If it’s safe & wise to travel this summer, then we’re going to England so Professor Boyfriend can finally, officially, graduate (he successfully defended his thesis in 2020, which required two early-March trans-Atlantic flights – fun, right?). In the meantime, I’m making this event an opportunity to re-re-rematch against a fabric with undeniable charisma (the drape, the weight, the colors!) and the price point to match: tencel twill.
Once upon a pre-blog I made a couple pairs of tencel twill trousers that looked like shiny wrinkly garbanzo. But that was then. This is now. Since I’m not really a dressy-dresser, I thought it could be the perfect fabric to elevate a separates combo if I chose the right pattern, and sewed smarter.
So I turned to the Patina blouse. With its simple silhouette and girly touches, I thought it would be ideal. I decided to omit the Chelsea collar both to make the finished top lessy faddy but also because I wasn’t sure about topstitching curves on tencel twill.
I also made sure to staystitch every edge immediately after cutting the pattern pieces. That defensive sewing mindset lasted…exactly that long.
I used a Microtex needle (80/12) and a lonely cone of minty serger thread, because it matched well and it saved me buying a spool of all-purpose. The needle was a good choice, but using the cone was a mistake. I hand-wound some thread onto an empty spool first and then used the machine to wind a bobbin off that spool, so the bottom thread was okay; but for my top thread, I balanced the cone on the bobbin winding pole thingie and sewed directly from that. The cone overbalanced and fell over (both loudly AND frequently), but more importantly the tension was wrong. When I sewed over more than two layers, I got a ton of skipped stitches. For some reason I carried on like that, for like, the whole time, even though sewing the buttonholes was a skipped-stitch nightmare ballet and I knew I’d be joining two layers of French seams when I sewed the sleeves in the round. I went for it anyway, possibly because it was my last step and I was getting antsy.
After setting in the first sleeve – twice, because of the French part, but also more than twice because I wanted to reinforced the skipped areas – I realized I had done it backwards. My armscye seam was on the right side. I had gotten tunnel-vision when focusing on the skipped stitches and managed to sew SEVERAL times around the armscye without realizing my French seam was reversed. On the plus side I had also forgotten to shorten my stitch length after sewing the gathering stitches. Yay?
Obviously this could not abide, so after I unpicked the second line of stitching, I was left with a decision: would I unpick the remaining line, switch which side the sleeve was on, and use the scanty 1/8” seam allowances I had left myself going forward? Unpick etc. and take larger seam allowances? Or, since my first sleeve was already set in correctly, just with less SA, should I take the full remaining seam allowance and serge the raw edges to finish?
I serged ’em. I did the second sleeve the same way, immediately hated it, then threw this shirt on my giveaway pile and entered GIVEAWAY REASON: QUALITY OF WORK into my sewing spreadsheet, which is the spreadsheet equivalent of a temper tantrum. Later that day I pulled the shirt out again.
I unpicked the serger threads and the sleeve cap, rearranged the gathers to be neater, resewed the armscye with a spool of mismatched all-purpose thread with all stitches present and accounted for, and then pinked the seam allowances. Then a week after that I pulled it out a second time and added bias binding.
There’s plenty of imperfections still – one side of the neckline has draglines, one doesn’t (I increased the facing width slightly, by the way – 1/4” on the vertical area, ½” on the curve). I have one lightly poofy shoulder and one IMELDA MARCOS BLAMMO shoulder. The topmost buttonhole is frankly odd. Also, despite taking the same side seam allowances I did the other two times I made this shirt, this iteration came up a bit snug on my hips.
None of that would matter if I really liked it, but I don’t. This is an important note to self: just because some desirable fabrics are expensive and finicky to sew, doesn’t mean every finicky and expensive fabric is desirable, charisma be damned. I’m not excited to wear this top, so it’s not fit to purpose, since ideally dressing up for an occasion means that the clothes are part of the treat. Not exactly an astounding comeback tour for tencel twill!
Annoyingly, also, I have a full selvedge-to-selvedge 18” left, so I could have bought a single yard of this pricey fabric instead of 1.5 yards and saved like $13.50! Hmm. I do have one completely unregretted purchase – I got my Microtex needle from a Schmetz cosplay pack (#1851), which I am frankly tickled by but is also full of useful needles. If the only thing preventing you from trying cosplay is heterogeneous needle acquisition, then brother, have I got two thumbs and some good news for you.
The question remains: what am I going to wear?? What comfortable dressy not-dress that packs well and accommodates weather that might be 60°F or might be 90°F would you?
Good luck with your upcoming projects!
Pattern: Friday Pattern Company Patina blouse
Pattern cost: NA
Size: M, lower neckline; widened facing 1/4″ on the vertical, 1/2″ on the curved section
Supplies: 1 1/2 yards of tencel twill in Mojito, $40.50, Gather Here; buttons, $2.00, Gather Here; thread from stash
Total time: 5.75 hours
Total cost: $42.50