Me-Made May 2017: Days 15-21 and new makes

Another week, another roundup. Again, there were repeats. But there were also two new garments, which I sewed frantically, stabbing my fingers and going slightly insane with all the tubes of fabric that needed to be turned out (belt loops are not my friends).

 

May 15 was one of those days that forced a costume change. I spent the first half of the day working from home. So first I tried the nightwear-as-daywear trend, donning an Almada robe over a Scout tee sewed in the same fabric (a really lovely rayon from Joann fabrics, which I bought a lot of last year).

Later on I changed into my beloved wannabe ’70s pants and I added a cardigan I knitted a couple of years ago (wool/silk, so pretty warm weather friendly).

May 16-18: a repeat vortex. I wore that Laurel dress on May 16 and again on the 18th, which was a Thursday, so I decided I’d say I did it as a throwback to Tuesday — ha! I have no excuses for the 17th when I wore the Scout tee yet again, but this time with the Beignet skirt.

… And that skirt reminded me of the Beignet skirt I vowed to make right after I finished the first one. I ended up cutting the second one out bit by bit over several months — first the lining, then, eventually, the shell. I had project resistance, which I couldn’t quite explain until I dove into actually making the skirt. It’s not the easiest skirt.

This time I chose to add a lining (thrifted poly print). The belt and shell fabric is a black cotton twill, the pockets are from some sort of a wool/poly remnant.

Excuse the water stain visible in the photo below… and the black on black. Not all photo shoots are inspired, what can I say. I was trying to clean a persistent chalk pencil mark that just didn’t want to go away. I thought it had dried by the time I took the photos but, clearly, it had not.

I still like this pattern a lot. I find it flattering, I love that it has pockets. What I dislike are the belt loops which still this second time around feel like they’re drafted slightly too short and too narrow, like it’s a matter of 2-3 milimeters, but these feel pretty critical.

Another gripe is the belt because, in contrast, it seems too wide. After turning it out I turned it back inside out (ouch, my hands!) to shave off about 1/4″. That’s it for the gripes, it still deserves a thumbs up.

I’m not sure you can spot it in these photos (unlike the highly visible water stain) that my buttonhole luck left me on this one. The fabric wasn’t that bulky, but it was a bit tricky for my sewing machine, whose one-step buttonhole is usually a smooth job. There was some thread bunching on at least two of the buttonholes, which led me to wrangle the fabric from under the foot and push the fabric along. One buttonhole got placed wrong for reasons that escape me. It took some unpicking and creative work with satin stitch to rescue it. It helps that the fabric is black.

Back to the roundup:

On May 19 I wore the new Beignet skirt with finally a different Scout tee (in a lovely Cotton and Steel rayon). And on May 20 I finished McCall’s 6885 and put it on as soon as it was done and pressed. It was sewn concurrently with the skirt — something I do very rarely.

This dress is my second #sewtogetherforsummer project and an ode to shopping the stash. I had a big remnant of that cotton sateen print left since having to buy extra for the first dress I made from it. The gray fabric was a remnant left from this dress.

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It would have been a perfect combination if I hadn’t underestimated the stiffness of that tightly woven linen. The dirty secret of this dress is that I can’t button the collar stand: it’s too stiff and the buttonhole doesn’t have enough flexibility. I think I’ll live with that but I’d prefer to avoid it in the future…

This pattern has received some love online. And it’s pretty good but do I have some reservations. Some of them fall into the category “I don’t know if it’s me or the pattern.”

First in that category: the button placket. The overlap is way longer than the underlap and I don’t know what other purpose it served beyond annoying me. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the instructions but I guess you’re supposed to just attach that bottom floppy part to the front of the dress with a mere two horizontal seams and just let it flop about?… Hell no. I just stitched it down around the arrow part… which came out uneven! (Insert your favorite swear word here.) Maybe it’s me, I don’t know…

So I guess it’s just the placket that’s in that category, but that’s not the end of my dislikes.

At the top of my list is the damn tall and narrow sleeve cap.

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I couldn’t help myself. I hate that slim sleeve cap so much.

Whenever I see this sleeve cap shape I want to run screaming. I don’t know who is able to wear these comfortably. I definitely can’t: they turn things into the opposite of secret pajamas. A secret straightjacket.

Rather than spend time altering the sleeve cap I just Frankenpatterned the modified sleeve cap from the dress that taught me so much. It went in woderfully, with minimal easing.

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Here’s a detail I like: the buttoned tab that keeps the rolled sleeves in place.

Apart from that: No pockets, so I added some at the side seams. The collar was really big so I shaved off a centimeter. I moved the waist ties up about an inch — they fell too low according to the pattern, at least on me. I added my usual 3/4″ to the bottom of the armhole on the back piece and did my usual forward-shoulder adjustment and square shoulder adjustment. Not sure how I feel about the shirt-tail hem. I think I’d opt for a straight hem next time.

On the upside: I didn’t need an FBA. The fit in the bust is fine. The fit in the hips is okay, too, though if I make this again I might grade up to the next size.

