I just finished a new Wiksten Shift dress and I love it a lot. Before I even took photos, I had more things to say about it than would fit on an Instagram post... so I thought I'd capture my thoughts while their hot. I am also going to talk about other versions or hacks I made of this pattern last summer. This was my 6th version, including wearable muslins.
First off - let's talk fit. If you are pear-shaped, as I am, a columnar shift dress may seem like a risky garment. I know it is something I had reservations about - but I took a chance & I'm love the finished results.
Also, let's talk inclusivity. The pattern only goes up to a 52" hip (size 22) so it's not very inclusive, but it works for small fat people like myself. I have a 51" hip. If you love the look but this size range doesn't work for you - I think hacking the Torrens or Artist's Box top into a dress would give a similar look, either just choosing the bust size to match your hips and extending the length, or by a slightly more involved hack to get the back yoke & gathers. (If you want more details on how I would do that, contact me!)
More on fit & choosing a size. Lots of sewists on IG have mentioned that they preferred sizing down on this pattern for less volume. The pattern itself suggests choosing the size by your bicep measurement rather than anything else because it is designed to be very roomy & the only critical fit is making sure you have enough arm room.
If you are pear, as I am - I would caution against this advice. I will tell you what I always do is try to choose by my largest measurement - the hips. Here's why.
According to my bicep, I would wear a size 12. According to my bust I would wear a 16, According to my hip I am between a 20 and a 22. The finished garment hips for the size 12 that matches my biceps is 52.5", leaving a scant 1.5 inches of ease, while the pattern measurements have about 8" of ease between the body hip measurement and finished garment hip measurement.
To get a garment that gives my hips & bum space to be themselves, I went with a straight 22. The result is a beautifully oversized sack dress that skims over every part of my body without catching anywhere. In linen, it's crisp and structural, which makes me feel like an eccentric art teacher in the very best way possible. In seersucker, with the belt, it's a little more of an 80s preppy casual vibe.
However... the neckline is a teensy bit wider than I would like because it's intended for a body with a bust that is 6" bigger than mine. Also, with extra room in the bust, there is a lot of extra fabric. The extra fabric looks fine when the dress is worn alone, but makes it hard to layer over. I can only wear really oversized grandpa sweaters over it, so it's either a summer dress on it's own or a winter dress with a big fluffy sweater over OR a long-sleeve under... *more on that later.
You might not want so much space in your dress, but still want to accommodate for wider hips. I have an idea about this that I am going to try out on my next version of this dress. It consists of choosing a size 16 to match my bust for the front, yoke, and facing pieces. For the back piece, I would move the fold line of the pattern piece a few inches away from the actual fold like of the fabric, until it measures the width of the size 22 pattern piece but keeps the sleeve/side seam curve to match the size 16.
When gathering or pleating (**more on pleating later too) the back into the yoke, I would just make extra gathers or a bigger pleat. In my head, this would work kind of like my usual solution for adapting patterns to wildly different bust/hips measurements on dresses with separate bodice and skirt parts... which is to cut the correct size bodice and the correct size skirt and gather or pleat the extra skirt fabric into the smaller bodice. Works a charm for me most of the time.
Speaking of dresses with separate bodices and skirts, I have tried the size 16 bodice for a hack of the pattern, adding a size 22 Hinterland skirt to the bottom. I've made variations on this 3 times, using either the side seam Hinterland pockets on two versions and the Wiksten Shift patch pockets on another. Both work well. Here's my favorite, in linen dyed with onion skins.
I'm looking forward to trying the adjustment I mentioned to pare a little volume out overall for a better chance of being able to layer.
I'm also curious to try the 3/4 sleeve version of the dress and the top. I haven't made the shirt version yet, but I have some white linen that I think would make a lovely top. Probably a bit more cropped than the pattern, since I'm only 5'1".
*The large volume on the top actually lends itself really well to wearing the dress OVER a button down shirt, for a look I really love.
**Depending on your fabric, personal preferences, and overall desired effect, you might love this alternative to gathering the lower back piece into the yoke by making a big pleat instead. I saw this on Instagram last year, still trying to track down where to give proper credit, but I had to try it and I LOVE the look of the inverted box pleat. Now I also want to try one with a regular box pleat too because the inside of the yoke looks good too! I think that might look really cool with an extra large pleat from the fit hack I am imagining.
