In which I hack a pattern I hadn’t sewn before

Hi there. I posted a photo of this shirt on Instagram a couple (a few? time flies) weeks ago. Funnily enough, I was on the fence about this fabric until I wore the shirt. But the comments expressed so much love for these polka dots, I began to wonder…

burda-shirt1

The fabric is pretty stiff: the dots add texture to a pretty densely woven cotton. It is wonderful to sew with — doesn’t budge and shapes pretty easily with steam. But, unlike Jess from New Girl, I don’t usually rock too many polka dots and am never sure if they’re not too twee on me. Also, I’d prefer not to sew darts in it. That’s based on my previous experience with this fabric, where I ended up converting darts into gathers (dress from Day 29 of this Me-Made May roundup).

All fabric doubts dispelled upon first wear. I love this shirt. I think this is one of the best things I’ve made. And it made for a glorious conclusion to what was a summer of shopping the stash. I didn’t announce it as a challenge or anything but just found myself consistently choosing projects based on what fabrics I already had.

So I went sleeveless here not just because it was hot when I made the shirt but because that was what the amount of fabric allowed.

Here are some not-so-great photos of the shirt when worn:

The pattern

The pattern is Burda 7136. I’m glad I took the photo below because I’d never be able to remember that number, and I do recommend giving this pattern a try even though I have yet to try it in its proper incarnation.

burda7136+pattenv.jpg

Siobhan made a great version of this pattern with a really neat print here — the bonus is that she offers some criticisms that should give you an idea whether this pattern might fit your body type. I’m shorter than Siobhan and, I guess, short-waisted, so the fit felt all right to me on this first and wild, untested, drive. I obviously have yet to try out the sleeves, so more detailed points will have to come at a later date.

Because I’m definitely going to reach for this pattern again. The only criticism I have right now is the length. I don’t want to be like the guy from those annoying UntuckIt commercials, but I was slightly unhappy with how long the shirt was. Now, I’m not going to start a company and make like I’ve invented slightly shortening clothes, but I chopped 1.5″ off the hem and I think it’s still a decently long shirt. You can tuck it in if you wish, but you can also wear it untucked with low-waisted pants (that ’90s hangover that remains the bane of my existence because, well, it tells you something about my wardrobe and the age of some of its components).

OK, one more criticism: the collar stand is pretty tall, and I double-checked that I was sewing it with the right seam allowance. I was. I think I might reduce it by 1/4″. Maybe with a collar attached it works better. Here, with a pretty stiff fabric it stands tall and proud and so I skipped that collar stand button so as to soften the look of it a bit.

Apart from that, Burda pattern drafting is strong with this one: my usual forward-shoulder adjustment would be in order to get the eam to land where it should. And I think I’d raise the armscye by 1 cm next time.

The inspiration

I hear that many sewists out there despise the word “hack” for pattern changes. I hope no one breaks out in hives reading this. I kind of like it, since it spans changes from breaking and complete remolding to ill-conceived “life-hacks” that don’t really make our lives easier at all. It’s your call where my changes to this pattern land on that spectrum.

So, in the interest of honesty: the idea for this shirt partly came from limitations of fabric amount and my desire to avoid pressing out dart points in this stiff cotton.

And then came something unusual for me.

While I enjoy looking at makes inspired by movie costumes, I’m often not so sure about the appeal of the garment at the heart of the craze. Case in point: that cardigan worn by Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game. I don’t really get what the fuss was about with that one, since there are so many gorgeous fair-isle patterns out there, and with more compelling color combinations. I’m really not sold on the pairing of beige and green.

Whoa, tangent. Stop.

But then I found myself watching another movie about World War II. Miasto 44, a Polish movie about the Warsaw Uprising. And I got stuck on one particular garment worn by Zofia Wichłacz. And that was it. Coup de foudre, my friends. I fell in love. Not even the dust, bomb blasts, and destruction of the city could distract me from studying the details of that one. (By the way, please don’t think I’m taking the subject of the film lightly.)

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Image from Onet.pl

Still, I didn’t want to go full-on re-enactor here. Don’t ask me how historically accurate this garment is because I haven’t looked into that. I loved the gathering over the bust and the collar stand. And I wanted to make something with those details.

I’d love to try this on a shirt dress, though that is going to take more work. But if I do, then probably not in a grayish blue because things might get too somber (even for me). I’m also not a fan of the vertical buttonholes. But, you know, this is something worn by a young soldier of the Home Army, so, again, unless you’re taking part in a re-enactment, it’s probably better to steer things in a slightly different direction.

