A red top for the new year

My first project of 2013 was conceived, cut & sewn all on New Year's Day.

McCall's 6288 raglan t-shirt

The pattern is McCall's 6288. I made it up once last year when I spent hours tweaking the fit to be smooth over my swayback.

Side of McCall's 6288

This was a good lesson in how fabric affects fit. My first version was done in 4-way stretch jersey (stretches horizontally & vertically). All my adjustments were based on using 4-way stretch fabric, This version is in 2-way stretch (stretches horizontally). Because the red fabric does not stretch vertically, the back does not lie as smoothly.

Back of MCCall's 6288

Speaking of the fabric, it is polyester with a touch of linen. While I usually try to buy fabrics mostly made of natural fibers, I was just too curious about using a jersey containing linen. It is surprisingly nice- not quite so wiggly & difficult to cut out as some thin jerseys can be. Most importantly it feels good on- i.e. not like I'm wearing a bunch of plastic.

Button detail on raglan t-shirt

Did you see the buttons? I stole the idea was inspired by Cation Designs' raglan T.



Tiramisu T-Shirt

Cake Patterns is a new independent sewing pattern company run by Steph of 3hourspast. I was chosen as a test sewer for the line's first pattern, Tiramisu. However, a little hiccup meant I didn't receive my pattern until it was released, I'm sharing my version of it with you now.

The pattern is based upon a different system of sizing. You choose your bodice according to your upper bust measurement, which is then broken down into cup sizes, although you're supposed to choose your cup size based upon your measurements, not necessarily what size bra you wear.

This part tripped me up a bit. My upper bust is 33″ & my bust is 35-1/2″. Based upon this I was directed to choose the size 30 front & back bodice pieces. However, on the front bodice pattern piece it gave the full bust measurements for the different cup sizes. The 30D was listed as making a 33-1/2″ bodice, which had me worried it would be too tight. The 30C came in at 32-1/2″. I generally wear a C cup, although the odd D will fit.

I tried the 30D & surprisingly found it to be too large. The under bust seam hung down a little far below my breasts & the shoulder seams fell towards my back. Still, the fit wasn't bad & I could still lean over without having the top gape open & expose everything for all to see. So I decided to chop off the midriff band & turn the muslin into a top.

Her you can see the shoulder seam falling towards my back, an indication that the front bodice piece is too large.

From the midriff band I based the pattern for the body of my top. I took in the side seams on the midriff for a more fitted look, shortened the band according to the measurements of my short waist, then extended the side seams out & down with a curved line. My hip curve ruler came in handy for this. Very luckily, I got all the curve angles correct on the first go & didn't have to make any further adjustments aside from letting out the sides a bit (I had forgotten to add seam allowances, doh!).

Ah yes! A near perfectly fitting back- so rare for people with swayback. I'm also cuffed at how I was able to match the chevrons.

I also attached the body a little higher on the bodice to help take care of the 'too large' problem. However, while my bodice now seemed to fit properly just at the base of my bust, it now rode up a little as I moved. Disappointing. Until I washed the top on cold & air dried it. Magically, it fit perfectly after that! It no longer really rides up & I finally, finally, finally have a surplice top that sits where it's supposed to! Major win in my books.

Let's talk stripes. Instead of the usual grainline, Steph has stretch/stripe lines on the pattern. They look like regular grainlines, except they're longer & don't have arrows at the ends. Just having a written reminder on the pattern pieces about the direction of the stripes helped save me from a grievous placement mistake.

I've worn the top a few times now & I can say that it's very comfy, not restricting, & I think it makes my boobs look a little larger. But best of all there's no gaping neckline when you bend over! Huzzah!

Hooray! No gaping neckline. Breasts are in place.

Now for the fabric. It's not my usual style, but it was so cheap. Plus, I was eager to try a crepe style knit. Crepe style knits stretch just like regular knits, but they have a slightly bumpy or pebbled surface- & I'm not talking purl bumps here. It's good to toss in the novel every now & then. Still, I'm adjusting to the print. I'll say it again, it's just not my usual style. It's funny how I don't think a neon green top is too loud, but black & white chevrons are. Maybe i just need the chevrons to be ridiculously large in order to feel at home in them. The smaller size seems a bit busy. Yet the top fits so well that I've enjoyed wearing it regardless. I need to make some more in a solid fabric to suit my normal tastes. What do you think dear readers? Do the bold chevrons suit me?

