with just the facing. A little trim on the pockets. Tabs on the sleeves. Accents on the belt.

The belt! It was made by Pat’s Custom Buttons and Belts—a fantastically talented woman in Lodi, California. You send her a bit of fabric, and she sends you back a fabulous belt, exactly to your specifications. No, she doesn’t have a web site or email. You can call her at (209) 369-5410 to get a catalogue. Did I mention she might be in her 80’s?

Shirt dress from Butterick 5218 by Sew Maris

Ooops! My favorite little photo-bomber wanted to get in on the fun, but refused to model the skirt I actually DID make her. Maybe I can encourage her to play dress up for Nana soon. It’s always dicey whether you will get photo-cooperation from a toddler. At least Mommy has a new spring dress she actually wants to wear!

Happy sewing!


Second garment underway for Stacey


Don’t look at the big mess in my sewing studio – check out the big smile on Stacey’s face! I am pretty sure it has something to do with that stinkin’ cute skirt she finished up a few weeks ago that she is modeling here. Or maybe it is the new dress she is cutting out and prepping – her second garment since she started sewing lessons.  This lady know how to get things done, she has a great eye for color and pattern, and I especially love how we laugh nonstop during her lesson time!

Have I mentioned before that sewing students totally rock? Keep it up, Stacey, I can’t wait to see how the red and white dress turns out!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Eyelet dresses just scream spring

One of my favorite haunts in the NYC garment district is A.K. Fabric Inc, located at 257 W 39th St in NYC. They have a nice selection of fabrics, especially denims, and I seem completely unable to leave without a at least one new piece of denim every time I visit this store. My most recent trip in April was no exception, but this time I also spotted some UH-dora-belle cotton eyelet in a range of pretty colors. I am totally crushing on eyelet dresses for spring and summer right now, especially ones in fresh, bright colors. Look at this yummy blue cotton eyelet with the pretty scalloped edge on both selvedges. Could you have resisted it?

Blue cotton eyelet fabric

My dilemma now is which pattern to use. Choices! Since I only bought 2 3/4 yards, most of the full circle skirt, 50-ish styles are out. All of these patterns in my stash are possible options, tho. I LOVE the wide neckline and asymmetrical front on this vintage Vogue 1043.

Vintage Vogue pattern 1043

This sweet little vintage wedding dress has a darling jacket that buttons in the back. Maybe do the top of the dress in the solid lining fabric, and the jacket and skirt out of the eyelet?

Vintage McCalls wedding dress pattern

I made this dress up a few years ago and love, love, love it. Not sure I would love all those buttons in eyelet fabric, but this pattern is easy and so pretty.

Voguee shirtdress pattern 8383

I like the neckline on vintage Vogue 1137, and if I use it I will definitely add fullness to the skirt.

Vintage Vogue pattern 1137

This New Look 6723 might be my favorite. Make it up with the bateau neckline and change the skirt gathers to soft pleats?

New Look dress pattern 6723

What are your thoughts, dear readers? Any preferences?

Happy sewing!


A purple knit wrap dress for a girl

Vogue 8379

I have a stash reduction plan for 2012. Shop my stash before going to the fabric store, and sew like crazy. I am sure all four of my children and my DH are rolling their eyes, or possibly rolling on the floor at these words, but I actually am making some progress. Like this cute knit dress I finished for my youngest DD the other day. I used a purple cotton lycra knit that has been aging in my studio for a good long while. The only downside of this fabric is the dress weighs about 20 pounds, and will probably take 3 days to hang dry! I cannot remember exactly when or where I bought this fabric (always a bad sign, eh? 😉 ), but I am moderately sure it was 5+ years ago in Shanghai. Or not. At any rate, I had enough to cut out MOST of Vogue 8379, but not enough for the belt. A design opportunity!

Front of purple knit dress

What you can’t see from this photo is that the purple edging on the belt is made up of teeny-tiny lengths of purple scraps sewn together to create a long enough strip to go around both ties. T-E-D-I-O-U-S. The black edging around the neck was much easier because I didn’t need to piece it, and it makes the contrast belt look like it was planned, right?

closeup of front of purple knit dress

While I was making it I was really hating the annoyance of the belt, but I think it turned out cute and very wearable. And she likes it, so that is always a plus! Not to mention it is one less piece of fabric and one less project still sitting in my sewing studio!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen