Shoulderpad Stellan

The Claudia tank has been all the rage lately, plus I was already primed for shoulderpads because I’ve been watching, for the first time, the 1980s TV show Moonlighting. Gorgeous Cybill Shepherd plays Maddy Hayes, a woman with a shoulder line so strong (and furs so luxurious) she occasionally approaches the rectangular. I have an abiding love for stern yet warm blondes who pal around with jackasses, so this was basically a perfect shoulderpad storm. I also love free things, so I decided to try adding them to the Stellan tee.

Weirdly, I sewed poly again. I swear I’m not a poly pusher, but it’s what I can find locally and I’ve mentioned before how much I hate shipping, especially since this only needed 1 yard of fabric. That small yardage is one of the excellent selling points of the Stellan. I use ‘selling point’ loosely because it’s also free! So yeah, this is a poly lycra – maybe not ideal for summertime, but cheep cheep cheep.

Even if it was good for Mama Earth, though, it was a pain in the butt to sew, so I think I’m done now. I tried a brand-new jersey needle, a brand-new stretch needle, and then two other brand-new jersey and stretch needles (the difference? I don’t know, ask the label on the bitty plastic tray thing) and I still got a lot of skipped stitches. My serger had no trouble so I eventually switched to using just that! For me, serging a pinned seam means staring wild-eyed at my serger blade while thinking don’t forget to pull out the pin don’t forget to pull out the pin NOW NOW NOW DIVE DIVE DIVE oh thank god wait here comes another one don’t forget to pull out the pin…it’s generally not worth the bother. So you know it must have been a frustrating experience on the regular machine to get me to switch.

It was worse when there were only one or two layers of fabric. The hem was particularly impossible to sew; I’d get one zigzag for every inch of loose thread. A straight stitch worked, so I don’t know what the deal was there. Luckily the bottom hem doesn’t need to stretch.

The neckline gave me the most grief. I would have described the Stellan as having a high neck, but not I guess compared to a properly high crew one. It just feels a little scoopy and pretty in this drapey knit. Because of how I sewed the armhole facings, I had to add the neckband in the round, and at first I made it too long so everything drooped. I unpicked and resewed it more like bias binding; I left the first inch loose, so when I met it again I could trim the band, join the band ends unfolded, and then sew the last bit to the neckline. I got a better result stretching by feel, but the gains of tightening the neckband were somewhat mitigated by all that unpicking. I didn’t think knits could stretch out but maybe this did? I kept missing stitches when topstitching, but this pass was the most successful, with just a few unexpected straight stitches amongst the zig-zags.

If I ever decide this should be a regular Stellan, I have enough fabric left to cut sleeves. I anchored the sleeve facings in the neckband, but I could just trim them away if needed. I was worried they would flip out since they’re only sewn at the shoulder + neck, and tacked at the underarm, but they stay in place surprisingly well. I came up with the shape like this:

I removed the shoulder seam allowance so I could merge them into one piece each. They’re about 2” wide at the base of the armscye, and theoretically wide enough to cover the pad at the shoulder (though in practice they barely do).

I did consider not sewing the shoulder pads in place, just tucking them in or maybe adding snaps, but they’re easy to unpick if I ever change my mind. Also, 99¢ a pair! I’m never makin’ my own again!

I’m glad I started with an inexpensive fabric, because there’s definitely room for improvement. I’d like to raise the neckline to a butcher crew neck, narrow the front, and pinch some excess from the front armscye. Also I’d like it to be cotton and navy blue. That said, most of those things bugged me during my initial try-on, but not while actually wearing the shirt.

Honestly, I couldn’t be happier if shoulders become a thing again. I missed them the first time around. And since most of the more playful/exaggerated elements of fashion right now don’t appeal to me, it’s nice to spot a trend I’m excited to participate in! Plus it makes me look way, way stronger than my noodle arms really are. I paired this my greeny-brown Papao pants the other day and was definitely showing off my Earthbender side. Kapow! Punch! Stomp! Etc.

Earth, bent!

Pattern: French Navy Stellan tee

Pattern cost: NA

Size: M

Supplies: 1 yard of polyester lyrca, $4.99, Sewfisticated; shoulderpads, $0.99, Sewfisticated; thread from stash

Total time: 3.25 hours

Total cost: $5.98

Slash-neck Astoria

For sheer relentlessness, you can’t beat Seamwork. I pretty quickly realized that I couldn’t keep up with the deluge of new patterns, but I still have a few from way back when. Of those, one of the ones I most wanted to sew again was the Astoria sweater.

I was inspired by the relaxed Astoria I saw over on I Think I Can Sew It; my first version of this sweater (never blogged) has a tighter, preppier, sweater-bunny kind of fit. It doesn’t layer over things and it tends to creep up. I didn’t want to recreate that look, so I sewed a size L, slightly up from my measurements. And as you can see I altered the neckline to be a slash neck!

I don’t have any patterns with that particular feature, but I thought I could figure it out, and it seems to have worked. This polyester sweater knit was perfect for proof of concept (that’s my diplomatic way of saying “cheap”). I had to buy the end of bolt so I have a strange amount left over, but it was still a bargain.

Steps are below – next time I would use a more generous belly-up curve for the line that bridges the neckline, instead of cutting it almost level, but this worked well enough for a trial run! The most important thing to remember is that you need to finish the edges of your neckline fabric separately, if you decide they need finishing, and not together.

And here’s how it went!

The front is okay, but my stitching is decidedly wobbly on the back neck! It’s a) basically impossible to photograph and b) not a fabric that was particularly happy to be stitch picked, so I’m living with it. I’m mostly jazzed with the fit I got by sizing up, but next time I’d remove a wedge from the center back neck, as it’s not only wobbly, it’s gaping. I suppose it’s due to a nascent dowager’s hump (now if only I had a nascent dower house).  

I felt best using a zig-zag stitch for my topstitching, but of course a double needle is always an option, and you could possibly get away with a straight stitch if you have a wide enough neckline (or a small enough walnut).

The size L sleeves were a little long; I could have trimmed them but in the end I just folded the wide sleeve hems over twice, because I thought sleeves that were slightly too short would be better than sleeves that were slightly too long, especially in cream fabric. It turns out I shove them up to my elbows either way, but they are neater looking inside as a result!

