It’s been quiet here for a while and I wanted to clarify things a bit. I really apprieciate all the conversations I get to have through this blog and your blogs, and I didn’t want to disappear without a word. As you know, I don’t ever write too much about my life here. I’m dealing with a serious family emergency right now. I myself am fine but need to attend to the situation with as much presence, insight, and (hopefully at least a scrap of) wisdom as I can muster. It may take me several weeks — or longer — to return to these lovely online conversations, so in case you leave a comment and it’s hanging around without an answer, please know I didn’t suddenly quit or become indifferent to what you’re saying.
But this corner of the internet might stay silent for a long time.
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…
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 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.
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.
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.)
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.
The impossible happened: I found an image on Pinterest that captures all I want from my work wardrobe. Just like that, it expresses exactly the look I’m after. Here it is, folks, the essence of my wardrobe goals:
Before finding this gem I was very skeptical of Pinterest as a helpful tool for me where style is concerned. The site still in fact keeps suggesting images of waifish Olsen twin lookalikes carrying enormous cups of Starbucks coffee while sporting sack dresses with knit cowls the size of millstones draped around their long, slender necks.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s more than fine to be waifish. Hey, it’s okay to be an Olsen twin or an aficionado of the sisters. It’s not fun to be constantly flashed the message that that’s the way to be though. It gets exhausting. Oh algorithms, oh the shortcomings of our culture, oh my poor little head.
Brace yourselves because I have yet deeper thoughts about why that image above speaks to me. It’s not just my non-waifishness and aversion to the pairing of thick woolens over summer dresses (throw in some boots and you get a popular combination that is completely unwearable to me). It’s a combination of — as one musician said about touring (and life and the universe at the same time) — good shit and bad shit. Pardon my language.
I like to be comfortable at work. I often have to stand in front of people and talk, which has gotten easier over the years but is still challenging on some level because I don’t really enjoy being looked at all that much. Overall, I feel must comfortable at work when my wardrobe tilts into a somewhat androgynous, menswear-inspired zone.
The way it makes me feel is good. And many of you, I think, will agree there can be something very stylish and appealing about that.
Bear with me here because we might disagree on what I say next. Part of the reason why clothes like those make me feel so good is positive, maybe even wholesome you could say. Hurrah for flat shoes, hurrah for pants that let you move around, and shirts with neat details.
But here’s the dark side. These clothes make me feel comfortable because they make me feel safe. More feminine clothes make me feel unsafe and bared to judgment. It sucks.
I’m not invested in ideas of modesty — that’s after a lot of thinking about the subject, and after being brought up to be modest and dress modestly, and after a lifetime of listening to women being described in terms that implied that their dress conveyed something about their morals and, sadly, value as fellow people.
I hate all that with a passion. But as much as I examine my own thinking about other women, when it comes to getting dressed, the “good shit” still mixes together with the “bad shit.” Plainly: I’m both enthused about those lovely menswear-inspired outfits and kind of scared of dressing “too feminine.” Here’s where that leads me sometimes: I will look at a coworker wearing a dress and think that she’s really brave. Yeah, that sounds weird, doesn’t it? But it’s true.
I’m just going to leave this up here and close with some images from my “work” Pinterest board, including some slightly more feminine ones (how brave of me, after what I confessed above — Please note the sarcasm).
What’s your mix of good and bad when you figure out how you want to dress?
All images can be found on Pinterest. You can also take a look at my “work, work” board where I collect wardrobe ideas and then get this kind of deep thoughts.
Dive in, or the post will grow and grow like an unwanted giant in a half-baked fantasy story, I tell myself.
You could say that Liza’s IG post mentioning po-mo pinkfrom Connie Willis’ Bellwether was a fateful sign that made me check in with the unwanted giant after several months of hiding him in the draft box. I was in the middle of Bellwether when Liza posted about po-mo pink, so I decided I’d call it fate and here we are…
So how did Connie Willis save my life? First, by writing with a sense of humor, though not always writing books that could be called funny. Secondly, by doing research, enjoying the process, and infusing her books with that enjoyment. And that’s easier said than done. There’s something very classic about that approach to storytelling but it’s always been a challenge for storytellers. How do you turn your reader into a fellow victim of folie a deux?… Connie Willis knows how.
Last winter I couldn’t help feeling that parts of reality were dissolving. The whole concept of people researching something to test how the thing in question held up to scrutiny… well, it felt like that was under intense questioning (but not scrutiny) all of a sudden. You’d turn on the news and hear a person talking very loudly about how, in their opinion, feelings are more important than facts… Nothing new in the world, you might say. But the volume got suddenly cranked up to 11 and my head hurt.
