Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Striped Blackwood

I've mentioned that I don't normally buy patterns the second they come out.  Turns out that I make an exception for cardigans, as this is the second one (the first being the Lisbon) that I have bought the week of its release.  I knew immediately upon seeing the Blackwood Cardigan that it would get a workout in my wardrobe, so it jumped up to the top of my queue, along with a recently-purchased rayon/cotton/lycra striped pre-cut from Fabric Mart.


I chose the shorter view without pockets.  I have a 36" high bust and a 42" full bust, so I sewed a medium at the shoulders, extending out to between the L and XL at the bottom of the armscye.  I graded to an XL at the waist and kept the XL the rest of the way down.  I didn't really know how long to cut the front band given my mods, so I just cut the XL and then tried it on my fabric at the end.  I wanted to match stripes, so I just kind of fudged it.

The neckband seems to sit a bit higher on my neck than on the testers, so I think I probably stretched it too much around the back of the neckline.  Also, I accidentally cut the neckband on the fold, so it's all one piece.

I cut the sleeve and bottom bands a tiny bit longer than called for since I wanted to continue the stripe pattern from the body of the cardigan. Sleeve length doesn't tend to be an issue for me one way or the other, but on this patternI found the sleeves very long - I cut 1.5" off the sleeve before attaching the cuff, and they are the perfect length.

The armscye is super high on me - it actually hits above the fold of my armpit.  Surprisingly, it's not particularly uncomfortable, however, I will lower it for next time.  I've already ordered some rayon/lycra knit in taupe for my next version.

As casual as this pattern seemed to me, something about pairing it with this striped knit almost feels blazer-esque to me.  I think I could easily wear this with a black skirt and heels and look professional on the couple of days a month that I work out of the house.

I'm very happy with the fit.  I might grade all the way out to the XL under the armscye next time, but that is the only modification I am planning.  You can expect to see more of these from me!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Green Laure

I think I've mentioned that I am not usually quick to jump on a new pattern.  When I saw the Laure dress, though, I was instantly smitten with both the qipao and the pussy bow views.  I haven't historically loved a dropped waist dress, but I think it looks so nice with the bow.

I showed the pattern to N, and she also loved the bow view.  We agreed that I'd sew it out of some shot cotton shirting I had in the stash (previously used here and here; I'm down to my last half-yard, which I am saving for pocket linings on future jeans).

N is seven years old, super-skinny and tallish for her age.  I sewed a size 5 with the length of an 8.  Even going down to a 5 width, the bodice was much too wide.  I ended up taking in the bodice side seams under the arm a full inch on each side (4" total removed in circumference!), tapering to nothing at the skirt seam.  The size 8 was just a bit short for my taste, so I ended up cutting out a hem facing to preserve length.  I'm quite pleased with the fit now.

I sewed the cap sleeve, which I found a little fiddly to set in as there is no easing at all.  A tiny bit of easing would have made it go in more easily, I think, and I'd like just a little poof at the sleeve cap.  This is a really minor detail, though, and I still love the dress.

I ended up adding some velvet/crochet lace trim from the stash to the front of the bodice.  I bought this trim in three colors, ages ago, probably from Fabric.com, and it was perfect.  I recently gave away more than half my stash in a decluttering frenzy, but finding this trim post-purge reminds me that it's not a terrible thing to stash a really unusual bit of trim or fabric when I see it.  I just need to be a bit more selective in what I choose.

My invisible zipper went in pretty well ... because, as it turns out, my regular zipper foot ... is actually an invisible zipper foot.  It came with my machine (an eBay purchase) six years ago.  I didn't really know what invisible zips were at the time, nor that they had their own special foot, so all this time I've been using that foot as a regular zipper foot (i.e. not stitching through the hole down the middle), and then killing myself when I do try to set in an invisible zip ... because I'm not using the foot the right way.

