A sewing blog about building a functional, cohesive handmade wardrobe, one garment at a time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A couple of woven tees

I'm usually a knits girl, but this summer my wardrobe seems to be crying out for woven tees.  I couldn't find exactly what I wanted, so I knew I'd be altering whatever pattern I bought.  I picked up a copy of Simplicity 1377 (now out of print) on eBay and got to work.

I traced out view D and made a few flat pattern adjustments.  I started with size 14, which corresponds with my high bust measurement (my full bust and everything else put me at a 20).  This top doesn't have a bust dart, but it's easy to put one in - I did so while also performing a 1/2" FBA.  My F cup actually would justify a larger FBA, however, after consulting the finished measurements I figured 1/2" would be big enough.  While I was slashing my pattern, I lowered the neckline 3" and did a 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment. I also flared the side seams out starting from the rib cage and ending 1" wider than the pattern pieces on both the front and the back for a total of 4" increased at the hem.  Then I did a quick-and-dirty muslin, and based on that, I lengthened the top 1.75" and lowered the neckline another 2".

It sounds like a lot, but all the adusting, cutting and muslin sewing only took about 90 minutes.  And it was WELL worth the effort.  I didn't get a perfect fit on my first try, but I did get something very wearable.

Although the fit was good, I had a lot of trouble binding my neckline on my first fashion fabric version of this top.  I chose to finish the neckline with an invisible bias finish, which I've done a few times before.  I did everything I was supposed to - staystitched, understitched, clipped.  Even so, I had to rip out the binding three times due to awful gaping.  By the time I was done, I had clipped the seam allowance at 1/4" intervals all the way around the neckline.  I also cut some of the width off the binding and ended up finishing it at 1/4".  It still wasn't perfectly flat, but I just folded a pleat over into the neckline and called it good.  I'm going to blame the fabric here, because I did not have nearly the same problems with my second version.  An Instagram consult yielded suggestions to shorten the binding, which didn't occur to me in the moment but which I will keep in my back pocket the next time I make this top in a drapey fabric.

This particular fabric is a remnant bin find at Joann's that I haven't been able to locate on their web site.  I'm guessing it's polyester.  It is very light and drapey and nice to wear but really not so nice to sew - I wouldn't dare sew it into anything with more seams than this top! 

Let me just take a quick moment to talk about fit and exalt the humble FBA.  Look at the back of this blouse.  This is a size 14 - the upper back is out of the envelope as I didn't start flaring my side seams until my ribcage.  Simplicity says this fits a 36" bust and drafts for a B cup.  My full bust measurement is 41".  I have ample assets in the front but I'm not crazy unproportioned or anything like that.  And yet the upper back of the size 14 fits me perfectly.  High bust size selection FTW!  I would have been utterly disappointed if I had cut the size 20 the size chart indicated for me.  FBAs are always worth it.

Immediately after finishing the gray top, I cut out another, this time in a long-hoarded voile.  While sewing it, it dawned on me that perhaps the neckline was just too wide.  I made a 1/4" pleat before attaching my binding and then I adjusted the neckline correspondingly in my pattern piece for future makes.  I only had to sew my neck binding on once this time - as with the other top, I cut 1" binding to finish at 1/4" and I made sure to clip my seam allowance every 1/4".

Where I had just clipped the sleeve hem and folded it over and topstitched on the gray top, here I cut out more binding and bias-bound the sleeves too.  It wasn't painful in this stable cotton.  I do find the voile top a bit roomy in the shoulders - especially when I sit down.  I don't have this problem with the drapey poly - fabric choice makes all the difference.

I'm currently sewing a white cotton lawn version of this top - this time I've  incorporated a v-shaped neckline cut-out and am french-seaming the whole thing.  I'm waiting for a FabricMart order to arrive later this week and in it there is a cut of rayon challis that is destined to be my fourth version.  And so my summer uniform turns out to be brought to you by Simplicity - 1887 for the bottoms and 1377 for the tops.

Another note, these are my first pictures taken using the camera remote I recently received for my birthday.  I have to say I love this thing, though it does have an annoying 4-second lag between when I hit the button and when the shutter snaps.  But yay for no longer having to corral my kids and husband to take pictures.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

All the Simplicity 1887s

I present to you ... a whole pile of Simplicity 1887s.  There are a lot of photos, but there are also a lot of garments!  And I guess we can call this pattern a TNT (yay!).  After having sewn four pairs of shorts and two casual skirts in the last three weeks, my summer wardrobe is a lot more functional.  I really only need several more tops and a cardigan or two, and I will have enough.  The trick will be to stop sewing at that point, but I guess I could try to direct the sew-jo to other pursuits, like the quilt I need to finish and the three flower girls' dresses and three ring bearers' outfits I need to make for a November wedding. But I digress.

