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

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Maria Denmark Birgitte Basic Tee

I bought the Birgitte Basic Tee pattern from Maria Denmark something like five years ago, but this is the first time I have sewn it.

It's a basic scoop-neck t-shirt with a v-neck option and options for long and short sleeves and elbow-length bell sleeves.

I am in need of knit tops, and I recently had a stress-induced shopping spree at the remnants shop in town (stay tuned for a post about that), in which I bought a bunch of knits with the intent to sew myself some tees.

As always, the first thing I needed to do was make some adjustments to the pattern. I think there may have been an update at some point, because the size chart on the web site is different than the size chart on my pattern.

In any case. I have a 36" high bust and a 40" full bust. The pattern size medium is for a 38" full bust and 31"-41" waist and hip. The size large is for a 40" full bust and 33"-42" waist and hip.

I cut a size medium shoulder. I graded out to the large (40" at the bust (note, I did not extend the armscye out, I just made sort of a curve where the bust is immediately under the armscye) and back to a medium at the waist. The top ended up a little too tight below the waist, so next time I need to grade out to a large all the way down. My waist is 31.5" and the pattern size medium is for waists up to 31", but because the pattern purported to be loose at the waist, I thought I would be ok.

My bicep is 13.5" and the sleeve measured 14". I wanted an inch of ease, so I extended the sleeve piece to the size large from the armscye down. I'm not sure what happened, but the sleeve ended up being a bit large. I took the sleeves in 1/4" at the seam, undoing my faux full bicep adjustment, but they're still big. I don't know why that would be since the bicep circumference now matches my bicep circumference. The only thing I can think of, is that it has something to do with the sleeve cap, which is very high.

I wore the top once with jeans but it's a bit tight for me to feel comfortable doing that again. It does work very well tucked into denim skirt or my Maria Denmark Yasmin Yoke Skirt as pictured at the top of the post.

The striped knit was labeled cotton/lycra, but there's definitely a good dose of poly in there as well. It has great recovery but doesn't breathe as well as I like my t-shirts to breathe.

So then I decided to try again. This time I was using a remnant-shop knit that definitely felt like the cotton/lycra it was advertised to be. I knew I wanted to give myself some extra room below the bust, so I adjusted my pattern. Here the black line indicates the side of the first pattern; you can see to the left of the line what I added at waist and hip. You can also see how I curved the bust section when I did my faux FBA.

I made the elbow length sleeves, this time in a straight size medium. They fit better than the size large sleeve did. Here's what I ended up with.

The fit in the front is better, though I need to give myself a little more some room in the back. I cut the back as a straight size medium (I also did a 5/8" high round back adjustment and a 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment for a shrug-free top).

A few more notes about the pattern:

Maria Denmark patterns require you to add seam allowances, which, shockingly, I remembered to do. This pattern also doesn't include a neckband pattern piece, nor does it give you neckband piece measurements. It just tells you to measure the neckline of your shirt after sewing the shoulders together, and then cut a neckband that is 85 percent of that measurement, plus seam allowance.

I wasn't super-pleased with either of these tops immediately after sewing them, but I've worn them both multiple times since, so I guess they're growing on me. Something about the fit around the armpits was bothering me, and looking at these photos, I think maybe I could do with shortening the pattern in the front above the bust. I'm going to try that next and I'll let you know how it turns out.

As always, thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Monday, January 20, 2020

2020 Goals

I've been putting off this post because I've had a bit of a hard time making goals. For me, one of the most fun parts of sewing is indulging my whims. I've made some of my most beloved items by going off piste. So, in general, I don't like to make too many goals.

Also, we'll be moving back to the U.S. sometime in mid-2020, so once again, I'll be without my machines for a few months. I expect to have a significant sewing gap even after the machines arrive, as I find that it's sometimes hard for me to dive back into sewing after a prolonged break. We have somewhere from four to five months left in the country, and that time is already flying. I can't believe we're past the middle of January already!

Disclaimers aside, here are my loose pre-move goals for this year:

Sewing Goal #1: Sew something with leather. Leather is inexpensive and readily available here in Colombia and I haven't taken advantage of it.  I think that's mostly because I don't really know what to make with it. A sewing friend made about a million Ida Clutches using leather she bought here, and I loved them, so I'm thinking maybe I'll do that.

Sewing Goal #2: Make another pair of Liana Jeans.

Sewing Goal #3: Sew myself a pair of non-flannel PJ pants. I even have the fabric for it in the stash - a plaid twill shirting. I know these will get a lot of wear back in humid Virginia, so I'd like to get them done before we leave.

Sewing Goal #4: Refrain from ordering any fabric before we move. We have a shipping weight limit and have to pay for the overage. Fabric is heavy, so I really need to use everything I buy in the next few months. That said ... I do need more knit tops, and I don't have much knit fabric in the stash for myself, so I do foresee a couple more trips to the local remnants place where I buy knits.