If you're interested in procuring the fabulous Tiramisu pattern you can also look forward to a 30min/day sew along starting in January. Plenty of time to get the pattern & fabric. I can't wait to see all the pretty dresses everyone makes! And check out this awesome version of the Tiramisu dress in a lovely purple. I almost made my dress in purple & now I'm wishing I had!



The Horror of Zippered Tops

For awhile I’ve been frustrated with my tops. Until this year, they were entirely store bought. I also hadn’t bought a new top in so long that most were aging & they made my closet feel like a snooze fest.

In pattern catalogs I’d be drawn to the designs that had more going on than your basic t-shirt. But those were invariably in wovens, not knits. And they were fitted. They called for dreaded zippers!

I have a great aversion to sewing zippers in tops- I still have yet to do one despite (let’s be honest) probably hours spent looking at zippered top patterns. And this makes absolutely no sense as I think of my zippered dresses as being super speedy to put on.

My recent closet inventory revealed that almost all of my tops are knits. They’re just so easy to take on & off. Pull, stretch, on! And they snap right back into shape. I’ve gotten so used to this easy on, easy off that having to sew & use a zipper seemed like some horrible task. Unzipping, wriggling into the top & zipping myself back up at an awkward angle would add so much time to my mornings that I would always miss my train to work & because I’d be always late my boss would fire me & I’d end up destitute, forced to live on the streets as I tried to peddle my immense fabric stash for a few pennies so I could eat a single meal a day at McDonald’s. I’d take up residence downtown by the greasy fried fish fast food place that’s next to an alley & sitting atop a milk crate I’d shout: pure silk $2 a yard! Button a penny, 15 for 10 cents! If you knew how averse I am to McDonald’s & fried fish stink you’d know what kind of a hell I’d be living in.

So what I’ve been meaning to ask you for awhile is what’s your stance on zippered tops? Would you be so kind as to fill out my little poll? Also let me know if you have a favorite zippered top pattern. I need one for my Foundation Garment Challenge.

To further expand the conversation, Steph at 3hourspast posted about how knits seem to be viewed as regular day-to-day clothing by most people (as in those who don’t sew), whereas wovens are seen as being more dressy. This helped me understand why I’ve been so drawn to woven top patterns.

It also made me realize that the few RTW wovens I do own are button down work shirts. Most of my knits are pretty casual & plainly constructed. Some knits can be fancy pants attire though. And funnily enough, those are the shirts in my wardrobe I’m consistently drawn to. I’ve even been entertaining ideas of remaking them.

The thing they have in common is that a tiny bit of extra time went into their construction. Here, you can see a nice contrast piping.knit top, piping

While I wouldn’t go to a grand ball in a t-shirt, these are the shirts I pair with my nicer skirts for a more dressed up & adult look. It seems the key to making knits look more dressy is taking the time to add minimalistic details, i.e. not a bunch of colorful DIY flowers. But, my assessment of this is limited to my own wardrobe. Do you think other elements can make knits look dressy?

Kicking Creative Constipation with Sorbetto

Sorbetto, Colette Patterns, top, polka dotsBecause of moving I didn’t do any “real” sewing for one & a half months. I made three muslins, but didn’t finish any projects. I’ve been dying to finish something, but haven’t known where to start. I always have a backlog of things I’d like to make, but never before had that backlog felt so urgent. More than a few times I’d be at work & fantasize about what to make when I got home. Then, I’d sit at home & agonize over what to work on first. I was out of practice with sewing something new every week. I had creative constipation.

Yesterday I rifled through all my sewing patterns & enthusiastically decided to sew a vintage dress. With the attention span of a squirrel, a second later I wanted to sew something else. The very process of getting a pattern ready- ironing the fabric, placing & cutting the pieces- seemed so laborious I felt I would never ever finish anything ever.

Finally, it dawned on me. Sorbetto. Easy, fast, I’ve done it before. No sizing guess work.

buttons, polka dots, stripesI used a vintage fabric from the 60’s that I’m fairly certain was curtains at some point. It was fabric I had been saving for just the right project & I wasn’t sure if I should use it because the Sorbetto would only take up half & leave me with a few small pieces that might not amount to another project. I’m glad I cut into it.

