Clever Charlotte

Wren Dress

Holiday Wren, a Tutorial

Tutorials, Wren Dresscarla macklinComment

In honor of the holiday season upon us, we were inspired to refashion our Wren Dress into something a bit more elegant. It only takes  a few tweaks to the paper pattern and a few yards of silk to turn this sweet dress into a tailored, sophisticated gown.  What's more, the contrasting band lends itself to a number of fun color combinations.

So, here's how you do it.  First, trace off your basic pattern pieces in the required size.

Next, slash a 1 1/2" horizontal Band from the Front pattern piece perpendicular to the center front line.  In this case I positioned the top of this Band approximately 2" down from the underarm point.  Then extend the pleat lines vertically across the new Top Front piece. Repeat these steps with the Back pattern piece.

Holiday Dress 2

You'll see in the above picture that the Band is much shorter than the original width of the garment.  To get this, you must fold out the amount of the pleats. Once this is completed, add a 1/2" seam allowance along both long edges of the Bands to accommodate the seam allowances of the finished Bands. The easiest way to do this is to retrace the original pieces onto bigger pieces of paper, then draw in the seam allowances.

I didn't make any changes to the Sleeves, so once you've made these changes to the Front and Back pieces, you are ready to cut your fabric.  In addition to cutting out separate the Sleeves and the Top and Bottom Front and Back pieces in you main fabric, you will need to cut out the Bands in a contrasting fabric as well.

Using the newly extended pleat guidelines, pin the pleats on the Top Front and Top Back pieces in place.

Secure these pleats by basting across them at the edge of the Facing, at the fold line, and at the bottom of each pattern piece as shown below for the Top Back pieces. Press the pleats down.  Repeat for the Top Front piece.

As directed in the pattern instructions, sew the Sleeves to Top Front and Top Back pattern pieces at the raglan seam line.

Pleat the Sleeves in a similar manner as the Top Front and Top Back. Press.

Fold the facing down so that the fold line becomes the neckline, as explained in your pattern instructions.  Press.

Attach the Bands to the corresponding Top Front and Top Back piece.  (Sorry for all these overexposed photos!)

For the zipper, I felt it was easiest to sew it in at this stage so that it only opened across the Band and the Top Back pieces in order for the gathers on the Back Bottom pieces (see the next step) to look more even.  Importantly, I didn't have any trouble later fitting this opening over my daughter's head.  PS--make sure to leave a tad more than 1/2"  of the Band out of the zipper so that you can sew it to the Lower Back with 1/2" seam allowance.

One of the last steps of your revised Wren Dress is to gather the Front and Back Bottom pieces before sewing them to the Bands.

To start, sew a basting stitch across the top edge of the Front and Back Bottom pieces.  Pull on the bobbin thread of the basting stitches to gather these pieces until the top edges match the length of their corresponding Bands. With the gathers spaced evenly across the seam, sew the Bottom pieces to the  Bands. Press the seam allowances open.

Here's what the inside of the dress looks like right before I sewed the Sleeves and side seams closed.

All that's left now is to hem the Dress and hem and add the elastic in the Sleeves, all as detailed in the pattern's written instructions. You may also want to topstitch the facing down by "stitching in the ditch" of the raglan seams.  Since the pleats are done differently in this version of the Wren Dress than the original, I found that the facing has a tendency to "pop out."  Also, to get the extra fullness in the Sleeves, I like to push the elastic hem of each Sleeve up the arm slightly to cause the Sleeve to balloon out a bit.

Have fun with this version of the Wren or as you embark on your own reconstructions!  Just a friendly reminder to post your creations/variations in our Flickr group!

Happy sewing! ~ Carla

A Heartfelt Thank You & Giveaway

Eider Tunic, Of Note, Wren Dress, Chickadee Blouse & Skirt, Raven Hoodie & Pants, Starling Dress & ShirtErinComment

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Carla and I have many things to be thankful about this year, Charlotte being one of them.  So we thought a special shout-out to you, our readers, followers, customers and fellow sewing enthusiasts, is particularly in order today. We also wanted to highlight some of your wonderful fall Charlotte creations from around the www.  To see even more, head on over to our Flickr group.

Skirt As Top + Pattern Giveaway!

Kristin of skirtastop is graciously hosting a pattern giveaway to accompany her first Clever Charlotte project--the Kestrel Coat.  She even gives us a mini-tutorial on how to modify (i.e. simplify) the sleeves from 2 pieces to 1.  While you're there, be sure to enter the giveaway by leaving a comment on her blog by this Sunday. Gobble gobble!

Skirt as Top Kestrel Coat
Skirt as Top Kestrel Coat

Charming Charm Stitch

A great eye for fabrics is just one of Laura's many sewing talents.  She seems to produce new looks on her blog in her sleep.  So far, she's sewn up 2 Chickadee skirts and 2 Raven Hoodies!  See them all on her blog and make sure you check out her great online fabric store for a lovely selection of Japanese imports and other designer fabrics.  [PS She's got a 10% off sale going on right now.]

