Helmirama

Jess just published a very thoughtful post about sewing and body image, and the siren song of popular patterns. I’ve been sitting on some thoughts along those lines but I think Jess said it better than I could. So I begin with a reading recommendation today.

And instead of a more substantial post about what I’ve been sewing (and thinking about sewing) this summer, I give you a partial update with a trip down memory lane.

Here are all the versions of the Helmi pattern by Named Clothing that I’ve made so far.

I started by making the blouse version:

helmi1-2

This version, in a slippery lightweight polyester crepe, was my wearable muslin. I went with the hidden button placket but without the intriguing trench details. (More about the blouse here.)

And then I couldn’t stop, though I ditched the hidden placket on my next versions:

(More about the blue blouse and the black blouse appears in this post.)

I added kimono sleeves on summer versions:

And the dresses:

The first one in a stripy cotton (I later elasticated the back waist on that one),

the second one in a Cotton and Steel cotton print, with a bit more body:

Helmi-c+s1

And the latest one, sewn this summer, in a cotton chambray:

helmi-chambray1

On this one, I elasticated both the front and back. And I added this simple belt with D-rings, because I felt like that waist seam needed something more.

All the dress versions have pockets, pinched from a Simplicity pattern, by the way.

I pick up this pattern when I feel stuck, dispirited about fitting, but looking for a meaningful addition to my wardrobe despite those troubles.

So that clearly fits the definition of a tried-and-true pattern, but also says something about the adventure of dressing yourself…

This post will need an addendum because there’s one more blouse I have somehow failed to photograph although it’s a staple of my work wardrobe.

But, for now, I’m sharing this love letter to Helmi as is — maybe it can help someone get out of a sewing rut?…

What’s your go-to pattern?

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my wardrobe gaps (black holes?)

Diving in today: I need to make more pants because posts about pants get the best comments!

BasicInstincT+BurdaBookPants-01
More about the pants in this post.

Thanks to everybody who joined in the conversation on my last post. I do have a tendency to ramble on about the challenges of fitting pants, and after every pair that I make I need to take a breather. It’s always the conversation after I post about it that makes me want to take on another pants project. The support and the practical advice I get from fellow sewists is a much stronger motivator, to be honest, than needing more pants in my wardrobe. (And I need more pairs badly.)

So that brings me to wardrobe gaps — or black holes, you know the category you desperately need, you try to tackle, but end up feeling that there’s an insatiable need for MORE of it in your wardrobe.

I keep returning to The Curated Closet (if you’re curious about the book, I have a book review post about it) and wishing for more time and patience to take on some of the practical exercises from the book.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the pie-chart breakdown of lifestyle/occasions compared to your actual wardrobe composition. Henna’s post made me think about my personal pie chart, how it’s changed and what I’ve done with it in the time that’s passed since I first read the book.

The unique challenges of the past year notwithstanding, I think I can pat myself on the back a bit for aligning my sewing more closely with my wardrobe needs.

This has basically meant two things:

  1. fewer dresses
  2. my photos are pretty boring even when bad lighting isn’t the main culprit.

The “interestingness” of dresses was definitely brought home to me by the many, many, many comments and “hearts” that my most recent dress garnered on Instagram.

Don’t get me wrong: I love this dress and had a fantastic time making it, too.

However, I feel that closing my ears to the siren song of dresses like I’m Ulysses of the Sewing Machine helps me make things that get less sighs and pats when I open the closet and more wear.

Case in point: I type these words wearing the first of several to come Basic InstincT-shirts. Many of my posts have been typed while wearing one of the many versions of the Plantain tee I’ve made since I discovered that pattern.

So: I always need more knit tops (especially t-shirts)

BasicInstinctT (left) and Plantain with some mods (right). Definitely not a great picture of the Plantain! But, hey, now you know I used cotton jersey.

My one problem is that I don’t love sewing with knits. Something about the springy stretchiness of the fabrics annoys me when I’m sewing — and both on the sewing machine and the serger. With wovens, I definitely enjoy the process more. With knits, I just keep my eye on the finish line and the valuable wardrobe addition.

I am, at this point, out of things to add about the Plantain tee. But Sasha’s BasicInstincT is a new pattern for me. It bumped the Seamwork Jane out of my queue as the classic casual tee to try.