Sorbetto, Colette Patterns, top, polka dotsWhen cutting, I had tried to match the level of the dots on the front of the top with those on the back. It didn’t work, but I had been paying so much attention to it that I forgot to line up the polka dots to run right down the center of the pleat. Oops! Luckily, I had some big white buttons in my stash & I think they make the whole thing look better. Serendipitously I had just enough white bias binding to make it around everything I wanted, with not a half an inch to spare.

Sorbetto, Colette Patterns, top, polka dotsDespite my dislike for my spine (scoliosis), I like my back. So when I make a top that is loose in the front, I like to give some definition to my back. However, I still wanted to be able to slip the top on & off without messing about with closures.

Sorbetto, Colette Patterns, button, elastic
A somewhat shoddily put together back pleat held together with elastic.

After fiddling around with an ugly line of shirring, I landed on pulling an inverted box pleat together with a bit of lingerie elastic. It keeps the pleat closed, yet stretches enough so I can easily get the top on & off.

Today I wore the top to work just like this, but when I got home I added a button to the elastic in the hope that it would make the pleat seem more intentional & less frumpy since it doesn’t really keep its pleated shape that well. Do you like the button on the back?

No button on the left, button on the right. 

Make It Monday: A Modern Wrap Top

A lime green background on my Flying Foxes Twirl Skirt.
A lime green polka dotted hoodie.

Let’s play a game. Can you guess which pattern I used to make the bodice of this top? Hint, it’s a 1912 pattern. I used a modern pattern for the sleeves but they’re so generic I won’t ask you to guess about them.

I think I have a thing for lime green. This is the third thing I’ve made this year that prominently features the color. Recent lime green projects include a skirt & a hoodie. Now I have a top I could make an entire outfit out of the color if I really wanted to be garish. I promise I won’t make lime green pants. And I swear I’ll stay away from lime green sequins & glitter.  I may be garish but I’m not trashy! 😉

The top also reminds me of the other green wrap I made this summer. While the other one is mint green, both are green wrap tops featuring geometric cuts. I’m sensing patterns here.

My lime green 1940’s wrap top.

Last week I made a sports top out of moisture wicking fabric. I loved the fabric so much I went back to Vogue & bought more. This new purchase is tissue thin & looks very much like regular cotton jersey.

A modern wrap from a 1912 pattern.

It got into the 100’s today & I walked several city blocks during my lunch break. Unlike with the other top, I did not remain completely dry. But at least the fabric didn’t cling to my sweaty back like regular jersey would. And it was a little more breezy than the gray moisture wicking fabric of last week, but then again it’s about twice as thin.

I’m very happy with the progress I’m making on hemming knits. Last week’s sports top gave me a headache. This week’s turned out much better. I used a twin needle with a long satin stitch. Previous attempts to get knits to lay flat with a twin needle didn’t work so well, I think because I would always use a straight stitch. The goal was to mimic the way a stitch on a cover stitch machine looks, but rippling seams would dash all my hopes of creating something that looked store bought. For now, I’m content to use the better looking double zigzag in favor of the more professional looking straight stitch. Look at those sleeves! They lie flat! No puckering out! Just ignore the slight ruffling on the back hem & minor stretching on the neckline. I’m determined to become proficient at sewing with knits.

Later in the week I’ll post about the construction of the top & reveal which pattern I used. I’m setting myself the goal of at least posting by the weekend, otherwise it might be months until I do. I never did post about that 1912 skirt I made in the spring…

Make It Monday: a Sports Top

This week I finished (for the most part) a sports top. I found some affordable wicking fabric made by Nike & thought I'd give a yard a try.

The fabric has a nice weight to it & feels almost wet yet smooth & supple. It was my first time working with a sports fabric. It wasn't much different than working with a regular jersey, except it was a little easier because it didn't shift around so much.

I used my modified McCall's 6288 pattern- its first iteration can be seen here. Last time I had altered the pattern so it fit me perfectly, but in the heavier fabric it was too tight. I loosened it up a bit in the side seams while tightening the sleeves as they had been too loose the first time around.

But the major change I made was to add a built in bra/bra shelf- you know, the band of fabric attached to elastic that often feels too tight & so small that your breasts are simultaneously squished in but also spilling out. It's nice to have a properly sized one.