Last day of my roundup: May 21 and some ’90s inspiration with an Adelaide dress over a black tee (RTW, this one).

MMMay21

So moving on to the last full week of Me-Made May. This one may be my last blog roundup because I’m traveling at the end of the month and will be offline in early June. I plan on wearing me-made clothes but I know I will be away from the blog and IG for a while, so most likely won’t document any of that. And apologies in advance for the silence.

How is Me-Made May going for you? Are you in the no-repeats camp or, like me, going with whatever calls to you?

hello, Helmi!

And, suddenly, all plans got moved aside and I went down the rabbit hole of the Helmi pattern from Named. I’ve almost finished the second blouse (shirt? — I need to resolve this) from that pattern and I’m actually pretty tired from the marathon sewing I’ve put myself through. When you dream of sitting down with a book and a cup of tea while at the sewing machine, you know you’re not doing a hobby right…

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So I sat down with a book and a cup of tea to take this photo of the almost-finished Helmi blouse. Note the bias-bound side seam. I made the bias tape from fabric scraps. Needless to say, those side seams took ages. 

Maybe this kind of sewing trance is just to be expected when you finally feel up to making a more challenging type of garment that also happens to be a crucial wardrobe gap… I’m on my way to doubling the number of shirts in my wardrobe, and they are my favorite thing to wear to work.

The photo above somehow does the fabric color justice: it’s a beatiful blue somewhere between the blue of violets and that of cornflowers. It’s a rayon — somewhat unruly but manageable with a little bit of help from spray starch. Nothing like the menace that was the fabric I used for my “test” Helmi (there was a muslin before that but the muslin didn’t have all the details).

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I call this one the Floral Menace Helmi.

If cutting and sewing the blue rayon was at times like trying to make a piece of clothing out of water, this lightweight floral polyester crepe (I think) was like water with patches of ice. The starching helped only a bit.

Because both of these fabrics are lightweight, I was worried about making the right choice with interfacing. My choices were actually very limited, so I settled on knit interfacing on the Floral Menace to keep things naturally floppy but capable of supporting buttons and buttonholes, and on the blue rayon blouse a combination of knit interfacing and lighweight non-woven fusible (i.e. basically, the two kinds I have in my stash right now).

Let’s talk fitting…

I am definitely not in the position to judge pattern drafting, so I’ll just share a few observations. One: all notches matched up beautifully. Two: the sleeve was drafted differently than I’m used to, with a pronounced curve on the back of the sleeve head and not much ease. That meant two surprises: I didn’t have to add ease stitches to ease the sleeve head in nicely, and the sleeve didn’t fit tight at all. Magic! Three: the shoulder seam is drafted to accommodate the 21st-century computer hunch — the slope of that seam is different on the front than on the back piece. For this hunchback it meant a forward shoulder adjustment of a mere 14″, and I would have survived without it. Magic again!

Where I definitely needed a fit adjustment was my broad back, but at this point that’s very obvious to me. I also raised the bust dart slightly, and I’m not sure whether it was a good or a bad choice… I need to wear these blouses a bit more to determine that.

Now… I’m not crazy about the 1 cm/ 3/8″ seam allowance. With the madly fraying polyester it just didn’t feel like enough for French seams, so I overlocked the seam allowances (which will do, but I’m not loving it). For the second blouse I added a 1/4″ to the side and sleeve seams.

So that’s easily fixed if you don’t mind taking the time to redraw the pattern pieces (which is what I did) or remembering to add to these seam allowances when cutting your fabric.

The instructions are clear and succinct. I can’t really evaluate the “trench inspired” elements of the blouse, since I skipped them.

Verdict: definitely recommend and will sew again!

In other news, I really loved following #fashrev and #fashionrevolutionweek on Instagram. I especially enjoyed the validation I got reading others’ washing tips. When I moved to the US it seemed to me people around me were doing laundry all the time, and no one was hanging out any clothes. I quickly discovered that the dryer was shredding my t-shirts at an alarming pace and got a drying rack. I’d always hand-washed quite a lot of my clothes, and while it’s not the must enjoyable activity, I’m glad I’ve stuck with it.

I also liked seeing people’s happy “I made my clothes” photos, though, to be completely honest, I liked the photos of garment workers with “I made your clothes” signs even more. I’m hoping that more awareness about who the majority of the world’s garment workers are, where they live, and how little they get paid leads to fairer compensation and decent working conditions. That’s the change we need the most.

As for making your own clothes… Me-Made May starts tomorrow! I can’t say I’ve filled my wardrobe gaps, but I’ll do my best to wear at least one me-made item every day.

What have you been up to? Are you excited for #mmmay17?

Little My All Grown Up

I’ve never been as sassy as Tove Jansson’s fabulous character but she has remained my inspiration well into adulthood. Jungian psychoanalysts would agree (scroll down for proof).

I’m still amazed that I actually managed to finish this dress.