The construction of the dress was straightforward yet elegant.  The bodice is fully lined for a clean finish and the lining is attached at the zip by machine, not by hand.  I could have French seamed the skirt for a clean finish there, but the seam allowances are only 3/8" and I didn't think ahead at the cutting stage. The sewing did take some time, and so it was one of only two makes I eked out for Kids Clothes Week this year.  I think it was well worth the time, and N loves it.  And really, that's the most important thing.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mismatched stripe Appleton top

So right after I sewed my second Appleton dress, I decided to try making a top.  After the increased wrinkles that resulted from my original pattern mods, I decided to go back to the size 14 E/F bodice, but I kept the sliver that I added to the back pattern piece, and the size 16 sleeve.  I have similar wrinkly issues with this top so I think I really need to do a proper full-bicep modification on the size 14 sleeve.

To make the top, I cut the bodice 6.5" inches below the hip notch and hemmed it up 3/4".  The Cashmerette tutorial has you cut it at the hip notch, but I knew I'd prefer it much longer. I also cut both front pieces the same width, and used the tie pattern from the dress pattern rather than from the top tutorial.

The fabric I used was an unknown knit (rayon/lycra, I think) purchased several years ago from the $2.96 table at the now-defunct G Street Fabrics.  It is lovely to wear and has fabulous recovery. I only had two yards of it and it has these crazy wide stripes, though, so I had to think hard about where to put them.  I had made a t-shirt last summer out of a similarly wide-striped fabric, and I never wore it because the stripes were placed very unflatteringly relative to my bust.  I decided to eliminate the potential for that problem by using the widest dark teal stripe at the top.

What I didn't count on was that, by doing so, I would end up with a top that looks like I am wearing an apron!  It's especially noticeable when I am wearing my Soviet-cafeteria-lady face (they were the originators of the RBF, you know).

Though you can't tell by looking at it, I actually worked hard to match the stripes for this top.  I laid out my pieces on a single layer, checked and rechecked them.  But what I didn't take into account was that the Appleton has a built-in forward shoulder adjustment.  So my strategy of aligning the stripes starting at the shoulder was a big fail.  I should have aligned them at the bottom of the armscye and again at the hem.  Womp womp.

The result is hugely irritating, but not irritating enough to keep me from wearing the top.  I'm more concerned with the tightness of the top at the back, which illuminates the flab in that area.  It's better with the extra room I added to the back pattern piece after my first Appleton, but it still feels really noticeable.  I wonder if going up to a size 16 in the back bodice would help.  I'm not sure I will test it out any time soon, though - I'm itching to get to a couple other projects for myself.

Anyway, I wear this regularly, and get lots of compliments when I do.  I do have to pin the bodice to keep it modest, as you can see above, but as I mentioned in a previous Appleton post, I don't think that can be helped given the topography of the area.  I really love the wide neckband on this pattern, and might sew it in a contrasting color the next time I make one of these dresses.

Until next time!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ginger jeans


I know, I've been talking about it forever.  I bet some of you thought I was never actually going to do it.  I wasn't sure myself, so I don't blame you.  But I finally did it, and it was one of my first makes of 2017 to boot.

These are, of course, the ubiquitous Ginger Jeans.  I sewed them in a very stretchy denim purchased a few months ago from Fabric Mart.  I started with View A (the mid-rise stovepipe leg) but ended up closer to View B by the time I was finished with my modifications.

I cut the size 16 and basted it together.  Immediately I knew that I was going to need more coverage in the behind - the seat dropped when I walked up stairs or sat down, and it gaped.  I did two things to remedy this. First, I scooped out the back crotch curve about 1".  Much better.  Then, I raised the yoke height by 1" at center back (tapering to nothing at the side seams), and slashed the yoke pattern in two places to overlap it at the top, creating a much more curved yoke piece than I started with.  Here's a crummy iPhone photo of my yoke (top) compared to the original.

I also omitted the traditional waistband in favor of a stretchy self-fabric band, to create pull-on jeans. I bought a pair of pull-on jeans at the thrift store last year and they changed my world.  Up until that point, I had no idea that non-maternity pull-on jeans existed. At least not ones that didn't have a gnarly gathered elastic waistband and front pleats.  This was seriously a life-changing discovery.  I've always been a big fan of jeans, but lately I just can't stand a firm waistband when my middle section is so prone to changing sizes throughout the month week day.  As I never wear shirts tucked into jeans, this is a no-brainer.

