Pattern Review: Self Drafted Latin Dance Dress for Stephanie

aka “Canary in a Coal Mine”

Here’s a mantra for you if you ever decide you want to make ballroom dance costumes: Subtlety Sucks. Case in point: Stephanie, one of the teachers at the studio where DS the Younger dances, asked me to make her a dress. She had seen a competition dress that she liked, and asked if I could copy it. It looked pretty straightforward, so I said sure. And since Tatiana is no longer teaching (sniff!) I’ve had no one to make dance dresses for, so I thought this would be fun.

Pattern Description: Halter neck, fully lined Latin competition dress covered with fringe and rhinestones (Stephanie is going to spend the next week doing the stoning). The pattern is based very loosely on the basic leotard pattern from Kwik Sew’s book.

Sizing: This is cut to Stephanie’s measurements.

Fabric Used: Lycra fabric and 18 inch rayon chainette fringe that Stephanie supplied. I made the under-leotard from Lycra fabric that I had left over from Tatiana’s Dance Dresses.

Needle/Notions Used: 75/11 Stretch Needle, thread, 1/4 inch clear elastic from Fashion Sewing Supply, 1/8 inch elastic from my stash for the back strap.

Tips Used during Construction: Press that Bad Mamma Jamma!

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes, so far. It’s not finished yet, but my part of it is done. I’m looking forward to seeing it with all the rhinestones on the CF panel.

How were the instructions? Hahahahahahahaha! Snort!

Construction Notes: This took me some time to figure out the order of construction. It’s similar in style to Tatiana’s Samba dress that I was able to use some of the same methods I did for that, but there are enough differences that I needed to think really hard about how best to put it together. Also, adding 18 inch fringe to it makes it much more patience-trying to construct. I found that I needed to take a break after applying each row of fringe (there are 7 in all). Finally, this beast is heavy! Thanks to the rayon fringe, it probably weighs about 6 lbs. And the fringe had 5 rows of chainstitching at the top. That added a fair a mount of bulk, so once the fringe was attached to the dress, I went back and removed 3 of the 5 rows. From about 8 yards of fringe.

Likes/Dislikes: This was fun to make. There are some things I would have done differently if I had had more time, but I’m satisfied with how it turned out so far.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? I don’t know, and sure – go for it if you are looking to make Latin dance dresses!

Conclusion: Another fun, thought-challenging project. Coincidentally, today I got an email from a fellow who just released a series of DVD tutorials on making ballroom dance dresses. You can find out more about it at Ballroom Dance Fashions. NAYY, and I know nothing more about it or about him than that, but from what I can see, it looks like it may be worthwhile if you are going to make dance costumes. I’m hoping to talk to him later this week, so I’ll report back when I have more information.

In the meantime, here are pictures of the dress on Mutt, my full-body mannequin:

The CF panel will be encrusted with rhinestones

The back is all fringe

The competition is this weekend in New York City. I’ll ask Stephanie to send me an action shot. In the meantime…

Happy sewing!

ETA: I dropped the dress off at the studio for her after work. She tried it on and it fits PERFECTLY! She’s thrilled with it, and she’s going to spend tonight and tomorrow night encrusting the CF panel with rhinestones.

Damn, I’m good!

I Am Hoping…

… that I’ll have a finished project to show you this weekend. It’s at that stage where it’s half done, but the second half will probably go faster than the first half. That’s because I spent much of the first half trying to figure out the order of construction on this beast.

Oh, that’s right, I haven’t come out and actually said what it is, right? Sorry. Well you probably already figured it out, but the specifics are that “It” is a Latin competition dress with 24 inch fringe, and a heavily stoned center front panel. It’s for Stephanie, one of the teachers at the ballroom studio where DS the Younger dances. It’s really a lot of fun figuring these things out, but boy oh boy, wouldn’t it be nice to have instructions on how to make a fringed, fully lined Latin competition dress? I have searched but no, no instructions, and sorry – I’m afraid I won’t be the one to write the first ones. I’m just winging that mother.

The leotard pieces went together quickly, and here you can see a mockup that I sent to Stephanie, showing the fringe pinned to the outer leotard. The cowl-y thing is the CF panel pinned to the body just for placement test.

There will be more layers of fringe

I think it will look pretty cool when it’s finished

I’ll do a full review when it’s finished.

So here’s the other story about DS the Younger this week. You know the game “Manhunt”? Well, I do now, thanks very much. During a game earlier on Monday night, DS the Younger slipped on wet grass (thunderstorms, don’t you know) and pulled his groin and chipped his hipbone along the growth plate. We spent 5 hours Monday night in the ER at Winchester Hospital. I found out a couple of interesting things from that experience. First: contrary to what I have always believed, never having been a denizen of the ER, the busiest night in any ER (according to the ER attending) is Monday night. Not Friday, not Saturday. Monday.