I cut out a duplicate of the back & front bodice pieces, but significantly shorter. After that, I sewed them together & attached the bottom to elastic I had cut from an old pair of pantyhose- it was the perfect fit & made my thrifty heart happy. My mistake came when I basted the bra to the bodice before attaching the sleeves. So much harder to work with that way! The seams were way too thick & difficult to deal with. I wonder if the raglan sleeves made it even worse.

The real problem with the shirt was when I tried to finish the collar it got all stretched out. Hemming knits is my weakness. That's why the shirt is mostly done, but not quite. I was able to get the hem to a wearable state on Sunday, but the back part kept flipping out & exposing a not so nice finish job. When I got home I tried to remedy it, but I may have made it worse. I'm still working on it. See the collar on the upper left part where it's black, thats my ugly sewing/serging job being exposed.

Sports top paired with the Turtles & Apples Twirl Skirt I made back in February

I knew the back around the waist was a little loose & I was ok with it, but looking at these photos I hadn't realized the back was so tight around my arms. Hrmm. The seams have already been serged. Too late to loosen them up now!

It was pretty impressive wearing it on a day so hot it was in the 90's. No sweat, at all. It just evaporated away. So while the fabric was so heavy as to not let much of a breeze pass through, it was great to be able to walk around without having it plastered to my body.

Today I wore my original version of the shirt, which was much thinner yet a little tighter. It was breezy, but it did get plastered to my back, which is especially uncomfortable when you're on a crowded train without air conditioning. I think I actually prefer the thicker & dryer shirt. I might need an entire wardrobe of moisture wicking fabric just to get through this heat spell.

Sitting in what might be an original Thonet rocking chair!

In this picture I'm sitting in a $750 chair in a thrift shop. There was no identifying tag on it, but I'm pretty positive it was a Thonet. During the 1800's Michael Thonet revolutionized the way chairs were designed & built. I minored in art history. As lame & dorky as it sounds, it was like a dream come true, to use something I had studied & seen blown up big on a projector screen. It was like getting to actually touch a painting in a museum.

You know, I've seen other Thonets in this same thrift shop. How did so many end up in this one neighborhood of Chicago & who the hell is getting rid off them all? And why won't they leave them in an alley where I can easily pounce upon them like a design obsessed tiger?


Make It Monday Week 12

This week I made a wrap top from the 40’s.

Isn’t this such a simple yet great idea?

For a more thorough tutorial, check out Whitney’s beautiful white top on the Freshly Given Blog.

For awhile I’ve had this great abstract voile in my stash, but hadn’t been able to figure out what to do with it- I only had a yard. This seemed like the perfect project. 

I cut my yard down to size & added snaps to the front bodice which wraps around & ties in the back. I also lined it since I was using voile & finished the neck with bias binding. Ooof- three different angles of corners & an uncooperative sewing machine made it take much longer than it should have. 

Obviously mine looks a little different from both tutorials. Perhaps shorter sleeves would have been better? I wish the neck hole were a little less wide (I didn’t realize that cutting out a rectangle with a tipped point would make the fabric shift so that it looked more lik e a regular v-neck) & that the bodice were longer. I’m not a big fan of middrift baring tops & I haven’t been since middle school, but the retro look sort of redeems it for me. Let’s be honest- the fact that I made it & love the fabric are what really redeem it for me. Plus, it’s so bloody hot out I can actually see it being both comfortable & useful.

So, I think I’ve made a beach top. Too bad I’m not a big fan of the beach. Ah well, at least it should be good for riding my bike- & hopefully I’ll find/make a highwaisted skirt that goes well with it. All the ones I currently have just don’t look right with it.

Oh yeah! I almost forgot. I cut my hair. This is the shortest it’s ever been (in high school it was down to the bottom of my butt) & I’m loving it. Much more summer weather friendly than the long & lanky locks I was sporting before. I gave the stylist free reign after giving him some basic guidelines & he came up with this retro/Pulp Fiction-esque look. It goes perfect with my retro wardrobe. Maybe the 1960’s frock I was wearing tipped him off as to what style to pick.

Make It Monday Week 11

This weekend I made an outfit.

The reversible swirl skirt white side up.