Feel free to criticize my lack of love for polka dots or that sweater from The Imitation Game. Tell me what film-inspired garments you have sewn. I could use some vicarious sewing pleasure right now because I don’t have much time for sewing.

And, as always, thanks for reading.

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how Burda saved my summer sewing

Annemarie (of J’Adore le Cafe Sews) nailed it in her comment on my last post: there’s nothing like an easy but nonetheless exciting pattern to get you out of a sewing slump.

For me that pattern was this blouse (#118) from the 6/2017 issue of Burda. I like the version with the peplum in theory but not sure I’m down with peplums in practice. So I “unpeplumed” it and cut it out to the length of #119.

It is the simplest thing in the world. Because this is no time for muslins, I made up a “wearable muslin” (i.e. a version that might not have worked out at all) in a black cotton gauze I bought on impulse at the beginning of summer.

(More details on the skirt from the photo on the left comming soon!)

What I learned about this fabric:

  • it’s too thin for human use
  • it stretches out from being looked at
  • it sews pretty well
  • it’s awesome to wear on a hot day.

Seriously, this fabric would make more sense doubled. But I had a yard, which didn’t give me much room for experimentation.

Details:
Pattern:  
top #118 and hem from #119, Burda 6/2017
Fabric: black cotton gauze from Joann Fabrics (about 1 yd).
Notions: thread, bias tape cut from the remainder of the fabric.
Seam and hem finish: French seams everywhere, neckline and armholes bound with boas tape, regular machine-stitched hem of about 3/4″.
Mods: none yet, just discoveries. Namely: the armhole was cut a bit too low for my liking (and the gauze stretched out); the neckline was cut a bit too snug, especially on the front. Oh, and back cut in two pieces due to fabric shortages.
Fun fact: I traced the pattern without adding seam allowances and added those when cutting out (I kept telling myself to focus the entire time).

I love this top despite minor reservations. And it immediately set those little cogs in motion, leading me to come up with this plan:

burda118_6_2017_dress-sketch

It’s not the best sketch but it conveys the idea.

Here’s the dress:

burda118_6_2017_dress1

The eagle-eyed among you will recognize this fabric. I made several garments in the navy colorway (dress, robe, tee). I like both the print and, of course, the fact that it’s rayon.

The sketch has the most important details but let me talk you through what I did in order to go from the top to a dress.

I raised the armholes a little bit on this version and I did a forward shoulder adjustment, which moved the shoulder seam to the intended position on the front bodice (it’s lower than the shoulder point).

I added the ties to cinch it in a little when I feel like it (… and hang loose when I’m melting in the summer heat).

Because the longer version of the blouse had ample ease on the hips, I simply extended the front and back pattern pieces by about 12″, then straightened and trued the side seams. You could simply extend them from the hip down to get more of a trapeze shape, but I wanted more of a shift dress silhouette.

And that’s basically it. I’m dreaming of a linen version with a self-fabric belt at the waist, but that may not be in the cards this summer.

Pattern verdict: highly recommended.

Many thanks for the comments on the last post. It was great to bond through our shared sewing dilemmas, but you have also given great tips on overcoming them!

simpler still

Too hot for many things: sewing among them, and when there isn’t much sewing, what is there to write about?

The unblogged.

I had 0.7 yard of this unusual (to me at least) denim look rayon fabric, which I found in a remnant bin. This is what I made out of it, with some “creative” fabric cutting decisions along the way:

helmi-bluefilter
Disclaimer: this image has been slightly dramatized with the use of a color filter for the purposes of this blog post.

The eagle-eyed among you might be able to tell that the base pattern is, again, Helmi by Named Clothing. I can’t stop making these. If I manage to get some sewing done in the coming weeks, I should be able to show you another one.

This one… had to be cut shorter than the pattern pieces (sorry, can’t remember how much shorter anymore — I was figuring it out and matching side seams on the fly). I didn’t want to sacrifice even more of the length, hence the bias tape hem.

(I used my kimono sleeve hack of the front and back pattern pieces as you can tell.)

The collar stand was cut on the cross grain because there was no other possibility unless I’d piece it from the fabric fumes I had left. And there weren’t enough of those fabric fumes for cuffs, so I went for bias tape again. Unlike the premade one I used on the hem this one was made by me, and softer because I cut it from a rayon remnant. You can’t see it when the blouse is worn, so I’m not particularly bothered by this mismatch.

The buttons were a lucky second-hand find. I’m glad I only had seven because with the top button-free, the blouse has a slightly softer, more fluid look that I think is better on me than a fully buttoned version would have been.