First up is this skirt, view D of the pattern, sewn up in a linen/rayon blend from Joann's.  After having made the shorts twice, I knew that I'd want to make the size 16 (two sizes down from what Simplicity wants me to do) with an extra 3/8" added to the side seams.

I also knew I'd need to install the elastic correctly.  Recently I saw a photo of a stack of Simplicity 1887 shorts on Instagram and I realized that I had sewn my first two pairs the wrong way.  Turns out that the elastic is supposed to wrap around the hips to the edge of the pockets instead of ending at the side seam.  I was sewing my first pair pretty late in the evening, and the notches and where they wanted me to leave the waistband open didn't make sense to my exhausted brain, so I just did it the way I thought it should be done.  But I was wrong, and Simplicity's way holds the shorts or skirt up a lot better than when I had the elastic only in the back.  I did go back and redo the elastic on my orange linen shorts - yay for shorts that don't fall down!  I found the skirt a little short for 5'8" me, so instead of turning up a 1.25" hem, I cut a self-fabric hem facing and applied it with a 1/4" seam. 

I faced all the waistbands of the garments in this post with some scrap cotton instead of self-fabric.  This linen/rayon is a tiny bit scratchy, and I also thought that the cotton fabric would help the waistband stretch less in the front where there is no elastic. I also interfaced the pocket openings with knit stay tape (because you have to stretch the pocket opening of the pocket, to the pocket opening of the skirt) and made sure to understitch the seams where the pocket is stitched to the skirt.

And the result of installing the elastic as instructed is a skirt that stays up even as the linen stretches out.  I wore it all day (two days in a row, if I'm being honest) and it didn't fall down, not even when I weighed the pockets down with car keys and my iPhone.  It's really a perfect summer skirt for running around with the kids.  So after making it, I went back to Joann's and bought this fabric in three more colors.  It was on sale and I had a coupon, making it $4.50 a yard. I had actually used it twice before and didn't really enjoy working with it.  But this time around I've had no problems and I love a lot of the color options.

I have been reaching for the shorts I made a lot over the last two weeks (very surprising for someone who hasn't worn shorts since junior high school!) so I decided to make a couple more pairs. The navy shorts include the same modifications I made on my orange pair.  In addition to those mods, I lengthened the shorts 1" and hemmed them as instructed by the pattern.  I also sewed down the pleats about 2".  I am not sure how much I like them sewn down; they are kind of giving me a "dorky camp counselor" vibe, so I might take the stitching out.

Somehow the shorts ended up an inch wider than the waistband.  I think they probably stretched out during construction.  I ended up having to put two 1/4" darts into the back to fix the problem and I think it improved the back view.  I considered putting back pockets on this pair but didn't have enough fabric.

Then I made a pair out of this slub linen that I always seem to find in the remnant bin at Joann's.  I am not sure whether it was the fabric or my cutting, but these ended up a little snugger than my other pairs.   I also topstitched the pleats down on this pair.  They are very cool to wear on a humid day, though, and I like how they pair with my green Lisbon cardigan

And last, another skirt.  I remembered to lengthen it 1" this time.  I also stitched the pleats down.  At this point, I had construction down pat and I was able to sew up this skirt in under two hours.

These photos were taken on my way out to dinner with my sisters.  I really love this skirt and know that it is going to get a lot of wear (as with all the garments in this post).  I have one more cut of the linen/rayon blend in a lovely deep peacock blue - I bought it thinking I'd make a skirt with it using this pattern, but I'm going to take a break right now.  I have definitely gotten my money's worth out of this 80-cent pattern!  Time to move on and make some tops.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Josephine #2

I'm back with the latest in my selfish sewing parade: another Made By Rae Josephine top.

I have had this two-yard cut of Kaffe Fassett rayon challis in the stash for a few years (purchased on sale at FabricMart).  Periodically I'd consider it for a project, decide it was too loud and then put it back.  Turns out, it was just waiting to be a sleeveless summer blouse.