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Skillful photobombing by the Feline Overlord

As I mentioned before, it had been sitting half-sewn since last July. The pattern is McCall’s 7314, one that I picked up at a sale, both intrigued by the loose fit and the way the bodice was joined to the skirt and wary of it. Custom cup sizes was what really sold me on it. If you don’t feel like reading through the nitty gritty below, let me tell you now that I give it a thumbs up. It was pretty easy to fit!

Before we get into the details, let me give a shoutout to the awesome hostesses and participants of #sewtogetherforsummer on Instagram. Sarah (find her also here on IG), Monika, and Suzy have been amazingly engaged in the community that’s forming around the hashtag and encouraging. I was really energized to work on the dress thanks to all the wonderful conversations that happened around my progress shots on IG! Thanks to everyone who chimed in! You helped me make a dress I really love.

I guess it’s fair to say you helped me make a dress that channeled my inner Little My. Maybe I’m only imagining that my fabric choice was almost accidental?…

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Proof. For your consideration

Details, in semi-random order:

  • no forward-shoulder adjustment on this one, somewhat surprisingly (which is why you always need to check the pattern before you dive in!)
  • shoulders squared, though, by almost 1 cm
  • my now usual broad-back adjustment (here’s a graphic)
  • collar constructed following this ingenius tutorial I can’t recommend enough
  • the bust darts took A LOT of pressing because they insited on staying pointy and sharp even after careful trimming — so pick a soft fabric for this dress!
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The elasticated back and side-seam pockets (and cat paws and tail)

  • I barely had enough fabric for the version I chose, so I cut the pockets from a different remnant; I’m proud of my understitching — they’re not peeking out!
  • I only elasticated the back waistline seam (as the pattern instructs); if you want a tighter fit, you can elasticate the front as well
  • note to self for next time: raise the armholes by about 1 cm (due to the square shoulder alteration)

The fabric is a pin dot poly/cotton stretch poplin, bought from Fabric.com over a year ago. I recommend using 1/4″ elastic because that’s what will fit through the casing that in this pattern is formed from the seam allowance. Buttons were a lucky thrift-store find from a few years ago.

And that’s about it for now.

Will I make another shirt dress for #sewtogetherforsummer? I would certainly like to, but I have a trip coming up and will try to focus on making some essentials for that. But there will be shirt dresses after the sewalong is over, and I hope I get to contiue the conversations.

If you haven’t joined in #sewtogetherforsummer, do join in. You will enjoy it!

pants #3, or, what I’ve learned so far and why I’m venturing on

Dear readers, my adventures in the scary land of pant/trouser making continue. I’m extremely grateful for all the encouragement I’ve gotten on my previous pants-making posts. Thank you all for your kind words! I’m happy to hear that I’ve also managed to get some of you encouraged by my dive into this intimidating area of garment sewing.

I think it’s worth the risk even if you fail. For one, I’ve been learning just how little I understood about the fit of pants when my choices were limited to ready-to-wear. And even though I haven’t had a “it fit straight out of the pattern envelope” experience with any of the pants I’ve made (well, I basically never do with any pattern), with some patience and basting, I ended up with wearable pants every time. So as I go along I’m learning about fitting and — more importantly even — I am really enjoying clothing my bottom half.

The third pattern I tackled from my sketched list came from Burda 8/2016. The photos from that issue (scroll through these posts for exhibit #1 and exhibit #2) didn’t give me a clear an idea of what those might end up looking like — more like an alluring suggestion. I’m somewhat surprised by where I arrived, though in a good way, I should add.

Today I take you to my messy sewing nook to meet my less-than-clean mirror in these very candid and completely unstyled shots of the new pants:

Totally unstyled but completely me-made: Plantain tee ans stripey socks by yours truly

Gah! That mirror desperately needs cleaning. But the pantsL I’m extremely pleased with them after wearing them out a couple of times and I’m liking them more each time I wear them. But I’m not going to lie to you: it took quite a few rounds of basting and fiddling with the fit before we got there.

Here are some slightly clearer photos. And details.

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I’d say they ended up looking like I imagined the Thread Theory Lazo Trousers would. Or maybe how the Lazos do on the figure type for which they are drafted. I’d say that if you have a flat tummy and a derriere that is not quite as pancake-like as mine, you’re bound to get a lovely result with those. Morgan’s own samples look great, so do Meg’s Lazos (and she has a neat post about them). I’m kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum and the muslin turned out hilarious. I’d show you if I were less self-conscious. The crotch length for which they’re drafted was all wrong with my body proportions and I decided to end it on that one muslin and just shelve the project. Please don’t take my experience as a criticism of the pattern. Morgan’s posts about fitting these helped me diagnose what didn’t work for me, and I can definitely see myself returning to both the pattern and her posts to do some altering that would make these work for me.

Okay, but back to the Burda pattern. Running to Burda from an indie pattern that had a sewalong and fit advice is not a move I can explain logically. And I didn’t follow the instructions for the pattern because I didn’t get most of them. I’m definitely not fluent in the super laconic language of Burda instructions.

