Tiger Archer

Today we are going way, way back in time, all the way back to the dawn of sewing (kidding, but I did buy this pattern in 2013). You can probably tell from the date that it’s a Grainline Archer! I don’t have any specific notes on this shirt since it’s at least 6 years old, possibly 8, but it’s made from pre-rift Cotton and Steel quilting cotton and despite the kind of crunchy fit and my not-so-hot sewing I use it plenty.

I actually remember the fabric provenance pretty clearly – I bought some for pockets for Professor Boyfriend’s pants, fell in love and decided it MUST be a shirt (mine), but my local Gather Here had sold out in the meantime, so I called my mom and she found some in her local, Ryco’s (which is an awesome place but closing at the end of this year when the owner retires, unless someone wants to buy the business, which one of you should. Go do that now, and then come back here). The buttons were from JP Knit and Stitch before it was online-only. This shirt is a time capsule shirt!

Quilting cotton isn’t the most comfy-cozy fabric to wear, but it’s hard to argue with chartreuse tigers. A quick Google reveals the Archer has been made in a ton of different fabrics – and heck, everyone seems to have made at least one.

In thinking about why the Archer blew up so quickly, I have two theories. One is that it was the first buttoned shirt pattern to offer exceptional support (which is why I bought it). My second is that, for the sizes available, it fits accurately and predictably. The deliberately loose fit helps, I’m sure; my pattern is graded from a 6 bust (!!) to a 12 hip, and it fits fine now, and was presumably fine way back when, or it wouldn’t have lasted this long. That’s flexible.

The sewalong and the easy fit are both awesome building blocks for a ‘beginner’ pattern, but looking back now with all my greybeardy wisdom, the Archer doesn’t always use the easiest techniques. Most notable is probably the collar stand construction, but the technique I hate with oh such hatred is the bias bound plackets.

It’s possible that you, dear reader, find them easier than a traditional sleeve placket, but I big-time don’t. Either way you’re cutting into the sleeve piece, but when using a binding, the pieces of fabric are so much more fiddly and the margin for error is smaller. And they’re stupid and flimsy and tiny and pointless and also I did them wrong.

You might notice the lack of buttons and buttonholes on the cuff. That’s because even my beginner eyes were filled with so much blergh at the sight of this placket that I decided this shirt would only be worn with the sleeves rolled, forever, and I took steps to ensure that.

I moved the proposed cuff button to the sleeve and added a little button strap (it’s actually a bit longish, since it begins and ends where the button is stitched). I also sewed everything with French seams despite that ½” seam allowance. A ½” sa is for nobody. Nobody wants that. Give me liberty 5/8” or give me the other thing 3/8”.   

This is another shirt I wear on a perma-tucked basis, but the hem has a perfectly nice curve, which I feel proud of wee beginner Lia for handling well (even if my topstitching is a bit hideous, partly because my stitch length on this whole shirt was bonkers short – why did I sew everything with like a 1.5 length stitch?!).

You don’t need my extremely lukewarm take, but the Archer is an approachable shirt with mostly-classic details – a button band, a lined yoke and a pleat at the back, PORS (Pockets of Respectable Size). A history of indie patterns would be sure to include it (I know it’s the first PDF pattern I ever bought!). Just, for the love of Mike, use a tower placket. Any tower placket will do.

Not too much else to say about this, except a few years ago I wore it to a book signing by beloved childhood author Tamora Pierce in order to bait her into saying she liked my shirt, AND IT WORKED.

I can never get rid of this now. It’s Alanna-approved.

Pattern: Grainline Archer shirt

Pattern cost: nowadays, $16 minimum

Size: 6 bust, 12 hip

Supplies: unknown quantity of quilting cotton in two lengths, which my mom bought most of, Gather Here & Ryco’s

Total time: So unknown

Total cost: So so very unknown

Amelia Bomber

I finally made this pattern!

I wasn’t feeling too thrilled to do so (I bought it several years ago) but I had sufficient useful scraps and the pattern was a bit spendy to rehome without trying once, so why not, right? And I like my finished SOI Amelia bomber way more than I expected. In fact I didn’t take it off during my waking hours for the first 2 days it existed, and I kept winking at myself in every mirror I passed, so that’s a good sign!

Let’s jump ahead: I love the finished piece. Let’s rewind: the sewing experience was incoherent. The draft had thoughtful details, plenty of notches, and perfectly matched seams, but the directions were garbage served caliente.  

I know there’s certain pattern companies that get bagged on a lot and others that get treated as Above Reproach; I think SOI ends up in the first category more often than not, and I’m not trying to take cheap shots at an easy target. Honestly, the pattern is great. And it has a fully illustrated booklet now – I wouldn’t mind a peek at it! – but I was working from the pages I clipped from the ex-magazine, and they were frustrating at best. It’s a whole lot of text with quite small photographs, and the sample is made from a busy fabric with a black background. While they’re more useful than no illustrations/photos/diagrams at all, they are baddy bad bad.

The sewing is also sequenced really poorly. I think it makes more sense to sew the outer, then the lining, then attach them to each other, but following the directions means sewing the outer shoulders, then the lining shoulders, then the outer side seams, then lining side seams, etc. And if that sentence made your eyes spin you will know how I felt about reading 54 steps presented without benefit from the enter key (so much text! So little leading!). They are basically sufficient, emphasis on basically.

