PDF Review: Bella Sunshine “Coffee Shop Lace Dress”

Bellasunshine

Bella Sunshine’s “Coffee Shop Lace Dress” was the perfect design to make  costumes for a stage production of “The Music Man”.  My lovely customer has 2 daughters needing vintage-looking dresses for this musical show set in Iowa in 1912.  It was an opportunity to test a new-to-me pattern and designer!

(Photo courtesy of Bella Sunshine: http://bellasunshinedesigns.com/)

The show’s costume director asked for cotton drop-waist dresses, with small floral prints in light colors. Pinterest is my “go-to” for inspiration, and I came cross this darling lace-trimmed 1910’s dress:

Bluedress

…and these cuties from a Sears catalog:

Sears

The square neckline and lace trim details spoke to me, so when I flipped through my pattern stash, the “Coffee Shop Lace Dress” jumped out.  All it needed was a more dropped waist….I sent a link to the theater-mom, she showed it to the costume director, and we got approval to proceed.

PDF available here: http://bellasunshinedesigns.com/product/coffee-shop-lace-dress/

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About the PDF:

The pattern is VERY professionally written, complete with a detailed Table of Contents, and instructions for printing layers. You can choose to print the skirt pieces, or not (there’s a cutting chart for the skirt pieces). The designer has included a measuring guide, a lesson on how to blend sizes, a photographed glossary, plus charts of both Body Measurements AND finished Garment Measurements. There are Front/Back “flats” (line drawings) , yardage requirement chart, and everything is in imperial plus metric.

Instructions are illustrated with technical drawings, which personally I prefer over photographs (maybe because I understand how much more work goes into Illustrator than Photoshop!).  I understand, some people prefer photographs….just personal choice.

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First impression of the cut-out pattern:

  1. Pattern pieces: they are all printed with the names of the designer and the style.  No mystery patterns.

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2. Armscye: it’s shaped the same Front/Back. I generally prefer individually-shaped Front/Back, but the advantage of mirrored F/B is that you can’t set in the sleeves backwards, and sleeves can be intimidating.

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3. Sleeve: The sleeve-cap height seems short for a fitted sleeve, however this  makes it easier to “ease in” the shape for stitching to the bodice without any puckers.  Both the sleevecap and the armscye measure 12 1/2″ (in size 4)….6 1/4 for the Front and Back.

IMG_8239-300x263 copy copy.

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Onto the Muslin:  I cut a size 4 muslin of the bodice only, since the skirt is free-flowing and needs no fitting. The pattern pieces match up well. The sleeves are attached “flat” :

“Flat” sequence-of-stitching:

  1. Stitch bodice shoulders Front-to-Back
  2. Stitch sleeve to bodice
  3. Stitch bodice side-seam and sleeve side-seam all in a single pass

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this is how it looks peeking inside the sleeve:

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If you are new to  setting in sleeves, or have sleeve-phobia, this is a great way to overcome your anxiety.   Although I began dressmaking at age 8,  I avoided setting in sleeves for years!  I made raglan, dolman, sleeveless, halter…. I was 12 years old, in middle school, when I finally  attempted a set in sleeve, and the only instructions I had were the “dressmaker method”:

“Dressmaker” sequence-of-stitching:

  1.  Stitch bodice shoulders front-to-back
  2.  Stitch bodice side-seam front-to-back
  3.  Stitch sleeve side-seam front-to-back
  4.  Stitch sleeve to bodice in a circle

This is how dressmaker method looks peeking inside the sleeve:

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For myself, personally I prefer the dressmaker method for wovens (now that I’ve done it a thousand times), and the flat method for knits, however I imagine many seamstresses making childrens-wear would prefer the flat method….it is faster, and easier to see what you are doing.  The clear majority of kids pdfs do NOT have set-in sleeves at all, so if this is your first attempt at them, it’s a great pattern choice.

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On the dress-form, the muslin fits fine along the shoulders, side-seam placement, neckline.

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I’m confident going forward with the final fabric. But I did make 3 changes, which I will explain now. These were purely optional, NOT NECESSARY for making this dress.