Second, at 2:00 in the morning, the ER at Winchester Hospital (along with every other hospital, anywhere in the world) turns into the drunk tank. We were surrounded by various and sundry people (“I was drinking. I guess I just don’t know my limits.” “Mmmfaubh mmmagaghgmf” “Okay, let’s X-ray her foot” “Security!”)

The good news is that he’s okay; he just needs to not dance for the next couple of weeks. Teenagers, ya know?

Happy sewing!

Spent the Day at the Commonwealth Classic

And all I have to show for it are these lousy videos



Viennese Waltz:

Okay, I don’t just have these videos, I have about 400 pictures, with which I promise not to bore you. At least not with too many. But this gives you a good idea of the dress in action. There are some more changes I would like to make to it – adding another petticoat layer first and foremost. Maybe even with some tulle. We’ll see. The next competition isn’t until February.

So how has your weekend been?

Happy sewing!

Sa-a-a-andy, Bay-yay-bee! Why-yi-yi-yi-yi

Did you hear we had a little “weather event”? I love these euphemisms. We were fortunate here in MA. First, Sandy hit landfall south of us (keep our friends in NJ and NY in your thoughts and prayers, please). And by banging a hard left at Atlantic City, she lashed us with winds, and knocked out power, but she didn’t flood us like she did those on the western side. Second, we had the Halloween freakshow storm last year, which knocked down many, if not most, of the trees that would take down power lines. A friend of mine who lives on Long Island called me today to tell me she was okay, but without power. She said, “all you can here is the sound of chainsaws taking down trees.” That was what we went through here last year, so I completely sympathize. Hopefully the power will be restored soon.

We were without power in the warehouse today ourselves, so I was able to spend a bunch of time working on Tatiana’s ballroom dress. And I finished it! The point of this exercise was to change an American Smooth dress to an International Standard dress. So you may say, “So, Ann – what exactly are the differences between American Smooth and International Standard?”

Hell if I know. And just try finding information about dress specifics and floats and whatnot on the internet. Jimminy Christmas, you’d think I was looking for information on how to build some sort of WMD. No one will part with any information. So I had to wing that mother by looking at pictures of competition dresses in action, which is only so helpful.

Anyway, here’s what I did to change the dress. First – I added a lot of godets. International Standard dresses are big on volume, so I gather. They also like to have a little support, so I added a petticoat, made of stretch mesh.

Thanks to Phyllis’ suggestion, I cut the leotard off at the waist and attached the petticoat to it, then I sewed it back together. I used 2 inch horsehair braid to support the hem.

After checking out the hem of the dress, I decided that it would benefit by adding 2-inch horsehair braid to the outer dress shell as well. While the storm was raging, I was pinning horsehair furiously, I can tell you! Adding that second layer with the horsehair makes a world of difference. The dress moves smoothly and very Cindrella-ish

Yeah, well, this is the inside scoop:

Then there were the floats.

What are floats, you ask? Floats in International Standard dresses (and here’s where I show my ignorance) are doohickies that hang off the dress to underscore and enhance the movement of the dancers. (Here’s my aside, which I may edit out tomorrow, so grab it while you can) And a lot of times, they are tacky as hell. There, I said it. So my goal was to try to make them pretty, while avoiding the off ramp to Tackytown. I tried draping cotton muslin, which in this case is a pretty poor substitute for floaty fabric, but it gave me an idea, and I came up with a sorta-semicircular drape that would start at the left shoulder and go to the right wrist. Then I added a smaller float on the left arm, from the forearm to the wrist:

Here’s a picture of the front of the dress, which isn’t quite as interesting without someone posing in it:

And here’s the back, which I rather like.

I brought it, with about a thousand hotfix rhinestones and my Khandi Kane, to Tatiana today. She loved it, and she’s going to spend the next few nights getting her dress good and stoned. There are some minor changes we should make to the floats (more volume!!!!!), but it’s in good shape for the competition this weekend. I’ll get pictures of the dress in action later. Once again, this was a lot of fun and I learned tons. You know what I learned that I think is the most valuable? There’s a lady on Etsy who sells Ballroom Dance Sewing Patterns!!! I bought both of her patterns plus the CD manual she published on making ballroom dance dresses. I’ve already learned some things just from looking at her pattern instructions. This should make the next dress (hopefully) easier.

Next up, I think – a super sexy dress for moi.