The assist goes VERY much to Sewing and Slapdashery, for making it clear I should just buy a 16” zip, instead of yanking 6” of metal teeth off of the 22” zip asked for by the pattern. If you have the correct length, you can also go ahead and ignore the direction to fold over the ends of the zip tape. Buy a 16” zip. It’s strictly easier in every way.

A tip of the hat also to Deer and Doe’s double-welt pocket instructions. I borrowed the pattern pieces from my copy of the Lupin jacket and shifted the placement down about 5/8” down to avoid Amelia’s dart. They are silly dinky pockets for a silly dinky jacket, and they can fit either my stuff or my hands though not both simultaneously, but I’m  glad they’re there. The pocket bags are plain black cotton and the bottom edge is handily trapped by the waistband, so they stay put.

I topstitched my outer darts and shoulder seams because the wool was so springy. Then I rediscovered my I-found-a-piece-of-wood-style clapper and clappered everything else. I made a cape from this wool last year; I barely wear it (shocker) and I find it smells a bit sheepy, but I can’t smell this jacket. Probably I’ve gone nose-blind.

I shortened the collar for style reasons rather than fabric limitations (even though I have just bare scraps left, which is great). I cut it as directed and then spontaneously sewed it to be 1.5” tall finished just by pivoting before I was supposed to, then trimming the extra.

Aside from that and adding the pockets, this is a straight size 12. I even cut the waist elastic to the given length, no adjustment needed.

Actually I only had enough 2” wide elastic for the waistband and one cuff, so the other cuff contains 1” wide elastic zigzagged to itself. If you can spot the difference you’ve got a better eye than me.

My favorite detail of the draft is this elbow dart in the lining – the same area is eased in the outer – which just feels classy. I don’t know anything about coats really but I have a perfectly comfortable fit and range of motion, and this is a slim-fitting sleeve, so some of that credit goes to the elbow dart, I assume!

My least-favorite detail is the pleating I shoved into the waist edge of the lining. There’s quite a bit of handsewing in this project, but the only really inconvenient bit is that one. By the time the lining is meant to be handsewed into place, the waistband elastic is already added, so I had to stake the nearly-finished coat to my ironing board like I was butterflying a trout to stretch the waistband flat again. Plus the lining is supposed to be gathered to fit and then have the seam allowance turned under, all in slippy lining fabric. No thank you! I turned and pressed the lining edge, but bunging in a handful of pleats seemed more doable than evenly gathering a quickly-shredding fabric already attached to a jacket arranged like a ritual ironing board sacrifice. I wish I had just done one large pleat, but I don’t wish it hard enough to do anything about it.

The lining was also given to me in the dim and misty past, by the way, so the boughten materials were the pattern, the thread, the elastic, and the zipper. Not to brag but I have ordered the HECK out of some zippers lately. Check out that inoffensive near-match, baby.

If I was going to make one more change I would add a great big wacky iron-on patch to the back of this jacket! Technically I still could. Maybe I will. In the meantime, please enjoy my discretion re: ‘this is the bomb’ puns.

See you soon! Happy October!!  

Pattern: SOI Amelia bomber

Pattern cost: $14.10

Size: 12

Supplies: leftover gray wool suiting, gold Bemberg rayon, from stash; YKK #5 16″ Antique Brass Jacket Zipper – Graphite, Wawak; 1 yard 2″ elastic, Sewfisticated; thread, Michael’s; total $5.13

Total time: 10.5 hours

Total cost: $19.23

Stellan + Dawn

I have stamped the last spot on my MN Dawn pattern card – All 4 Views! This may be my least favorite, but it’s not bad, it’s just the most similar to other patterns I’ve sewn before. I think I’m a half-step out of sync with fashion because I’m getting tired of wide legs again. Oops. And I fear I overcommitted to cropped legs.

The final length of this pair was determined by a silly error (entirely mine). My table is fairly small so I can only lay out about 1 yard of fabric at once, and not the whole width; basically I trace from left to right on a single layer, moving the fabric off the table as I go, and then cut from right to left. By the time I realized I had traced both back leg pieces the same-way up, I had cut a lot of the fabric already. I was annoyed with myself because I would have had plenty of fabric if I had done it right the first time, but instead I left myself with a strictly limited area to fit the second back leg piece. I squeezed it in by rotating it off-grain and losing about a 1.5” triangle from one corner of the hem. Originally I planned on  making these full-length with an option to crop if I didn’t like it, but instead, by necessity, I folded a deep double hem with that missing corner inside. It’s about equivalent to the cropped length with a 1” deep hem (this is 2”). The length is fine for fall but I might be sad in winter when my ankles get cold!

Also, fun fact: I was using up odds and ends of green thread and you can see the moment where I ran out of the best match. It was here. Here it is.

Luckily with this wide cut and stable fabric I don’t seem to be suffering any side effects from cutting one back leg piece off-grain. I was worried there’d be some weird twisting, but nah! I’m not going to start recklessly cutting pants legs willy-nilly but if you need to claw an inch or two out of your yardage…maybe go for it?

I didn’t make any unique changes to this pair; I cut the fronts with grown-on fly extensions and sewed the zip the Ginger way, which is typical for me, and I also made the butt pockets into big old rectangles and added carpenter details, which I’ve done before if not to Dawns. Professor Boyfriend accused my hammer loop of being mannerist but how many hammers does he carry. 😛

I wasn’t sure whether to place the loop’s horizontal segment parallel to the butt pocket edge or perpendicular to the side seam – I couldn’t have both, so I picked perpendicular, especially since that nearby low-leg pocket would be perpendicular too. At one point I considered using patch pockets instead of jeans-style pockets on the front. And then I forgot!

