Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On the Washi wagon

Washi dress review and FBA tips
I dislike PDF patterns. While there’s no denying the instant gratification benefit, I really hate the hours it takes to print, check scale, reprint and tape all. those. pages. together.  These are precious hours I could be, you know, sewing?  But I had a feeling Washi would be worth it. Why? Because I know Rae’s patterns are reliable, for one. Also, the style elements of this dress are perfect for large busts and mommy bellies.  The empire waist draws attention to the narrowest part but skims over the lumps and bumps.  The genius is in the pleats. You get the comfort of a full skirt, but they are more flattering and slimming than gathers. Then, there were the comfort points: pockets and a ruched back. Ruching provides a fitted look without the hassle of back alterations. It’s more comfortable to wear than a closely fitted bodice, but it looks nearly as polished.  Finally, the dress is still simple enough to be a canvas for all kinds of fabric or embellishments.  I was interested in the progress from idea to pattern on Rae’s blog.  But that maxi version the day before the pattern was available? That SOLD me. I had an immediate need to acquire more fabric and sew a Washi dress without further ado.
Around the same time the pattern was released, I came across a few dresses in denim and chambray at Boden and Madewell. As an all American girl who’s really really fond of denim, I loved the effortless chic of chambray done up in a dress. Inspiration met serendipity:  Washi in denim! It might have been Washi in chambray, but I tried four different shops and could NOT find any nice chambray. I settled for this lightweight designer denim Mr. James showed me.
What’s not to love about denim? What can’t you wear it with? It's as if my skinny jeans and my prom dress had a naughty, gorgeous love child. (Skinny jeans, btw, are the ones you can fit into when you’re skinny, not the tight legged things that won’t go away.)  It’s perfect for late summer, early fall and can be worn with absolutely anything. I can chase kids around the playground all day in this and still look put together. I can pick up my kids at school not ashamed to be seen by all those career moms in their high powered clothes. What is not to love?
Would I sew it again? I already have.  Here's a floral voile Washi with flutter sleeves and a perfected neckline. There's also a long sleeeved Washi in black and white plaid shirting I wore last weekend. There will at some point be a Washi for every day of the week! I have plans for cozy winter Washis and sexy maxi summer Washis, every day Washis and date night Washis. It is the best dress ever.
Keep reading if you want my full tips and adjustment notes.
Other things I liked about Washi as I sewed it:
1.       Built in pockets! I always want pockets, but sometimes forget. There is no forgetting these pockets drafted as part of the skirt. Also, despite my obsessive seam finishing, there is always an unfinished edge in a pocket – but not in Washi. I will merge pocket pieces to all my skirt pieces from now on.  Duh! Why didn’t anyone think of that before? Sheer genius.
2.       Thoughtful details throughout. The armscye bias finish for the cap sleeves is lovely. I don’t normally love a partial sleeve, but there are one or two patterns I make exceptions for and I will now finish all of them like this. Also, ¼” seams make setting the sleeves much easier and saves all that stupid trimming around necklines.
3.       Thorough instructions for beginners. Although this pattern is labeled intermediate, the instructions provided are very carefully done. If you’ve done children’s clothes and know the basic construction process, but little adult fitting, this would be a great pattern to try.
4.   Thorough pattern support on Rae's website, including videos on how to line the dress with a genius magic trick.
Adjustments I made:
1.       FBA. It’s really thoughtful that the pattern gives high bust as well as full bust, but it would be even better to include finished bust measurements so we have an idea of how much adjustment is necessary. I figured the L would be good, but I still wasn’t sure how much of an FBA to do so I had to measure the flat pattern. Folding up the dart and allowing for seams, I figured that the finished bust was 40 ¾” with negative ease because of the shirring in the back.  Size L is meant for a full bust of 38-39” so the pattern wants about 2” of ease before the shirring. If my full bust measures about 41” or so, I’d need to add quite a bit. There is flexibility in the shirring, but the front is fairly fitted so you also need to get that right.
a.       Adding an entire inch to the bust dart was problematic. I couldn’t make the darts lay flat. At that size, they created a box. I tried them several different ways, but no go. So I went back to the paper and reduced the FBA to ¾”. Still a little boxy, but better. I lengthened the dart 5/8” to help it taper more gradually and presto! Reasonably smooth darts. 