Helmi-blue1
Awkward modeling is an innate skill; the heat isn’t at fault.

I’ve been wearing this Helmi a lot. Hurray for remnants! They make for some creative, and fairly stress-free sewing.

What has everyone been up to?

slow everything

IMG_20170620_134700 (1)
Helmi tunic dress. Finally.

Hello! I’m back in the bloglands after some traveling and family time. And back with that great dilemma that every break like that brings up for me. It’s wonderful to see again what everyone’s been sewing, photographing, and writing about while I was away… But, in all honesty, it was really blissful not to keep up with it all. And not to keep others updated on what I was doing.

Thank you everyone who dropped me a line under the blog break post! Your wishes were a wonderful send-off. Here are some thoughts I’ve brought back from my trip.

When sightseeing, I would only take a few snapshots for the family, a la the limitations of yore, as if some “film” were at risk of running out in the camera. I limited texting and email to the absolutely necessary. I walked a lot. I had a notebook with me. I ended up reading a lot.

It did feel a little bit like time travel, unplugging that daily connection that we hardly perceive but use all the time. And then it stopped feeling like time travel, and I simply felt more rested, more focused, and more curious about the world. An undercurrent of mild anxiety stopped buzzing in the background.

I don’t want to be the next person preaching about the benefits of slowing down. I don’t even know how well I will be able to remember what I got out of that period of unplugging.

I’ll try. I don’t think the problem lies in not knowing that you can slow down. I think it lies in the routines that carry us through every day. We get more of a temporary pleasure kick out of scrolling through online content than sitting down quietly with a book, though the latter has a more lasting calming benefit for our mind. We cherish (and remember more clearly) photos when we take them sparingly, we forget the ones we took in quick succession. But it’s all so easy to forget. It doesn’t have a snappy acronym like FOMO or the range of other fears that, likewise, have snappy acronyms that I keep googling, and as I do so I feel old and increasingly not with that next “it” that is the “it” of the quickly fleeting moment.

I’m not about to proclaim this a new trend here. I think I’ll see how well I can keep pumping the breaks on some of my routines and if that will let me accomplish some new goals. It’s probably fair to call this modest plan my attempt at kaizenI’m not starting a business, just trying to get some of my ducks out of the woods and in a row.

In the meantime, I will have some slow-paced (ha!) catch up posts for you on things I made before the trip.

But here’s one I made when I got back, still pretty jet-lagged.

helmi-dress-stripes

I had this fabric sitting in my stash for over a year. I bought it at a store with second-hand fabric, yarn, and notions. It was probably donated to the store, so it was unlabeled and on the bargain fabric pile. It feels like cotton, somewhat crisp. I don’t wear stripes too often and it took me a very long time to figure out what I could use this fabric for.

I can’t remember the exact inspiration, but I think I saw a garment somewhere (on the street? on Pinterest?) that used horizontal stripes that balanced vertical stripes in this way, and that’s when I knew it would be a Helmi dress.

I went for my kimono sleeve hack first tried here. Once again I opted also for the simplified button placket. It seems to me that the buttons make a good visual interruption to all the stripes.

Since I’m quite a few inches shorter than what Named Clothing drafts for, I shortened  the bodice and skirt by 1.5 cm. And, in a bout of masochism, I finished the hem and the sleeve cuffs by hand. And that would be it. I’m wondering whether to insert elastic into the waist seam. I’m not in love with the boxy silhouette of the unbelted dress. I think it looks pretty cool on the model here but on me I feel like it completes the look of a clueless person desperately googling “FOMO.” Thoughts?

This project is my third one in the #sewtogetherforsummer challenge on Instagram. Many thanks to Monika, Sarah, and Suzy for making this such a wonderful, inspiring, and welcoming sewing challenge.

I wish you all happy summer sewing and till next time.

shirt story. chapter two: I finally made one!

It certainly took me long enough to get there! Lots of fretting, fitting, and pattern alterations. Here it is:

m7387-4
Here at the House of Shiny Door Knobs we have nowhere to pose where the clothes could be the proper focus.

Fresh off the happy wave of the #sewtogetherforsummer shirt dress, this is McCall’s 7387 — a pattern I bought on impulse, started fitting, realized it had some features I wasn’t crazy about, and then discarded.

I’m writing this post after realizing that you can’t keep the momentum going forever. It turns out that trying to quickly prepare another shirt pattern after a long day at work is not the best evening plan. Luckily, I stopped myself before fabric scissors came into play. Oh, wonderful wave of shirt-sewing mojo, let me do your beauty justice by giving this shirt a proper write-up.