Here’s what I did instead, in case you want to follow my path but don’t speak Burda-ese:

  1. I cut out the size according to body measurements, to be on the safe side, and I basted the pants together, leaving the waistband off for that first try-on. (I slipped a length of elastic over the top to hold the pants up.) These pants have slash pockets, which I did not cut out yet; in fact, I superposed the pocket over the cutout and just chalked the spash pocket line in on the inside, so I could baste to fit without worrying about pockets at all.
  2. That first try on gave me some insight (the size I cut was too big, especially in the hips). I recommend basting in the waistband and pinning it closed to get a better idea of the fit. That’s what I did next.
  3. I’m not going to give you my fit adjustments in excrutiating detail since your needs might be very different from mine. I worked with Pati Palmer and Marta Alto’s book Pants for Real People to figure those out. Most importantly, I took the inseam in to accommodate as per the “pancake butt” adjustment (many thanks to Melanie for introducting this phrase to my fitting vocabulary). I also ended up shaving quite a bit off the outseams, especially on the hips. At this stage, I merely chalked in the new seam lines, didn’t cut anything out just yet.
  4. I determined the pocket placement using my new seamlines and cut out the pocket slash line. Then I made the pockets (the pattern instructions didn’t mention stabilizing the pocket openings but I did, with some lightweight fabric selvedges I had kept from an earlier project).
  5. I sewed the darts on the back (they needed some altering after the try on) and the pleats on the front, sewing them down partly, as was suggested in one of the comments to the pattern photos (but not in the pattern instructions, gah!).
  6. Next I tackled the fly front following Sandra Betzina’s tutorial. I’ve watched a few different tutorials for this step, and this one I find the clearest and easiest to follow, hands down. I second the advice on interfacing — I’m glad I stabilized the zipper area.
  7. This pattern didn’t have a fly shield but I added one. Make sure you cut out the waistband long enough to accommodate this if you also want to add one.
  8. Inseam, then crotch seam (where I did a double line of stitching once I was happy with the fit), basted outseam. There was some basting and ripping here before I felt comfortable with the fit, so I’d recommend not rushing this part.
  9. Sew the outseam, add waistband (I recommend interfacing if you’re working with a streth suiting like I was), hem pants.

So that’s my blueprint for sewing these. Pardon me if I dumbed it down inadvertently. Feel free to correct me or add steps I might have forgotten about here.

As you can tell from the two photos above the list, these don’t necessarily look fantastic from all angles. I definitely fretted about the fit and my understanding of how pleats play into it… But the final test for me is not my dubious photography skills but the wearing. These feel comfortable. Not perfect maybe but definitely good enough to fill a woeful wardrobe gap for me.

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Hand sewing: waistband on the inside, hook and eye closures (well, obviously), and hems.

And that’s a milestone for me. So if you wear pants a lot, dive into making them. I’m glad I did. I wish I had more time so I could get on with the next pair, but that will have to wait.

More from me soon. As always, I’d love to hear from you. What are you working on or planning to make?

seasonal wardrobe disorder

winter-wardrobe

Today’s post is brought to you by my oddly late realization that virtually everything in my wardrobe is completely and totally seasonal. Or seasonally-affected, ha! That truth (which should have been obvious, you might argue) was beginning to sink in when I was putting my Top 5 of 2016 post together and noticing that at the time of writing it I wasn’t able to wear almost any of the clothes on that list if I was leaving the house. 

Then I realized that trying to wear rayon tops at this time of the year was a strange act of defiance only made possible by handknit cardigans. Then I made the Keaton pants, and, finally, the loving embrace of brushed cotton snapped me out of my state of denial.

And that’s when I made the sketch above. That there is the truth about what I need in my winter wardrobe. No dresses and no skirts, it’s no country for them. Only pants, handknits, and knit tops allowed in the presence of snow shovels.

I see the light now and I’m finally replacing my well-worn RTW clothes with me-mades. Here’s what I’ve made so far:

First up, the Keaton pants + a trio of Plantain tees (I already have four long-sleeved ones, I should add).

I feel like I don’t praise the Plantain tee pattern enough. My photography skills are not up to hyping it up more as a basic, but it’s a brilliant pattern that’s helping me replace a lot of not-so-great RTW tops with ones that I really enjoy wearing that are also neutral enough to go with almost everything.

I’m thinking at this point that even if Deer and Doe decide not to go the PDF route I kind of owe it to them to do a transatlantic paper pattern purchase just to express my gratitude for this wonderful free pattern.

Up next, the first fruits of my Burda tracing frenzy (thanks to everyone who offered their tracing tips in response to my Instagram post): two pullovers from pattern 106 from Burda 8/2016.

On the gray one I messed up everything it was possible to mess up because I was sewing when I was tired. I figured (wrongly) that I could do some sewing in lieu of a nap. On the upside I learned to unpick serged seams and I got a wearable pullover in the end.

(Photos clearly inspired by the Leaning Tower of Pisa.)

Size-wise, it was pretty big and I shaved off quite a bit on the side seams. I also didn’t add enough of a seam allowance on the neckline. It was enormous and droopy. What saved it in the end was inventiveness forced by being down to pitifully small and narrow fabric scraps. I used a non-stretchy scrap cut lengthwise with the selvedge included.

