It could take me an entire month to complete a complicated project and at least two weekends to make one dress or top. And at the end of that time, the garment might not fit or work well for me. To address this situation, I went looking for a couple of patterns that I could make over and over with a little diversity so that my limited sewing time would yield better results. That's how I stumbled upon Butterick 5932.
Now I originally made this dress and jacket combo exactly as it appears on the envelope. It was a perfect work and church dress and I really liked the fit on it. So my first alteration was to change it from a sleeveless dress to a short sleeve dress, thereby making it more versatile and less likely to need a jacket to complete it.
I really wasn't sure how to accomplish this task but during that time I was on an internet sewing list and I asked the question there and got an answer. It took a couple of attempts but I finally got the shoulder to fit, the sleeve to fit into the sleeve cap and the two to work together as a cohesive unit. I didn't draft a new sleeve pattern - had no clue how! I took the sleeve from the jacket pattern and played with it until the cap fit into the newly adapted shoulder seam of the dress. I definitely used the trial and error method for this and I'm sure that I wore some dresses that weren't perfect...but I was learning! *LOL*
The first instance of using this pattern repeatedly was when I made a series of linen summer dresses that I called, "The Necklace Dresses" so named because there were four dresses and each one had a different type of embellishment at the neckline. For this series of dresses I changed the side vents to a back vent but besides color, embellishment and a simple design change, the dress still looked remarkably like the pattern envelope. Sadly, I have no pictures of these dresses because the affordable digital camera had not yet arrived!
I worked the pattern in this condition for about a year, using color, fabric, border prints to make each new dress distinctive from the others. It became a go-to pattern when I needed a dress without a lot of effort. Then I was inspired to remove the empire seaming detail. This was another simple change. I laid the bodice on top of the skirt (both front and back pieces) overlapped the 5/8" seam allowance and traced off a new piece. It was during this transformation that the dress went from long to short. Here is one of my first attempts at this dress using a distinctive fabric and a little piping to make it work:
...and this dress is still in my closet today! Just ran it through the wash to wear next week!!!
Each change to this pattern was accomplished by adjusting the pattern, making several dresses and with each wearing...adjusting...adjusting...adjusting!
One more from that time period - Lulu wearing it in wool crepe again with a piping - this time the piping is suede and the dress is lined:
I've always taken details from other garments I like. I've continued this and it was this practice that elevated my TNT dress pattern into it's greatest and most imaginative phase. It started with The Chanel Knock-off Dress. *sigh* The Chanel Knock-off Dress is one of the milestone markers of my sewing because it changed everything about what I thought I could do to or with a pattern and it's really the godmother of all the dresses you seen here since. Even though I'd shortened and made a few changes to my TNT pattern, I'd never really had the courage to cut a pattern apart to reproduce a look I wanted...normally I would just look for and buy a pattern to achieve the look.
Making that dress was my "Aha Moment!" I fearlessly cut and rearranged the pattern, used some sewing techniques that I had learned from years of sewing, screwed up my courage and went for it. Constructing that dress opened my eyes and showed me that there are unlimited horizons and that I can make anything I want from a picture, a tv show, something I saw on the street or dreamed up.
It's funny because several dresses into my new world view, Summerset called my TNT dress pattern a sloper and maybe it is. Especially since I've used it so much to interpret looks as well as a vintage pattern - Vogue 5265. Now it's become a roadmark, a place where I begin my creative journey and where anything can happen.
Let me stress again that getting a well-used, well-fitted TNT pattern is a process. My pattern has been in the making for ten years and has seen many incarnations as well as many wearable muslins! Along the way there have been some wadders, a few "What was I Thinking!" dresses and some that failed the wearability test spectacularly!
Another thing that Cynthia Guffey said directly to me in one of those fitting classes was that, "Sewing is your hobby, it should not be rushed. It is a journey. Enjoy the journey!" She gave me those sage words after I asked a question about why she invested so much time in sewing a hem. At the time they were delivered, I was embarrassed and a little humilated because if you've ever taken a class with Cynthia you know that her delivery is crisp and to the point!
However, after internalizing those words, they have become my sewing mantra. So now I'm passing them along to you...if you really want a well-fitted, lay it down on the fabric, cut and sew it TNT pattern...enjoy the journey! Don't skip any steps! Don't go to fast! Because you must see the adventure in the process and you have to make the journey to get a TNT pattern...