The PDF is more economical than Seamwork (which isn’t hard, their PDFs are notoriously long). Better yet: it’s layered, so you can choose to print only select sizes.

Notches matched up nicely. The neckline band had, I would say, the perfect length. I didn’t need to make a rounded shoulder adjustment (!).

The one change I will make next time is to raise the armhole by 1 cm and take some width out of sleeves.

Pretty close to perfect, this one!

One of my favorite versions of Plantain didn’t return from the wash, which either means that an envious neighbor went raiding the washing machine in the laundry room before I made it there. Or (more likely) it landed with my partner’s-in-crime tees never to be found in the bottomless collection.

Doesn’t matter. I need to make more.

What’s next?

More pants, obviously. 

It’s more than about time to face jeans-making. Alas, with the sturdier machine out of commission for now I get to continue to shamelessly procrastinate on this.

And?

Anything that could fall into the category of clothes to wear at home.

Here the neglect has reached criminal proportions. That’s where my old and worn out RTW items go to work beyond their retirement age. Ouch.

One saving grace is that I did make myself an item that adds some glamour to that otherwise sorry band of garments.

Remember the Camas cardigan I squeezed out of various leftover knits?

camas-cardi-4
More about this project here.

In my last bout of t-shirt making, I spontaneously decided to upgrade it by a simple addition:

CamasCardi+ties06

Obviously, when you add ties as an afterthought, it’s not a perfect wrap. But sometimes perfect is not what you need.

This post is getting long. Is there more?

Yeah.

Shirts.

Things are improving in that department, so I get to wrap up on a happy note.

Over to you:
Do you have any significant gaps or even black holes in your wardrobe? Do you prefer to tackle them or leave it to RTW while you sew what you really desire to sew?

I’d love to hear from you!

dark and stormy

Homage to the sky before a storm with these fabric choices. My shirtmaking adventures continue, still with the Helmi pattern from Named Clothing. Stormy skies but still none of those trench elements… Those may not be for me, but this pattern is easy to pare down and that basic version is a gift that keeps on giving. I needed to stop myself from cutting out yet another one in favor of catching up with other projects, and blogging these two 😀

helmi2-5

My first Helmi was a good trial run. Here, I opted for a single-fold button placket. My fabric was narrow and I wanted to squeeze out the pattern pieces as efficiently as possible. (That strategy isn’t always smart, by the way.)

The fabric is a buttery soft rayon. It’s a light and somewhat tricky fabric. I stabilized both the front and the back of the placket, and both parts of the collar and collar stand. I wanted these to be stable and durable but not too stiff, so I used a lightweight fusible interfacing.

French seams on the shoulders and sleeves, bias-bound side seams (you can see the side seam in this post). The eagle-eyed among you may be able to tell that the sleeve seam is almost off-the-shoulder. Not the pattern’s fault — all mine. I cut a slightlylarger seam allowance for easier French seams… and then forgot about that when I was sewing those sleeve seams…

The photos, while not perfect, convey the color quite well. It’s an intense cool blue with subtle purple undertones.

The second shirt takes the storm theme further.

The fabric is a Liberty of London Tana Lawn — a fabric that’s usually decidedly out of my price range. Miraculously, this print was discounted by 50% at Fabric.com when I bought it (ages ago, I’d been too scared to cut into it before Helmi came along!). And, luckily, it’s probably my favorite Liberty print.

 

liberty-helmi2

This is what a shirt squeezed out of 1 yard of a wide (60″ maybe?) fabric looks like. I improvised the kimono sleeve after studying McCall’s 7387, drafted cuffs, et voilà! Again, there was no way I could have squeezed out the double-fold button band, so I simplified it. I think these buttons were a great match (if I do say so myself).

liberty-helmi1

The inspiration came from that coveted pattern, Melilot from Deer and Doe. Alas, that shirt didn’t make it into their new PDF selection, so I’ll keep coveting it… I’ve loved basically all the versions I’ve seen of that pattern so far.

liberty-helmi3

Helmi is boxier than Melilot, which is especially visible in a crisp fabric such as cotton lawn… but only when I raise my arms. It doesn’t strike me as particularly boxy otherwise.

