Wow, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Usually during the Holiday Season I will put off any sewing projects unless I’m making homemade gifts. I just don’t have the time to sit and do any relaxing sewing, and I refuse to add any unnecessary stress to an already stressful time. (But Holiday Season is still my favorite time of year though. Christmas time, especially!) Well, now it’s February, and I think it’s safe to say that Holiday Season has passed. Now I can resume with my regularly scheduled sewing program. Truthfully, I’ve already started working on this latest sew in November. but as I’ve said, it went on the back burner all throughout the rest of the month and all the way until now.
When I first started this project, I couldn’t decide which Charm pattern I wanted to make. I have the Picnic top pattern from the Gertie Patreon saved and I’ve always admired it, so I originally decided on the whole set: the Picnic top and matching skirt.
Link for Picnic Top pattern via Patreon: click here // Link for Picnic Skirt sewing tutorial (free!): click here
Tangent Time! Please don’t be mad at me, Gertie! I’m just being honest…
Okay, before I go on, I’m going to get my rant out of the way so I don’t have to go back to it later on: Charm Patterns are a BEAST to fit properly! I’ve made a few Gertie dresses in the past, and I’ve had the worst luck with most of them when it comes to fit. I just can’t seem to get it right! I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who thinks this. Before I delve into any sewing pattern, I try to find reviews, tutorials, and examples of already made garments so I can get a feel beforehand what I’m getting myself into. If I hear a lot of negative reactions to certain patterns, I usually stay clear of them. However, I love the look and styles of Charm Patterns, and I’ve been a fan of Gertie for a long time. So even though her patterns are so finnicky with me, I still often acquire them. As far as general reviews regarding fit of CP, I find it’s a mixed bag of positive and negative. One negative issue that seems to be common across the board has to do with inconsistencies between pattern sizing measurements listed on the pattern vs. the final outcome. For some reason, many have said the measurements listed on the pattern end up being off in the final garment, despite using their personal measurements to accurately fit. I’ve also heard that with Gertie patterns in particular, its seems the bodice block is drafted with the intent to accommodate vintage style lingerie and shapewear (think girdles, Merry widows, petticoats, bullet bras…) Because of this, many experience fit issues due to the fact that they do not own, let alone wear this kind of shapewear on a daily basis. Another common complaint I’ve seen and heard has to do with Gertie’s transition into making her line more inclusive. This is not a bad thing for me, personally. I happen to love this idea. For one thing, her patterns now include bra cup sizes. This helps greatly in bust fitting and is a welcome change for me. However, because of the change, it again causes inconsistencies with fit for some people, whether it’s confusion of which “new” size they fall under, or else having an updated version of an older existing pattern that does not reflect the new fit changes .
My problem with CP always have to do with bust and shoulder fit and inconsistencies with the general bodice block sizing from pattern to pattern. I notice with other brands, when you make personal fit changes, those same measurements can usually be applied to other patterns within that same brand. This makes it easier and less time consuming when you go to sew a different garment and already know which adjustments to make. For me and CP, it’s all over the place from pattern to pattern, even with bodices that are similar in style and shape.
I dunno. I admit, I just don’t have a lot of patience for fitting overall. I know this sounds ridiculous. Part of the joys of sewing for yourself is the fact that you can customize and tailor to your personal fit. I’m aware that if you want something done well, you need to put in the effort to make sure it’s done right. For this particular dress, I’ve nicknamed her Devil Diva because so much has gone awry during construction. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve put this gal on Time Out.
I’m just very tired, guys.
Ok, rant over. Let’s move onto the brighter side of life.
Pattern Review & Muslin Making
Picnic Top Bodice
I said I was going to make the full Picnic set, and I went about making my first toile of the bodice. The pattern itself is well drafted, with notches and markings where they should be and lining up nicely during sewing. As usual, the PDF directions offer no illustrations, just words. I benefit more with visuals, so directions were clear for the most part, but I did have to re-read specific steps in order to get the image to materialize in my head. What I love best about Gertie is that she provides awesome video tutorials of some of her sews. For the Picnic top she has a very detailed, step-by-step sew along (unlike the Picnic skirt, this tutorial is only available for Patreon subscribers), which, if it weren’t available for me, I believe I would have gotten very lost, frustrated and confused with certain parts of the bodice steps.
When I finished the mock up, it was way too wide in the shoulders and way too big in the bust. I know I looked at the initial and finished bust and fit measurements and mirrored them with my own. I guess I should have already known the fit would be off from the last Gertie dress I sewed. Maybe I had high hopes it would be different this time. After trying it on, I also realized that I wasn’t in love with the cropped feel, even though I made the longer version of the top. After some thinking, I made up my mind to scrap the Picnic set idea and go with a one-piece dress instead.
Night & Day Dress Bodice
So I decided on the Night & Day square neck dress bodice. This one is part of her Charm Patterns collection and is available on her website for anyone to purchase. This is a paper pattern, and there are like, a billion combinations of dresses you can make with this (I’m exaggerating. I forgot the total number of combos, but I think it’s around 70?? Edit: I checked, it’s 72). What I loved about this pattern is that it comes with a booklet of instructions, and it has clear illustrations, as well as tips for sewing with different prints and fabrics. The patterns themselves come in overwhelmingly massive sheets of paper that you will, of course, have to cut out. They are organized together and labeled nicely though, so once you get over the initial shock of how big and how many pieces there are, everything is pretty much standard cutting.
For the basic, square neckline, construction is simple, and comes together quickly and easily. It gives you the option to fully line, or use the neck and back neck facings.. Then you just have the bodice back, bodice fronts, and the sleeves. I cut my bodice back and front different because I wanted a button front dress. I cut 2 pieces for the front bodice and added 1 1/4″ to each front side to make a button placket. I cut the back bodice piece on the fold.