That's all I've got. As always, thanks for reading and see you next time!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

High round back adjustment

If you have been reading this blog at all lately, you'll know that I've recently become enamored of a new fitting technique: the high round back adjustment. I've written a photo tutorial for the adjustment, and you can find it over on the Oliver + S blog today.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Modified Metro T-Shirt

I made some good progress on rebuilding my handmade wardrobe in 2019. The biggest hole I had to fill was in my long-sleeved knit top drawer. Recently I sewed another striped Liesl + Co. Metro T-Shirt to fill space in that drawer.

I used the same pattern that I drafted for the narrow shoulder adjustment experiment I performed on my first Metro. I did a 5/8" high round back adjustment, a 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment and a 1 1/4" full bicep adjustment the last time I drafted the pattern.

This time, Ilowered the neckline by 1.25" to make it more of a scoop neck. I also narrowed the shoulders by another 3/8" for a total of 5/8" narrowed.

I only had 43" of fabric, which wasn't enough to cut full-length sleeves. I ended up putting sleeve bands on to eke more length out of the sleeve.

I sewed the top on my serger, and cover-stitched the neckband and hems.

This photo really shows the curvature of my upper back and neck. I was a little bit appalled when I noticed it. My husband says I've always looked like that, but I'm not so sure.  In any case, this photo makes it easy to see why I have such trouble getting the shoulders and neckline of a top to sit in the right place. I've gotten a lot closer with my combination forward shoulder and high round back adjustment, but I'm still not totally there.  Maybe there's only so close you can get when you are shaped like this? I don't know.

I used a cotton rib knit that I picked up at a remnants store here in Bogota. The store is located on the top floor of a sportswear store and appears to sell remnants of fabrics used to make the clothes in the store, although I don't know for sure whether that is true. The remnants are all under $3 a yard, which keeps me going back.

They have a lot of knits that are marked as cotton, although the first fabric I bought there, marked as cotton/lycra, definitely had a fair amount of synthetic in it. This particular rib knit feels like cotton/lycra to me, though.

I was concerned about the recovery of this knit, so I cut the neckband at about 80 percent of the length of the neckline rather than my usual 85 percent. This worked well.

This pattern has a looser fit with a higher neckline than the other t-shirt patterns I've used. It's more of a relaxed fit without being slouchy. I usually gravitate towards tops that have lower necklines and are slightly more fitted, but this pattern has a place in my stash for when I want something a little more casual.  I do plan to lower the neckline about 3/4"-1" the next time I sew it, but other than that, I'll continue as is.

This is my third make from the pattern - I'll be sharing the second one next month along with a tutorial I wrote for the Oliver + S blog on how to hack it into a turtleneck.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

December 2019

We spent the first week in December recovering from illness that hit the house over Thanksgiving (I swear this happens to us every single year!). I felt really awful for a long time and still haven't totally recovered. I'm always so tired in Bogota, and I suspect it's the altitude (8700 feet).

Anyway, fatigue notwithstanding, I did manage to sew a few things. I also did a fair chunk of fabric shopping, but I've already used up three of the five cuts I bought.

I used 1 yard striped purple rayon bought in April to make a Liesl + Co. Metro Tee hacked into a turtleneck.

Another Liesl + Co. Metro Tee using up all 43" of a remnant I bought this month.

A stretch velvet dress for my daughter using up all 42" of a remnant that I bought this month.

Four pairs of Playtime Leggings for my girls - size 7 plus 5 1/8" in length for N, and size 8 with the length of the 12 for Z. I used up 60" of the sparkle ponte I bought last month, 1 yard of the leopard ponte I bought recently, and a yard of the navy blue C/L I bought recently.

One velvet dress from the Building Block Dress Book for N using fabric I bought this month.  I had to narrow the included skirt pattern at the hem considerably to fit the pattern pieces on my fabric. I used up all 66" of fabric I had.

Fabric Purchases

Four yards Telio rayon twill to make a dress for me.
Polka dot velvet - 42"- used this up already.
Wine red velvet - two remnants of 32" and 34" to make a Christmas dress for my daughter - used up already.
Green striped rib 43" for a top for me - used up already.
Blue and gray striped French terry 45" for a top for me.

Fabric In/Out

December Fabric In: 9.44 yards
December Fabric Out: 8.86 yards
YTD Fabric In: 99.98 yards
YTD Fabric Out: 112.18 yards

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2019 in Review

Can it really be time for my 2019 year-in-review post? I guess so. This year was characterized mostly by scrambling to fill in wardrobe holes after losing about 25 pounds in the first quarter of 2019. To that end, I altered 20 garments to fit and donated at least that many. Then I sewed 41 new wardrobe items for myself and 43 for my husband and children.

If you're interested in excruciatingly detailed statistics, charts, and sewing practice navel gazing, I can promise plenty of both in this post.

Selfish sewing

2019 was definitely the year of the top for me. Last year I only sewed myself five tops. This year, my wardrobe was severely lacking in tops after I gave away the ones I couldn't make work with alterations. I sewed a total of 19 tops, both woven and knit, and long- and short-sleeved, for myself.