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  1. LENGTH:

The length needed adjusting for the fashion-period of “The Music Man”, and with the illustrations provided in the pdf this is simple: the costume director  requested “below knee” and my customer had measured her daughters, so I noted the final lengths, then calculated the dropped-waist bodice, and the balance for the skirt:

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Since the dropped-waist needs to fit around the hips, and children’s hip size is generally 2″ larger than chest size, I added 1/2″ to the sweep of the bodice front and back. This also meant I could eliminate the skirt placket, as the garment is now cut the width of the hip. But isn’t it nice to know that this pattern HAS a skirt placket (with detailed instructions), for those making the original design with a waist-length bodice?  So many dress pdfs have no skirt placket, making it more difficult to get dressed, so it’s always a pleasure to see a pattern with a proper opening placket.

The skirt needed no width changes with the dropped-waist since it is free-flowing.  The girl’s mom requested a pleated skirt for her older daughter, to make it a bit more mature: this required no pattern change at all, just a lot of calculating the folds!

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2. SLEEVES: I decided to change from “flat” method, to “dressmaker” method of stitching.  Please note that this is purely my own personal preference, after many decades of sewing, it is NOT required for making this dress!  Also, I was making relatively larger sizes for this project (girls sizes 8 and 10) which made it easier to sew “dressmaker” style.  The tinier the armscye, the more likely you’d want to stitch “flat”.

First I  adjusted the sleeve pattern with a higher sleeve-cap, as the dressmaker method does make it easier to ease-in the extra sleeve-cap fullness into the armscye.  I’m aiming for a sleeve-cap stitching measurement  from 1/2″ to 1″ longer than the armscye stitching measurement.  (If this were an adult pattern I’d go for  1 1/4″ to 1 3/4″ longer). To do this, I slide the original sleeve pattern piece UP 3/4″ (this is an estimate, there are no “rules” here):

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I copied the front sleeve pattern at the sleeve seam from the original pattern to the new pattern paper:

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Then I drafted  the new higher front sleeve-cap, and marked the intersecting point of the French curves:

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…then 1/2″ down from the intersection I marked the front ease notch (in adult patterns this would be 1″ down from the intersection):

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The dressmaker method also requires a matching-shape (sleeve and bodice) at the underarm “anchor area”.    I French-curved the front bodice armscye (you notice I am trimming off a bit of the shoulder…this will be balanced with the higher sleeve-cap):

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….and placed the front bodice armscye pattern on top of the front sleeve pattern to match up the underarm curve from the side-seams up to the anchor point (halfway from the ease notches to the sideseam).

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Repeat for the back sleeve pattern: copy the sleeve seam to the new pattern paper:

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…draft the new higher sleevecap with French curves, mark the intersection, go down 1/2″ to mark the back ease notches:

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I French-curved the back bodice with a slightly shallower curve (more width is needed across the back, since our arms move forward):

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….and placed the back bodice armscye pattern on top of the back sleeve pattern to match up the underarm curve from the side-seams up to the anchor point (halfway from the ease notches to the sideseam):

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The new pattern has a sleevecap measuring 13 3/8″ which is 7/8″ longer than the armscye, so 7/8″ is the  amount of sleeve-cap that needs to be eased into the armscye:

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I checked the shape by folding in half,  to make sure the back sleeve-cap has more coverage than the front sleeve-cap:

IMG_8328 copy

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When setting in the sleeve, you pin it to the bodice armscye from anchor point to anchor point and first stitch that area with no ease….and you’ll be all set to ease in the sleevecap and stitch the rest of the sleeve.

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There are a hundred blog posts on “how to set in a sleeve”, so I’m not including that here…but if anybody has difficulty with it just let me know!

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3. LINING: this pattern has instructions for a completely fully lined bodice, no raw edges at waist or armholes.   Of course this is the most professional  way to sew, and creates the most comfortable dress.   For the skirt, you stitch the skirt to the bodice lining, then pin the outer bodice over the skirt-to-bodice seam, and edge-stitch.  This takes a steady hand. For the armscyes, this requires folding the bodice lining armscyes inward, and edge-stitching the armscyes at the sleeve attachment fro the outside.  It’s a challenge to do this smoothly.  The designer has listed this pattern as “Intermediate” and she does advise to slip-stitch if preferred.