Time now is measured in before and after... before the first case of coronavirus was announced in the United States. Before higher education went remote and I started working from home. Before the governor's Executive Order to close businesses and parks, to stop medical procedures, and stay home. Before I knew how to sew a surgical mask. Before toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and bias tape were all precious commodities.
In February, before everything changed, I had started to work on a blog to chronicle a host of new knitting projects I'd started in the new year... but after the pandemic hit - I felt completely dissociated from the beforetimes projects. They didn't comfort me. I made mistakes. I felt frustrated. I second guessed my color and pattern choices. I lost my joy.
A natural break came, as I started to learn about making masks. I thought I should try to learn so I could make some for my family and possibly for local healthcare workers. It was hard - there was a lot of information out there and I got overwhelmed at first. Then I found what seemed to work and offered to make them for anyone on my Instagram who needed them. As I mailed them around the country, I got feedback that they were comfortable and the prints were appreciated. I got photos of friends, family, co-workers, and the co-workers of friends/family wearing the masks. I found a purpose for making that helped me feel less dissociated from craft... yet, mask making is draining too. It's worrisome - will these masks I am sending really protect the people I care about? What does the future hold?
I try to fight off the fear and anxiety when I am making them. I believe that the state of mind you are in when you create affects the creative process as well as the end result. Love in = love out... a better, more beautiful, more comforting, more effective thing being made. So it takes a lot of energy to hold a clear heart during the process.
Afterwards, when the sewing room is a mess, but the masks are sent.. I needed to find a comfort to myself... so I packed up all the beforetimes projects and picked what was calling to me... very simple knits in beautiful yarn that could be picked up for a row here and there, while watching TV or holding a conversation with my husband, without forgetting the pattern or the stitch count... nothing to write down or track... just the soothing rhythm of needles and yarn passing through my hands.
All this time, I wanted to write because we all have so much on our minds during the pandemic... but the half-done current knitting project post was haunting me. I gave myself permission to let those projects go for now and I am letting myself let the blog post go too...
Actually, I'm publishing it as it was with some extra notes added in italics & adding what I'm actually knitting now too.
Currently on the needles:
1.) a self-designed oversized cardigan with Date Night fingerling yarn from Onyx Fiber Arts... basically a giant rectangle of ribbing at the moment.
2.) A shawl inspired by the Adventurous Wrap with some lovely 100% merino single ply yarns from Star Seed Yarn... Marta is so thoughtful with her packages and always sends lovely treats like stitch markers and mini skeins... I realized I'd collected 4 of her mini-skeins, in addition to the full skein & mini combo I purchased in March... and got inspired to start a new project.
These colors and the luxurious squish of the single ply have been making my heart so happy.
Seriously... this time is bonkers. (I am so sick of work emails, news media, and commercials saying it's "unprecedented", so I'm calling it as it feels - totally crazy, overwhelming, insular, uncertain, anxiety-producing, and weird...)
Some people may find comfort during this time in finishing old WIPs or checking off every square of their Make Nine grid... for me, there has never been a better time to press pause and just make what my heart wants to make in the moment.
1. Nightshift Shawl with thrifted Alchemy Yarns and gifted Spincycle Yarns
(packed up on the needles for later - still want to finish this one)
2. ADVENTurous Wrap from A Knitter's Homestead 2019 Advent Calendar
(packed up, off the needles - may frog and use the yarn in a different project)
3. Drifter Shawl with Oink variagated MCN and Onyx Fiber Arts Leonore orange wool
(packed up, off the needles - may frog and use the yarn in a different project & make this pattern in a black and cream, instead)
4. Grotine Shawl with Onyx Fiber Arts MCN Sprinkle City
(frogged - I messed up the pattern something terrible and just decided to frog and try again later. I really like the pattern & the yarn, but my brain can't handle it right now.)
5. Kia Socks (free & awesome pattern!)
(just waiting just for kitchner stitching the toes together - but something is holding me back from this... like I'm saving them for when I need a quick win of a finished object. also it's too warm for wool socks now, anyway.)