My waistband, which finished at 3", is contoured at the sides, so at the bottom it is 35" around and at the top it is 32".  It is stretched to fit 39" of waist at the top of the jeans yoke.  I think I need a more curved waistband, though, so I will slash my waistband pattern piece in a couple of places and overlap at the top before sewing these again.

When I first sewed these jeans I had some crazy wrinkling at the back knee.  I suspected after sewing my Chi-Town Chinos that I might need a knock-knee adjustment.  I found a very informative post at Stitches and Seams discussing how a full inner thigh (which I definitely have) results in the same fit issues as a knock knee.  The basic idea of the method I used is to shift the entire pant leg towards the inseam.  Having already cut out my pieces, I couldn't do the full adjustment, but I resewed my seams with a 1/4" allowance at the inseam and a 1" allowance at the outseam, effectively moving my legs over 3/8" towards the center.  This actually did help the back wrinkling a bit and I'm curious to see what would happen if I did the adjustment the right way.

So, then I finished sewing them, topstitched them up and wore them.  They bagged out like crazy.  So I took them off and took the side seams in 3/8" inch from waist to calf, tapering to nothing at the hem. That was much better, and lessened the back wrinkles a bit more.  Then I wore them for another day and ended up taking them off and tapering a further 1/2" starting at the bottom of the pocket and ending at the fullest part of my calf.  I actually took the side seam in even more around the knee, curving the seam in and back out again.  That seemed like the wrong way to go about fixing the extra fabric there but it seems to have worked without issue.  I think by the time I was done doing this, I had effectively skinnified the jeans all the way down to View B, with the exception of the ankle, which I prefer to be a little straighter, so maybe I should have started there to begin with!

After yet another day's wear, I wondered whether the pants' migration south had anything to do with the fact that my front crotch was too long.  I ripped open the inseam and sliced 1/2" off the top of it, tapering to nothing about four inches down the inseam. That took care of some of the extra fabric there, but I think I actually need to do a different type of alteration to shorten the crotch - the method I tried also reduces the inseam, which I don't need.  If I slash the pants pattern above the crotch and overlap it, I'll get the shorter rise but keep the inseam intact.  Still doesn't solve the slippage problem, but maybe there's no way around that with these pull-on jeans.

And I'm having one other issue with these jeans, one that I haven't seen in any other reviews.  Can you tell what it is?

My pockets keep moving up out of themselves.  I would assume that this was a result of the jeans being too tight but they're really not too tight.  I'm going to widen the pocket facing pattern for next time, to ensure that the edge doesn't peek out, but I'm not sure why I'm having this issue when no one else seems to.  In any case, my shirt is almost always covering my pockets, so it doesn't affect the wearability of this pair.

I am 5'8", and I didn't add any length, but I did only hem them up 5/8" after serging the raw edge  I'll need to add some length to hem them the way Heather calls for.  No matter - I've been wearing these non-stop since I made them, and they are now my favorite jeans, so I'm calling them a rousing success.

I friggin' made jeans!

Monday, January 30, 2017

The enemy of good

I had forgotten how much I love wrap dresses.  I still own two RTW ones from my working lady days, tucked away as they are in the maybe-I'll-fit-into-it-again-someday box.  They never failed to make me feel stylish and put together when I wore them.  Wrap dresses don't fit into my daily wardrobe anymore, but that didn't stop me from sewing up another Appleton dress the day after I finished my first one.

In hindsight, I think the last one, in a straight size 14 E/F, really came out well.  But hypercritical me just could not leave it alone.  I found the bodice a little low-cut and there were some small wrinkles above my bust.  I also felt the sleeves were too tight and that the bodice was a bit tight across my upper back waist.

So up I went another a cup size, from 14 E/F to 14 G/H. I also added the teeniest sliver to the upper waist on the back pattern piece, and used the size 16 sleeves.  I am not sure which modification is the primary culprit, but I ended up with the same low cut, plus mo' wrinkles, mo' problems.

14 G/H in red, 14 E/F in blue.

Looking at these photos, I think it's got to be the sleeve that's the issue.  I didn't modify the size 14 armhole, but just stretched it to fit the 16 sleeve.  Maybe that's the problem?  I don't really know, so please comment if you have ideas!  The sleeve is also strangely twisty - when I put the dress on I have to shrug my shoulders with my arms straight out in front of me, and turn my wrists inward to get the sleeve to untwist.  I have no idea why.  I did not sew the sleeves on backwards (I checked and rechecked), and I'm at a loss.