I finished my neckline edges with a serger and sewed my sleeves in flat. I avoid serging in the round whenever possible, so instead of constructing the shirt and the shirt band as two units and joining at the waist, I sewed each unfolded band to each shirt piece, then sewed the side seams from sleeve end to the far edge of the band, making sure the shirt/band seams were pressed down. After folding the band in half I topstitched from the right side to trap the second, inner edge of the band, which I left raw. I could have sewn them as two units, joined them, and then left all the seam allowances raw since I’m so leary of serging in a circle, but that literally just occurred to me now. Oops!  

There’s excess fabric in the armpits but that’s the style now, grandpa! Or actually, that’s not something I feel is a problem comfort-wise, nor a fit issue I notice on other people, and it doesn’t bother me here. Loose-ish = extra-ish fabric, that’s just the deal.   

I had to reprint my Astoria pattern (I lost my last copy), and the Illustrator file wasn’t locked, which I love. Not only was I able to select just the lines for my preferred size, I could also arrange the pattern pieces in a new document to print as efficiently as possible, and I fit the whole shebang onto 12 8.5”x11” sheets of paper. I don’t expect pattern companies to supply individual ultra-efficient print layouts for each size, but I’m really happy when the files are editable and I can do it myself.

I like this sweater more than I expected to. I’m not troubled by high necks, so I just feel very cozy! Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the fabric will age ungracefully. If I make another, with higher-quality fabric, I might do away with the separate band altogether and just integrate it into the shirt front/back. It’s not impossible to tuck it in as-is – my high-waisted bottoms are generally high enough to cover that seam – but it could be better.

I’ll probably stick this in a drawer for the next few months – we went for a weekend away in the Berkshires, where we took these pictures, and it was 45 and raining the whole time (it was amazing, actually, I read a book and ate scones and watched Midsomer Murders), but one week later it’s about to be 90 forever. Blergh. Holler at me if you find more pattern gold in that swift-flowing Seamwork river!

Pattern: Seamwork Astoria sweater

Pattern cost: NA

Size: L

Supplies: 1.75 yards of polyester sweater knit in Cream, Sewfisticated, $8.73; thread from stash

Total time: 2.5 hours

Total cost: $8.73

Marry Bop Kill

I’m not a fabric stasher (#moralsuperiority #onlykiddingIjustdon’thaveanystoragespace) but I accumulate patterns like a ship accumulates barnacles. And like most ships, I don’t need quite as many barnacles as I have. I pulled out a few patterns I haven’t sewn yet to evaluate which ones to try, which ones to good-bye, and why. And I shall of course be rating them with the network-television-friendly standard, Marry Bop Kill!

1.  SOI Amelia bomber (OOS)

Pattern spend – $14.10

Requirements – ~2 yards shell fabric, ~1 yard lining, 16” metal separating zipper

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $20?

Rating – Bop

I purchased this pattern in 2018, I think? Or more accurately, I purchased an unwanted magazine in 2018 in order to obtain this pattern. I smashed the buy button because I liked that the waistband elastic was concealed; having never sewn a bomber, I’m not sure how easy that is to change on any basic bomber pattern! My cost estimation is so low because I’ve actually already cut the shell from scrap fabric. The thing preventing me from moving forward is buying a zipper – I can’t find one locally and with shipping I won’t pay less than $8, which is apparently my pain point, even though I bought a $4 packet of culinary lavender the other day without a peep and that’s like a tablespoon of smelly plant heads. Money is weird. I think I’ll make this once, though probably not until fall. But if it goes well there’s a possibility this one might get bumped up to Marry.     

2. Colette Walden bag (OOS)

Pattern spend – $0

Requirements – ~2 yards main fabrics, ~1 yard lining, a whole buncha notions

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $60 – 75

Rating – Marry

I got this pattern for free at an Artisan Asylum swap, and I can’t remember whether I cut out the pattern pieces or the previous owner did. Either way, it’s good to go! This is a perfectly nice bag pattern. I’m most likely to make Version 3, the satchel/bike pannier version. I have no current plans to make this but it’s a basic bag, so it’s not like it’s going to go stale; I just have to wait for bag fever to strike. I’ll hang on to this pattern indefinitely, so it can take awhile and that’s fine!

3. Butterick 5895 (OOS)

Pattern spend – $1

Requirements – ~1.5 yards fabric, 4 buttons

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $20

Rating – Bop

This is an old Gertie pattern with good reviews. Do I have an urgent desire to dress like a rockabilly sweetheart? I do not. Can I picture a scenario where that specific desire rules me? Sure. I traced the blouse pattern ages ago, but I might trace the pants too; I didn’t want clamdiggers until I read the island-life memoir Onions in the Stew and saw the author photo of Betty MacDonald (not that one, but she’s adorable in all of them, which is so frustrating because her visual and written adorableness is ruined by plain racism. The non-racist parts of her memoirs are irresistible but I can only recommend them as proof that racism can cohabitate with charm, and it doesn’t excuse or eliminate the racism, gaddamn it Betty!!). Anyway, my copy cost $1 because I got it from the clearance bin at Winmill Fabrics, back when that existed. Now it goes online for over $30 in places, woof!

4. M7936

Pattern spend – $5.49

Requirements – ~2 – 4 yards of fabric, 22” invisible zipper

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $25 – 60

Rating – Bop/kill? Black widow spider?

I pictured this full-length in denim with some hardware or maybe made from a dropcloth so I can wear it as a stylish coverall when I throw pottery* (*I have never thrown pottery and have no current plans to throw pottery. I have, however, watched The Great Pottery Throw Down). The short view is also a potential candidate for bicolor/vertical color blocking, whatever it’s called. There’s some v. v. cute versions to be found online but I remain reluctant. I’m not sure why! But there is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to jumpsuits, or omitted all the voyages of my life are bound in separates. I dunno.