And in reality, I did not enclose the raw edges, since these were costumes, and I had a deadline to meet for Tech Week (dress rehearsals).  I stitched skirt to bodice-plus-lining, over-locked, pressed, top-stitched.  I set in the sleeves, over-locked, pressed. And the outcome was fine.  Better than fine, these “costumes” are lovely dresses for school, church, portraits. This is a “big sister” version:

IMG_8292blog…..IMG_8295blog

And this is for her “little sister”. Since the girls’ mom asked for “sister but not matching” outfits, I made one dress without the “vee” front detail, by using the front bodice lining pattern as the outside. Different and just as cute!

IMG_8303Blog……IMG_8305blog

Overall  this is a sweet dress  with vintage charm, from a very professional pattern, that can be adjusted in terms of construction for a quick-and-easy, or more time-consuming-but-professional results. The pattern also includes long-sleeves, and could be made sleeveless.  I can see it with a raised-waist as well.  Then think of all the trim ideas on Pinterest, and you have endless possibilities!

PS: would you like to see the dresses on the girls?

“Coffee Shop Lace Dress” revisited

 

 

 

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10 Responses to PDF Review: Bella Sunshine “Coffee Shop Lace Dress”

  1. Tibeca says:

    Amazing work here. I’m a big fan of Bella Sunshine because of how professionally finished her patterns are. I feel a bit overwhelmed by your sleeve tutorial, but I suspect I’ll be trying it out soon.

  2. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Seriously beautiful patterns, right? And yes, it IS confusing figuring out how to adjust a sleeve pattern to make it work for a “classic” dressmaker set-in process….and even more challenging to try to explain it. Maybe a separate tutorial on set-in sleeves?

  3. Great review! Good comment about children’s wear sleeves typically being sewn in flat. I prefer to set in sleeves for adult garments, but on those little ones I sew flat.

  4. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Good point, I’m going to edit the post to say that I was making larger sizes (8 and 10). Definitely, the tinier the armscye, the more you’d want to stitch flat….especially infants clothes!

  5. Bonnie says:

    Question on sleeve installation – Does it ultimately matter which way you sew them in? I usually do the “dressmaker” method, even on knits in little kids’ clothing. My serger doesn’t like the big bump at the armpit if I sew them in flat and then sew the side/sleeve seam continuously. With the dressmaker method, I don’t have that, but am I doing it wrong?

    Your dresses are wonderful, and I love the Coffee Shop Lace Dress. I’d love to make it for my little granddaughter, but I cannot convince her mother to iron anything! Any advice? LOL!

  6. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Ah the no-iron generation! A steamer and a spray bottle of Downey’s “Wrinkle Release” are very helpful. Not the crisp finish you might prefer, but at least your granddaughter would get to wear pretty woven dresses. Does it matter which way you set in sleeves? No it’s personal preference: what feels right to you, what is easier for you….my serger balks at the bumps, too, although I do sew tee-shirt knits “flat” method. And some sewers prefer flat method for infant apparel since the armscye is so tiny. My neighbor bought a VERY expensive silk dupioni Christening gown for her granddaughter and the sleeves were stitched flat method. I think that sleeves “hang” better when set-in dressmaker style. Also it’s what my mom taught me LOL

  7. Kate says:

    Ah I’ve not tried Bella Sunshine, obviously time to give them a whirl.

  8. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Definitely! Classic designs with a retro-modern twist, and she doesn’t churn out new patterns every week, she takes her time to get it right, which I appreciate.

  9. Mgeni Jumbe says:

    Wow Janet great review and good job! Love the sleeves methods and like you I love to work with the dressmaker method more nowadays. Love the dress <3

  10. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Thanks Mgeni! I love seeing all the new outfits on your baby-girl and watching her grow up too!

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