I figured since the style of the picnic top is very similar to the N&D, I would most likely encounter the same issues with too wide shoulders and too big bust. So I took this second muslin and modified the neckline with a shoulder and bust adjustment. I should note, I still, to this day, get very confused about pattern grading. I’ve never quite gotten the hang of it, and it makes me break out in a cold sweat having to think about it. Still, it needed to be done.
- I looked at the finished measurements on the pattern and decided to size down one size and grade to my usual in the waist.
- I stuck with my usual cup size.
- I shortened the front bust darts a bit because they were hitting majorly high above my apex–again, this is probably due to a drafting decision to accommodate vintage undergarments.
- I added a wedge from the top of the square neckline, adding 1″ from the top shoulder, and tapering it down to nothing at the bottom of the side neckline where the right angle joins the front neckline. I did this in hopes that it would stay on my shoulder more and prevent slipping. I traced out a new pattern, and constructed the muslin. When I tried it on, and it was better on the shoulder, but still a bit wide, with some gaping at the sides of the neckline.
- So I made my second muslin, but this time, I took my modified pattern and shortened the shoulder around 1 1/4″. The fit was better in my eyes.
Time to cut my fabric.
I’ve used A Beautiful Mess Flower Market fabric many times for many past sews, and I just love the texture and prints. The style of print is very 70s, and the colors are so pretty! For this dress, I wanted something Spring-like and feminine, and I fell in love with the pink/peach/lavender/madras plaid. It reminded me of my favorite colors as a child (Lavender being my absolute favorite shade). It’s also organic cotton, so it feels like you are wearing a bedsheet. Perfect for warmer weather!
Sewing & Construction
Now that I had all my pretty fabric pieces cut out, staystitched, interfaced, and darted, I did the sewing thing and tried it on again before connecting it to the skirt.
Oops. Back up.
I totally forgot about the skirt! I actually sewed and had it finished and ready way back in November! I followed Gertie’s YouTube Picnic Skirt sew-along and sewing was a breeze. It’s a simple rectangle, very full, and gathered tight. My only modification was omitting the waistband since I was attaching it to the bodice.
My poor skirt has been shamelessly draped over my mannequin like this for over 3 months…
That’s all. Back to the bodice. I tried it on, and–WHAT IN TARNATION!–the shoulders are too wide again!! Huh?! I could have sworn I had the fit down! What did I do wrong??? Long story short, I checked my pattern piece that I used to cut out my fabric and realized I had used the pattern piece that did not have the shoulder modification on it.
I already had the facings and sleeves sewn on and all the underseams were graded and overlocked already, so I did not want to take it apart anymore. I moved on to attaching the bodice to the skirt and sewing the buttonholes on the front. Everything was going smoothly until I got to the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th buttonholes. For some reason, my buttonhole maker decided to go haywire on me. The needle stopped moving midway and created the biggest thread knot! I cried and cursed as I painstakingly unpicked the knot on the first botched hole and did a practice run with my scrap fabric. It worked, so I moved onto the next. Same thing happened. Unpicked, did a practice run, it worked, so I tried again. I knew I should have been weary with the third and fourth and the rest, but by that time, I was really sick of this dress and just wanted to get it over with, no matter what happened. I was like a train off it’s track–nothing to do but plow through. The third and fourth button experienced a different issue. On the first line of the buttonhole, the presser foot and needle would make a line the size of the button, stop, and then repeat itself, thus making one extremely long line before moving onto the other side, and then would stop and finish as usual. This resulted in a very ugly, wonky looking buttonhole that I was in too much despair to try and unpick it and start over. The funny thing is, the last two holes sewed up with no issue whatsoever! They were perfect! What the heck?! Anywhoo, I used these 1/2″ wood flower buttons and they are super cute!
Finishing hems went smoothly. I did a deep 3″ bottom hem on the skirt and a narrow 1/4″ seam on the armholes. I decided to do a matching fabric belt again like the one I did for my Scout Dress. I omitted the grommet holes and am going to sew a little bar hook at the end to keep the belt in place. I love the belt because it hides the unsightly 4th buttonhole. I love the buttons too because they also hide the other botched holes.
Oh my gosh, the pockets are my favorite part of this dress! I used a contrasting lavender fabric for the inside and folded it at an angle so they peek out and lend a spot of solid color on the skirt. I finished it off with a flower button a the point. They are wonderfully deep and can hold a lot of things as long as they aren’t too heavy. How adorable, no?
The Finished Dress
Gahh! She’s done! Quite the DIVA dress, but in all honesty, she is cute as a button!
My fellow Sew Siblings over at our FB sewing forum told me they don’t see the “flaws” in my dress like I do. They are truly awesome and wonderful people and I guess it all comes down to being our own worst critics at times.
I’m very partial to B.A.I.T. Footwear shoes. I just love their retro style! These are the Ida’s and they come in many cute colors! Mine are Lavender, of course. Lots of them are on sale right now too if you want to snag a pair for yourself! Hurry!
I have to say, this was not a reflection of my best work in sewing. However, I learned a lot from the experience and got some very good tips and advice from people on the sewing forum for how to fix my existing fit issues. I will be trying ideas out soon so I can wear this dress in confidence! I’m tempted to say that this will probably be my last Charm Pattern to sew, at least for a while. However, I don’t want to say “never again.” I don’t want to give up something just cuz it’s hard. Plus, Gertie patterns are too cute to just pass up!
Ironically, this is the last picture I took before I tripped on my tripod and broke it…I mean, is this dress out to get me, or what??
2 thoughts on “The Dress That Almost Wasn’t: A Charm Pattern Mash Up”
Adorable! And I love the folded pocket detail ♥️
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Thank you! ☺️