5. M6993

Pattern spend – $12.79

Requirements – ~2 – 3 yards of fabric, 9” zipper

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $20 – 70

Rating – Betrothed

I want to be a skirt person! Specifically, a vintage skirt person, i.e. a sensible but imperiled Agatha Christie brunette! It’s hard to picture wearing this while spotting students in and out of trees or arguing about yogurt, but maybe I’ll be weekend fancy. I really want this to suit me (hence Betrothed), but I’m unlikely to try until fall. I could see this in flannel or wool, hence the difference in estimated costs, because Gather Here stocks some pricey Merchant and Mills wools that are full cartoon-wolf-eye-pop beautiful. You know, this guy. But I have also rehomed nearly every skirt I own. I’m a leg isolationist! We will see.

6. M7726

Pattern spend – $3.49

Requirements – ~1.5 – 4 yards of fabric, 9” zipper

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $20 – 45

Rating – Kill

New rule: I can’t Google this!! Every time I look at this pattern my heart shrugs, then I see other peoples’ versions and I think I want it again. I don’t! Kill! Kill kill kill!! I think what I’m trying to say is, is there 12-step support system for giving away pants patterns?

7. Lisette B6296

Pattern spend – $1

Requirements – ~3 – 6 yards main fabric, ~1/2 yard binding fabric, 4 – 5 buttons, ~1 yard of 1” elastic

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $30 – 80

Rating – Marry

I haven’t sewn this yet because even the bittiest version (short sleeves and shorts) is a pretty big time investment. I can reliably find 100% cotton and cotton/linen blends at Sewfisticated for $5 – 6 a yard, so it really is time more than money. Though I’d like to make a winter flannel version someday, and since I’m a big Kaufman Mammoth flannel fan, that could get expensive. Owning this $1 pattern has already saved me at least $16, though, because it inoculated me against buying the CC Carolyn pajamas.

I haven’t traced this yet, which is a blessing in disguise, because it’s another throwback Winmill find. I have absolutely flourished in the years since then and that flourishment = nourishment; retracing it would be a pain in my ever-improving booty, so my past laziness is my present reward. Moral!!   

8. Thread Theory Comox trunks – click through for wilderness-flavored French postcards (I mean, it’s the official photos, but eyebrow waggle)

Pattern spend – $5.87

Requirements – ~1 yard of fabric, ~1 yard of elastic

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $15

Rating – Marry

Embarrassingly I bought the PDF of this a couple years ago, and have yet to even print the pattern. It’ll be, what? 6 pages of paper? Next to no fabric? I’m happy to make this for Professor Boyfriend (clearly theoretically since I haven’t touched it), but it is my secret heart-hope that I can make this pattern work for me. There’s a tutorial on the Thread Theory blog for a low-front-volume version but I’d like to try eliminating the pouch entirely. Again, so, so theoretically. I will now cheerfully forget I own this pattern for another year. Anyway, Marry. Is this a good system??

9. Peppermint patterns, generally

Pattern spend – $0

Requirements – as many yards of linen as you desire

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $20 – infinity

Rating – Kill

Wait!! Listen! These are beautiful patterns. I want to love them. But I’ve printed and assembled the playsuit, the jumpsuit (twice, because my size changed!), the harvest top, and the button-up dress, and then I just tucked them into plastic sleeves and ignored them. Why? I don’t know why! But I am experiencing an outsize amount of guilt for ignoring these and if I don’t care enough to reprint a pattern why would I spent my time and money making the garment? I downloaded but haven’t printed the pocket skirt, and I feel much more interested in that pattern, I think because unprinted PDFs don’t judge. I did make the wide-leg pants twice, though! Also this should in no way be taken as a criticism of linen. Linen and I are very happy together. Even in-love substrates fight sometimes.

I’m sure I have more unused patterns lingering here and there, but these are officially on my watch list. If I don’t make these by the end of the year, blammo! They’re outta here! Given that I just make jeans over and over, there’s a real chance this is the last time you’ll see any of them. Except the pajamas. They’re timeless. And the bag, obviously. And maybe the Gertie outfit…okay fine! I stash patterns. YOU GOT ME! See you soon!

Balloons Below

I don’t typically enjoy tracing/rubbing existing clothes, but I recently got access to a pair of Madewell balloon leg cropped jeans and I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity. You know that bit in P&P where Mr. Darcy tells Elizabeth how ardently he admires her? He was quoting me, talking to a pair of jeans. I actually considered buying a pair, but when it comes to pants I’d rather sew them every time (even if there’s no fit advantage to doing so! I love the process!) so I saddled up for a RTW dupe experiment.

Sneaky peeky (with inner waistband short end on the selvedge)…

And here’s the very candid photos of the ‘official’ pair, for reference.

I’d usually try to match an existing garment to a pattern, but with a pair right in front of me I wanted to try making a direct copy. Unfortunately, the process by which I copied them isn’t really applicable unless you get lucky in a similar way. Here was my recipe:

Step 1 – visit your sister + family for the first time in over a year and a half, thanks to a combination of vaccinations and negative rona tests

Step 2 – your sister is wearing really really excellent jeans

Step 3 – try on her jeans and discover, miraculously, you like the fit

Step 4 – borrow some leftover wrapping paper and a yardstick from your mother

Step 5 – grab a pencil, best-guess the grainlines, and spend the first afternoon where your immediate family has been within an ocean of each other doing math-y arts-and-crafts while muttering to yourself at the table where your four-year-old nephew would really rather be doing his dino puzzle

I didn’t have any tracing paper, and feeling the raised edges of the seams through wrapping paper wasn’t working for me. Taking and transferring measurements seemed like my best bet. The Madewell website has a few key measurements that let me check my process – I didn’t look at it until I was done, for independent verification.

The front leg went really well, and I got the finished 26” inseam right. The back leg was harder (possibly because I couldn’t lay it flat) and while I ended up with an outseam only ¼” longer than the front leg’s outseam (woo!), the inseam as I drew it was only 23”. I’d be fine with the back inseam being a little shorter, based on patterns I’ve sewn in the past, but 3”! Woof! My finished hem circumference was also 16”, as opposed to the ‘official’ 15”, but that was an easy adjustment. I chose to remove the whole inch of width from the inside back leg hem instead of dividing it among seam allowances. Then, I lengthened the back inseam as shown. I don’t know if this is technically sound, but it’s the way I could think of that added length without excess width.