I recently treated myself to a roll of 1” wide tricot fusible and for a change I interfaced the waistband. Why oh why is cutting stable, easily-marked fabric a pleasure, but cutting equally stable and easily-marked interfacing a chore? I often skip it, but this 1” roll made it easy to do it right. And look at that! This is the second day of wear, and no crumpling! It’s almost like…I should have been doing this the whole time!

The fabric was super cooperative too. Just a standard cotton twill, but a peach to sew. I do like it when life is easy.

The top, also new, is my second, slightly-refined shoulderpad Stellan (free base pattern here, my first attempt here). Part of my fickle-and-inconstant moon routine is to now wonder if I actually like shoulderpads? Eh. I can always unpick them. I shortened the front armscye by the unscientific expedient of folding out 2 centimeters horizontally from the pattern piece across the upper chest. I also narrowed the neck by 2 cm per side, and raised the front neck by 1 1/8″.

I’m (item 1): not sure why I switched between metric and imperial while making notes and (item 2): really glad I took notes. I didn’t remember and wouldn’t have guessed that I raised the neckline over an inch! It seems like a lot!! But now it’s true-crew, which is what I wanted. This fabric is Kaufman Laguna jersey, the feel of which varies a lot color-to-color. This Navy is so soft and heathery; meanwhile I’m wearing a Terracotta Laguna jersey Stellan in the photos for this post, and it’s much crunchier and more solid. The facings still flip a bit on this tank but understitching helped.

There’s so many things I’m excited to make from patterns I already own, but also, having successfully ‘finished’ the Dawn pattern, I kinda think I should buy myself a new pants pattern. Maybe two. O_O I own so many pants but I love sewing and wearing them, and 365 days a year x 2 legs = 730 pairs of pants, right? Right?!

Pattern: MN Dawn, wide leg

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 14 waist, 16 hip; 16 rise; with lots of changes

Supplies: 2 yards of green cotton twill, Sewfisticated, $9.98; zipper, Gather Here, $1.60; thread from stash

Total time: 6.5 hours

Total cost: $11.58

Pattern: Stellan tee

Pattern cost: NA

Size: M; shoulder pad variation; narrowed neck 2cm, removed 2cm in height from front armscye, raised front neckline 1 1/8″

Supplies: 1 yard of Kaufman Laguna jersey in Heathered Navy, Ryco’s, $11.50; shoulder pads, Sewfisticated, $0.99; thread from stash

Total time: 2.5 hours

Total cost: $12.49

Ogden Tank

Once again I am here to share with you an okay piece of sewing. Today’s solidly acceptable offering is the True Bias Odgen cami, but I’ve made some changes that round this grade-A pattern down to a B+.

I’ve sewn 8 regular Ogden camis in various states of cropped-ness from full length to very brief. They’re all keepers. I’ve replaced the straps and mended the neckline points on a couple where they wore out, because I didn’t want to lose them from my summer rotation. It’s a simple and extremely wearable pattern that I like it a lot.

That said, sometimes I want to cover my shoulders (variety is the spice of shoulders!) and since I really liked the loose body and depth of the v-necks in this pattern I hoped I could use it as a tank base. A really well-fitting shell is my Holy Grail of basic patterns. This isn’t it. It’s more of a Prosaic Grail. It’s wearable, it’s comfortable, it’s the exact definition of “fine”.

But if you’re filled with a burning and/or yearning for an okay tank of your own, read on!

My first step was to put on one of my existing Ogdens and ask Professor Boyfriend to place a pin in the strap where it sat on the high point of my shoulder. My ideal finished Ogden strap length is 6.5”, and that divided surprisingly neatly into 2.75” in the front and 3.75” in the back. I also put a ruler on my shoulder (long-ways from neck to arm, or proximal-to-distal if you’re feeling anatomical) and looked at it in the mirror to estimate the angle of my shoulder slope.

I then retraced the pattern, but I didn’t cut it out. The strap attachment point is marked on the pattern. On the front piece, starting from that point, I drew a vertical line parallel to the center front that was 2.75” long. On the back that line was 3.75”.

The original finished strap is a scanty ½” wide, so I marked ½” centered on that line. I wanted my straps to be thicker; I added ¼” to the outer edge and 1.5” to the inner edge (arbitrary or carefully judged? You decide!).

I also added a thin acute triangle to the top of each strap based on my shoulder slope estimation, then ½” seam allowance. Finally, I blended the neckline and armscye curves into the new straps.

I also cut new facing pattern pieces with the updated neckline, but I didn’t modify anything else about them. I’m content with the length of the internal boob curtain (I’ve read reports of it cutting across some breasts oddly, but it works for me). Now I just had to sew the thing!

I staystitched the necklines and then used the burrito method to finish the neck and arms. Historically I’ve struggled with that technique, but this lightweight swiss dot was nice and thin so it was unusually easy.

 I understitched the neckline but the armscye edges seemed to behave themselves without it, so I skipped it (I was also running out of black thread, which may have weighed in the decision).

The tank was almost done after that – French seam the side seams, hem the outer and facing, bada-boom. Construction is all good. Fit? Eh. It looks like I could stand to pinch a dart out of the armscyce, but darts do not feature in my fantasy tank pattern (as a member of the IBTC I feel strongly that if I don’t wanna I shouldn’t hafta). The “v”s also look a little “u”-ish to my eyes, as a consequence of adjusting those curves, I guess. The straps obviously can’t sit any further out though.  