I could call this a blouse, I guess, but I prefer “shirt” because I really like the variations on menswear in women’s patterns. You can mix and match elements and not be afraid of David Page Coffin criticizing you in your dreams. Or so I’m hoping.

Construction details aside, my primary concern is always fit. I often see photos of tissue-paper pattern pieces pinned neatly to freshly cut fabric on Instagram and I wonder — sometimes with a bit of envy — how many of you out there have the luxury of getting a good fit “straight out of the envelope.” Not me. I’ve been working pretty hard over the years on not blaming it all on my body and how it fits or doesn’t fit into some sort of “standards.” So, to be honest, what really bugs me is how much time fitting and alterations can take. Not that much time left for sewing in the end!

This one took a while from first muslin to completion. For a long time we weren’t talking because I wasn’t sure I could figure out the alterations and hack it to get the design details I wanted.

I got it at a pattern sale, where the siren song of $1 or $1.99 always lures me. I didn’t notice just how deep that back pleat was or that there wasn’t a collar stand.

m7387-collar
No collar stand. Even after digging through the pattern envelope for a long time. It turns out reading the pattern contents might save you some time!

I really hated the back pleat when I made up the first muslin. It felt like a heavy tail sitting atop my derriere, and the curve of the pattern piece gave it unnecessary length that made it pile up on said derriere. Not a cool look. It was the first thing I knew I needed to do away with when I eventually picked up this pattern again.

It’s the kimono sleeves that made me reach for it. And fabric leftovers that didn’t add up to much on their own but really got me fired up about this project once I realized how I could put them together.


It did take some creative cutting, some plans changed along the way. The main fabric was leftover chambray from the circle skirt I made as one of my first sewing projects (you can see a photo of it here). The button placket got integrated into the fronts. I could have turned it the other way around and it would look like intended. (But I didn’t because I thought, “why not go in the opposite direction and just let it look like the continuous piece that it is?”)

I cut out the inner yoke from the last precious bits of the Cotton and Steel print from my first dress. For the outer collar and cuffs I used linen/rayon left remnants from these pants. And because the yoke and back piece were both cut out in the chambray, I decided to set them apart with some flat black piping.

I wanted slightly feminine buttons to balance out the crispness of the fabrics. And that’s that when it came to style choices. I really felt steered by the fabrics on this one and quite enjoyed the limitations of the yardage in each. I don’t know if I could have stumbled on this combination otherwise.

I’ll follow up with some notes on fit alterations.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. What are you working on?

Flaurel (and maybe a farewell)

Hello, are you also snowed in? It’s getting pretty boring and nothing like Narnia. Well, maybe with the exception of the serious questions about, ekhm, power and those who wield it. We could use some kids with a lion.

Just snow here, tall snowbanks and provisional hills of it made by snowplows right now as a snowstorm just wound down (I hope!). But I dug up some flowers. From my stash.

The flowers: three yards of a dark navy polyester floral print that I bought on impulse during a Craftsy sale. Was it a year ago? I don’t remember. I do remember that the total cost was under $10 dollars and, while I liked the print, I didn’t like the slippery feel of the fabric.

With the aid of spray starch I finally cut into it. The spray starch did not work as well as I’d hoped but I’m not giving up on the stuff. And I did manage to cut out a Laurel dress, even if the hem played tricks on me.

Voilà:

flaurel2
I call it the Flaurel

I took my time on this one. I liked the print as a print. Draping myself in it (yes, that happened) and then sewing it, I was torn between love and wondering whether it makes me look like a sofa. Bridget Jones level worries here, as you can see.

I resolved my dilemma by adding a keyhole, exactly like I did on the Laurel lbd. The keyhole has supreme dilemma-resolving power, I think. And just like that one the Flaurel is zipper-free, with a button and buttonloop at the neckline. I added small cuffs to the sleeves, which kind of disappear in the print but please me nonetheless.

The fabric has no stretch. I was lazy, the fabric was fraying viciously, and so I didn’t bother with basting for fit. In the end the dress fits but I have to wait a while to shed the lingering perfectionist hangup.

And… don’t hold me to this… but it might be the last Laurel for a longer while. Tinkering with Big Four and Burda has made me take many, many closer looks at my back in terms of fitting. Don’t get me wrong, the Laurel is pleasingly roomy on the back for me but I feel like the redrafted armholes I’ve tested out here and here fit even better. So I’d like to give other shift dresses* a try, with that crazy armhole (which I’ll try to show you in the near future).