I cut the same size as my first Josephine (a Large C/D with an FBA and 2" scooped out of the front neckline).  Rae includes a sleeveless version of the bodice in her pattern (it is drafted with a center front seam to allow for a slit at the neckline).   But I already had the other view drafted and didn't want to print another pattern, so I cut the blouse as for the other views.  Like last time, I went for release tucks rather than tucks that went all the way to the hem.  I graduated the length of the tucks so that they get longer as they get closer to the side seams.  I should have read my previous post before cutting the top; then I would have noted that I wanted to lower the neckline even more. 

After I got the shoulders and side seams sewn together, I tried it on and was thrilled with the way it looked.  But after I got the neckline and armholes bound, all of a sudden I didn't like it anymore.  It looked frumpy. And the armholes were too tight.  (Later I tried on my first Josephine and noted that its armholes are too tight, too.  On that top, the elastic I added at the sleeve hem is also tight and rather uncomfortable, which I guess distracts me to the point that I don't notice the tight armhole when I wear it).

I was also really frustrated because, while sewing it, my machine started to make a clicking sound and my tension went haywire.  Somehow I managed to get the top sewn, but there was a LOT of ripping and unpicking along the way, and my stitching is really messy in places.  You can't really tell, though, thanks to the loud print).  It's kind of amazing that the top got sewn at all, given my disappointment with the fit and my machine woes.

I was determined to get a wearable top out of it, though, so I persevered.  To fix the tight armhole, I ended up cutting off 1/4" from the shoulder at the outer edge, continuing this cut down the front and back of the armhole, which I ended up lowered by a whopping 1.75".  This helped, but not completely.  After wearing the top a few times, I realized that the armholes really needed to be cut in more from the front, too.  I need less fabric starting about two inches down from my outer front shoulder; it is creating a wrinkle there which I could fix with a dart if I fancied redoing the armhole binding (I don't).  I have another cut of challis I'd like to use to try this again, assuming I can get my machine to cooperate.  I'm just not sure whether to draft a dart, or whether this can be fixed by just cutting away more of the armhole.  Or maybe I need to adjust the angle of the shoulder slope.  It seems annoying to make another muslin now after I've sewn the top twice but it might be necessary.

After I'd dealt with the armholes and ripped and altered and resewn the binding a million times until it was neat, I still felt that the top was kind of matronly.  I decided to create a V-shaped cut-out to try to defrump the neckline.  I unpicked the binding from the center front to about 2" in either direcion.  I cut a scrap of fabric and finished it on three sides with my serger, then pinned it right sides together to the front bodice.  I drew a V onto the fabric and sewed it, pivoting at the point, before clipping and then turning it.  I lined the facing and bodice up at the top, then sewed the binding back on.  I think it improves the top, but I should have made it an inch or so deeper. (Though in these photos I see that the loud print practically obscures the cut-out anyway).

For all my quibbles, it's a lovely top to wear.  I love the colors and the challis is so comfortable on.  I also find it quite versatile - it works tucked in and untucked; by itself and with a cardigan; with shorts and with skirts.  And I do want to make another.  I just need to figure out the armhole situation.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Two more cardigans

Well, it seems my selfish-sewing-jo is really on fire.  The sewing streak I began in May has not let up, and now that I have a greater variety of clothing that fits, getting dressed is actually starting to become fun again.  Recently, I've made two more Lisbon Cardigans (affiliate link).

For the first one, I used a 1.5-yard cut of a J. Crew polyester jacquard stripe knit acquired last year from Fabric Mart.  I had bought it to make a slouchy t-shirt, but the lace stripes were a lot more see-through in person than I thought they would be.  So the fabric went back into the stash to await its destiny.  When I came across it in late May, inspiration struck. Sheer fabric isn't a problem if you're always going to wear it over something.  So a cardigan it had to be.

I could have sewn this up in an afternoon after the pieces were cut, but I spent a couple of days considering what to do about the button bands.  Originally I cut an interfaced band out of a different fabric, but when I went to put in buttonholes I didn't like the way the wide black band looked with the lace.  After a few days' consideration, I cut the band off (unpicking black stitches on black fabric? No thanks!) and added a thinner band of self-fabric, no interfacing, no buttons or buttonholes.  As a result, the cardigan is smaller.  I can close it at the top with a pin.  I like how it looks open when I arrange it just-so, but as you can see, the fabric is so floppy that it doesn't stay just-so.

It's a size 12, just like my first one.  This fabric is a lot less stretchy than the French terry I used last time, so it's a closer fit.  I sewed the whole thing entirely on my serger and coverstitch machine.  I did not add the sleeve bands, instead just turned up and coverstitched with a 1/2" hem.  I also lowered the neckline by about 3/4".