It also changes the angle of the hips, but not necessarily for the worse. The width stays the same, because anything I lost on the inseam side I added back to the outseam side (about ¼”). It’s still ¾” shorter than the front inseam, but that’s consistent with my commercial patterns.

My traced yoke also ended up ¾” narrower on the horizontal than my measurement of the top of the back leg. I divided it on my (guessed) grainline and popped a little more wrapping paper in the gap.

I didn’t trace the fly shield, pocket bags/facings, waistband, or belt loops, but they were rectangles so I just whipped them up myself. The original waistband was straight so the only curved line I had to invent was the bottom of the pocket bag; I used Ginger’s.

Oh and of course, I added seam allowances. I cut a little cardboard shim 5/8” wide and moved it around the perimeter of my copied pieces, drawing an outline as I went, which I found easier than measuring over and over and connecting the dots.

The pattern pieces didn’t raise any alarm bells – they looked like pants, which was the idea. Since what makes these jeans special is the shape of the leg, I didn’t feel like a shorts muslin would be that valuable and I decided to jump right in with fashion fabric! Plus I had a coupon. I ordered this denim from Stylemaker Fabrics; Madewell doesn’t list the weight of their denim, but I (and my machine) like sewing 10 oz. denim, and the value was right (color is brighter, but I like it).

Final, possibly fatal decision – do I plan for success or budget for failure? I decided to plan for mitigated success, and part of that plan was staystitching everything except the back leg inseams. I sewed the front ‘officially’ the first time, with double lines of topstitching, but I basted the back yokes and back center seam, before basting the long leg seams. So even if I had totally nailed everything, I’d have to unpick and resew most of the pants anyhow!

Luckily (luckily?) the back needed adjustment. I scooped the back crotch curve ¼” and narrowed the center back 7/8”, blending to nothing at the crotch extension. That’s about what I added to the yoke pattern piece, by the way, so I guess it was my leg measurements that were off! I also narrowed the side seams ¼” just at the waist. I was happy with the yoke/back leg seam shaping, so that was my only “wasted” basting, which isn’t so bad. Then I stitched them up for real…and…well… 

I’m a happy bunny! They’re not identical to the Madewell pair (not even that close) but they’re not bad at all! I pitched my side seam curve a little low – the ‘belly’ of the curve should be higher on the leg – and the fabric is obviously newer/not artfully faded, and I added more rivets – but otherwise not bad! I would go as far as to say…GOOD!

As the denim relaxes I’m noticing some issues (namely, there’s some puddling in the yoke) but that’s highly adjustable if I make another pair, and overall I’m happy.

This ‘wedgie’ style isn’t the fit I usually go for, but it mirrors the original and truth be told I think it makes my rear view look like ten thousand American dollars.

So listen! The sensible thing to have done would have been to add a convex curve to the outseam of an existing pattern (or bought a new pattern, like this or that). But I enjoyed the time I spent on these. I learned more this way, often by investigating my owned patterns further, and taking a few measurements from those I wear regularly for comparison. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, you can find it here. These are also all patterns I’ve adjusted (usually for full stomach and full thighs, and grading across sizes too) so these measurements differ from the fresh-from-the-printer pattern pieces, but since they’re all adjusted for me, the relationships should be consistent.

Anyway, They Might Be Giants, this is where they make balloons!

Pattern: traced from Madewell balloon jeans

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 29

Supplies: 1.75 yards of Soft Mid Weight Denim Bleached Blue – 10 oz, Stylemaker Fabrics, $25.00; zipper, Sewfisticated; thread, Michael’s, $3.79; rivets from stash

Total time: 10.75 hours

Total cost: $28.79

The Neutral Zone

This might be the simplest thing I’ve shared yet. But If you think I can’t write a post about two zooped-together pieces of fabric, I cordially invite you to listen to my not-tight-five on many topics, from Angela Lansbury’s 70+ year career to my extended opinions on draculas in romantic fiction (their feet and hands are always cold and they don’t watch any current television, WHO SEEKS THAT OUT). Anyway, here we go.

This is the Sew House Seven Tabor v-neck, or what I’m calling a Tabor scoop. As you can guess, the neckline took a turn! I started with the thinner lapped band, but I flattened the base of the “v” (so essentially “cutting off” the point of the shirt front neckline by raising it, and actually, literally cutting off the point of the neckband). This was straightforward to sew, and it may have worked stylistically with the widest lapped band, but visually, at this scale, it was wishy-washy. The neckline hung in a noncommittal curve, and it looked like the width of the band fluctuated by accident. I had already topstitched the seam allowance (though on the back neckline only) when I decided the whole thing had to go.

I am not an impulsive person. I own many rulers. My motto is “when in doubt, do without”. I love my stitch picker. But I folded this shirt symmetrically along the center line, grabbed my shears, and lopped off the band and seam allowance in a freehand curve. I turned the edge over once and topstitched and hey, guess what! It’s fine! It’s a little wide, and by necessity the back neckline ended up a bit too scoopy, but it is OK-hand-sign-emoji by me.

There’s something to be said for the lowest possible stakes, helped by the extreme affordability of this fabric. Sewfisticated is a fabulous fabric store with two puns in its name (one of them even makes sense!) and my favorite thing about it is that you have to work pretty hard to spend more than $10/yard there. That makes it a good place to shop if you’re feeling experimental; I hoped to find two colors of linen for a bicolor look (they’re everywhere and I’ve succumbed), but instead I walked out with this and another knit in cream. It was an odd impulse buy. I worried this shirt would be a Beige Alert (those damned neutrals!), and also it’s polyester, but for under $5 and about two hours of my time I got something I actually like.

I single-folded the sleeve and body hems, same as the neck. I topstitched the shoulder seam with a straight stitch because I’m between clear elastics and I hoped it would add stability.

All my other topstitching is a zig-zag stitch in a functionally invisible shade of dark grey. This sandy cookies-and-cream color hides a lot of sins; I missed like an inch of the hem, but danged if I can see where!