What else is there to say… I think I’ve made my affection for this pattern abundantly clear. And, really, I’m just thrilled to be finally making shirts rather than just hoping to make them.

This is probably not the last time you see Helmis on this blog, but I also have a couple of Burda patterns lined up (specifically, this one and this one). Knowing that I need to make a broad back adjustment is really the key thing for me. All the other work I might need to do with a pattern is small beer in comparison, so I’m optimistic about those future shirts.

What have you been up to? Drop me a line below.

PS: Check out Joann’s blog A Metre Of and #ametreofproject on Instagram. I was happy to add the Liberty print Helmi to that hashtag 🙂

 

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…

helmi2-1
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).

helmi1-2
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?

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? 

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.

the velvet bandwagon & all the Plantain dresses

Hello in 2017! 😉 I hope the year’s started off well for you. I’m starting by playing catch-up with what I made during my holiday frenzy.

I hopped on the velvet bandwagon. I’ve been seeing so many beautiful velvet dresses in very different silhouettes. This one, sewn up by Elisalex from By Hand London, has been a long-time favorite. It’s lovely but I did know I wouldn’t be going the copycat route because I could not survive a moment in a sleeveless dress in winter.

What I had in mind was something slightly Goth-y, definitely long-sleeved, and simple enough that I could wear it out to a restaurant rather than to a ball (no balls in my calendar). Fabric aside, the true inspiration for this dress was Jeska’s Winona dress.

And here’s the end result. You will have to use your imagination looking at the photos because Santa didn’t bring us much sunlight:

winona1-2
New spot for photos: the only one that had some light that day.

I was incredibly cautious sewing this stretch velvet, anticipating all sorts of disasters. To my great relief, the fabric didn’t shift around too much when sewing two layers of it together with a walking foot. But attaching a lining was difficult, even with careful basting. Go slow — but that’s what I always say, regardless of the fabric, don’t I?

I read everything I could find online about working with velvet and stretch velvet. The best pieces of advice:

  • keep track of the pile and cut your pieces all with the pile running in the same direction
  • use weights and a rotary cutter when cutting out the pattern pieces, lay the fabric right side down on the cutting mat, trace off whole pattern pieces (i.e. no cutting on the fold) — that last bit of advice is what I always do with knits anyway
  • press sparingly and gently, on a fluffy towel or piece of the velvet fabric so as not to crush the pile
  • baste where necessary
  • test out neckline finishes: binding in self-fabric was coming out too bulky, a turned and stitched down neckline would have been a disaster, lining the bodice worked best for me (I tested these out on scraps before committing to a neckline finish)

One untested piece of advice that I’m still mulling over: apparently fusible interfacings are not suitable for velvet. I only have fusibles and not even a scrap of  silk organza, so I did not stabilize my neckline. Now I’m just hoping it doesn’t stretch out too badly.

I lined the bodice in a lightweight rayon knit. I sewed the lining in by hand at the waist and armholes, and, yes, that did take a while.

The pattern: a mashup, which is becoming very much a regular feature of my sewing. The bodice is a slightly modified Plantain tee and the skirt is the top half of the Winona skirt from Seamwork.

Why a combination of these two and not, say, the Winona in its entirety? I’ll save that story for another time. For now I’ll just state the obvious: sewing with a tried pattern that you know works well in the type of fabric you’re working with saves a lot of time and worry about fit. And it gives you more time for sewing itself, and so I made another version of the dress in a black interlock knit (the photo is comparably blurry, you’re welcome):

winona2-4
My thoughts on the Winona pattern, in a nutshell: thumbs up for the skirt (and I wish there was a way to print out just the top half of it without printing the whole mammoth 52-page PDF of just one of the two versions of the pattern), thumbs down for the bodice — at least for this broad-backed sewist.

I don’t know what body type Colette Patterns/Seamwork is drafting for these days, but it’s not the broader backed lady of yore (i.e. the earlier days Colette Patterns). From what I can tell, it’s someone with a tiny waist (maybe tinier than the measurements from the chart, but I can’t tell for sure) and a narrower back. And someone who likes the armholes to fall low? More to say on that but just not today.

The skirt is a keeper for me. I like that the seams don’t intersect with the side seams of the bodice — less bulk! I have a thing for gored skirts, it seems. I can definitely see myself re-using this one yet again.