On the plus side, my modification of cutting both front pieces the same width (instead of trimming the under layer), gave me more security in the skirt.  I also added 4.5" to the waist tie pattern piece on the fold, which gave me the longer sash that I prefer for bow-tying.  And my 1" lengthening of the skirt allowed me to sew a hem this time.  I didn't lengthen (or hem) the sleeves, though.

This dress does fit better (i.e. not as tightly) across the back.

The fabric is a lovely rayon/lycra jersey recently bought from Fabric Mart.  It was lovely to work with - very stable and substantial.  I think it actually might have some cotton in it too.

The dress is very comfortable to wear.  The neckline really does stay put (with aid of safety-pin to keep the front respectable), even though I don't quite have the bodice fitted properly.  My eyes do go right to the offending folds whenever I look in the mirror (or at one of these photos), but I try to remember that, before sewing, I wouldn't even have noticed the wrinkles when trying on dresses, and I certainly would have bought this one.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Harlequin butt

I've been reading a bunch of posts recently about how velvet/velveteen are back.  I don't think I was aware that they had ever left.  At least not velveteen.  I have always been a sucker for cotton velveteen.  I have only sewed with it three times before, but I had several pieces in my stash.

Coming off the success of my denim Alberta Street Skirt, I decided to sew a red velveteen version to wear for Christmas.

It was only after I had installed the zipper that I realized I had committed the cardinal velvet(een) sewing sin - cutting one of my pieces with the nap going the wrong way.  I had actually noticed after I initially cut the pattern pieces, that I had reversed the nap on one of the back skirt pieces.  I carefully (or so I thought), recut one back skirt piece, and then took the (so I thought) wrong-way piece and used it to cut my pockets, thus exhausting my fabric.  But I must have used one of the "right" pieces to cut my pockets, and as a result, I have harlequin butt.

I considered not finishing the skirt, but ultimately I decided that since this skirt would be primarily worn at church, my butt probably wouldn't be paid too much attention.  And I don't have to see the offending area so I can pretend it's not there.  And actually, it turns out it's not that noticeable, because of the way that velvet changes appearance in the light.  In this photo you can't even see it, and I had to take a number of photos to get it to really stand out in the one above.

The skirt is a slightly shortened size 16, with the waist and upper hip let out 1/2" on each side (sewn with a 3/8" seam instead of a 5/8" seam), and the skirt pegged in at the bottom.  I broke four needles while sewing this bad boy.  Finally, I finished the hem with a facing to avoid having to sew a million layers of velveteen, and faced the waist with quilting cotton from my stash.  Since I didn't chose my hem facing until I had finished the rest of the skirt, my hem and waist facings don't match.  I'm not going to show you, but it's not cute.  Again, no one is going to see it.

I used commercial hem facing inherited from my grandmother's stash. I only had enough yardage in this robin's egg blue but I actually really like it against the wine colored velveteen and wish I had coordinated the waistband facing with it. The hem facing did not quite work with the contours of the tapered skirt. I only realized this after I'd hand hemmed half of it.  Rather that cut a custom facing, I just cut into the facing at the side seams so that it could spread, and whipstitched the sides of the cut to the skirt.  Since the facing is bias cut, I figure it won't fray.  I haven't washed the skirt yet so I'm not sure how it will survive.

Sewing the velveteen was tough.  Aside from the needle slippage, the waist facing slipped a lot while I was sewing it despite careful pinning. So for the hem, I used a tip I found online and hand basted two rows along either side of the seam line before machine stitching the hem facing to the skirt. It really didn't take long, and it worked beautifully. I should go back and redo the waistband using the same method.

I wore the skirt for Christmas with the black top you see in the photos.  I really wanted to make myself an elegant flowy woven top for the occasion, but I ran out of time.  Maybe next year.

I'm really happy with the way the skirt turned out, harlequin butt notwithstanding, but I regret sewing the pockets on.  I thought turning the velvet upside down for the pockets would add interest, but I don't actually think the interest needed adding.  The needle holes will show if I take them off, though, so I'm stuck with them.