The fabric was leftovers from an unblogged Oslo cardigan. I’ve seen some lovely makes from it pop up on Instagram. What I personally don’t love about it is its poor recovery.

On to the second one, also from leftovers. This thick interlock knit had already become a Finlayson pullover (another unblogged Christmas gift) and the black dress from this post.

This pattern is good for squeezing out of leftovers, thanks to the central back seam. By the way, that seam is brilliantly shaped — it comes in on the lower back, thus working as a sway-back alteration. I’m seeing that on many Burda patterns and it impresses me every time.

Not that you can necessarily tell but in those two bottom photos I’m attempting to show off the pleated detail on the sleeves. That detail is my favorite feature of this pattern.

The second time around I only added a seam allowance on the neckline and the central back seam. Still, I “smallified” it once again by shaving off a bit off the side seam.

Oh, and the cuffs are from a textured knit remnant I picked up at Joann a while back. Not that you can actually see that it’s a different fabric in these photos.

I give the pattern a solid thumbs up, “smallifying” efforts notwithstanding, since they’re just my preference, not a pattern issue.

I can’t wait to tackle the two Burda pant patterns I have on that list. The pleated pair is traced already, the other one not yet. The fabrics are pre-washed. I just need to either muslin or dive in with a bit of fake courage.

But after Katie’s post I fished out McCall’s 7445 out of my pattern stash and now I want to make those, too.

Decisions, decisions. I thank you in advance for wishes of an early spring. But I believe Punxsatawney Phil has already said no to that and the snow banks outside my window seem to be feeling very at home.

What’s your seasonal strategy for sewing? 

the Diane Keaton moment

Readers, I made pants.

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Riding on the wave of other sewists’ resolutions, I just dove into the project. And throwing caution to the winds, I cut out Burda 6856. My original plan was to prevaricate some more, then cut out a pair marked easy — starting with a muslin, possibly treating Pants for Real People as a WebMD for pants, diagnosing my pair with every fit ailment possible…

But it’s too cold for all that. I found myself down to one pair of pants I could wear to work in the Arctic chill. So I decided to risk it despite the scary threats of those fitting problems with names from a children’s book gone wrong, Camel Toe and Polterwang.

Fit and Sizing Adventures

I started at a size chosen by my body measurements. I tip my hat to reviewers who posted at Pattern Review who caution against it. I apologize for not taking photos because when I basted the pieces I looked like I was on my way to clown college.

I sized down in a somewhat crazy way: two sizes down on the hips, tapering the legs further, waistband one size down (and realistically, I could have gone two down with a good amount of room in there). That’s the result you’re seeing in these photos.

I hope the way I see it is the way you see it: more Diane Keaton than anywhere near clown college. But Diane Keaton jumping over snow banks because that’s the situation right now.

A word on what some call “stride” (nice euphemism) but what we all know is the crotch. I did not alter that curve in any way. I figured that by choosing roomier pants I was more likely to be pleased with it and I am. And I still have a lot to learn about fit in that… area.

Fabric and Notions

The fabric is a brushed cotton from Joann Fabrics. I lined the pockets with a lighter weight cotton and cut out the inside waistband from cotton sateen leftovers. The layers of brushed cotton get very bulky and stiff, as I discovered while making the belt carriers.

The zipper is the last one from a very fortunate thrifting haul — it’s metal and I was trembling while sewing it in. No needles got damaged in the process, even though I had to shorten the zipper by about an inch. The button is from Joann. It’s plastic pretending to be metal.

Details

I wish those pleats were a bit shallower, to be honest, but I can’t complain too much. They still look good. I really like the darts on the back.

Pattern Instructions and Order of Construction

No, I didn’t exactly follow the sparse Burda instructions. I read them, I appreciate the illustrations, but I don’t think they offer the best solutions.

I changed the order of construction a bit so as to be able to sew the zipper in flat, with access to it on both sides of the pants front. If the Burda instructions for that step are sufficient to you, you are brilliant in my book. My sanity was saved by Sandra Betzina’s tutorial on the Threads website. I also added a fly shield (pattern piece included in the pattern envelope).

I’m not convinced that dividing the back waistband into two pieces is the best idea. With the belt carrier placed on that center back seam, it gets really bulky. So I cut the inner waistband in one piece.

Finishing

I finished the waistband by hand, and I think it spared me a lot of irritation that would have likely come with wrangling it under the machine.

I tried blind-hemming the legs on the machine but this fabric really isn’t good for that. I had to redo it by hand any way. The pattern was smarter in this respect because it actually tells you to hem by hand.

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Verdict

I like them! I wish the sizing was a bit less crazy.

If you have any good pants fitting advice, throw it my way!

PS: A more organized version of this review is up on Pattern Review here.

pattern review: Camas blouse

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Hello! How was your holiday-season making? I managed to to push myself to fulfill my admittedly somewhat unreasonable holiday work quota, ending up with three garments started and finished in one week. Three! It felt like sewing with the fast-forward button on — very not me, and very tiring at the end of it. Finishing up what luckily managed to be my holiday dress, I was dreaming of not sewing, so it was a bad place to be. But it’s not even two days later and I’m back to planning my next projects. The take-away from this for 2017 is as simple as “slow down, silly.”

