Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

So that’s only a little facetious. Its funny how so much “life” can go into one project- or perhaps, how much of life can be exposed through one.

I ordered this fabric, Gambier C, from DuckaDilly a few weeks ago. Normally when I love a fabric this much, it takes some time for me a to find a project good enough to justify cutting into the fabric. With this one, I just had this light bulb moment that it was supposed to become a Darling Ranges Dress (pattern by Megan Nielsen). From that moment, I could hardly concentrate on anything else (project wise), until I had brought my dream to fruition.002

A couple of years ago, I made this dress. It didn’t turn out like I wanted at all, and I was so put off by the fit (which I thought was because my early pregnancy had caused a sudden boob growth spurt), that I was in no hurry to give the pattern another try. Well fast forward to Thursday when I was on such a roll with my new dress I was only three steps away from the finish line. I decided to try her on and much to my chagrin, the dress did not even sort of fit. It was a complete disaster!

The worst issue was with the shoulder- they were a good three inches too narrow causing the sleeve to ride way up which caused the bust to fit even worse that it would have. I got really cranky really fast because I had so carefully cut and measured, and it was so very wrong. Not only that, I had used very loved Liberty fabric which seemed wasted at this point.IMG_1972

white arrows point to the darts, the pink point to where they should be

Okay, so the next issue was the bust darts. I don’t even know who they could have been right for. Between the shoulders being so narrow and the bust darts out so far to the side, the person’s boobs would have had to be growing out of their armpits. If you follow me on Instagram, I’m sorry to rehash this, but I promise there is a happy ending, so bear with me. So the bust darts were a couple of inches off (too far to the side) of where they should have been hitting which should be right at the apex of the breast. You shouldn’t even be able to notice them, but in this case they actually looked like wings.

So I hit up my girls on Instagram and basically put out a cry of desperation. Was there any way this could be salvaged? I was even willing to make another bodice just to preserve the fabric. After all, I was in this to do right by the Liberty at this point. The pattern was nearly dead to me.IMG_1973

After tossing around a couple of ideas, and determined not to let this disaster ruin my night, I ripped out the sleeves. Charming as they are to the whole look of the dress, they were the most dispensable piece of the outfit. I gained back some seam allowance and decided with proper finishing, I could live with their width on a sleeveless version of the dress. Thank goodness I live in hot, humid Florida. I turned the dress inside out, and pinned in on. After playing around with the existing darts a bit, I pinned them down in a way I thought would work. My Instagram girls suggested basting them in place and trying out the new look. I did just that and found a perfect fit!005

I can’t even tell you the relief that washed over me at that point. I was so happy I trudged through what looked like the end of my fabric, and came out with something totally wearable. And- I was able to avoid having a complete meltdown.006

I love this coordinating print (Lucy Lord) on the pockets and hem band!007

I finished the dress, and I would dare say the common man would have no clue I had such terrible difficulty. I chose to use visible binding on the sleeves in the same Gambier print to preserve the width and I’m happy with that solution. This pattern doesn’t actually have any grading between sizing on the sleeves and if they are too narrow on XS and S, can you even imagine how off they would be on XL? Yikes.004

It was suggested to me that Megan had recently redone this and some other patterns and now the bust dart was on the waistline. Its vertical now, and apparently that has gotten rid of the problem that so many people had had according to a quick google search. There were a ton of issues with the original pattern, which is what I think I have. I read where one determined woman made 10 muslins before finally giving up on the pattern. So anyway, I don’t have any way of proving it to you, but I’m told the re released version is better. I’m wondering if those of us who have the original are able to get a replacement? I will include a list of my modifications at the end of the post, but first I want to tie in that part about life.