Short-sleeve and tank tops

I don't have much use for these in Bogota, but I made a few for trips that we took.

Clockwise from top left: My hacked turquoise linen Sorbetto tank, my Avid Seamstress Drop Sleeve Top, a Blank Slate Abrazo Tee, a striped Lago tank and an aqua tank also sewn using the Abrazo pattern.

Long-sleeved knit tops

This was definitely the biggest hole in my wardrobe post-weight loss.  I very rarely wear short sleeves in Bogota, even with a cardigan, and though I love my button-up shirts, it's more likely on any given morning that I will reach for a knit t-shirt. I tend to sew my knit tops in batches of the same pattern, and that was true this year as well.

Top row, L-R: Striped scoop Liesl + Co. Metro T-Shirt, striped Metro turtleneck, black Metro turtleneck.
Middle row, L-R: McCalls 7435 pink cowl-neck top, failed gold self-drafted tee, orange rib self-drafted tee.
Bottom row, L-R: Two Plantain tees and navy blue self-drafted tee. Not pictured: a failed self-drafted tee.

Long-sleeved woven tops

I've been playing around with adjustments to cure the neckline slide-back that often happens to me with woven tops. Thanks to high round back adjustments made on a couple of these tops, I think I may have finally cracked the magic adjustment combination.

Clockwise from top left, my ikat New Look 6582, my plaid flannel Gelato blouse that is yet to be blogged, my dotted chambray Lisette Traveler and my chambray Gallery Tunic.


I don't wear skirts much in Bogota, either, as the weather isn't consistent enough for either bare legs or tights. I sewed the three skirts in the top row specifically for vacations.

Clockwise from top left: My Simplicity 1887 black linen skirt, self-drafted gathered green rayon skirt,  self-drafted ponte knit pencil skirtDIBY Club Anna skirtSimplicity 1369 skirt and stretch bottomweight Yasmin Yoke skirt.

Pants, jeans and shorts

I was only able to alter one pair of my handmade jeans to fit to my satisfaction (well, kind of).  To fill the wardrobe gaps, I sewed two pairs and had plans to make a third that never got fulfilled. I'm hoping to sew a third pair in 2020.

Clockwise from top left: Cupro Simplicity 1887 shorts, Liana Jeans #2, cupro Calyer pants, Liana Jeans #1 and green linen Simplicity 1887 shorts.


Once again, I don't wear dresses often in Bogota. The three tank dresses were sewn for vacations to warmer climes.

Clockwise from top left: Green rayon Simplicity 1358, leopard Simplicity 1059, sleeveless black and white Simplicity 1059, purple Plantain dress, striped tank Plantain dress.

Other stuff

Finally, a collage of all the one-offs that didn't fit into any other category.

Clockwise from top left: Green Blackwood CardiganPeppermint PJ Pants, Lonetree Jacket, Ohhh Lulu Celeste undies, Tilly sleep mask.

Sewing for others

In addition to sewing for myself, I made two button-up shirts for my husband from two different patterns that I compared here.

For my kids, I made a total of 41 items (each piece counts as an item, so a two-piece swim suit counts as 2).

2 knit hats
4 dresses
5 pairs of leggings
2 altar boy sticharions
3 pairs boy pants
4 girls' summer rompers
2 girls' swimsuits (rash guards and bikini bottoms)
4 pairs pjs
5 tops
1 art smock
2 pairs mittens
1 swim cover up

Fabric Purchases and Usage

My biggest success of the year is that I finally succeeded in sewing more fabric than I bought. It's not much more, but I can still claim to have made a stash dent of more than 12 yards with 99.98 yards in and 112.18 yards out.

Once again, I tracked how many of the cuts of fabric I bought in 2019 were used in 2019. I used all or part of 27 of the 47 cuts of fabric I bought this year, or 57.4 percent. That's just a smidge better than last year's percentage, which was 54.3 percent.

Of the 42 items I made for myself, just four of them were fails, or 9.5 percent. Last year I logged four fails too, but I only sewed 34 pieces for myself, so I had an 11.8 percent failure rate.

Sewing Goals - How'd I Do?

I made five sewing goals for 2019 and I did pretty well on them.

Goal #1: Sew more quality stuff for my kids. While I didn't sew as much special occasion wear as I had planned to, I did sew a number of pieces that my kids really liked.

Goal #2: Sew at least as many yards as I buy. I totally met this goal!

Goal #3: Sew myself another pair of lounge/pj pants. Did it!

Goal #4: Try a new jeans pattern.  I made two pairs of Liana Jeans this year, so that goal has been met.

Goal #5: Be open to inspiration. I definitely did this. Some of my inspirations were successful (see Simplicity 1059), and others not so much (see Simplicity 1358).

In sum ...

I'm very happy with my 2019 sewing. I made long strides towards rebuilding my handmade wardrobe. I bought 7 percent less fabric than I bought last year and sewed more 23.5 percent fabric than I sewed last year. 

Stay tuned for my 2020 plans! As always, thanks for reading and see you next time.