"Using things is not dependent on producing and consuming more, and yet it fulfils many of the needs we try to meet when we buy new goods. It takes its bearings from the practices and ideas of tending and wearing, in the context of real lives. It is a diversified view of fashion beyond the market and the market's purpose, trading in the economies of time, creativity, and community." (p. 17)
"To choose what we are and what we do with our clothes daily is to have the power to alter the fashion system." (p. 23)
Craft of Use: Post-Growth Fashion by Kate Fletcher
I'm reading a really fascinating book right now complied by fashion and sustainability professor, Kate Fletcher.
She writes an introduction about "the craft of use" or what happens to clothing beyond being purchased in a traditional retail environment. The rest of the books is photos and short accounts of individuals' relationships with special garments that function in this zone of use, rather than consumption.
The bite-sized stories make for perfect bedtime reading, while Fletcher's denser ideas have my head spinning with critical theory throughout most of my waking hours these days and the ideas give deeper enjoyment of sewing projects that tend to the clothes I already have and use.
Today's mending basket tale is about a garment that is, I think, my favorite thing I've ever made. It was becoming dangerously frayed and fragile, but I am happy to report that it is back in my wardrobe and better than ever. it's my cognac/blush linen Metamorphic Dress. The blush side cut from a vintage jacquard linen table cloth that I dyed with onion skin.
This vintage table linen had some weak spots of use, including some mends, already when I cut the pattern out. I tried to cut the strongest parts for the bodice and skirt and use the mended pieces for the pockets, but the yardage was scant, so some pieces of the garment are more fragile than others.
After 1.5 years of constant wear, the side seams and one portion of the skirt were becoming threadbare, with little holes starting to grow.
I stopped wearing the blush side, but as it became more fragile, even wearing it on the inside was stressing the fabric. This fall, I put it in the mending basket to preserve it until I could figure out how to best fix it.
I had some scraps of the original fabric, as well as other fabrics from the same dyepot, which I could use as patches. I also found some very special sashiko thread in a soft color that was created to look like a natural dye. It was created by sashiko artist Keiko Futatsuya, "to mass produce the 'Color similar to Natural Dye'."
I used my sewing machine to finish the edges of the patches and sewed a collage of patches over all the holes, threabare seams, and weaker spots of fabric. I reinforced each side seam and one portion of the skirt that was wearing thin.
On the front panel, I opted for a patch pocket next to a small patch in the very center that was covering a hole - this gave the whole thing a more balanced feel. Even though it already has in-seam pockets, it felt like the right choice. I do love the intuitive artistry involved in mending. The places a garment wears out tend to naturally create a certain aesthetic balance to the mends, but sometimes an extra creative touch helps make the mends feel more like intentional design choices.
In the end, I am in more in love with the garment that ever before, feel confident to wear both sides again, and trust that I can keep mending and reinforcing any places that wear out over time.
An oft-quoted adage in sustainable fashion is that the most sustainable thing you can do is wear the clothing you already own. This concept is further bolstered by the #30wears campaign.
To truly get the most out of clothing, whether it is RTW or handmade, I think it is essential to cultivate a relationship with each garment, taking time to check in and see how they're doing on a regular basis. I like to do this after each wash. As I am folding or ironing each piece, I look at the seams and hems, checking for any spots that need care. On knits or fragile woven pieces, I often hold them up to light to better spot small holes or thin spots in the fabric - the sooner things are caught, the easier they are to fix & the more quality wears I can get out of each beloved garment through simple mends.
As such, I have a continually overflowing mending basket. Some things merely need a quick fix, such as a button sewn back on or a seam restitched. Others require significant reinforcement, alteration or refashioning. Those are the items that tend to percolate for longer in the basket until inspiration strikes and a vision becomes clear for how to breathe new life back into them.