I recently wore the cardigan on a date night to the movies.  It is the perfect weight for the theater - I would have been cold wearing just the t-shirt, but a heavier cardigan would have been too much.  So, although it won't stay on straight without a pin, it has already gotten a lot of wear.

As the cardigan corner of my closet is still fairly empty, earlier this month, I made a green Lisbon out of this beautiful bamboo/lycra jersey knit.  There was a fluke on the Fabric Mart web site a month or two ago, where this color of the fabric was briefly (and probably accidentally) on sale for $1.80 a yard.  I bought three yards.  I would have bought more, but I felt bad, like I was cheating the company or something.  Later that day the price went back up to $11.99/yard but Fabric Mart honored my order, which was nice of them.

Anyway, I sewed up the cardigan in the 12 graded to the 14, just as I had the previous two times.  I tried it on and was ... totally disappointed.  It was way too big.  Fabric choice plays such a huge role in how knits fit, and I guess the drape of the bamboo meant that I should have cut a smaller size. 

Trouble was, not only had I serged all my bands on AND sewed the buttonholes and buttons on, but I had coverstitched the bottom band, too.  It was well and stitched together.  I was so mad.  I threw the cardigan down the basement stairs and went to bed.  I thought about starting over (after all, the fabric was less than $2 a yard), but I wanted to save the rest of the green fabric for another top down the road.  So over the course of three days, I slowly picked out my stitching and then took my side seams in 1/2" from hem to sleeve.

MUCH better.  I do wish the shoulders were narrower, but I'm not picking out any more stitches. The good thing is, now that I've sewn three of these in different knits, I should have a better idea in the future whether to cut the 12 or a smaller size, based on the fabric I am using.  And given how often I reach for these, I could easily use three or four more of them.


Also seen in these photos - a new Kirsten Kimono tee (size medium with my 5" FBA and hips graded to an XL) in cotton/lycra from Fabric Mart.  I wore this outfit to church last week and felt cute.  It was a good day :) 

I'm including the next photo (taken by my 3-year-old son) because it is the truest to the color of the fabric.

I'm currently trying to decide what color fabrics to order for my next few Lisbons.  I'm thinking a deep peacock blue, and maybe a yellow if I can find the right shade.  I love this pattern!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Vienna Tank Test

Last week I tested the new Itch to Stitch pattern, the Vienna Tank (affiliate link).  This was my second Itch to Stitch pattern.  After having sewn the Lisbon Cardigan (which I've now made three times - the last two will be blogged soon), I was excited to try another pattern from this line.  The Vienna looked like the type of top I would gravitate towards in a store, so I was happy to be chosen to test it.

The tank features a woven yoke with a knit bodice which is gathered to the front shoulders and center back.  The front neckline ends in a slit and is closed with a (woven) bias tape tie that also finishes the neckline.  View A includes a cute neck ruffle too. 

Since I was testing, I cut the pattern according to my measurements - a size 12, graded to a 14 at the hip and lengthened about 3/4".  My knit is very drapey, making the top longer.  The length is fine, but if I were to make it in a less drapey fabric I think I'd lengthen by 2".

Cutting my size out of the envelope is not how I usually approach knit tops.  I usually cut according to my high bust (which is 5" smaller than my full bust) and then grade out to my full bust size at the bottom of the armscye.  Sometimes I do a knit FBA (dartless) using this method.  Cutting my usual size didn't work out for me in this instance either - it gaped around the fronts of the armholes until I took it in an inch on each side starting at the bottom of the armscye and tapering to nothing at my ribcage.  The photo above was taken after the alteration and the two photos below are before the alteration.  

I find it a bit too big in the shoulders at the front.  I also need to do a forward shoulder adjustment.  I am not sure whether my usual mods will work in this gathered style, but I might try making another one, cutting a 10 shoulder and doing an FBA. 

The pattern is very nicely drafted - everything matches up the way that it should, and the instructions are clear and thorough.  Almost everything has a clean finish. The only exception is the knit portion of the armholes, which are turned under and stitched.  Since knit doesn't fray, this isn't a big deal, but it is an outlier on what is otherwise a totally neat finish on the inside.

The construction techniques are not difficult, however, the center seam facing on the front needs to be topstitched, and this is not an easy feat on knit fabric (especially in a drapey knit like the rayon jersey I used).  I found Wonder Tape to be indispensible for this step.  This is not the sort of knit top you can construct on your serger - many of the seams need to be sewn with a sewing machine.  