But what did you overcomplicate this time? Was it the sleeve hem? Thank you for asking, yes it was! First I sewed and topstitched the shoulder seam.  Next I folded and sewed into place the sleeve hem, starting and stopping 1” from each end. Then I sewed and finished the side seams, making sure the sleeve hem was unfolded where my stitching line crossed it. Finally, I re-folded the hem and stitched the last two inches. All to avoid sewing in the round as much as possible! Another option would have been to hem the sleeve edge fully before sewing the side seams, but I was wary of a serged seam just stopping without a hem to ‘seal’ it (and I didn’t want thread ends in my armpit).  

This was my first time trying the curved hem option of the Tabor, and it’s a nice gentle curve. I don’t like the shape of my previous Tabors untucked, with the straight/mitered hem, but I can live with this (I mean, I haven’t worn a tee-shirt untucked in years – if my jeans have a nine-inch zipper you’re going to see ALL NINE OF THEM, that’s the POINT, but still).

I’d make another one of these! It would be even zippier if I planned ahead not to use the neckband. I’m a bit agog, in fact – my “two pattern piece” patterns usually involve a whole lot of bias binding not included in that total, so literally two pieces?? What?? You could sneeze and one of these would come out. There’s nothing to it. The only problem is that setting up my ironing board, sewing machine, and serger is a pain in the butt if I’m going to put them away again an hour later!

Dare I wonder if my future holds…BATCH SEWING?!

Oh, and you’re seeing bits of the jeans I’m going to write about next week, but I thought denim twice in a row might be trying the patience of even you lovely folks. Next time. : )  

Pattern: Sew House Seven Tabor v-neck

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 10

Supplies: 1 yard of polyester sweater knit in Cookies and Crème, $3.99, Sewfisticated; thread from stash

Total time: 2.25 hours

Total cost: $3.99

Darkest Dawns

I didn’t think I had too many pairs of jeans until I began regularly using the phrase “I’m not a denimhead, but”. I just love sewing jeans, and this pair was an easy comfort sew. Probably I should have taken it a little less easy, though, because the fit isn’t great!

Let’s rewind. These are Megan Nielsen Dawn jeans, the tapered view. I made one pretty bad muslin, and then adjusted the pattern and sewed one pretty good ‘real’ pair. This pair uses the pretty-good adjustments, plus a couple more, but with less success. These are shown on the 3rd (and final) day of wear, by the way (they are actually foxy and wrinkle-free right out of the dryer, but only for a few hours).

I started from a 14 waist, 16 hips, with a 16 rise. Here’s my list of total adjustments, with the new ones for this pair in bold:

  • ¼” small waist adjustment
  • 3/8” wide hip adjustment
  • removed ¼” from center front at waist
  • removed ½” from center back at waist
  • scooped butt curve ¾” deeper
  • lengthened front crotch extension by ¼”
  • lengthened back crotch extension by ½”
  • lowered back pocket placement by 1”
  • enlarged back pockets by ½” per side
  • integrated front fly pieces into the front legs
  • used a straight waistband

Bigger bum pockets, A+. Integrated fly extensions (and Ginger zip installation method), A++. Straight waistband…eh? B+, A-? Hard to judge in this fabric. The most significant issues stem from the denim, which is thin and crispy. I think either a heavier denim or a softer denim would be more *discreet* about my fitting problems, instead of the extremely obvious and sharp wrinkles I have here. Also, the waistband crumples. But most importantly, because I sewed my pretty-good pair with much thicker fabric, I think by comparison this pair came up a little…big? I’m not used to that. A hot wash & dry helps a lot, but the crotch is still busily wrinkled.

I spent a while staring at my own reflection, confronted with new-to-me wrinkles. I tried pinching and binder clipping excess fabric at a few different points, and what I came up with was: I just don’t know.

The extra fabric under my butt goes away if I sit down or angle a leg forward, so I assume that’s necessary for wearing ease.

The extra fabric in the front crotch smoothes out if I stand up exaggeratedly straight, but that’s not really part of my daily life in the same way sitting and walking is. If I tug the front leg fabric back (jerry-rigged test to see if I should shorten the front crotch extension), there’s no improvement. If I tug the fabric up (to see if I should shorten the vertical rise), it’s distinctly worse. I guess it’s probable that the front crotch curve needs to be shallower – it would make the crotch shorter overall, but wouldn’t affect the extension where it fits my inner thigh, or the rise.

Or it might just be that if I want to wear this cut, on my excellent bod, I’m gonna get these wrinkles! I wish I had used this fabric for something else – specifically, how good would it have been as Clyde pants?! But as the wisdom says, It’s Only Fabric.

And in any case, the pants are really comfortable. Pandemic or not, I like high hard pants. There’s no give in the fabric so I definitely couldn’t do yoga in these, but I already don’t do yoga, so problem solved.

Favorite new trick: selvage is useful not only for the outside edge of the belt loops and the unfolded edge of the fly shield, but also for the short end of the waistband underlap. It makes a neat, low-bulk finish. Yay woven selvage!

I made a couple very mild style swings on this pair. I used a traditional button instead of a jeans rivet to keep a low profile (oooh) and left the hems raw (aaah). I put a line of stitching ¼” from the raw edge as a safeguard. Then, after a wash, I trimmed the fringe neatly, somewhat mitigating my supercool edginess.

I remember reading something, somewhere, about softening natural fibers by soaking them in a solution of a common household good (like baking soda, not necessarily baking soda though) – does that ring a bell for anybody? I think I’d like these better if they weren’t so crunchy, but fabric softener seems like a no-go (I searched “is fabric softener…” and Google auto-filled “…bad?”, and the results said “Yup!”).

These are worn with a cupro knit Stellan tee, which is one of my favorite Stellans. It’s got a cool hand and it’s very slithery, so much so in fact that it slithers right out of my stitching and has been mended in several places. I’ll continue to fix it, because I love it.

Honestly I’m really fine with the jeans, too. Like I said, I’MNOTADENIMHEADBUT here’s an excellent excuse to iterate further. As always, I end up back where I started: thinking about sewing jeans.