I really can’t get too heated either way. It’s fine! It’s a comfortable shirt and it’s breezy and it’s fine. It’s abundantly, undeniably fine. It might be cuter knotted at the waist. I am falling asleep trying to care. I’ve got a smallish piece of this fabric left, and it might be enough for the outer pieces of another proper Ogden cami, which I’m sure would get used because this imperfect version is already highly wearable. I’d have to buy more black thread, though. Quelle horreur!

Separately, I got this little hat from the Buy Nothing and I think I like it. Let me be a you person, hats!

Soon my fall sewing will begin. O_O Now that I can get excited about.

Pattern: True Bias Odgen cami, with changes

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 6 bust, 8 waist and hips

Supplies: 1.5 yards black swiss dot cotton, Sewfisticated, $7.49; thread from stash

Total time: 2.75 hours

Total cost: $7.49

Sandhill Sling

My heavy-hitting Making backpack is sadly wearing out (heavy-hitting in terms of how often I use it, but the fabric is actually shredding, wah). But that gives me a good excuse to sew a new bag!

This is another Noodlehead pattern, the Sandhill Sling.

I bought the paper pattern. In this case that means a nice little plastic bag containing an instruction booklet, a rounded-corner template, and a cutting list, but it was the same price as the PDF so might as well! As a bag amateur, I also appreciate a physical booklet (easier to follow).

I kind of like the feeling of being busted back down to beginner. I also picked a new-to-me fabric, dry oilskin from Merchant & Mills. It is fine. Sorry, pronounce that “fyne”. This bright navy color isn’t particularly eye-catching but it was mostly a dream to sew. I was originally very careful with it – skipping a pre-wash, storing it on an old gift paper tube instead of folding it – but it’s a sturdy fabric meant for heavy use and I quickly got over my preciousness.

Tolkien reportedly thought the most beautiful words in the English language were “cellar door”, but I guess no one ever told him “you can skip the interfacing”. The pattern didn’t explicitly say so, but the oilskin was so stiff already and I thought interfacing would make the bag layers unmanageably thick. Plus I had no way to attach it. You’re not supposed to apply heat to oilskin (just handling the fabric with my body heat gave my hands a non-unpleasant waxy feeling), and in fact the only time I used an iron during this whole project was turning back and pressing the edges of the lining where it’s attached to the zipper.

Finger-pressing dry oilskin is amazing. It creases like thick paper and then it just stays put. If you need it to be flat again, you just smooth it, and then it’s flat. It doesn’t shift, it barely frays, and it doesn’t grow at all. At one point about 2/3rds into the project you’re supposed to true up your main panels and mine were exactly the same size as when I started.

The only downside of dry oilskin is that it doesn’t really heal. Solution: just go ahead and get it right the first time. Iiii did not.

All of its friendly qualities became frenemies when it was time to attach the gusset.

I sewed the lining first to get comfortable attaching the gusset loop to the rounded corners, and in quilting cotton it was a relative breeze. It conformed to the curves and I invisibly eased the straight edges a little when necessary. Lemon-squeezy.

Attempting that same step in a thick, rigidly stable fabric that shows every stitching hole? NOT SQUEEZY AT ALL.

I got everything attached but not well. I misaligned the main panels, placed the cross-body strap off-center, sewed the top edge of the front panel less-than-parallel to its zip, and gathered one straight edge on a few inches of the gusset. I finished the bag (including hand-sewing the lining to the zip), but it was bad. I felt bad when I looked at it. I started making plans to give it away but I didn’t want to punish anybody by giving them a bag that was madly askew. Here’s a couple un-glamour shots:

 I fretted about it for 48 hours then decided it was time for this mésalliance to end in divorce and ripped the outer layers apart.  

Side note: I had more than enough fabric to recut pieces as necessary, which made this decision easier. The pattern called for 5/8 yards, I bought ¾ yards, and even though I cut the strap out of self-fabric I probably would have been fine with ½ yard total. That said, I didn’t have to recut anything. I re-measured the gusset loop and the seamline of the main panels (easy to do when the needle holes are just hanging out) and discovered my gusset was 1” longer than my seamline. I’m not sure how or why this happened, but I sewed out the excess, and it’s a billion times better now. A billion. I ran the numbers.   

Also, once I was in there anyway I figured I might as well make another change. Using the leftover foam from my Making backpack, I cut two Sandhill Sling main panels sans seam allowance, and now they’re floating around between the outer and the lining. I couldn’t work out a way to attach them (probably should have left them some SA after all), but they seem to be staying put! I didn’t have enough foam to construct a whole third inner layer, but I’m not sure that would have been the right move anyway; the Making backpack just has it on the big panels.

My second-sew-around didn’t affect the lining, or I might have added an internal hook for keys. If/when I make a second, I’ll probably use foam again, plus add a key hook, and maybe some webbing carry handles a-la-Raspberry Rucksack, too. Kind of a greatest hits tour of all the bag patterns I’ve sewn so far.

I love hardware but I hate buying it. Mine is all from Wawak and I’m happy with the quality and even happier I could buy it all in one place, with the exception of the webbing; I chose to sew the self-fabric strap 100% so I wouldn’t have to order from two places.

Also at the last moment I changed my zipper color from “Navy” to “Pennant Blue” and I have zero regrets! I ran the numbers on that, too.