b.      Don’t forget to make adjustments in the waist to fit accommodate the added width from the FBA. I added tiny waist darts, ¾” each. You could also use gathers or pleats
c.       If you need a larger FBA and have a problem with boxy darts, here’s a cheater method I sometimes employ. After making darts as large as possible, I will add more room to the center front of the bodice and perhaps length too. It’s also possible to rotate some of the dart into the shoulder and add gathers or shirring. It all depends on the style you’re going for.
2.       Added 1” in length.
3.       Added an extra row of ruching at the top because it still poofed out in a way I didn’t like.
4.       Took and entire inch off the side and front neckline and I’m still not 100% happy with it. In my second go-round, I also widened the neckline at the shoulders and it works much better for me. I’m thinking a lot about necklines right now. They are not one-size fits all, you know? It’s another adjustment you need to make to flatter you.
5.       I thought about skipping the muslin because the fit is forgiving and my fabric is strong, but I’m glad I didn’t. Those darts are a little strange and needed play.
What I didn’t love:
1.       The printing and taping nonsense. However, Rae has now made some paper patterns available too.
2.       A few sleeve options would be nice. Doesn’t this have winter time potential as a ¾ sleeved dress? Since I've had a chance to post this, though, Rae has offerered a downloadable sleeve. I tried it on yet another Washi dress, but I ended up using a sleeve from another pattern.
1.       I cut this entire dress plus a Music Box jumper size 2T out of less than 3 yards of fabric! Because everything Washi is cut on the fold, you’ll have lots of non fold fabric left.  I made good use of it by cutting a baby dress at the same time. I cut the front bodice, front skirt, back dress on the fold with the back skirt and back bodice of the music box in the margins. Then, I folded the next part of the fabric into the middle to make two folds. Here, I cut the front skirt and bodice of the music box and the facings of the Wahsi dress. I should have taken a picture.
2.       The lightweight denim is sort of a medium weight fabric, so I skipped interfacing the neckline. I used a navy broadcloth from my box of linings to make bias for the armcyes and to edge the facings.
3.       The shoulders and sides – including the pockets – are French seams. The front waist seam is bound. The facings are stitched in the ditch at the shoulders and tacked by hand the rest of the way down.
4.       I attached the sleeves and armscye bias flat, then stitched up the sides and bias in one swoop. After that, understitch, press and topstitch the bias into place for a really clean finish.
5.       I basted the sleeves, then stitched them with the bias so I wouldn’t have to worry about my two rows of stitching being perfectly aligned. Just remove whatever basting shows.
6.       Be careful of the ends of the cap sleeves. They want to pull out! I’ve noticed this on ready to wear as well. I don't love the winged look, so I may go back and change them.
7.       I cut the sleeves in two pieces. Instead of folding, I stitched them together, then understitched and pressed the facing. I felt this gave the sleeve hem a more polished look, but maybe I was just making more work for myself. It also used less fabric.
8.       Mark center folds as you cut for easier alignment later.
·         4yds of fabric (I only used 3) $44
·         Thread and bias fabric from my stash
·         Pattern (I plan to use this again. And again.) $16
Total, depending on how you look at it: $44/$60. And I got a toddler dress too. Less than half what I would have paid for the Madewell dress or one from Garnet Hill or Boden.  The floral version was purely stash fabric.Could I have gotten a cheaper dress at Old Navy? Sure, but let’s compare apples to apples. 


  1. Love both of these dresses on you - and thanks for the detailed tips on how you put these together. Your hard work and pre-planning definitely paid off...J

  2. These dresses look stylish, comfortable and flattering. Great combination and a lovely sewing job :)

  3. Thank you so much! It really is a great pattern - flattering and verstile.

  4. I absolutely love the denim Washi! It looks fabulous on you paired with the boots.:)

  5. Thank! It layers well, too, and I wear it with a sweater and scarf all the time, but I wanted to show the dress clearly. When it gets really cold, I'm planning turtlenecks underneath.

  6. I absolutely love your Washi dresses. Your denim version it totally the look I was going for with mine, but it didn't pan out. I really like the dress and pattern, but next time will need to make some adjustments. Thanks for all the construction tips.

  7. I was just looking up this pattern and found yours. So glad you liked the pattern and they look so lovely on you. Have to check out the rest of your blog now glad I found it!

  8. I was just looking up this pattern and found yours. So glad you liked the pattern and they look so lovely on you. Have to check out the rest of your blog now glad I found it!