In 2016MakeNine/ Sewing

Fancy Tiger Fen Tee

One of the patterns on my #2016MakeNine list is Fen by Fancy Tiger Crafts. I originally bought this pattern thinking the dress would become a very favorite of mine, maybe even a “TNT” that I could make and wear again and again. Welllllllll… it didn’t exactly work out like that. But! Two muslin attempts is a learning experience, and a learning experience is no failure. Besides, I’m happy to keep working towards a me-made wardrobe that I can love for a long time, not just love for a few weeks and then decide there’s something amiss.


In this case, the ‘something amiss’ was amiss before I even finished my wearable muslin. In the back of my mind I figured that might be the case, but I continued onward anyway and hoped for the best. To ramble backwards for a minute, last year I learned many valuable lessons in what I like to wear and what fitting changes I need to make to get things to fit me well. For example, the Hollyburn Skirt is one of my very favorite patterns (I made 4 last year) but a tight, high-waisted skirt made from woven fabric is really unkind to acid reflux, hence my desire to sew more loose, boxy dresses like Fen.


I also learned I have a rounded upper back and forward sloping shoulders, which I’ve lovingly termed the Lady Turtle* body type. I always want to sew built-in kimono sleeve patterns, like Fen, because they’re so quick, but every time I do I’m unhappy with how the sleeves fall on my slope-y shoulders, and how the shoulder seams (and therefore the sleeves) roll backwards on me with wear, throwing off necklines, side seams and the overall balance of the top. That’s the something that’s amiss, and that’s why both the Fen dress and the Fen tee won’t be a go-to pattern for me.

*I’m starting to collect my findings on this subject so I can start a new pattern fitting series for fellow LT’s!


It didn’t dawn on me that kimono/dolman style things never feel quite right with me until I tried on my Fen dress muslin (pictured later). I never wear my Staple Dress or my batwing t-shirts because they just don’t sit right on my shoulders. Looking back, those garments look totally fine in the photos because I wasn’t really “wearing” them, I was just posing in them. When I wear them out I’m constantly pulling the garment down or adjusting the neckline or fixing twisted sleeves, etc. To get a pattern to fit in a way I’m truly happy with, I need to go sleeveless (like my Tiny Pocket Tank – I worked hard on that fit!) or sew sleeves that are set-in.


These projects aren’t a total loss by any means, in fact I’m really loving this t-shirt even though it’s technically a muslin. The unfinished Fen dress will get scrapped for other smaller projects, and the Fen shirt makes a perfectly wearable lounge tee as-is. I’m still on the hunt for a TNT t-shirt pattern, and now I know I want one with regular set-in sleeves and a hemline that’s not so curvy and fussy to sew. Lark is still on my list to try soon and I’m remaining optimistic! Plus, you guys! I’m getting so much better at sewing with knits! This excites me!


As far as dresses go, it’s hard for me to predict what I’ll want to wear as soon as the warm weather comes back, but I’m not really in love with this shape of dress on me right now. I’ve seen some versions online that are seriously adorable, but I don’t feel adorable when I wear Fen. I do love the cut of the neckline, and the bust darts fall right where they should, and actually I don’t mind the way the sleeves fall either, but as I said, I’m constantly pulling the dress down or fussing with the neck because something doesn’t feel right at the shoulders. Not to mention the bodice is too short on me… But anyways, I don’t want to sound like I’m hating on this pattern, I’m just thinking out loud here, for myself, for future reference.


I can over-analyze the fit in the above photos all I want, but that won’t change the fact that when I put this muslin on I’m not inspired to make changes to the pattern and try again for keeps. Even my camera seems to be uninspired by my efforts, hence the oddly darker lighting out of no where – So weird. Oh well, there are plenty of other dress fish in the sea and I’ll figure out the right silhouette for me one of these days!


Speaking of figuring it out, I’m feeling very inspired by Christine Haynes and her Wardrobe Architect posts right now. I missed that whole boat when Colette first started it but I’ve been loosely playing along on Pinterest. I had a pretty rocky year in 2015 as a result of some big relationship/social/lifestyle changes. My wardrobe was all over the place and I’m still trying to evaluate what’s “me” and what isn’t. The snow makes me want to hibernate and not fuss with trying to put an outfit together, so I’ve been feeling very “meh” and uninspired on the fashion/sewing front lately. I know the sunshine will change that, though!


Outfit Details:
Shirt Pattern – Fen by Fancy Tiger purchased from Finch
Shirt Fabric – a red dot sale purchase from Jo-Ann’s
Hat – Sleep Season Slouch
Jeans – American Eagle
Shoes – Clarks
Glasses – c/o Victory Optical
(20% off all frames with code LUCKY20)

Guest appearances by Lucille, Karl, and Peanut the Cat 😉


If you skimmed through the above ramblings (which I can’t blame you for, really) I’ll sum everything up now: I love the Fancy Tiger aesthetic so I was also hoping to love this dress, but I don’t (insert sad face). It’s not a particularly inspiring dress on me in my opinion. The tee version is a much, much bigger win but I still don’t quite love it because kimono style sleeves tend to do weird things on my shoulders with wear, plus that roll-y bottom hem annoys me to no end (insert twitchy eye face). Now I know what I don’t want in a dress, plus I got some great practice in for future knit projects, so I’m still feeling like a winner here (insert smug face)!

Well, cross Fen off my Make Nine list! I don’t think I’ll be making this pattern again, but I did learn a few things for the next t-shirt attempt, as I said. I still have a Christmas gift card to Hawthorne Threads so I’d like to buy Lark and start on that next, but I should probably try to sew a sweater for Lucille before winter is over!