That’s reason one. Reason two is that I’ve grown pretty discouraged about Colette over the past several months. I really don’t like how they responded to the criticism of the drafting of the Rue dress. I appreciate that they did admit drafting errors but what they revealed about their process did not inspire confidence. Laurel is a pattern drafted from their previous block and it fits me pretty well with minor adjustments. More current patterns, like Winona and Wren (both of which I wanted to make), are drafted from a new block, which is very different. I gave up on trying to fit them. I would like to make these dresses but I really don’t want to deal with what would need to be careful muslining and maybe partly redrafting. And in a knit. I don’t have the time for that now, so I’m moving on.

Okay, one more thing about the Flaurel. The inspiration came from the inimitable Carolyn and her fantastic photos from her Year of Handmade (#lifegoals). Now, I can’t seem to find the photo I have in mind. Did I imagine it? If so, please forgive me, Carolyn. If that’s just something from a dream collage based me absorbing these outfits, I take full responsibility.

Anyhow, here’s my take on that memory or dream. A dress with a skirt, because who will know. Apart from all of you, obviously.

Me and my broad, broad back. The skirt is the deep pleat skirt from Burda.

What do you think?

That’s it for flowers, back to the snow. I’ve been putting off writing about this but thinking about it all the time. And, as a result, posting here sporadically even though I really like talking about sewing with you and sharing my makes and woes. The current situation in the world has been getting to me, to put it mildly. Yes, there are always things to worry and care about in the world, but I’d argue that one can remain more skillful about that when one is not checking the news every morning to see if the world as we know it still exists.

I don’t believe one can really be apolitical but I also believe that we shouldn’t blindly cling to labels. We should stop every once in a while and define those labels to check what they actually mean to us. That’s a serious problem. I’m seeing people throwing around labels and those labels are washed out of all meaning. What are the principles behind the labels? It’s heartbreaking to see people follow someone who seems to be waving a flag they like without asking any questions.

So many people, on both sides of the various divides, are talking about anger these days. And, I’m not going to lie, I don’t think that in all those cases “the truth is in the middle” and both sides have equal standing, or that their anger is equally justified. Some of that anger is more justified. When it’s anger about being hurt in real ways and not by imagined threats it’s justified. Anger, as such, I think isn’t bad unless you act out in anger. Anger can certainly be the spark that starts something good but it only become that if you transform it into thoughtful action. Use it as energy but act out of wisdom and kindness.

At this time it’s important to cultivate kindness. Don’t replace it with hate. And no, I’m not saying be a doormat. Give tough love. But let there be kindness in your heart and let it guide you. If you extend it to yourself, you won’t let yourself become a doormat. Are you following me?

Kindness will allow us to stay sane in difficult times. Hate is scary and provokes hate as a reaction. But nothing can grow on hate, and no happiness can be built on the suffering of others. It’s important to remember that, then the hate will be less scary, it won’t provoke us to hate in return. Instead, we’ll be able to respond to it more wisely. And we really need that right now.

Sorry if that was rambling. I’ve been thinking about all this for a long time and wanted to finally write something and reach out to others.

Thanks to everyone who’s written thoughtfully on difficult topics, be it more personal or more political. Thanks to Naomi (and her most recent post) for the spark that finally allowed me to write this part of the post.

EDITED TO ADD MISSING FOOTNOTE:
* This dress. I blame Siobhan.

Camas as a cardigan

camas-cardi-4

This one ticks several boxes. The Camas blouse checks out as a cardigan in several ways:

  • perfect for lounging while pretending to be put together and ready to meet the world;
  • potentially great for actually meeting the world;
  • only needed to be minimally upsized for a cardigan — I sewed the sleeve and side seams with a 1 cm/ 3/8″ seam allowance;
  • I MADE IT OUT OF FABRIC SCRAPS, WHICH MAKES ME SO OVERJOYED I’M WRITING IN ALL CAPS
  • it’s both fairly simple sewing and qualifies as loungewear, so it satisfies a major wardrobe need for me.

the back and the inside

I was inspired by Morgan’s cardigan version from the Camas sewalong.

There were some goofs. I was rushing and sewed in part of the front band wrong. And I trimmed the seams before I noticed it. Not great but not tragic, so I just went with it. If I could rewind time, I’d unpick it and sew it properly.

I improvised those cuffs. They could be slimmer. But they’re not and it’s still fine.

Here it is worn:

I wrote up a proper review of the pattern here. Now I can recommend it both as a blouse and a cardigan. And I might just make it again.