Happy sewing!

On the Work Table – Converting from Smooth to Standard

Ballroom, that is. You might recall that I made another dress for Tatiana. It turned out fine, until… (cue the “Duh duh DAAAAAAAH music)

She and all her students switched from American Smooth to International Standard style.

So what does that mean? It means I have to change up the dress pretty significantly. I’ve taken the cowl off, added godets to give it more flare and I’m going to add a petticoat with a little tulle and some horsehair braid to give it a little more volume at the bottom. Then I’m going to add some floats on the sleeves. There’s a big competition in two weekends (the Commonwealth Classic) and DS the younger will be dancing in all 10 styles (5 Standard, 5 Latin). I’ll post pictures as it comes along. In the meantime, I took a video of the two of them at his lesson two weeks ago. It’s amazing how much he’s grown in the last year.

For comparison, this was taken at last year’s Commonwealth Classic:

He’s grown about 4 inches since this picture was taken.

I also just bought a pair of patterns for ballroom dance dresses from an Etsy vendor. I admit, I’m tired of trying to re-draft dress or skating patterns to work for ballgowns. I hope they’ll save me some time. I’ll let you know how they are when I get them.

Happy sewing!

Happy Birthday to Gorgeous Fabrics! And an Update on the Ballroom Dress

Tatiana’s dress is all done, yay! I won’t do a full-on pattern review, because I didn’t really use a pattern, more like I morphed a bunch of different patterns into the finished product. Plus, you’ve seen it throughout its genesis.

Oh yeah, and I’m super busy thanks to a little sale we have going on. More on that later.

One thing to note about this dress is that the skirt pattern I based it on, Burda 7470, is drafted for an NBA player. Seriously. It is LONG! I cut 4 inches off the skirt before I even started measuring it for a hem. Then I took another 4 inches off after Tatiana tried it on the first time, and I put a 1 inch hem in place. That is a loooooong dress!

I also added a little bit of bling. I put a few hot-fix crystals under the front cowl:

Colors: Citrine, Topaz, Topaz AB, Clear

And in the space left exposed by the cowl’s back drape:

We can always add more bling later if we want

She really liked it. The only thing I might change after the competition is the godets. We lost 8 inches of the godets, and therefore the associated fullness that they added to the bottom. I may re-cut the godets and put them in so we get that fullness back. But Tatiana was happy with it, so it’s good for the comp. And she loved how comfortable it is to wear. Yay me!

Here’s a video of her doing a practice run in it:

Gorgeous Fabrics is Turning 5 Years Old!

It feels like this was only yesterday, too.

Happy Birthday to us!!! Gorgeous Fabrics is turning 5 next Friday, and we’re starting the celebration early! I can’t believe it’s been 5 years. How that time has flown! It seems like only yesterday I sewed the Cosmopolitan Dress in that black and white knit that started the whole thing. Wow! And even more wow – I have made so many new friends through GF, and I’ve been having such a wonderful time working with all of you. You make me want to get up in the morning and jump right on the computer, every day!

So to celebrate… are you ready for it?

Are you really ready for it? Because here goes. Through next Monday, we’re are putting almost everything on sale for a whopping…

25% Off!

And when I say almost everything, I mean it. Even the newest fabrics will go up at the sale prices! This is our way of celebrating and thanking you for your business and friendship. And if you are on our mailing list, you already know about the drawing for the $250 gift certificate. If you’re not on the mailing list, or a FB, why not? It’s free, it’s fun, and you get the inside scoop on all sorts of things! And we never, ever share your information.

Click Here to Join the Mailing List!

Thank you all for a great 5 years, and I’m looking forward to lots more fabrics and fun for many years to come!

(*What’s not included: muslin, notions, swatches, gift certificates and Yard Sale items – they’re already 35-50% off. Other than that, you’re good to go.)

Well, lunch break’s over. I gotta get back to work. Sewing hugs all around!

Almost There on the Ballroom Dress, and Something Serious

Here are a couple of pictures of the work in progress. Front:

Small cowl in the front

And back:
Cascading into a drape in the back

Tatiana is coming over to try it on tomorrow. I’m going to put a pair of criss-crossing straps from the shoulder to the mid back, just for security. I also have several dozen hotfix crystals that I’ll apply to the center back where the drape falls away from the dress. I’ll post pictures as I go, so stay tuned!