Pattern: MN Dawn jeans (Curve, tapered view)

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 14 waist/16 hip & rise, with many changes

Supplies: 1 2/3 yards of Mid Weight Cotton Denim Black – 10 oz, Stylemaker Fabrics, $25.00; zipper, Gather Here, $1.60; thread, Michael’s, $3.70

Total time: 4.25 hours

Total cost: $30.30

Short Marlo

First, go check out Heather’s Overall This 2020 Nonsense dungarees – aren’t they terrific?! Unfortunately she can’t totally endorse the pattern (unfortunately for me, mainly, because her finished pair is beautiful and beautifully made, and now I want some too). Anyway, go feast your eyes, and enjoy her detailed review!

Okay now look at me again. ; ) Like a sweater-y Lady Macbeth, I didn’t let “I dare not” wait upon “I would” and here’s my second Marlo already.

This True Bias Marlo is the cropped view, size 10, in Pacific French terry from iseefabric. It’s the second half of my fabric splurge and I had some trouble choosing which shade of blue I wanted. Eventually I just sort of squeezed my eyes shut and picked one, and when it arrived the color didn’t match the one shown on my monitor, but I’m happier this way. It’s the perfect dark teal I always hope to find. It’s not madly warm (the waffle knit is cozier); I often assume French terry is warmer than it is, I need to break that habit. It’s more like wearing a soft and sexy sexy towel.

Last time I talked mostly about the finished sweater and less about the Marlo pattern itself, so I wanted to mention that it’s simple but great. When a pattern is uncomplicated I really expect everything to line up perfectly and this one does that, with ample notches. I was initially surprised by the soft, gradual shape of the seam where the bottom of the armscye meets the side, but for a big sweater with big sleeves it doesn’t feel like too much fabric ends up in my armpits, thanks I think to that transition. Also it’s easy to serge because it doesn’t create a sharp inside corner.

I’d like to find a better way of marking notches; I usually cut them outwards, but because so many of these pattern pieces are straight-edged, you can butt them right up against each other to save fabric. But, then I can’t cut my notches pointing out. I used a white charcoal pencil to trace pattern pieces (leftover either from the days when I was forced to draw with charcoal, or from the days when I forced my students to draw with charcoal) and it tends to rub off. I might need a better tool.     

Sewing this was pretty straightforward, especially with the directions fresh in my mind, but I tried a tweak. Instead of adding the cuff in the round, as directed, I tried to keep it flat for as long as possible, like so…

I’m not sure that it made that much difference to the overall difficulty. I still ended up hand-sewing the inner edge of the cuff. It might have felt easier if I had actually sewn the cuff to the sleeve on the first try! Instead I sewed (and serged the seam, luckily with the knife off) one cuff to the bottom edge of the left front. I had to really stretch the bejeezus out of the cuff to get them to match, too! Unpicking loop-back French terry is not my all-time favorite.

I managed to snag the back of the fabric this time too, same as my last Marlo. Only this time I made a hole, but it was with the edge of my fingernail so what am I sposed to do, not have fingernails? It’s on the inside of the cuff and I ironed a little piece of interfacing to the back. I could have re-cut the piece but I didn’t notice the hole until I had attached it and I couldn’t face unpicking this one cuff anymore.

Once again I used the low-stretch band, and it’s a little sloppy at the back neck, though not critically. Since I’m never going to wear the cropped Marlo unbuttoned, I serged and topstitched the inner edge, and it went fine. French terry seems to like a bit of topstitching, IMO. I topstitched the shoulder seams too – this fabric is a bit springy, and the grosgrain ribbon I used in those seams doesn’t match, and I didn’t want it to peek out (I’d be the only one who’d see it, but I’m “I”! I care!).

These aren’t the buttons I thought I wanted – I was hoping to find something largish in light wood – but I couldn’t find that locally, and I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy these expensive washable ceramic buttons for uhhh a while. I didn’t sew buttonholes, just attached the buttons through both layers. This was lucky, because I guessed at placement again; initially I had sewn a fourth, higher button, but when I tried on the top I was getting intense drag lines, so I removed it. My breastbone resembles an uninhabited steppe from my collarbone to my bra band, and lowering a neckline a couple inches makes no significant difference to the look/my comfort otherwise, so it was all to the good.

I might switch them someday, because I think the weight of the buttons throws off the balance of the sweater. Or equally I might not; I like the color and the card of five buttons cost eight American dollars!!! That’s sandwich money!

After having sewn both views, I can confidently say this pattern is a keeper. And if you buy your fabric by the fractional yard, the cropped view in size 10 only takes 1.5 yards, not 2 as listed. I could only buy whole yards so now I have .5 yards of luxurious organic French terry kicking around. I’m thinking of making my hot water bottle a coordinating sweater (its name is Hot Walter, and it deserves the best). Wishing you the best, too!

croppe–

Pattern: True Bias Marlo sweater, cropped

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 10

Supplies: 2 yards of organic French terry knit in Pacific, iseefabric, $31.90; thread from stash; buttons, Gather Here, $8.00

Total time: 3.75 hours

Total cost: $39.90

Stroopwafel Marlo

I’m not tempted by some luxuries – like, as far as I can tell, a luxury hotel room is still a stuffy bland box and a luxury car is still a roll-y box that goes beep. And then some seem totally worth it – tea and chocolate, haircuts with good-smelling shampoo, the Petit Trianon. Happily my recent splurge showed me that nice knit fabrics fall into the second category. I got myself 2 2-yard cuts from iseefabric for my birthday, hoping to fill in some holes in my homemade wardrobe. The colors are beautiful, they’re squishy and warm, and they showed up as two wonderful fat rolls snuggled in a box. Budget-wise this is going to be a Sometimes Food, but I have no regrets!

This is the first of them, a waffle knit in the color maple. It’s quite possibly the power of suggestion that led me to pick this color (maple + waffle! Delicious!) but it’s a closet pal and gets along with most other colors. It was really fun to work with – satisfying to handle and sew, it even held a press well, thanks to 95% The Fabric of Our Lives (also 5% The Spandex of Our Lives). The drape is heavy. It’s warm. It’s soft. Basically, I love it.