Last time I sewed a Noodlehead pattern I bought the hardware kit from there, but the Sandhill Sling kit is divided into two lots. Zippers and hardware are separate and neither includes webbing, and in the operatic words of the sex pest from the musical I cannot stop listening to, “I don’t know about THAT, Pierre!”.

Happily I do like my finished bag, part 2: Bag Harder. It’s nicely hands-free but I can swing it to the front if I want to get something out of it. Due to my manhandling, it already looks pleasantly rumpled and broken-in, much like Scott Bakula. I’d like to make another one for Professor Boyfriend. Maybe that time I’ll measure *before* punching a ton of permanent holes in it. Learning Is Fun!!

Pattern: Sandhill Sling, view A

Pattern cost: $9.00

Size: NA

Supplies: 3/4 yard M&M Dry Oilskin in Navy, 3/4 yard Resilient Creatures quilting cotton, Gather Here, $36.58; hardware  (Antique Brass, Pennant Blue), Wawak, $12.73

Total time: 5.25 hours

Total cost: $48.31

Pajungles

This handsome sonofagun is back and putting my own plain-Jane pajamas to shame! Professor Boyfriend spent most of his twenties wearing variations on mud color, and then one day this wonderfully be-catted fellow just sprang into being and now I’m a peahen. I’m the opposite of complaining!

This is more of a lounge set than strictly pajamas, and it was unplanned. Prof. B.F. picked this sensational leopards-print (as opposed to leopard-print, singular) cotton for a casual summer button-up, but it had been a while since I’d sewn something for him and I couldn’t remember the right yardage, so we got nervous and overbought. After cutting and sewing the shirt I still had about a yard left from the original 2 ¾ yards and I broached the idea of matching shorts.

Backstory, I’ve been hinting about coordinated sets since seeing those made by Emma of Emma’s Atelier (most recently, this one) but Professor Boyfriend wasn’t biting so I pitched these as “cotton sleep shorts”. Prof. B.F. is not a wide guy, but 1 yard of 45” wide fabric wasn’t going to make full-length shorts with all the fixings. I Googled around for free woven boxer patterns but modifying his Jeds pattern seemed easier than printing and assembling an unknown quantity. I was pushing these as pajamas, so it didn’t need a fly opening, and I didn’t have enough fabric for slash pockets, so these were really as simple as could be.

I blended the front pocket into the front leg, and the back yoke into the back leg. I abbreviated both inseams to a 4” finished length and straightened the hem extensions. A quick walking of the seamlines to confirm everything would match, and badda boom, pattern pieces. However, at this point courage failed me and I decided I needed more ease. I retook his measurements and those of the flat pieces; his widest point was 38”, and the pattern was 35”, so I freaked out and added 4” of ease by splitting the front and back legs vertically and adding 1” of width to each.

I now think I measured him wrong, because his commercial pants size is a 34” or 35” waist, and he probably could have wiggled in and out of these without me adding anything. I’m pretty annoyed with myself because I could have used the fabric more efficiently (often a point of pride). I might go back and remove some of that excess, even though that essentially means disassembling 75% of the shorts, just to prove that I can do math.

The waistband is a big old folded rectangle with elastic threaded through it. I learned my lessons from my own PJs and made the casing’s finished width just a smidge larger than necessary. I couldn’t cut it continuously, but I could match the seams with the short’s side seams. I left a bit of each of the short edges of the waistband unsewn so I could attach the whole waistband before adding elastic.

I left this opening on both sides as part of my cunning plan to reach in and untwist the elastic as necessary, but of course this meant the elastic went in without a fuss, so I just had two short seams to hand-sew closed. Which I did…NOT. Hey! It’s ongoingly adjustable!   

The shirt is Professor Boyfriend’s usual short-sleeved Fairfield. When I handed it to him he said “Wow! You pattern-matched across the button placket!” because he is a nice person who pays attention and because DID I EVER. In a stable fabric with a largish repeat like this quilting cotton, it was a straightforward pleasure.

Nothing really to add about this pattern, except that I’ve officially converted to French-seaming the armscyes instead of flat-felling them. I might tweak the sleeve cap next time for a narrower sleeve, but that would be harder to sew. I’ll keep yah posted.

So after this shirt and the matching ‘sleep shorts’ were finished, I convinced Professor Boyfriend to try them on together, and while he originally described them as “very cool pajamas” he might be warming up to the idea of this being an outside-the-house outfit (the shirt has been in public, but the combination hasn’t).  The shorts don’t have any pockets, but I have just enough scrap left to add one bum pocket, and if you can carry your keys you can leave the house, right? I’d want to narrow the legs a bit first to make the bottoms a little less casual, but personally, I think the world is ready. I probably won’t be able to talk him all the way into a romphim, but a set is excellent progress!

And I think he looks meowvelous!

(Forgive me.)

Pattern: Thread Theory Jedediah pants and Thread Theory Fairfield Shirt

Pattern cost: NA

Size: ??? waist = 38.5″ inches stretched, and M

Supplies: 2.75 yards of Leopard in Jungle cotton, $33.00, Gather Here; buttons, Gather Here, $5.10; thread, elastic from stash

Total time: 2 and 5 hours

Total cost: $38.10

One Day My Prints Will Come

Today, another pattern from the way-back-when. This particular moment in time is the MN Cascade skirt and it feels like a mermaid slammed into a princess going full speed with no airbags. Once a year around now, I find it in the back of my closet. On super-hot days the double gauze is irresistible. Well, it hot, so here we go.