Charm Stitch Hoodie & Skirt
Charm Stitch Hoodie & Skirt

Madame Mother of 5

Nicole of Down Under has sewn up every one of our spring/summer patterns at least once for her (count them 4!) daughters and has many well-photographed tutorials to go with each look.   She just finished up 2 posts detailing different ways  to line our Starling Dress and she's already scheming her look for the Kestrel Coat.  So stay tuned and visit her site often!

Five & Counting
Five & Counting

Queen of the Flies

Melanie from Queen of the Flies tries her hand at the Eider Tunic.  She does tiny prints so well, the Eider was a perfect choice for her.  Seems Melanie has also learned the critical photography skill of candy bribes for photo shoots!

Queen of the Flies Eider Tunic
Queen of the Flies Eider Tunic

Thank you all for a great inaugural year and have a great Thanksgiving!

Happy Sewing! Erin, Carla and Charlotte

Our First Kids Clothes Week Challenge

In the Workroom, Wren Dress, Starling Dress & ShirtErinComment
Starling for Launch Party/KCWC
Starling for Launch Party/KCWC

As part of our preparation for next week's launch party, Carla and I each sewed up one of our new dresses for our daughters to wear to the party.  In doing so, we also were able to count this time spent sewing toward the Kids Clothes Week Challenge, which is sponsored twice a year by elsiemarley.  It was like a sewing two-fer.

Carla chose the Starling Dress and sewed it up in a watermelon-pink cotton voile from Anna Maria Horner's Little Folks collection.  Carla has chosen to match the yoke to the dress and make the contrast a creamy white flounce.

Wren Launch Party
Wren Launch Party

My selection is the Wren Dress using a navy blue sateen (a cousin to the mauve sateen we sell in our shop).  This fabric has more body than the voile we feature the dress in on the pattern cover, so it really has a lot of volume in comparison.  The bright yellow bow really gives the dress an extra pop, but I am playing around with the idea of using a celery green grosgrain ribbon when my daughter wears it to the party.  I think it also looks quite lovely without any bow at all:

Navy Wren for Launch Party/KCWC
Navy Wren for Launch Party/KCWC

In Good Company

Of Note, Wren Dress, Starling Dress & ShirtErinComment

It is no secret around here that I am a huge fan of Crewcuts -- JCrew's line for children.  I think they offer an enticingly fresh, modern viewpoint to children's wear at *fairly* reasonable prices.  Their colors are sophisticated and hardly the overly-saturated, sickeningly sweet colors that so many makers of kids' clothes have been ramming down our throats for so long. While I am hesitant to liken our humble beginnings to the goliath JCrew, and I am somewhat loath to tout mass marketing on our site, I will say that I hold them in high regard for their aesthetic and hope Crewcuts will be around for the long haul--at least until my own two children are college bound many moons from now.

Wren-JCrew
Wren-JCrew

So back to my point--a few weeks ago I was perusing Crewcut's spring line up & I was struck by the similarities of their Fleur Dress with our own Wren Dress.  The pleated neckline and simple belt, for example.  And wouldn't that tone-on-tone floral arrangement at the neckline be a cute addition to the Wren?

So, as long as we are on the subject of drawing loose connections between Clever Charlotte and JCrew--weren't we a little surprised to see that the retailer is also offering a "Starling Dress" as part of their wedding collection this season? But I don't think you'll confuse these looks. The JCrew version is $1400!  I assure you, our pattern and sewing kit version is a steal in comparison!

Starling collage
Starling collage

I assure you readers these similarities are just that--mere conincendences, really.  But that doesn't mean I can't still think that we are so cutting edge around here!

The Shop's Grand Opening

Patterns, Shop News, Finch Shorts & Top, Starling Dress & Shirt, Wren Dress, Sandpiper Capri & TopErinComment
Wren Cover
Wren Cover

[one_half] [/one_half]

Sandpiper Cover
Sandpiper Cover

You've seen the previews, and now we are so pleased to announce that we've opened the doors to our new shop! Click on the "Shop Online" link at the top of this page to go to the store.  There you will find ready for purchase all 4 of our Spring/Summer patterns, the fabrics featured on the covers of our patterns and, to add even more convenience, sewing kits for each of the garments. {Note the patterns will ship the week of May 9th.}  In celebration of our opening, we are offering 20% off on patterns when you buy 3 or more (Be sure to use the code "Grand" when you check out).

Finch Covers
Finch Covers

We are really excited about our "One-Click" sewing kits, which include the fabric and notions needed, in just the right amounts, to create the garments in our Spring/Summer pattern collection.  You choose from among several (carefully coordinated) fabric choices, and we'll do the rest.  Think  how lovely it will be to open your front door and find waiting for you a box of everything you'll need to start sewing right away (note, the patterns are sold separately). We also offer all the fabric and notions on our site a la carte.

Starling Cover
Starling Cover

Another offering that we feel will simplify your sewing lives are samples of our fabric collection.  We will send you small swatches of all 6 of our current Spring/Summer fabric selections for $5--together with a $5 coupon to redeem on your next purchase.  We hope that you'll take advantage of this feature to be completely assured of the colors, weights and textures of all our fabrics before you buy.  We know you won't be disappointed.