Speaking of loving it, this is the Marlo sweater by True Bias, and uh…I love it also. This was the other part of my birthday gift to me. Basically I bought this sweater pattern and used it to blackmail myself into buying fancy fabric (“If you don’t buy fancy fabric you’ll be wasting $14 and untold cents of toner!”). And I used the fancy fabric to make myself buy the pattern (“If you don’t lay out the pattern and calculate the amount of fabric you need yourself, you might buy the wrong amount!”). It worked like a charm, I never saw it coming.

My size – 10 bust, graded to a 14 hip – called for 2.2 yards of 54” wide fabric, but I found 2 yards to be more than sufficient (this is mainly important when ordering online, especially since iseefabric only sells whole-yard cuts). Mine doesn’t have pockets, but I did cut the pocket pieces out, interface them, hem the tops and everything, only to discover I couldn’t turn or attach the rounded corners to my own satisfaction. I stitched one on before deciding that the stretch of the fabric + texture of the fabric + asymmetrical corners weren’t going to fly. Unpicking went almost flawlessly, but then I snagged one little thread on the back of the sweater front. It doesn’t seem to have run, so I’m hopeful!

I do have enough scrap fabric to recut the pockets as squares. I might. I feel the lack of them, but I’m not confident I can sew them as neatly as I’d like.

The fabric has a very relaxed recovery so this sweater definitely grew in the making. It will probably shrink back again someday (Spandex), but I don’t know when! I added grosgrain ribbon to the shoulder seams as suggested, which is attractive and functional (as opposed to clear elastic, which is just functional), but it’s attached to the back so you can’t see it anyway.

Because of the fabric’s lack of springiness/recovery, I cut the longer band, even though it stretched more than 40%. That’s probably why it kind of slumps at the center back.

Because I didn’t stretch the band much, though, I was able to hand-sew the inner edge. That’s right, I used the ‘fancy finishing’ method on the bands and cuffs, only more so. I felt mildly goofy hand-sewing on a knit but I didn’t think I could machine stitch perfectly on the first try, and I didn’t want to risk unpicking again! Also, I don’t have matching serger thread (I have two colors – black and white).

I was forewarned by Beck’s post that the last 10 pages of the print-at-home PDF were just the button placement guides for each size. I decided to print none of them, to avoid waste, so my buttons ended up sCanDoloUsLY low.

The buttons, by the way, are vintage leather from my never-ending flea market bag and are also arguably waffle-esque, which I enjoy. I like the brown tones together a lot (alternative color family name, “caramel macchiato”).

The elements of this project were expensive but the final sweater does feel truly luxurious, and luckily not like a sad beige bag. And I’m definitely going to make another Marlo! I want to try the cropped view next. think the success of this piece is due partly to a solid pattern, but a lot to the fanciness of the fabric. Now that I’ve had a taste of the good stuff, I want more grade-A maple syrup every day!   

Pattern: True Bias Marlo sweater, long view

Pattern cost: $14.00

Size: 10 bust, 14 hips

Supplies: 2 yards of organic cotton thermal waffle knit in Maple, iseefabric, $31.90; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 6.25 hours

Total cost: $45.90

Quilted Jacket 3 (and done!)

IT IS DONE. I will now smile beneficently at Harrison Ford and crumble into dust. Actually, more realistically, I’ll spill tea on myself and then weep salty tears, but my QUILTED JACKET IS FINALLY FINISHED.

Thank you everyone for humoring me on this journey – I’ve spent so many hours exclusively on this one piece over the past month and a half, I think I’d pop if I couldn’t talk about it! This is the final stage, quilting + construction.

First, quilting! As I mentioned last time, I was worried about the stress of hand quilting, but I made two significant discoveries: 1., I didn’t like the look of machine quilting on this. Commenter Elizabeth suggested checking if my machine could mimic hand stitching. Brilliant idea; sadly it doesn’t have that functionality, and the one-thread stitching looked kind of wimpy, while the idea of double-stitching all those lines (what if one wobbled!!) also made me want to cry salty tears (this post co-hosted by salty tears). Still, I machine quilted the whole back panel before jumping ship. Luckily I then discovered:

2., I had been hand quilting wrong. Not horribly wrong, but I had been working on my lap instead of a table. It was much more comfortable and sustainable at a table! I usually worked in 15 minutes – 1 hour increments, which was a little challenging because it turns out hand quilting is pretty hypnotic and more-ish (especially with TV on). There is now a little flocked pattern where I gouged our soft pine table with the needle over and over, so maybe throw down a magazine or something first if you’re trying this on an Ikea Ingo.    

Some of my knots are definitely secured better than others. I confidently expect having to re-do some lines as they work themselves loose, but I have plenty of extra thread. Also, only a small proportion of my stitches actually show on the backing, so I guess despite the table scarification I wasn’t sticking the needle through enough. That said, I’m super happy with the final look! It’s wrinkly and uneven but it plays so much more nicely with my imprecise piecing than the machine stitches. And the doubled thread is punchier.

Also, I decided to keep my second belt! Redemption!!

You know people who are like “Oh I’m much more comfortable in stilettos, something something arches”? I’ve never really felt in my bones how that could be true. However, I’m ready to believe now that I’ve melded with my thimble. At first it felt ungainly, but I got to the point where I forgot I was wearing it and only noticed when I went to do something else and felt it clack against the oven handle or a doorknob. I nabbed one at a local swap (well over a year ago now) and it’s just been sitting. Why was I ever hand-sewing without it?!

After the quilting, the jacket was practically done (which is different than actually done, as it turns out). Still, I let the pieces sit for a while as I thought about how to handle the shawl collar/back neck junction, and eventually I decided to figure it out on the day. It’s obvious in retrospect but without a facing the bound center-collar seam shows at the back! I had a belated “duuuh” moment, but in a garment with so much visible binding, I wasn’t going to quibble about a little peek at the neck.

I couldn’t figure out how to bind the shoulder and neck seams so I just shoved them under a yoke-ish facing – it’s machine sewn along the back neck, and hand sewn along the shoulders and bottom hem. I had to clip into the corners of the front panels and clip away the corners of the back panels to fold them down but everything is nice and tucked away inside.

I also had to ease the back shoulder seam to match the shorter front shoulder seam but I’m not sure if this is a pattern feature or a me-adding-a-shawl-collar bug.