Basically, the Cascade is a more-than-a-circle skirt. It fastens with a simple overlap and it’s made of two fronts, a back, and a waistband. A go-getter with a drawing compass could whip one up without too much trouble but I made this early in my sewing career (‘career’) before I figured out 1) most skirt patterns are just a litttttle reheated-feeling and 2) what I like to wear.

However, this skirt keeps escaping my culls. Ordinarily it would be way too swishy-pretty for me, but it’s so sort of unabashed that it shot the moon and I like it again. It makes me laugh to dress up like I’m going to comb my hair with a dinglehopper and drown sailors and then actually just get a sandwich instead.

We’re going back, way back – pre-spreadsheet, so pre-2017 – but I can almost guarantee that I bought less fabric than this pattern called for and ignored the grainlines when cutting. 3 7/8 yards of 45”-wide fabric, and that fabric is Nani Iro? Yeah, did not happen. At a guess, I bodged this any-which-way out of 3 yards, if that. The nondirectional print doesn’t give any clues but I know myself pretty well (and I continue to love this print! Dare I call it…TIMELESS?!).

It’s also safe to say I cut a size M. Right now my waist falls between and M and an L and this still fits comfortably, but I think an L would have been a better investment. In a word: overlap. A longer waistband means more overlap, which means more coverage. My highs are a little too high. Though that doesn’t explain why my lows are so low!

That high-low angle is X-TREME. It’s X-Box 306. It’s arguably Xanadu. The fabric is light, too. Usually beautifully so, but it can get dicey. On the morning we took these pictures, the air was dead, but I popped a safety pin at the bottom of the overlap just in case. Later that afternoon it was a little breezier and despite the pin, unless I held the skirt edges like I was processing royally, any wind could boost my rating to PG-13. But that’s why it’s also so suitable for our recent stretch of 95°+ days (35° to you Celsius fans)! You gotta do what you gotta do.

This skirt features my first (and at time of filming, only) hand-rolled hem! It’s actually a huge amount of fun to sew but I did not do a great job despite the double-layered fabric (it’s a bit tuftier than intended). I’d probably go with a bias binding for a fun pop if I were sewing this today, but this hem treatment doesn’t inhibit drape or flow at all, which is nice! I used two sets of dress bars for an invisible closure.

There was a time in my life where I squeezed a Tate top out of any semi-realistic scraps, which is what I’m wearing here. This free Workroom Social pattern appears to have vanished from the internet! I’ve fallen out of love with it but I still have a PDF copy if anybody wants one.

My version has such features as “a baby-hemmed hem that likes to flip up”, “extra seamlines born of necessity rather than style”, and “pretend buttons”. The pretend button placket is just the selvedges overlapped without additional finishing; the neck and armholes are bias-bound. It’s fun to be swaddled in Nani Iro from neck to ankle (hey, if you’re looking from the back, it’s ankle! It counts!) but I’m not wowed by this shirt. The cut-in shoulders are no longer my go-to silhouette, and I’m usually too lazy to convert my convertible bras, so it doesn’t get much wear.

On the other hand, in this summer of many parties, including 18 months worth of make-up parties (is anyone else feeling like Slurms McKenzie? If Slurms and all his buddies were fully vaccinated, TBC), this skirt  has been a friend indeed. I don’t care if high-low hems are so 2011-2012. Lots of cool stuff is from around then. Call Me Maybe. Cotton candy grapes. Rivers of London.

Anyway, wear whatever you want! I have declared it meet, and I get to do declarations now, because in this skirt I am clearly a princess. Long live me?

Pattern: MN Cascade skirt

Pattern cost: ?

Size: M?

Supplies: ? Definitely Nani Iro double-gauze

Total time: Lost forever

Total cost: Never to be known

Last Resort

I really like black outfits in the summer even if they effectively make me look glow-in-the-dark, but this one kind of crossed the line from “casual” to “deadly-widow-on-a-cruise”. To be fair once I realized that I leaned into the styling; since I’m only going to wear this outfit this once, I may as well wear it as hard as I can. This is my wearable muslin for M7936.  

Sometimes a muslin gets promoted to the big leagues. This isn’t one of those times. I haven’t really been tempted by short rompers lately; I feel simultaneously overdressed and underdressed, and this summer has been so relatively cold in New England that I’ve gotten to enjoy long pants most days anyway. But I wanted to sew through this pattern once before deciding whether or not I would make myself a full-length version. Honestly, I’m still not sure.  

The drafting was simple but good – everything lined up, there’s generous hem allowances, and the pockets are a good height and size. I had to sew my nemesis, an invisible zipper, but even that went okay thanks to the expert guidance of Kenneth D. King! However, it seems my new nemesis is facing a V-neck with an invisible zipper at the point. My fabric was a slightly grow-y, slightly shifty rayon/linen blend, and I didn’t make it perfectly symmetrical. I hand-stitched the edge of the facing in place to minimize the mismatch.

It’s obviously not an invisible finish, but if a line is going to be slightly wobbly anyway, I think hand-sewing visually justifies it. I wonder if a closed-end dress zipper in the side seam would make a good replacement for the center zipper, possibly if the back neck had a “V” neckline as well for extra hip-in, hip-out room? I’m not fond of placing the thing I’m most likely to mess up front and center, but a back zip can be a hassle too.

Fit-wise there’s not a ton to say – the intended fit is free through the waist and loose in the hips and shoulders. I sewed a straight size M (the pattern alpha-sized, by the way). It’s comfortable but the inseam pockets gape a bit, so grading to an L probably would have been more suitable. It passes my squat test for thick thighs as-is, though.