The true hero of this story is, of course, the Plantain tee pattern from Deer and Doe.

It’s the one pattern from that company that I’ve tried so far simply because it’s the only one they offer as a PDF. At one point I was on the verge of buying the Melilot shirt but it was temporarily sold out. And I really wasn’t too keen on having a paper pattern shipped all the way from France. They released an end-of-year survey about PDF patterns and I hope it means they will offer at least some of their catalog in that form.

I love the Plantain pattern. I’ve made it straight-up, mashed it up with the Tonic tee from SBCC Patterns (I got it when it was a free pattern) with a good outcome, and I’ve made four dresses from it so far. Not all of these have made it on to the blog. The first two dresses predate the blog and were my first attempts at knit dresses and elastic insertion.

Both were made some time in the fall of 2015. The one on the left was the first one. I followed Anna’s tutorial but lengthened the bodice piece for a less babydoll silhouette. The second one, in navy and gray knit fabric remnants, got an empire waist and a skirt from Simplicity 1325.

This pattern has served as the perfect canvas for learning and experiments. I’ve played with the fit but it’s that ultra-rare pattern that actually fit me okay sewn up as is.

My own experiments with the pattern have been modest so far in comparison with this really great adaptation of the pattern.

I’m not one to commit to resolutions, but in 2017 I’d like to try doing more with patterns I have already tried and fitted, and sew completely new to me patterns sparingly. I guess if I were to pick a theme or motto it would be pragmatism with a bit of experimentation. What are your sewing plans for 2017?

 

pattern review: Camas blouse

camasgertieskirt5

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.

a monochromatic mini-wardrobe

A few stray rays of sunlight have broken through the cloud layer, so I bring you another post from the frozen planet Hoth. It’s snowplows and snow shovels outside. Here, inside the house, it’s been cat hair and frantic photo-taking, before the sun leaves us to more gray and darkness.

I maybe easily influenced by all this because my most recent sewing has been strictly in a black-white-gray color scheme. Winter camouflage. And, I hope, a solid core for a professional wardrobe to slowly take over for the RTW pieces that have dominated it so far.

Here’s what I made:

Burda deep pleat skirt (here’s my first attempt at this pattern), paired with my third version of the Astoria sweater from Seamwork

The deep pleat skirt with (from left) a black Plantain/Tonic tee mashup (made last winter, worn a lot), white Plantain/Tonic tee, and Astoria

The tops

In terms of the sewing process, I definitely prefer working with wovens. I can’t deny, though, that I get a lot of wear out of me-made knit tops. Overall, they fit me better and have better necklines than most of what I’d hunted down in the stores.

That said, while these two are tried-and-true patterns for me at this point, I keep refining the fit.

On the white Plantain/Tonic tee I stuck with my usual: the neckline, sleeves, and bust from Plantain blending to the more fitted shape from the Tonic tee under the bust. But I finally resolved the minor issue of wrinkles at the armhole by raising the armhole by 1 cm. I’ll keep that alteration for all my new versions.

I had already made that alteration pre-emptively to my very first Astoria (more details on my alterations to the pattern here). It was a good call and I’m definitely sticking with it if I make more. This one I also lengthened by 1.5″ so I can wear it with pants. I opted for the full-length sleeves this time, which I had to shorten by 4″ to get the desired bracelet length (more like “watch length” in my case).

Fabrics: both found at Joann — white mid-weight interlock knit (a synthetic blend) and a rather plasticky off-black mid-weight knit for the Astoria. The former is pleasantly soft on the body and breathes a bit, and I’m okay with the “rather plasticky” quality of the latter because I layer it over tops.

The Burda skirt

front and back

I really like how simple and clever this pattern is. I repeated most of my alterations from the first version, opting for a narrower waistband and not adding side pockets. I know it’s a controversial position, but I’ve discovered that I like pockets a lot but can often live without them.

Skipping the pockets allowed me to squeeze out one more skirt than planned from the 2 yards I bought of this houndstooth rayon-blend suiting (another Joann fabric, the tiniest houndstooth in their current collection).