After I applied the Wonder Tape, I had no problems topstitching the front.  The little pulls you see in the previous photo evened out in the wash.

I'm still not sure this is the most flattering top on me, however, it looks universally fantastic on the testers with smaller busts.  I especially like the versions made in a woven fabric with the neck ruffle - the pattern isn't drafted for wovens, but it works nicely for people with smaller busts than mine - up to a C, it seems.  For me, I think maybe I need a little less ease in the lower bust area to get some definition there - as it is, it just kind of waterfalls off the top, making my bust look smaller and the rest of me look bigger.

This top is made of a vaguely splotchy rayon jersey and a rayon twill woven upcycled from an old dress.

I do have a fabric combination picked out for another one, but I need to make a few more bottoms for myself before my current selfish sewing spree comes to an end!


Monday, June 6, 2016

Mom Shorts and a Plain White Tee

I have never worn shorts much.  During the winter I live in jeans, and in the summer I almost always go for skirts.  But there are times when one needs to wear shorts (like when doing nature walks and hikes outside in the steamy Virginia summer).  And it is useful for those shorts to have pockets.  So last week, I sewed some.

The pattern is Simplicity 1887, which I picked up for 80 cents along with a bunch of other patterns during Joann's Memorial Day sale.  I actually bought it for the skirt, but it also includes these shorts and a pair of pants - all with a pleated front, flat front yoke and elasticated (or should it be elasticized?  "Elasticated" has always sounded weird to me) back waist.

When I went to cut the pattern, I was dismayed to realize that I had bought the smaller size range.  My measurements put me into a size 20 in Simplicity patterns, but my pattern stopped at 16.  Luckily, it seems that these shorts run really big - many blogosphere sewists have gone down two sizes.

I went ahead with the size 16.  On my first pair, I lengthened the shorts about 1.5" and sewed the side seams at 1/4" instead of 5/8".

The first pair is made of the last of a four-yard cut of Lisette dotted chambray from a few summers ago.  This fabric has been cursed for me.  Although I had four yards of it, all I have to show for them is these shorts and a baby dress I made last winter.  That's because everything I have cut out of the fabric has totally failed.

I wouldn't call these shorts a failure, but if I had muslined them first I would have been able to fix the problems you can see in these photos - I think the wrinkles near my hips in the above photos are an indication that I needed more room for my booty.

And in the next photo you can see how the front rise sags because it is too long.

So before sewing the next pair, I made some adjustments to the pattern.  I scooped out the back rise a bit, 5/8" at the deepest point.  I also added 3/8" to my side seams so that I could take 5/8" seams again.  Finally, I took 1" out of the front rise using this tutorial.  It was really quite easy as well as effective, and has given me confidence to make more shorts or pants.

I forgot to lengthen my pattern piece on this pair, so I took a 1/2" hem at the bottom instead of 1.25" like the pattern instructs.  I really would not be comfortable with the shorts any shorter than this.  I almost added some crochet trim to the hems but decided at the last minute not to.  I'm glad I resisted; the shorts will go with more tops this way and I think maybe my trim will be better used on a top.  I'm wearing the shorts with another Kirsten Kimono tee that I made recently - it's a medium with a 5" FBA (!), graded out to the XL at the bottom. 

I really like these orange shorts, but the fabric relaxes A LOT throughout the day.  I wore them last week on a hiking outing with a homeschool group (and I received compliments on the outfit), but by mid afternoon they literally would not stay up and I had to change!  I've been thinking about what to do about this, because I really like them.  I also have another cut of this linen in a lovely mustard yellow that I was planning on using to make the skirt from the pattern.   I think I'm going to sew some clear elastic into the seam at the top of the front yoke - and possibly into the bottom seam where the yoke meets the shorts - when I make the skirt.  As for the shorts, I REALLY don't want to take them apart but if the clear elastic is a success I might do it.  I guess I could also put in some belt loops.  I'm not really a belt wearer though.

After the hike, while wearing the blue shorts, I went to pick up my niece and my sister told me that I looked "dowdy." Don't worry, my feelings aren't hurt - we have very different clothing styles.  But I scrutinized these photos a bit more while finishing this post, and although pleated fronts are not usually my bag, I still think the shorts are cute.  I guess it's possible that my style has veered off fully into "mom" territory without my realizing it, but you know what? I'm a mom.  And I'm ok with looking like one.