Unfortunately it’s a little uncomfortable to raise my arms above my head. It’s a cut-on-sleeve issue, not a body-length issue. Lifting my arm moves the whole garment, inevitably, but the sleeve digs into my arm before I run out of crotch space; if it were a set-in sleeve I would have a sense of how to adjust (all due to ikat bag’s generous post, an evergreen from 2014) but I’m not sure what to do about it here. Adjust the shoulder slope, possibly?

I sewed and finished the pattern according to the directions before adding my own twist, the little strappy hardware bits. It’s just four rectangles folded like double-fold bias tape and topstitched shut, plus four D-rings. The strap width was determined by the D-rings I had sitting around, 1 ½”.

These straps each started life much, much longer. I pinned them to the finished garment before trimming. This was easiest, but it wasn’t always easy. I was home alone for this sewing project and pinning straps above my own booty with the help of exactly 1 mirror was a bit fussy. They were unsurprisingly unsymmetrical, so I took measurements on the flat garment and tried to split the difference, only to somehow end up sewing the back straps symmetrical to each other but a good 4” lower than the front straps. Several tries later I ended up with this arrangement.

I was a little worried that the cinching would pull back the fabric around the invisible zipper and reveal the coils, but it’s all good. These look a bit useless when fully loose and a bit tortured cinched to the max; this sort of half-waist seems to be the sweet spot. You can get a similar(ish) effect with something like this elastic waist, with the exception that I have a flat area (panel in that link) between the strap ends on both the front and back.   

I’m not super excited about this romper, alas. Why’d I even bother poisoning the Colonel, y’know? The one thing I unabashedly like is the depth of the V. I really wanted to recreate a particular denim jumpsuit I have pinned, but now I dunno. I was pretty grateful to pop this off in favor of jean shorts and a tank; I just feel more like me in that outfit. On the other hand, denim makes everything better.

It did inspire me to go through my wardrobe and pull out a few other things I don’t feel excited about. My clothing swap pile is growing. Got to get that stuff out before the if/when of another lockdown…

On that cheery note, arrivederci! If Scotland Yard comes sniffing around, tell them it was natural causes.

Pattern: M7936

Pattern cost: $5.49

Size: M

Supplies: 2 yards of black linen/rayon, $11.98, Sewfisticated; 22″ invisible zipper, Gather Here + 1 1/2″ D rings, Winmill Fabrics, $4.79

Total time: 7 hours

Total cost: $22.26

Summer Jams

Thanks to general encouragement (especially KK of Magpie Logbook!), I finally sewed myself some fresh summer pajamas.

The pattern is Lisette for Butterick, B6296, and I just noticed it’s sold in the category “Family Sleepwear” which also includes B6338. Begging the question, why didn’t I sew frillybum sleep panniers for the whole family instead?! Oh well. Maybe next time!

My paper copy was in the higher size range, which was necessary for my downstairs, but a little too roomy for my upstairs. The dilemma of the cross-sized! I sewed a 14 top and a 16 bottom. The shirt is exaggerated by design and sewed up easy as pie. The shorts weren’t complicated, but there’s not quite enough vertical space in the back. Two extra inches, one added to the top of the back rise and one to the curved part of the seat seam, would be welcome.

The shorts are wearable as is, but if you’ve been sitting on this pattern (seat pun) and you have a bit of a bum, you might want to add volume. Also, the back yoke is narrowest at center back and is cut on the fold. Odd! Or to put it politely, unique!

By the way, I deeply dislike threading elastic into a waistband. It may technically take less time than sewing a fly, but each minute stings like poison because I hate it, and the elastic twists, and I untwist it, and then it twists again, and I hate it. After an estimated four thousand hours, I finally got the elastic lying flat and stitched a line through the center so it could never twist again. Grrr. Comfy though!

The pocket bags are surprisingly generous – they end about an inch and a half above the hem of the shorts. Next time I would consider trapping them in the cuffs so they can’t flap. I love using cuffs to finish, by the way. It conceals so many raw edges and has a nice weight. Everything else is French seamed because she’s (me’s) worth it.

I’m a little worried that these look like formal radiology scrubs, nice finishing and all. Hopefully the frilly little buttons and the piping help prevent that.

Self-fabric flat piping is sort of the Men In Black: International of piping. Maybe nobody worked that hard on it, but it stills seems like unnecessary effort for something pretty hard to see. Sewing it was good low-stakes practice, though! It’s slightly uneven but even I have trouble spotting that. Originally I planned on a ditsy floral contrast fabric but I eventually opted for monotone, both because it aligned with a traditional masculine aesthetic, aaand because I had a big ol’ free piece of scrap fabric. I still do, actually. This took remarkably little piping. I used straight grain pieces on the shorts legs and bias-cut everywhere else.

The collar directions are basically identical to these from the true indie sew-alike, CC Carolyn pajamas, including the part where you kind of fade the piping into the front + facing seam right before it meets the collar. I was surprised at how easy and tidy this was. And though I was initially hesitant to snip into the collar, it must be snipped in order to finish the center section of the seam allowance in a different direction than the ends, and it actually feels secure! Yay!

I sewed the longer version of the shirt and it was a little bit ghastly. Way too long, it covered the majority of the shorts. Instead of redoing the hem properly, I folded it up as much I could and popped another line of sewing on top. I was limited by the preexisting button hole, but I still got a luxurious deep hem (with a secret bonus hem inside).