Here it is, my bonus piece:

A-line mini based on the pencil skirt from Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing

the skirt with the Thread Theory Camas blouse, which needs a post of its own

I really like the double darts in this pattern. I’ve worn my first version a lot and have been meaning to make another. I only had enough fabric for a mini, and that only provided I cut the waistband on the cross-grain, so I widened the side seams to an A-line and hemmed the skirt with Hug-Snug to preserve as much length as possible.

Both skirts are lined (with regular ol’ polyester lining fabric); the linings have been attached with my first attempt at French tacks. The seams are bound with Hug Snug. It took me a while to get there but I am now a convert to sewing zippers in before sewing the side seams. The zippers I’ve inserted by reversing the sewing order in this way have been the neatest and most stress-free for me. It’s all thanks to Sheryll and her brilliant sewing tips.

I’m saving the last piece for another time — more on the Camas blouse soon.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you about your go-to colors and patterns. Do you like to sew mix-and-match sets? How do you plan your sewing? What inspires or influences you?

the unphotographable dress and some thoughts on wardrobe planning

burda-black-12

I promised better photos of this dress but this is all I got. Would you believe that one was taken on a sunnier day? The clearest thing I can give you is that title and an overexposed flat shot of the bodice:

burdabutterick_dressThose cuff and neckline bands: I naively hoped the instructions would guide me through the construction but all they offered was one sentence simply telling me to sew them on the outside and topstitch.

Let’s do this in a telegraphic style and with more blurry photographs.

Fitting woes

I’ve written about them in the first post about this dress. In short, the Burda bodice doesn’t fit me. Can’t breathe freely, can’t move my arms. So I swapped it out for the bodice from Butterick 6086, which I had to modify further. I slashed the sleeve to get more width on the biceps and I lowered the sleeve cap; I also made a 3/4″ broad back adjustment (while keeping the shoulders narrow, so lots of fun); plus the usual Big Four navigation between sensible ease at the bust and a realistic width at the waist.

It took ages and three muslins but even these photos tell me it was worth the work. I can flap my arms like a crazy bird and the dress still retains a decent shape.

burda-black-collage

what passes for arm flapping among existentialists

Fabrics

Lightweight black polyester crepe from Fabric.com and leftovers of a more stable polyester crepe from this dress for the neckline and cuff finish.

This project marks the beginning of my love affair with spray starch. I could not have done it without the stuff. It helped me cut the black crepe without losing my mind and kept it decently stable for sewing.

Construction notes

Bust darts and seam finish: Those were some big darts, since all the intake went into the lone horizontal bust darts. I trimmed them, pressed them upwards as both the Burda pattern and my sewing guru Sheryll advise, and bound them with Hug Snug. I Hug-Snugged all the seams, possibly because I wanted to risk the sanity I had saved thanks to the spray starch. It was not quick, to put it mildly, but turned out okay.

a dramatization of okay, with modest means

Zipper: invisible, sewn under the neckline finish, with a hook and eye on top. I sewed the zipper before sewing the side seams, thus completely putting the order of construction on its head.

That neckline and cuff finish you might be wondering about: I drafted these pieces from the sleeve and bodice pieces (it’s also what I always do with facings because I never sew anything without alterations). I stitched a line between the piece and seam allowance, trimmed the seam allowance to about 3-4 mm, and pressed the seam allowance under the pattern piece carefully. I’d say that’s a better strategy than notching the curves — it makes the curves smoother. And then I edge-stitched very, very slowly.

Pleats on the skirt: I stitched down the first inch of the pleats and on the back I converted the darts into pleats and aligned them with the vertical back darts.

what kind of dance is this even?

Hem: double-turned and hand-stitched.

And that would be all about this dress if not for a special issue of Burda I got as a gift when I started sewing this.

It was an issue devoted to simple sewing projects that make good wardrobe builders. It left me thinking intensively about my own sewing planning, which often gets overambitious in terms of both difficulty of the projects and their potential for getting worn on a daily basis.

Francesca at Atelier Vicolo N. 6 can give you a better insight into that issue with her two gorgeous dresses from it — they do not defy the camera while devouring light.

To cut a long story short, since first leafing through that issue my plan has been, well, not to make all of those Burda patterns but to simplify my sewing plans.

My first steps toward that coming to the blog soon. Flap, flap.