Recently, I've been thrilled to bring a few things I really missed out of the mending basket and back into my wardrobe. Both fixes I'll share today are variations of my favorite dress pattern the Metamorphic Dress by Sew Liberated Patterns. I now have 6 versions in my wardrobe. I've come to depend on the jumper style in winter as one of my favorite layering pieces. My linen and cotton versions also transition smoothly into spring or fall layering and work beautifully as sundresses in the hottest of summer days. Not many garments have such versatility - but, operating as wardrobe staples all year round is hard on these treasures. They are washed and worn hard, so they need more upkeep. I have three Metamorphic mending stories to share & I'll start with two today in my first chapter of "Tales from The Mending Basket".
First is a simple fix, but it had me stumped for a long time. Here are both sides of the my 5th Metamorphic in their original state, made in early 2019.
Welcome to Make Do Magick.
Hello. I'm Kate. I'm so excited to share this new endeavor to chronicle and reflect on my creative output and sustainable/ethical fashion journey.
Back in 2014, I discovered the world of sewing bloggers. A decade before that, I'd found the world of knitting bloggers and knitty.com message boards. I've been in search of an online makers' community for years. I have found wonderful content and learned a great deal, but never quite fit in or fully connected. I didn't see many bodies like mine, I didn't see a focus on mindful or resourceful making, I didn't see awareness of diversity in class, race, gender, or queerness. I felt a tinge of FOMO, consumerism, perfectionism, and exclusivity gnawing at the edges of something I wanted to hold near and dear to me.
I love quality fibers and textiles, but with limited resources and time; an awareness of the environmental and ethical impact of constantly producing content by way of the latest patterns, fabrics, and styles; and the fact that my body shape isn't always suited to off-the-rack or out-of-the-pattern-envelope sizing... I've been doing my own thing for a long time. In the past, I've drawn inspiration from the online making world, but I've also needed to unplug because it felt too perfect to have a place for me in it. Being on the edges can be liberating, but it can also be lonely.
Over the last couple of years, especially on Instagram, things are changing. I've seen increasing momentum toward self-awareness, authenticity, and community connection amongst makers and between makers and the greater world. Many makers on the margins of the online creator community are drawing toward a new, more inclusive, central heart. 2019 was hard and transformative at an exponential pace. It was a game changer - but mostly for the fact that brave, amazing people brought to light things that have been the same for a long time - some good and beautiful, others terrible and urgently in need of change.
I feel a profound gratitude and respect for makers of color who have put their hearts, their safety, and their livelihoods on the line to share their voices and art. I am humbled by all that I learned and saw in 2019. I am grateful to fellow curvy makers, fat makers, and everyone who has taken risks and participated in raising momentum around inclusive sizing for sewing and knitting patterns. I am grateful to the Sewcialists for being ahead of the curve in highlighting many unique groups of makers, including diversity of body shapes, older makers, disabled makers, queer makers, and more. Their Who We Are series has meant so much to me & taught me so much in the last few years. I am grateful to Rochelle of Home Row Fiber Co. for sharing her journey from Lucky Lucille to Make Nine and more. Seeing her beautiful authenticity and vulnerability gradually come through more and more in photographs and words was something I really needed & a huge gift to this community. I am grateful to Meg of Sew Liberated Patterns for her amazing patterns that are not fueling us to consume more and more, but rather teaching us how to make what we need into heirlooms that honor our bodies and our earth.
What a time to be alive and creative. It feels more important than ever to make what I need to protect and adore myself and those I love with useful, beautiful, sustainable garments and objects. Microcosmic actions can affect the macrocosm and this making is a tangible thing I can do in a bigger world where I often feel at a loss for words and actions.
This new year, this new decade - I want to think more, reflect more, share more, and make more mindfully. I want to connect more deeply. To learn. To ask for help. To be a resource or a source of support and comfort where I am able. To find friends. To find and foster community - a making community in which we honor and support each other and nourish our hearts. I truly feel that 2020 is the seed of something fruitful to come for many years in the future.
That felt so big that I wanted to create a new space, a new mission, a new focus... and thus: Make Do Magick was born.
Thank you for being here.
A bit about me:
My grandmothers grew up in the Great Depression and their stories, skills, and resourcefulness made a beautiful mark on my heart. I am always making something, usually with fiber or textiles. I love scraps and reusing things and rescuing overlooked treasures. I think about a lot of things while I am making. Here is a record and, hopefully, a connection to the thread of my story.