Before we stumble into the tricky territory of resolution-making, let’s catch up. The Camas blouse is my next stop on the tour of Thread Theory patterns. Thanks to their generous sales, I’ve bought almost all of their patterns but have yet to make my way through the catalog. So far I’ve sewn several t-shirts from the Strathcona pattern (all well-loved and worn a lot but unphotographed), two Finlayson sweaters (the second yet to be blogged, but here’s the first one), and now, Camas, for me.

This project was a groundbreaking one for me, in unexpected ways. Big words, I know. After all my hesitating over shirt patterns, this is finally one I did make. And, yes, what decided in its favor was the fact that it’s a knit pattern, so whatever fit issues would possibly crop up were less likely to make the garment unwearable. Then again, in my book, a knit project means no muslin because I don’t have a stash of ‘throwaway’ knits matched to the weight and type of my ‘good’ knits.

Here, the fit risks are minor anyway because the design features gathering over the bust and on the back.

Gathering details: yes, you probably can’t see them very well in these photos

The pattern

I have the PDF version and was very pleased to see that the layout is both clear and fairly economical. It was quick to print out and assemble. The pattern includes both a body measurement chart and a finish measurement chart, so it’s easy to pick a size.

The instructions are well-written, easy to follow, and illustrated. In addition, there’s a sewalong on the Thread Theory blog, with lots of practical tips for sewing Camas in different weights and stretch percentages of knits, pattern hacks such as a cardigan and a dress, and even advice for making Camas in wovens.

Morgan’s cardigan from the sewalong (scroll through this post for photos of it) inspired me to test this design’s scrap-busting potential.

My alterations and experiments


First up, the alterations:

I did my usual forward-shoulder adjustment, which I will approach slightly differently next time I make this pattern (draw a new seamline from the original placement on the nexk to the forward position on the shoulder side).

I also raised the armhole slightly, and will perhaps raise it a bit more next time. There are good instructions for that alteration in the sewalong (in this post).

One unnecessary alteration I did (provoked by my usual experience with Colette and Big 4 patterns were the back always has too much length for me) was to lower the neckline on the back neck (that meant adjusting not just the back yoke but also the back neck binding). While the end result looks and wear okay, it’s a little low. Clearly, the original design is the better way to go. Lesson learned.

The experiments:

I combined lightweight knits with mid-weight knits, all having different stretch percentages. The back, fronts, and sleeves are in a lightweight black rayon knit, the yokes are a mid-weight gray jersey, lined with mid-weight white interlock knit remnants. The button bands are in a gray double-knit remnant. Upon reflection, that last fabric was not the worst choice but also definitely not the best one. The seam allowances needed some careful trimming or would have ended up too bulky inside the button band.

Finally, I added a mock-piping detail, using strips of the white interlock knit folded in half and basted to the outer yokes before joining the yokes to the back and fronts. I trimmed the seam allowances in the mock-piping strips to minimize the bulk as much as possible. As you can see in the photos of the back, there’s some stiffness there, but I think it works: there’s still some stretch left. And I think the effect was well worth the risk.

The trickiest part

The blouse untucked

The buttonholes, hands down. Morgan gives both tips and warnings in that respect. I was dreading the buttonholes and I did end up messing them up. I had incredible problems keeping the placement consistent — most of my buttonholes tilt away from the middle of the band toward the blouse front. But not uniformly. I didn’t even bother cutting them open, I just sewed the buttons on top, joining the two sides of the band. I’m not normally a fan of non-functional solutions but I definitely prefer them over failure.

Sew again

That’s my conclusion. Thumbs up all the way. I’m eyeing some more scraps for a cardigan version and the photos from Morgan’s fashion show of her graduation collection make me want to try a dress version. While some of the woven versions are interesting (and I’m really intrigued by Morgan’s idea of woven sleeves with a knit band insert!), I think I’ll stick with knits for this pattern.

With the new Thread Theory pattern release, the Lazo trousers, I’m afraid I’m in danger of becoming a copy cat. I really like Morgan’s design ideas.

Have you made Camas? Other pattern recommendations? Reflections on holiday sewing? I’d love to hear from you.

Finlayson!

Hi there, makers! The big catch up continues today with a project that was exceptional — so exceptional in fact that an exclamation point was needed in the title.

I put the snow days to good use and finally sewed the Finlayson sweater from Thread Theory. It’s one of those projects: I’ve had the pattern printed for months now, fabric washed and ready, just the measuring and sewing wasn’t happening. I could come up with a few half-decent excuses, such as: (1) the intended recipient is difficult to pin down for measuring; (2) I obsessively worry about fitting and so I stall on new-to-me projects.