I forgot to show you the pockets last time! They have a batting layer and are lined with the background ‘Putty’ cotton. My only serging is inside these pockets – the top edge is sewn to the lining right-sides-together, then flipped and understitched, but the other three sides got the zoop. These are indeed machine-sewn in place, but there’s a non-zero chance I’ll go back and sew them invisibly instead. We’ll seeee.

I made oodles of bias tape that was a little skinny so I bound seams separately as much as possible, which led to a slight sequencing issue at the side seams. Ultimately I sewed each side seam from the underarm to an inch above the pattern notch (so on my version, to the top yellow horizontal stripe), bound everything, and then sewed the rest of the side seam, including sewing over the finished binding. I deeply covet the squared-off binding finish used by Studio Quirk used on her drop-dead-beautiful Tamarack, but I couldn’t work it out (and oddly I can’t leave a comment on her blog to ask, I always get an error message). I sewed one edge of the bias tape by machine, and the other by hand. This involved further television.

I had enough binding fabric left to cut two extra-wide strips to go around the armscye seam allowances – 2” wide, as opposed to the 1.25” wide I used elsewhere, which had no chance of covering all the layers there – and then – I was done?!

A mere 48 or so hours of sewing later. I could have cried salty tears – twist – OF JOY!! This is the only thing I worked on in February and part of March. I think it might have been worth it. I learned a ton and I really enjoyed myself, and the time was going to pass whether or not I used it. I can see errors in the quilting, the piecing, wrinkles in the construction, and why why why did I not use neon green binding, but I really don’t care. I intended this as a warm stylish house jacket but I am definitely going to take this show on the road. Jacket, prepare to get worn everywhere!

Also, I’m not sure if you can tell, but I’m slightly favoring one arm – I got my first vaccine shot! No side effects except for a sore shoulder. I’ll be fully vaccinated in mid-April!

Thanks for reading!

Pattern: Grainline Tamarack

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 12, with added shawl collar

Supplies: .5 yards binding, 2.5 yards backing, 2 yards batting, 5 1/3 yards various cottons, Gather Here, $108.49; thread, Sewfisticated and Michaels, $5.39

Total time: 49 hours

Total cost: $113.88

Winter Shirtdress

I’m so close to being done with my quilted jacket, but not quite. In the meantime, I have something a little less exuberant to share – actually this is another farewell tour, so say hello & goodbye to my would-be-could-be-but-isn’t go-to winter shirtdress.

After two consecutive winters of wearing this zero times, it’s time to say goodbye (I’ve yet to successfully integrate a dress into my casual wardrobe). This particular experiment hails from 2017 and is mostly a Deer & Doe Melilot, with guest star, the fabled but rarely seen Grainline Archer bum ruffle. I alternate between thinking that ruffle is pretty unappealing and craaaving a bum ruffle Archer shirt; it’s the honey mustard pretzel bites of shirt views.

The fabric is brushed cotton, 4 yards of Kaufman Grizzly Plaid cotton to be precise. It’s soft but less bulky than their Shetland flannel. 2017 Lia was apparently pretty apprehensive about fabric thickness though, since a lot of my decisions appear to have been made to reduce bulk, unfortunately sometimes at the expense of quality/longevity. I was also living that new-serger life, which contributed.

The inner collar stand has a serged bottom edge, which is surprisingly not too obvious. I pictured this being worn done all the way up the neck, and it is the way it looks best, but I really put baby in a corner, style-wise, there. Cover your collarbones or reveal your lazy serging, hussy! The collar is closed by a silver ring snap, and there’s a second snap about 3 inches below that one. And for the rest of the placket…nothin’. It’s funny for me to revisit old projects; I’ve become a sewing completist since then. I would have placed snaps all along the placket nowadays, whether or not I planned to use them.

This isn’t the first popover placket I’ve bungled, but it’s among the worst! Since the Melilot has a full placket I would have followed an online tutorial; I don’t remember which, but this nice, recent CC one makes it clear that it’s just a sleeve placket writ large. I’m not sure how I made it so complicated, but line up it does not.

My other bulk-reduction moment is in the sleeves – I wanted to wear this with a rolled cuff, and again didn’t leave any other choice, since the sleeves are finished with scrap cotton cuffs. Serged on the outside, no less.

I like the visual balance of the cuff but the placement is just wrong. I thought a full-length sleeve would be overwhelming on a dress, but I judged the shortened sleeve length incorrectly, so it’s not very comfortable; the cuffs sit over my elbows, so I’m always either tugging them down or feeling them ride up.

The interior seams are serged as well, except the hem, which I finished with bias tape. I like the extravagantly swoopy Melilot shirt hem and I transferred it downwards. That does make the sides pretty short!

Plaid matching fell by the wayside as I adjusted this dress. Originally I lengthened the Melilot shirt (size 42) by 11” and added extra space for my hips. I used the shape of the Melilot back, but divided at the height placement and along the curve of the Archer bum ruffle seam. The lower half is also mostly Melilot, with the upper edge shape and width of the bum ruffle. This turned out to be a series of nopes. I had to shorten the top back to raise the ruffle by 1.5” to make it even barely a top-bum rather than a mid-bum ruffle, remove the added volume from the hips (in a word: saddlebags), and shorten the dress overall by 4.5”.

The finished dress isn’t terrible. It’s not the most thoughtfully constructed but it’s warm; the details are sloppy, but the silhouette isn’t bad. But I just don’t wear it! I can blame the usual suspects; the length, the fact that it’s a dress at all, lack of pride in the finishing. I think this candid more or less sums it up.

 And I also think it’s just a bit blah! I could see something like this working in a warm, colorful flannel, but the last thing I reach for in winter is top-to-toe grey.

Okay, now picture this with me instead: a winter shirt, maybe needlecord, deep jade or dark teal, shiny buttons…and a bum ruffle?! Maybe someday!  

Pattern: Deer & Doe Melilot (mostly)

Pattern cost: $10 (my first Melilot, weirdly!)

Size: 42, extended 6.5”

Supplies: 4 yards Kaufman Grizzly Plaid cotton, Mercer’s Fabric, $28.80; snaps, Michael’s, $3.00; thread from stash

Total time: 10.75 hours

Total cost: $41.80