Willis’ writing brings you the comfort of familiar plot ideas. We start out with time-travelers stumbling into trouble in the past, well-worn details of near-death experiences that we’ve all read somewhere, telepathy a lot like what you’ve seen on Star Trek… and then the narrator takes you by the hand and you land somewhere completely new. None of those familiar popular ideas hold. “Isn’t it silly how many things we take for granted? Isn’t it silly how solid some of our baseless convictions become?”, asks the narrator and the cogs in your brain box start turning. And you’re on an adventure. Scary or funny, you’re not going into it alone, and that, I think, is a wonderful quality of Connie Willis’ prose.
I first heard of To Say Nothing of the Dog years ago but it kept being that book you want to read but somehow don’t get to it. Years passed, Willis published several other books, and finally last year, Cross Talk. And I listened to this interview and knew that I needed to get my hands on it immediately.
After Cross Talk I read Passage, which was haunting but still had that comforting aspect of having someone think through the dilemmas — and the fears — it threw your way with you, allowing you to both be scared and trust you’ll make it through to the last page. I don’t know about you, but it’s something I cherish in scary novels. Maybe because so few of them attempt it.
Willis, I imagine, would have some smart and sarcastic things to say about my claim that “fate” was at work when Liza’s mention of Bellwether coincided with my reading of it. And I hope she puts it in a novel. I’ll definitely pick it up.
Right now I’m reading To Say Nothing of the Dog. And there’s Doomsday Book waiting on my nightstand.
I originally bought it for the dress but then swiftly put myself in the Limbo of Hesitation. I didn’t feel like making a muslin and I was just stuck in a loop, fretting about the odds that the combination of the high neckline and voluminous skirt would make me the opposite of what the model in this linked photo is achieving. Because, moment of truth, I don’t strut into work with all the buttons undone, quite the opposite, so…
But that skirt.
I’m paraphrasing here, but it seems to me that I encountered this opinion in several places: “those asymmetrical pleats will change your perspective on pleats.” I wasn’t sure but I’m now totally on that bandwagon. I love them.
I had this beautiful floral fabric in my stash for a while now. The pattern’s too intense for me to dress myself in it head to toe, though I can’t get enough of those roses. I’ve used it in facings and pockets. It’s a pretty stiff (canvas?) second-hand find. And I think it was just the perfect pairing for this skirt pattern.
I had another well-loved remnant in my stash, from this dress. So I made another skirt.
Details: Pattern: Simplicity 2215 view C; both skirts lengthened by 2.25″; black skirt squeezed out of a remnant due to which one pleat on the front and one pleat on the back were sacrificed but things worked out fine. Fabrics: skirt #1 – mystery fabric (canvas?) bought second-hand; skirt #2 – remnant of the “Sprinkle” quilting cotton from Cotton and Steel Notions: thread; skirt #1 – 7″ invisible zipper, navy single-fold bias tape for the hem, hook and bar; skirt #2 – 7″ lapped zipper, hook and bar Seam finish, hems, etc.: skirt #1 – serged side seams, hem hand-sewn and finished with bias tape, waistband finished by hand; skirt #2 – serged side seams, double-turned handsewn invisible hem; waistband finished by hand Fun fact: I went with one pocket in the right side-seam and am pleased; I worried it would feel asymmetrical but, no, it’s fine.
Verdict: another great simple pattern!
PS: I don’t think I can write much more about the Helmi blouse — not when I’m sewing it straight up from the pattern with only minor changes. This one was basically like the blue one construction-wise. It all started with these unusual buttons with a floral motif:
So I end with a prognosis: more Helmis to come and, possibly, more Simplicity 2215.
This shirt, specifically. I have to share the pattern photo again, because it’s a rare treat:
So much going on there… The pattern book, however, is pure gold and I plan to sew my way through it.
And just to clarify, I made the women’s shirt, not the robe the gentleman is wearing, nor any of the other incredibly distracting things in the photo. It’s not just me, right? There’s an overload of possible narrative in that photo. The collection to which it belongs is apparently called “Honeymooners” but it looks like a vaguely adultery-related scenario. So much tension. Will she escape through the French door?
Where was I?
The shirt. It looked deceptively easy but I wouldn’t have done it without Tea‘s help. I can’t thank her enough. Burda instructions did not alert me to the unusualness of that collar (no surprise there) and the line drawing doesn’t show the way the collar stand attaches to the collar. Need I add that there is no diagram included with the instructions?…
Tea made this beautiful version of the shirt as well as a black one with a scalloped collar, which is not on her blog, but it’s equally lovely and Tea’s photos of its tricky collar saved my sanity.
I’ll try to pay it forward — here’s my crummy photo of the collar and collar stand:
This was a wearable muslin, again. I cut the pattern pieces out and basted the shirt together before committing to the final placement of the shoulder seams and bust darts.