That second excuse is a very weak one. I’ve sewn with Thread Theory patterns before and with great success. All the t-shirts I’ve made so far from the Strathcona pattern have been getting lots of wear. Their one “flaw” is that they’re so neutral that they’re not particularly photogenic. That, and the recipient is not easy to catch for photos.

Photogenic, photographable, actually photographed or not, I still feel that I owe Thread Theory a post and a solid recommendation. And finally today I have some photographic evidence I can offer of how good their patterns are.

Ah, menswear. Different rules are at play than when sewing for women. It’s always important to balance the elements: get the proportions right, choose colors well, get the right amount and kind of detail… But if you get that balance off  in womenswear, you can still make it into a statement, a particular look. In menswear, it’s like you just cut the wrong wire when disarming a bomb and went from MacGyver to MacGruber.

Looking at Morgan Meredith’s designs and projects, I feel that she gets it, and definitely more than I do. The Thread Theory blog has become my go-to not just for sewing inspiration but also style ideas.

A little backstory on the Finlayson and why I had the pattern stashed for so long already:

One day before I started sewing my partner in crime found a sweater online that he liked and he sent me the photo. It was a black pullover with a shawl collar. I had it saved since then. I had briefly entertained the thought of knitting up something similar, but that was likely to end up a bit too warm (in wool and alpaca) or too heavy and sagging (in cotton). So I filed that away until I stumbled upon Thread Theory and saw the pattern for exactly that sweater.

So here’s exactly that sweater, and you will notice immediately that it isn’t exactly black:

finlayson6

The Finlayson sweater, hanging out on the carpet in all its glory

It’s black/beige fairly lightweight French terry I found at GirlCharlee. I think it was the one French terry they had in stock at that moment. Why I wanted to make this in French terry I can’t really tell you. I don’t remember. I guess French terry struck me as the most sweater-y choice at the time. And wool jerseys tend to be expensive.

This 100% cotton fabric was fairly easy to handle and makes a light, breathable, and not too warm garment, which is what the gentleman was after. However, it doesn’t have good recovery. I should perhaps try steaming the bottom band and the sleeve cuffs to see if they bounce back into shape. They stretched out quite a bit when I sewed them. Still wearable, still decent-looking, but it depends on what look you’re looking for in terms of fit.

The pattern is drafted for a variety of knit fabrics, so you need to take into account what shape and fit you want to get for when you make your fabric choice. There are two different cuff pieces to accommodate your choices — one for very stretchy knits and one for stable knits, so the pattern has your back.

I was surprised how easy this pattern was, to be honest. In terms of sewing itself, it had just the right combination of challenging and easy elements, which made for a great time at the sewing machine.

The best part: that collar.

The key to getting it right is basting. I’m not sure now if the pattern mentions it, but I stabilized the tricky part — i.e. the part on the front where you attach the crossed-over collar fronts and turn corners — with knit interfacing. I really recommend doing that. It will also make it easy to mark the points where you need to pivot your stitching. Be careful and go slow and it won’t be that hard to get it right.

The pattern instructions are very clear and there’s a sewalong up on the Thread Theory blog (lots of photos for every step!).

A detail to love: the seam finish on the back neck. There is a lot of bulk there after you insert the collar (five layers of fabric), and Meredith’s tip to enclose it under a ribbon or tape finish is a great way to keep it all flat and contained. I used Hug Snug. I’m hopeful it will hold up well, if a little unsure… the stuff is very lightweight.

Behold: the collar of Zen

Readers, I goofed at one point — with the sizing. I decided to be generous, knowing that if I made the sweater too tight-fitting, it would never get worn. It looked okay basted to fit (yes, I didn’t skip that step this time) but came up enormous when actually sewn up. Luckily, taking it in at the side seams got it down to a decent fit, possibly because we’re all broad-backed in this family, including the lynx cat.

There’s a really good range of sizes in this pattern. I think it goes beyond the range from the Strathcona pattern.

One modification I made: a forward shoulder adjustment. I wonder how many people need those, since not many sewing bloggers include anything about that adjustment in their pattern reviews. It was necessary in this pattern, otherwise the sweater would have been pulling toward the back.

Finally, some hard to obtain modeled shots:

Verdict: I recommend this pattern and I will probably sew it again because there’s still talk of a black version. The sweater has been worn non-stop since I finished it, which makes me very, very happy.

Wait — there’s more. I have more Thread Theory projects planned. Their current Thanksgiving sale is 50%, by the way! I have a Camas blouse cut out for myself, a Fairfield shirt waiting to be printed and muslined, more Strathcona tees (and maybe a henley, who knows), and a Newcastle cardigan waiting for the right fabric.

Given how enthusiastic I’ve been throughout this post, I feel I should say I have no affiliation with Thread Theory. I’ve just enjoyed the patterns I’ve made up so far, all of which I bought myself.

Do you have any patterns for men that you’d recommend?

Simple PJs, Or the Adventures of Dolores and Margot

I got cold, so I made pajamas. I was very cold, so I simplified the task as much as I could. I might have been tempted to make an actual set if I had enough flannel but I didn’t. So tee and pants it was.