Speaking of luxury, I bought the fancy buttons to finish this because I wanted a discreet feminine touch (that sounds like code for something, but it’s not) to balance the overt masculine influence. These bitsy enamel sweethearts were over a dollar EACH. I sewed them on FIRMLY.

Unfortunately, my buttonholes were a little too big and the shirt kept unbuttoning itself. I wore it a couple times that way before deciding that spending five annoying minutes to fix the problem represented better value than the five annoyed seconds per button over and over, forever, and I hand-sewed the buttonholes a scotch smaller.

I think this fabric might be Oxford cotton. It has no wrong side and a tiny moiré diamond pattern made from a darker blue and a white thread. It’s sturdy enough that I skipped interfacing the facings, and it holds its shape well enough that it’s still cool on hot days, no clinging. The cotton had just enough body to make gathering the sleeve cap ease kind of a pain, but it’s pajamas, so let it pucker!

I have slept in these, but they’re at their best as lazy daytime PJs. They make me want to linger in bed with a locked room mystery and a stack of hot buttered toast like an idle Woosterian aunt-botherer. These pajamas mean business! And my business is pajamas!

Good night & good luck!

Pattern: B6296

Pattern cost: $1.00

Size: 14 top, 16 bottom

Supplies: 3 yards of cotton (Oxford?), $14.97, Sewfisticated; buttons, $6.64, Gather Here; thread, $2.39, Michael’s

Total time: 11.75 hours

Total cost: $25.00

4 Denimsional

In my continued mission to squeeze value from the MN Dawn Curve pattern until it squeaks, I’ve made another pair of Dawn shorts. I’m not the only one confused by shorts this year, but I figured I couldn’t go wrong with denim – even better, leftover denim from all the other pants I’ve made recently. I had large scraps and more than a little hankering for the bi-color/parti-color/jester trend, so blammo!

These are all rigid denims. The light blue is 10 oz.; the dark blue is 8 oz.; the black used as one back leg is also 8 oz.; and the other black denim is 5 oz. I used that just for the back pockets, coin pocket, and belt loops. I cut those lightweight pieces first and set them aside. Everything else I cut improvisationally. This is the first time I’ve sewn Dawns without tweaking the fit or trying a new view, so I felt good about experimenting elsewhere.

I prioritized making the back from the dark scraps to a) minimize underwear show-through and b) in case I sat in something. I haven’t sat in something, but summer isn’t over yet. I probably could have brought one more light element to the rear, but I love black and blue together, and hopefully wrapping the dark blue to the front makes the front and back feel less separate.

I actually cut belt loops from every fabric and decided to make a call on which to use later, but there’s something to be said for sewing loops from a lighter coordinating fabric. It was so much easier to get through those layers.

You can see I’ve got buckling in the back yoke, but I’m starting to believe this is inevitable in rigid jeans. They just slump after the first day of wear (this is day 2 or 3 for these shorts – non-consecutive, if you’re asking!) but otherwise they wouldn’t fit on day 1 and I’d never get to day 2 anyway!

Oh also, when I sewed my muslin of this in the winter, I noted that the shorts back leg outseam is 1” longer than the front outseam. This time I eased them together, but is that a thing? Easing the outseams? I guess it keeps the hem parallel to the grainline, but it seemed like a lot of excess to ease over a relatively short seam (compared to a full-length pants leg).

I tried the MN button fly directions for this pair. I would class them as effective but inefficient. You’ll be switching between regular thread and topstitching thread way more than necessary if you follow them to the letter, and I know this because I did. I used a hodgepodge of bobbin threads but topstitched each denim tonally, except the light blue; I didn’t have any light blue thread, hence the gold.

Surprisingly the pattern only calls for 3 buttons or rivets on the fly, plus 1 on the waistband – and it was enough! I typically use 5 on the placket, but it’s so much faster to get in and out with just 3 that it makes me 60% more likely to pee. Oh, and my pocket bags are scrap cotton with shades of blue and grey. I’m feeling preeetty happy with the insides of these shorts.

I’ve been using a straight waistband with this pattern, which made it really easy to color block. I cut long rectangles from whatever scraps accommodated that and then placed + trimmed them to match the finished shorts.

I switched topstitching colors on each section of the waistband. Hems too. I pulled the thread to the back and knotted it instead of backstitching. Fiddly, but I like the result!

I’m actually very pleased with these shorts. They’re longer and a bit looser than I usually wear shorts and there seems to be some excess fabric in the front leg/crotch, but they’re comfortable even when my thighs are given full scope, important for such summertime activities as lying in a hammock, sitting on a picnic bench, etc. And I love these scrap colors together (not totally surprising since I bought them all in the first place). Plus it was $FREE$ (as my dad says, ‘if your time was worthless’).

Also, you may have noticed I have a low-poly paper fox head in these photos??? It’s leftover from Halloween 2020 (I made this one, Professor B.F. made a red one) and I had a case of the why-nots. One way to tell I’ve been blogging for a while – three years ago when we first took photos, I was adamant that no one could even be nearby, and for these I unconcernedly unbuttoned my shorts roughly ten feet away from two plumbers conferencing outside their van while balancing a paper fox mask on my head.

No shame in my game anymore. Woof, arf, assorted fox noises. See you soon!

Pattern: MN Dawn Curve jeans

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 14 waist, 16 hip; 16 rise; with lots of changes

Supplies: leftover denim medley; thread, rivets from stash

Total time: 7.5 hours

Total cost: $0.00