I took another stab at Simplicity 2185, what I refer to as the swirl skirt. A previous attempt came out too big, so I made it a little smaller, but didn’t realize it was too tight until months later when I saw the photos from Me Made May. This time I still cut out the too large size 14, but made it a reversible skirt with two different fabrics & hoped that the extra layer would help- I also figured it was better to start too big so as to avoid to too tight look. It did help marginally. I’m still thinking of tightening up the waistline a little.

One side is a lovely to touch hemp rayon jersey in white. The only problem is it’s so thin you can see the impression from the seams on the other side of the skirt. That other side is also visibly poking down at the bottom.

The other side of the skirt is made from a equally lovely but regular rayon jersey. It’s a nice hazelnut shade of brown. I also used this fabric in the t-shirt I made for last week’s Make It Monday. While I was finishing up the skirt I realized I had another brown skirt trimmed in white. Ah well! At least that one is a woven A-line. That makes it different, right? Oh my gosh! I just realized I’ve got another brown skirt with white at the bottom- although this one has white lace at the bottom. I’ve got a problem.

The reversible swirl skirt brown side up.

Have you taken a look at the t-shirt I’m wearing? Yes, two weeks in a row with finished t-shirts! This one is from McCall’s 6288. It’s the first t-shirt, actually it’s the first top of any kind, that I’ve muslined first. I’m so glad I did! The pattern is a part of their “Next Generation” series, aka made for skinny teeny bopper bodies. I had to grade out from a 16 bust to a 12 waist & a 14 hipline to get the tight fitting look on the pattern envelope. It’s the most grading I’ve ever done. The front actually came out pretty perfectly on the first try. The back was a mess. If you’ve got t-shirt fitting problems on your backside I HIGHLY recommend this tutorial from Threads. It saved me. There was a mound of fabric wrinkled up around my waist. And now I’ve got the perfect fitting t-shirt. Sure, it took a few muslins, but it was soooo rewarding getting the fit just right. I now have a go-to pattern. Yes! I also had to take a little bit out of the sleeves- the early muslined versions was a mass of wrinkles. After doing about four different sleeve fittings I took a look at the pattern envelope & realized those sleeves were wrinkled too & I wasn’t going to get rid of them all. I don’t normally wear raglan t-shirts; I didn’t realize some of them are just supposed to look wrinkled. It’s weird I’ve made two different raglans these past two weeks.

Detail of the green trim on the scoop neck t-shirt.

P.S. Some brief half nudity in the alley was required to take these pictures of the reversible skirt . I really don’t think anyone saw me! OK, it’s a city, people live closely together. Someone probably saw me. Ah well!

Sometimes you just have to dance.

Make It Monday: Week Ten

This week I did some serious gardening, but alas I have no pictures. That’s because I gardened in a friend’s backyard. It was a small backyard, but whew! Ripped out a bunch of old things & planted a bunch of new things. I’m sunburned.

On the sewing front, I made a t-shirt! It’s my first fully finished t-shirt. I’m very proud. A previous attempt used cheap fabric & involved some very ripply hems. No good.

Cheeky Chuck helped me make my first fully finished t-shirt.

This one came out great. Plus, I got my pin cushion in the mail from the pin cushion swap. It’s a cute little rooster my swap mate named Cheeky Chuck. Chuck helped me make this shirt. I think the two of us did a good job!

On the cooking front, I tackled another thing I’ve been wanting to do for awhile. Ice cream. Some time ago I inherited my sister’s old ice cream maker. There was a reason she stopped using it. Disaster, every time. This time, I used a recipe that didn’t need an ice cream maker. It’s a pretty easy recipe & I’d recommend it to those of you who, like me, can’t or don’t eat dairy. The only thing is that the banana was a little stronger than I would have liked & the ice cream did have a slightly slimy texture, like bananas do. But, if conventional ice cream isn’t an option & it’s a sweltering 90F out (like it’s been this entire weekend), it’s well worth it. 

Slice & freeze two bananas & 1/2c berries (I used a little bit more than that). Then, blend them in a food processor. Place in the freezer for another 30 min & enjoy. Easy peasy. Just don’t over stuff your food processor like I did. Next time I’m going to try & replace the banana with melon, maybe a nice honeydew. Mmmmm.

And check out the original recipe. This woman is seriously enthusiastic.