In the end I left the shoulder seams as they were but moved the darts up by 1.5 cm (or 5/8″ if you prefer). My one complaint fit-wise is that the armholes fall a bit low, which limits mobility a bit. (Non-complaint but a fit-related fact: I did my obligatory broad back alteration on the back. For details of this fit alteration see this post.)
Confession time: I am trying to embrace white shirts but I have two major hurdles to overcome. Hurdle #1: the fear of spilling everything on myself while wearing white; hurdle #2: memory of high school and college exams to which I usually wore an outfit such as pictured above (long story — the TL; DR version is: school/academic culture demanding more formal attire).
I’ll need to work on figuring out some clever pairings to deal with that second issue. The answer is probably some pants I have yet to sew…
More details: Pattern: Voile Button-Down Blouse from Burda Style Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials Fabric: white cotton voile from stash (long live shopping the stash!) Notions: thread, 6 buttons, lightweight fusible interfacing, bias tape for the collar stand finish. Seam finish and other details: first time trying flat-felled seams (not perfect but not terrible either, I think); shirt hem turned up to basting lines, then stitched; rolled hems on facings. “Fun” fact: inserting the curved ends of the collar stand into the collar took multiple tries and corrections.
You may have noticed my button placement choice. I decided not to take the buttons all the way to the top — I didn’t like the way it looked on me. I went for this camp collar effect instead. What do you think?
Pattern verdict: So far, I really like it, even though I’m not sure what to wear it with and that strange collar stands out from my neck quite a bit.
I wanted it all: the unforced coolness, the espadrilles, the white shirt. I even pondered the minimalist turban action on the lady on the right.
What I definitely didn’t have was “waist size 24.”
But it really didn’t matter in the case of this wonderfully easy pattern. I was able to improvise based on what my fabric allowed and got a perfectly wearable skirt out of it.
Unfortunately, there was no copyright date on the envelope, so I’m left guesstimating the publication as 1970-something? It’s a single-size pattern that uses the waist circumference (in inches, obvs) as the pattern size. The stitching lines are marked on the pattern, which is kind of nice… but given that it’s easier to mark within 5/8″ all around your pattern than to figure out other sizes from a single size, I’d still say my preference would be for multi-size patterns.
I approached the single-size pattern scientifically, that is, with a ruler and tape measure. The waist and hips were roomy enough, and I was able to finagle an additional inch on each pattern piece so as not to deflate the gathering (plus, plenty more inches on the waistband…).
You might be able to see in the drawings that the skirt panels have a somewhat unusual shape. They have a pronounced extension for the pockets and the pocket pieces are very small. While serging those panels was a bit challenging, I have to say that this design really hides your pockets well. It’s a good design idea that I might use in other patterns.
I gave you a preview in the post about the Burda top, but here’s the skirt again.
I resisted the call of the turban and made Skirt B in a poly-crepe remnant from my stash.
I decided to leave off the ties and, trying the skirt on with the waistband in progress, I also decided to shave some height off there.
Pattern: undated Butterick 4727. Fabric: poly crepe remnant left over from this dress. Notions: thread, 7″ zipper, button for the waistband. Construction details: topstitching on the waistband, serged seams, lapped zipper, hand-stitched invisible hem. Fun fact: the pocket design is really clever!
Pattern verdict: Worth hunting down if you’re into pretty pattern envelopes and easy sewing.
Do you have any tips for sewing with vintage patterns? Or any vintage patterns you’re looking to hunt down?
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:
It’s not the best sketch but it conveys the idea.
Here’s the dress:
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!
Apparently I’ve forgotten how to blog. It all started with an allergy to photo-taking combined with heat-exacerbated decision fatigue. Translation: I wasn’t getting much sewing done. Then I sewed a few things, but only when I broke the cycle.
This is what happens to me:
I stare from the pile of fabrics to the pile of patterns I just selected. None of the patterns seems good enough for the fabrics at first. Then I inevitably pick the challenging ones, with a lot of shaping. They all need muslining. It turns out I’m out of muslin and willingness. And so the fabrics end up being too precious and I get stuck.
The remedy: easy sewing. The photo above is one of such easy projects that got me sewing again. Now to get it photographed and give it a proper post…
But first a couple of questions for you if you have a minute: Do you ever get stuck in this way? What slows you down or drains your sewing motivation?
Too hot for many things: sewing among them, and when there isn’t much sewing, what is there to write about?
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:
The eagle-eyed among you might be able to tell that the base pattern is, again, Helmi by Named Clothing. I can’tstop 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.
I’ve been wearing this Helmi a lot. Hurray for remnants! They make for some creative, and fairly stress-free sewing.