This pattern brought out a lot of emotions in me. I’m typically allergic to drama, and while I can be impatient, I’m rarely prone to tearful frustration and meltdowns. My children have those covered pretty well. I realized to a greater degree that sewing is my respite. I don’t have control over everything my kids do. They surprise me all day long. I constantly have to adapt. I don’t have control over when I get to go and do things. I don’t get to unwind with my husband at the end of each day. I hardly speak to him except for when he’s home on the weekends because he’s working so hard to make ends meet and to put food on the table. And just yesterday my debit card number was stolen (again) and our account drained. I guess I feel like I need to be able to have control over something, and sewing is that thing for me. I feel very secure in the process and the consistency of it.003

The Darling Ranges brought out so much inconsistency. It surprised me with its issues and I felt as though I had been duped! Here was a pattern that from a revered designer who has done a stellar job branding, marketing, and writing the pattern. Really, the pattern is very well written and full of advice on making modifications. Why on earth was the fit so wrong? Why was it not working for me?

So sewing dealt me the same sort of blow I’ve been dealing with in real life. I had to adapt. Not just a little. Not just using French seams rather that overlocking. Not just switching up the assembly to incorporate said seams. I really had to want it. [insert: pursuit of happiness] I had to take apart what I had so meticulously put together and take a risk hoping it would work out to my benefit. And you know what? I’m glad I was able to do that. I’m glad I have people that know me through Instagram only that are willing to hold my hand and talk me down. I wasn’t prepared to fight a battle in sewing a garment! How silly, right? But when I thought this had gotten the very best of me, I reigned it in and made it mine. And now I have a garment I’m very pleased with. Will I be making another anytime soon? …um, probably not.

So what did I do differently to make the Darling Ranges work for me? I measured between a XS and S, and since I made an XS the last time and it didn’t work at all, I cut a S.

  • Firstly, and with all garments these days, I used French seams since I don’t have a finishing stitch. I prefer this method anyway because it yields a clean garment inside and out. In order to incorporate these seams throughout, I changed the order of assembly to the following (all of these steps use French seams as well): shoulder seams, pocket pieces to skirt pieces, skirt pieces to bodice pieces, sleeves to bodice (note that these were ultimately removed because of the fit issues), and finally side seams were sewn in one continuous motion (if you keep the sleeves, begin there and work your way all the way down to the bottom of the dress).
  • Second, as noted already, I chose to forego the sleeves. If I included them in the future I would add about 1.5″ to the shoulder width for my size and go from there, though I suspect the sleeve piece itself would need to be altered since it doesn’t allow for enough ease in the back portion. For my sleeveless version, in order to preserve the width that was already there, I made 2″ (before folding) bias tape and used that to make exposed sleeve binding.
  • I extended the length of the bust dart about 1.5″ to meet the apex of the breast and widened it by about a total of 1/2″ at the side seam. Its not perfect still, but it is a huge improvement. It was a drastic, but not terribly difficult change since I was able to try on the garment and pin. If you make this, certainly make a muslin and pin it from there to come up with your needed adjustment. Its not worth the risk of having an unwearable “real” dress.
  • Finally, I changed up the hem by cutting a 2.5″ x 54″ (the circumference of my skirt) piece of a coordinating print, sewed a 1/4″ seam all way around, folded my band in by 1/2″ and pressed the band to the inside of the dress, forming a contrast interior hem. I edgestitched the fold to finish my hem.

If you have made it this far, thank you for bearing with me! This dress was quite a process both in terms of sewing, and in losing and gaining back control for me. I spent a good part of the last week working on garments and other small projects now that I’ve been able to establish somewhat of a schedule with Wallace. I hadn’t been doing any sewing at all during the day, and hardly any at night either, but after realizing that my little organizer son likes consistency and schedules we are adapting- which has freed up a little time in the evenings for me to unwind. I’m excited to show you the other things I’ve been working on, and I’m also happy to have some things to blog about in this little space of mine.002

I got the fabrics for this dress from DuckaDilly. I think she still has a little of that gorgeous Gambier left!

Have a gorgeous day!


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Welcome to Olivia Jane Handcrafted! I'm Meredith and this is my creative journal. Here you'll find loads of inspiration for a handmade wardrobe, home decor, bags, and quilts. I even have plenty of projects and tutorials to get you started or help you along the way.

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