You win some, you lose some.

Monday, January 16, 2017


I finally made an Appleton dress!

As always, it took me while to hop aboard this train.  When it comes to pricier patterns (i.e. anything other than Big 4 on sale at Joann's), I am really slow to purchase.  I like to see a lot of examples of the garment made up before I plunk down my money.  The Appleton has long seemed like a no-brainer because 90% of the versions I have seen look stunning on their makers.  I acquired both pattern and fabric last summer with the intent of making this dress, but only just got around to it in January.

I used an ITY knit purchased from FabricMart for about $3.60/yard.  The fabric is really nice to work with, and the dress sewed up in a few hours on my serger and coverstitch machine.

I didn't muslin (this is my muslin), and I sewed a 14E/F cup graded to between a 14 and 16 starting at the waist down through the hem (I'm 42.5-35-45).  It is a pretty good start, but I think it needs some tweaks.  I was actually super disappointed when I first tried it on, to see that a good 1/2" of the bridge of my bra was showing at the overlap.  I thought of all the stunning Appletons I had seen in blogland and how none of them had any bra peekaboo going on, and I felt cheated.

But that was stupid.  I've since had a good hard look at the topography on my upper half, and I've come to the conclusion that, if I want the wrap to go under my bust (and I do), then the overlap is necessarily going to be pretty low.  I might be able to gain that 1/2" by tweaking with the angle of the slope on the bodice and the neckband join, but that's a lot of work when I can just safety pin the dress together.  Which is what I did in these photos - without the safety pin the overlap is about an inch lower.

On Instagram, Jenny advised that going up a cup size would provide more coverage, so I am going to try that for the next one, but I'm not going to sweat it if I have to resort to the safety pin.  I think a low cut is simply the nature of a wrap dress for a busty girl.

The print makes it hard to see, but there are some folds in the fabric just above my bust, radiating from the armpit.  I did some research and found a suggestion to shorten the armscye.  I also found suggestions to FBA/increase cup room.  Going up a cup size is easier so I'm going to try that first before messing with the armscye.  I do plan to make this up in a solid, and the wrinkles will be a lot more noticeable then, so hopefully I can figure it out.

Another item of concern was the amount of overlap at the skirt.  When I first tried on the dress, it seemed like it was just begging for a wardrobe malfunction.  But while shooting these pictures, I tried my hardest to get the skirt to separate ...

... by walking determinedly forward ...

... by standing weirdly wide ...

... and leaning awkwardly to the side.

I stopped short of high kicks; though the Appleton kept her ladylike composure during my initial antics, I figured she wouldn't survive martial arts.  A good strong wind could pose a problem, as well.

She only plays peekaboo when I sit, though it's actually ok as long as I keep my knees together and don't cross my legs.  I think I will be able to fix this issue by cutting both wrap fronts the same next time (the pattern has you trim the front piece to be narrower than the back piece).

I also think I need a little more room in my upper waist . While the dress looks fine from the front, from the back I have a little of the mattress-tied-in-the-middle look going on.  My husband says the pattern distracts from it and I think he's probably right, but it still bugs me.  Going up a cup size on the next one should help, but I think I might grade the back piece out a bit more from the bottom of the armscye to the waist, to help it skim over the excess flesh back there.  And I want to try the dress with a size 16 sleeve, as these sleeves are a little too tight for me.

Finally, I will add length to the hem.  I am 5'8" and the pattern is drafted for 5'6".  The dress was the perfect length without hemming, so I didn't hem it (yay knits!).  I would prefer a proper hem, though, so I added an inch to my pattern pieces for next time.

All quibbles aside, the fit out of the envelope was not bad at all.  The dress is totally wearable; even more so with Spanx (which I am not wearing in these photos).  Not having to do an FBA was, frankly, AMAZING.  I can, and do, perform FBAs all the time, but it considerably lengthens the drafting phase of sewing, and I suspect I'm not alone in really not enjoying that part of the process.

I also really appreciated how well all the pattern pieces came together - the notches lined up, the angles lined up, and the instructions were good.  I'm a happy camper.