Now, on a much more serious note. You may have heard that Whitney Houston died today at the age of 48. That was a shock to many of us, but more so to my family was the death of a neighbor’s grandson last night. My oldest son invited 3 friends over for dinner (on a happy note, my roast chicken has a great reputation with the bandies). As we were finishing dinner, six police cars came screaming down our street with the lights flashing and rounded the corner. Shortly thereafter, an ambulance and the rescue fire truck came careening by. We found out later that our neighbor’s 21 year old grandson died in their house of a heroin overdose. They were in Florida. The boy’s mom, who lives about 5 blocks away, came looking for him and found him. I didn’t know the boy, but it hit hard for everyone in our neighborhood. He was good friends with our next door neighbor. Parents, make sure you talk to your kids early and often, and keep those lines of communication open.

A Quick Update on the Ballroom Dress

I was out of town on Monday and Tuesday. I attended a fabric show (a story for a later time, but it wasn’t what I hoped, alas). Let me tell you, Tuesday was a tough day to be a Patriots fan in New York. I like the Giants and I’m happy for them, but…

Okay, so anyway, where does the dress stand? No pictures, but I got a lot done today. I added godets to the skirt front. I pulled it off the table and held it up against myself and – holy cow! How tall does Burda expect one to be? Seriously, the skirt pieces were long enough to reach comfortably to my armpits. I’m 5’6″ in bare feet. So I cut 4 inches off the bottoms of the skirt pieces. I will cut more off later, but this gives me something to work with for now.

I also added godets to the skirt, to give it the fullness required for International Standard moves (most notably the Viennese Waltz). I had made godets that were 17 inches high, but after checking them out, I decided to make them longer. The new (and hopefully final) height of the godet is 22 inches. That will give Tatiana lots of room to move.

I hope to get the outer dress mostly done tomorrow so I can show pictures. I did find out when I got back that the comp isn’t this weekend, it’s next weekend. So I got some breathing room. Halleluia!

More soon!

Pattern Review – StyleArc Paris Dress

I’ll just fess up right now. I’m a bad blogger lately. Not like I haven’t had legitimate reasons. First, we had a freaking snowstorm last weekend. 3 inches of heavy, wet snow, on trees that still were loaded with leaves. We lost many branches, including the entire top of a 60 foot oak that landed on the transformer that feeds the entire neighborhood, and another branch that took out a part of our new fence. FML, you know? But at least we were only (“only”) without power for 4 days. Our best man was without power for a week. We had to throw out almost all the contents of our fridge. I’m asking Santa for a whole-house generator for Christmas. As God is my witness, I’ll never go without Internet again!

So, how you been?

Oh yes, I did, once the power came back, finish my Paris Dress, so here’s the review:

Pattern Description: Hot on Trend little black dress with stylish square shoulders. Use lace base fabric for scallop hem edge

Sizing: 6-20. I made a size 10

Fabric Used: Super Stretch Heavy RPL – Black from Gorgeous Fabrics. (You know what’s coming, right?) Sold out, sorry!

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 70/10 Needle. Pro-tricot interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. Thread.

Tips Used during Construction: And Now a Word from the Pressinatrix.

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes

How were the instructions? I didn’t use them. This pattern is beautifully drafted, and it went together with no problems.

Construction Notes: Because I was using a super stretchy fabric, I decided against lining it. I drafted neckline facings from the pattern. The construction process was quite simple. The only thing I would note is that you may want to clip the curves in the sleeve heads. The curves are quite sharp, and even though the seam allowances are only 3/8 inches, they can benefit from clipping and careful pressing.

I did a FBA, after which I ended up adding some length to the darts. I debated about adding a front waistline dart, but I decided for now to forgo one. I may add one in later. I did a small swayback adjustment.

Likes/Dislikes: Love, love, LOVE the fact that these patterns are drafted with RTW standard (i.e. no extra) ease in the sleeve heads!!!! This pattern goes together beautifully.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Yes and yes. I recommend it for intermediate-level stitchers.

Conclusion: I love the fit through the shoulders. I love the Karl Lagerfeld-ish lines. It is bound to become one of my go-to patterns! Here are pictures on Shelley.


It’s Not Always About Me
Other things have been happening around the home front, preventing me from sewing. DS the Eldest is Drum Major of the high school band, and he’s been conducting! Here’s a shot that DH took at the last game of him conducting “Georgia”

I'm So Proud of Him!

And this morning, DS the Younger had a dance competition. This time he’s competing at the Silver (intermediate) level. He did great – all first places!

Paso Doble!

(PS – there was some serious fug going on in the dresses and spray tans, but that’s for another post.)

And can I show you something fun? This is him last year at the same competition. He’s getting so grown up!

My how he's grown!

Next it’s onto Pippa. The gala is less than a month away and I have to start cutting the real fabric. More soon!

Happy sewing!