  • I’m so excited for your Lady Turtle knowledge smackdown, until you started talking about your fitting issues I’d been struggling to figure out what the hell was going on with all my makes. Hurrah for fellow Lady Turtles, and hurrah for you figuring it all out and then just teaching us your wise ways (and for testing all the patterns so we don’t have to ?). If it was down to me, I’d still be trying to figure out why my necklines keep ending up around my chin!

  • Pumpener

    Im eagerly waiting for your lady turtle blog post, i have similiar shoulders and the only thing that makes sense to me is to take fabric from high bust and add it to back, move shoulder seam forward angling it out more toward front – this will stop the top sliding backward- ive done this to a few rtw tops but it obviously makes armhole smaller and making back neckline higher to hide my rounded back because #insecure

  • jannapyj

    Good luck finding that other dress fish in the sea! I enjoy watching you fish around for it!!! :o)

  • I have the same lady turtle figure and I love kimono sleeves! However, when I made the Anna dress by BHL it fit awkwardly, slipping to the back etc. But don’t count out that style as a poor fit across the board, there is a fit solution for everything. I have other kimono sleeve garments that fit well and look really good too. Good luck with your journey 🙂

  • Today a friend lent me an amazing book on fitting and as I was flipping through I remembered your post from earlier in the day. The book is called ‘Fitting & Pattern Alteration; A Multi-Method Approach’ by Liechty, Rasbland & Pottberg-Steineckert and I think you’d find it very useful! I’m experiencing my own fitting woes at the moment so I share your frustration!

  • Maggie Ha

    My father used to say, “Every No gets you closer to a Yes”. Knowing what shapes looks best on your body type is a win, win every time. I always look forward to reading your blog.

    • That’s a really excellent saying! Your father was a wise man with great words to pass on 🙂

  • Shayna

    Dude, try the idyllwild tee by itch to stitch. I’ve made four tees and have a dress that just needs hemming. It’s got a great fit, 7 sleeve lengths and tee/tunic/dress lengths. Plus, her patterns have layers which is the best thing a pdf pattern can have imo. TNT for sure.

    • Whoa, so many options! I hadn’t seen that pattern before but I’m definitely pinning it for future reference. It looks like a good one, especially if the PDF has layered sizes! YES! Thanks for the heads-up 🙂

  • Janie

    I also had the question of if you had tried the Scout Tee and how it worked with the forward shoulders. I’ve seen some made it knit as well as woven fabrics. I love your blog.
    older lady turtle

    • I have not tried the Scout Tee, so I’m not sure how it would fit, but I’m guessing it would need a few adjustments at the shoulders since it’s meant for woven fabrics. I’m hoping Lark will be more forgiving since it’s drafted for knits 🙂 Thanks for the blog love, fellow LT! <3

  • Juliana Bibas

    Have you considered the Simplicity 1080 (aka Dottie Angel frock)? I LURVE it. I’ve made about 6 of them since January. It is officially my go-to dress pattern. I really like the looseness of it, and if you are careful about sizing in a big 4 pattern (as I”m sure you would be!), it is great. My basic Frankendress pattern (with a waist seam) wasn’t doing it for me any more, as I have some of the same belly issues you do–I really wanted something without a waist seam, that would have some shape, but not be confining around the middle. This dress ticks all the boxes for me.

    I skipped the waist ties and just put a little strip of elastic in the back between the bust points (if you transfer the inner tuck point to the back, to use as a reference–I think it is about 6″ wide). I also made the first one with the tucks on the front, but started using tiny bits of elastic instead, which I like much better. The result is a loosely fitted dress, with pockets, that I can sew in about 2 hours start to finish. I’ve cut out a few of her finishing steps, because I don’t mind pinked edges, and I’ve made the sleeves full cut on instead of the short kimono ones because I like more upper arm coverage, and I prefer to finish my sleeves with bias all the way around, but you could shorten them to full sleeveless if you liked. I did most of my tweaking on the 2nd and 3rd iterations and I think I’ve finally got it now.

    • I bought that pattern months ago but have yet to sew it! I hear awesome things about it so I should really give it a try soon! I’m so happy to hear you’re thrilled with it (gives me hope), and I love the idea of skipping the waist ties and doing a little fabric tab or elastic instead 🙂

      • Juliana Bibas

        I highly recommend looking on Pinterest or Instagram under Dottie Angel frocks, as there are a lot of examples there. Tiff herself usually doesn’t make them with waist ties, and so I got the elastic idea from her. Because I didn’t want elastic all the way across my middle, but I did want some shape to the front, putting them where the tucks are indicated works perfectly.

  • Barbara

    My TNT tee shirt is the Thia Tee from LaFred. 3 different sleeve lengths, bust and body darts – extremely flattering.

    • That sounds very flattering! I haven’t heard of LaFred, I’m off to check them out now. Thanks for the suggestion! 🙂

  • Julie Culshaw

    Yes, those shoulder lines can be really annoying when they don’t sit right. I have a similar problem. The best fitting tee that I have found is this one

    It is well drafted, the neck binding is perfect and makes the neckline lie flat.

  • Sometimes finding out what you don’t like makes finding what you do like a bit easier. Have you tried the Scout Tee?

    • I haven’t tried Scout yet because I love my woven Tiny Pocket Tank (pretty much a sleeveless Scout) and I’m really crossing my fingers that I’ll have good luck with Lark because it’s drafted for knits. I know Scout can be made with knits too, but I’m hoping Lark will be a more forgiving fit. We’ll see! 🙂