Here’s a glimpse into the daily life of the new PJs with the sad gray morning light filtered out:

Here I am demonstrating the functionality of the front pocket (1) and my ability to slouch in these as I’m trying to take a “different” photo this time (2). Half-successful at best, but no PJs were harmed during the photo shoot. 

I went for two patterns that I already had: the Margot pajama bottoms from Love at First Stitch and the So Zo Dolores Batwing that I won in Zoe’s MeMadeMay giveaway.

Sewing up the bottoms this time, I completely skipped the drawstring (it came up short on my first try at the pattern, by the way) and inserted wide elastic instead. I added two patch pockets cut on the cross-grain — one on the front and one on the back — for visual interest.

I also changed up the order of construction a bit. The pattern tells you to sew up the crotch seam last (and gives a solid tip how to do it, so no problem there), but I decided to sew it before sewing the outer leg seams this time.

Overall, I’d repeat my previous review: it’s a great easy pattern. I really like the book, too. I think it’s a fantastic book for new sewists and I’m definitely going to try more patterns from it. I have my eye on the Megan dress.

The Dolores Batwing was a slightly unexpected choice for me. I’m not usually a fan of the batwing sleeve. But I kept seeing really great versions of this pattern online and ended up creating a (modest) Pinterest board for the pattern (here’s a far better one, compliled by Zoe herself). The next step was sewing it up myself.

This is a really wonderful pattern for new sewists. The pattern pieces are simple, the PDF is laid out in a very clever and economical way, but I’d say it’s the instructions that are the most valuable part of the package.

I’ve seen the suggestion crop up a lot recently that beginning sewists are better served by the Big Four patterns marked “very easy” than by indie patterns, and I can’t agree with that. For one, most of the Big Four sewing instructions for knits that I’ve read sound like instructions written for woven fabrics, just prefaced with the advice that you stretch the fabric as you sew. I’m not even sure they recommend using ballpoint and stretch needles. Then there is the great mystery that is the sizing… I’m not saying it’s not doable, but I think that if you’re an adult woman who hasn’t been taught to sew by her mother, has limited time, and would prefer to minimize the fabric waste, you’re highly likely to get discouraged.

The hand holding that many indie patterns provide can go a long way toward not just keeping up your motivation but getting a wearable garment at the end. If you haven’t sewn knits before, this pattern would be a good teacher. The instructions are very detailed, and they’re illustrated with photographs. They lay out the easiest way to get the desired result. And for that reason I chose to deviate from some of them. A lot of sewists prefer to sew as much of a knit pattern flat as possible. I follow that advice when it comes to setting in sleeves in knits, but I don’t like sewing collar and cuff bands that way, and that’s where I went off the map with this pattern. I think Zoe’s approach is fine, just not my preferred choice.

Verdict: I like this stripe overload.

Question for you: Do you have a favorite sleepwear/loungewear pattern?

Astoria, twice

The time came for some easy sewing and I finally made the pullover everyone and their uncle already made a while ago: the Astoria from Seamwork.

astoria1-collage

First Astoria: in mid-weight ponte, pretty tight-fitting but fine for layering, thank the sewing gods. Curious about the skirt? Read on.

I downloaded the PDF in January according to the timestamp on the printout. I taped it and cut out my size some two months later. And that’s where I left it till now.

Why? Because I wanted to pre-emptively troubleshoot any armhole fitting problems and I don’t typically muslin with knits because I don’t keep any “throwaway” knit fabric. And while I like and wear my Mesa dress (another Seamwork pattern), if I could time travel, I would go back and raise the armhole.

So that’s what I did: I raised the armhole by around 2 cm and added my usual forward shoulder adjustment. That’s right: on the pattern everyone seems to use as is, mostly happy with that “straight out of the package” result, I felt I needed adjustments and I was right. That’s my pattern review in a nutshell.

My first version, made up in a charcoal ponte from Joann, came out pretty snug but luckily still allows for layering. In the photos above, I’m wearing it over a short-sleeve tee.

This weekend I made another one.

astoria2-twophotos

This one I made up in jersey that was an impulse purchase during a sale on Craftsy. I had the impression that the tie-dye was less stripey but the pattern is stripes printed, sadly, slightly off grain. For a moment I was toying with the idea of a dress but I think the stripes would have looked too intense and, ultimately, overwhelming.

I really like the length of this pullover. Finally something I can comfortably wear with high-waisted skirts! That was definitely a wardrobe gap. Most of my sweaters work with lower-waisted RTW pants but not skirts.

twoastorias

I made these two skirts about a year ago. I wore them a lot but I don’t think they ever made it onto the blog.

The red plaid skirt is the Delphine skirt from Tilly Walnes’ Love at First Stitch with added slash pockets. The fabric is a soft flannel from that year’s plaid flannel collection at Joann.

The tan skirt was made from a corduroy remnant — one of my lucky thrift-shopping finds. The pattern is a de-scalloped Meringue skirt from The Colette Sewing Handbook. Both skirts are lined.

Final throughts: I need more lined skirts for the cold months; my armhole depth obsession has its advantages.

What have you been sewing?