So go check out the store and start planning your little girl's spring & summer looks!

Happy Sewing,

Erin & Carla

Introducing the Wren Dress

Design Updates, In the Workroom, Shop News, Wren DressErinComment
Wren Dress
Wren Dress

We are excited to start previewing our 4 sewing patterns, beginning today with the Wren Dress!  Look for our other Spring/Summer patterns to be revealed over the next few weeks. Our idea behind this dress was to offer a unique, go-anywhere design.  The pleating around the entire neckline really frames smiling faces beautifully (and now you see why we posted our Pleats, Please tutorial a few weeks ago!).  While these pleats are a sophisticated touch, you should not find them too difficult to re-create at home.  We chose the "poofy" sleeve to soften the crisp pleating and bring balance to the silhouette of the dress.

Wren Pleat Details
Wren Pleat Details

We are featuring the dress here in an Alexander Henry cotton lawn, which, along with the Wren Dress sewing pattern, also will be available for sale on our site soon.  I think this print just beckons for spring, and this dress would be perfect for Easter or another springtime event.  For even fancier occasions (think "flower girl"), you could choose a silk dupioni in a fresh fun color.  A linen or simple cotton would give this dress a more "everyday" feel.

Wren Dress 3
Wren Dress 3
Wren Back View with Green Belt
Wren Back View with Green Belt

We've styled the dress with an optional belt. For the back view in the picture above, we used a skinny belt from JCrew, but we found a simple grosgrain ribbon looks fabulous as well, as shown in the first photo above.  We think there is no limit to what you could do for the belt, and we expect to have a lot of fun with it to show you here on our website.  In the meantime, here are a few more accessory ideas:

Wren Accessories
Wren Accessories

Sources: HeadbandShoes, and Belt.

Hope you enjoyed this little preview. Stay tuned for more, and happy sewing!

Charlotte's Sewing Studio Basics: Pleats Please

In the Workroom, Tutorials, Wren Dresscarla macklinComment
Pleats Please by Issey Miyake
Pleats Please by Issey Miyake

Don’t worry, Clever Charlotte’s patterns aren’t as complex as the likes of Issey Miyake but we do have a few garments that involve some simple pleating details. With these tips, you should be able to tackle them with ease.

Step 1: MARK CAREFULLY. While you can use various marking pens on the market, I find that using a thread mark works the best.

How to sew a pleat
How to sew a pleat

To mark a pleat, pin the pattern piece to the fabric. Thread a needle with a long thread in contrasting color to your fabric. Do not put any knots in this thread. Insert the needle into the pattern piece at the pleat mark (circle, square, etc), piercing the pattern piece and the fabric. Pull the needle through the other side of the fabric so that a ‘tail’ of thread is left on the side where you initiated the hole (the pattern side). Cut the thread on the back (fabric side) so there is a ‘tail’ approximately equal in length to the tail on the paper side.

If you are marking a single thickness of fabric, use about a 2” tail on each the paper and fabric side. You can mark two or more layers of fabric at a time in the same manner, but you must increase the length of the tails to approximately 4” on either side. Once the thread goes through the paper pattern and the two layers of fabric, pull it so 4” is left on the pattern side and trim the ‘tail’ on the back side to 4”. After carefully removing the pattern from the fabric and making sure not to pull out the threads, open the two layers of fabric slowly and trim the thread between the two layers, leaving two 2” tails sandwiched inside the fabric.

Once the thread markings are complete, remove the pattern piece and handle the fabric pieces carefully so you don’t accidentally pull a thread out. I have done this numerous times and found it frustrating to have to realign the pattern piece on the cut fabric to remake the marking.

Step 2: FOLD CAREFULLY. After marking the pleats, fold each pleat together, matching up your marking points, then press the folds. When doing this, make sure that you are aligning the markings exactly where the thread enters the fabric. Place pins in place on either side of where you plan to stitch so that the pleats do not open up on one side or the other.

In most cases, Clever Charlotte’s pleats are marked with a pleat direction. While it’s not the end of the world if the pleat is sewn backwards, its best if the back of the pleat (the folded part on the wrong side of the fabric) lays towards the side seam on front pieces and the center back on back pieces.

Step 3:SEW CAREFULLY. Once the pleats are pinned, stitch them closed. This step is pretty straightforward, but one thing to note as the feed dogs cross of the pleats, they often have a tendency to open the pleat slightly. You can minimize this effect if you (1) sew slowly and (2) leave the needle in the down position as you lift the presser foot up onto a pleat. Or, alternatively, you can hand-tack the pleats in place with a basting stitch.

How to sew pleats
How to sew pleats

Step 4:PRESS CAREFULLY. After the pleats are secured by stitching, press them again to make them crisp. It’s up to you how much below the stitch line you press. By pressing only to the stitchline, your pleats will be softer and fuller than if you press beyond the stitch line.

Pleats? Yes, please!