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

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

SBS at Gather Here

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A small change can make a big difference!

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Lawd, my face in this. Anyway, this isn’t actually a post about how I should always tuck in my shirt and roll up my sleeves (though I should) – it’s actually about small businesses and how I learned to sew!

In the fall of 2010 I moved in with my boyfriend. With almost no forethought we nabbed a studio apartment, bought the world’s most uncomfortable futon, and discovered we did in fact get along well.

I realized pretty quickly we lived within walking distance of my beloved Cambridge Public Library (I cannot stress enough how casually we signed that lease, yikes, kids), and on one such walk to the library, I saw a notice in a tiny shop front that a store would soon be opening…Gather Here! I was there on opening day. I bought…YARN.

I do not have the thing within a person that makes them knit. However, the store was cozy and warm and bewitching, and I’d always wanted to learn to sew, so that winter I signed up for a class. I remember it cost $60 (no small thing to me then, and still not a sum to sneeze at now) and we students each made a tote bag in 2 sessions. I was smitten!

After experimenting with rented machine time, which quickly adds up, I badgered my mom out of her old Singer (sorry mom, hi mom). 8 years later, both I and that business have moved into bigger digs (they’re still in Cambridge, I’m now next door in Somerville). It’s safe to say that class changed my life. It’s not that I was careening towards disaster, but since then I’ve spent a ton of time and money on sewing, and consider that cheap for the skills and self-love I’ve gained.

Obviously Gather Here was my most exciting port of call on Small Business Saturday. It’s not the place you go when you’re seeking a bargain, but the selection of fabric and yarn is lovely, and I’m not going to spend what I spend on rent and then undercut the character of the neighborhood I love, only to save, like, $6.

I bought fabric for a shirt! I made a shirt! I did not like that shirt! I tucked it in! Now I like that shirt! See, small changes can = big effects!

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The shirt is my camp-collared Archer; my changes to the pattern are detailed here. This time I grew on the facings to reduce bulk. My fabric was a stiff linen/cotton so the collar sits pretty traditionally despite the lack of a collar stand.

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I also made…tum-te-tum…a fanny pack! The cotton webbing, buckle, and zipper were also Small Business Saturday purchases. I had the fabric left over from a much, much earlier project (though it also originated in Gather Here, once upon a time).

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I quilted my largest canvas scrap and used it to sew an unlined boxy zipper pouch, plus little side tabs that connect to the webbing. You could use almost any box pouch tutorial, adjusted for the size you want – how about this one?  Or, lucky you, Sarah Kirsten recently released a free pouch pattern calculator!

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Guys. Fanny packs are LUXURY. Mine fits my wallet, keys, phone, and a folded-up fabric shopping bag. My hands are free! No straps are slipping off my shoulder or slicing into the side of my neck! I am ready for adventure*! *provided that that adventure requires my wallet, etc.

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Anyway, I clearly have some squishy feelings on the topic of shopping local and shopping at small businesses. So don’t ask me, ask the American Independent Business Alliance – they have CITATIONS. If you have the ability and access to shop at a small business, I strongly encourage it! It can really have a big effect on you and your community.

Do you have a local fiber store that changed your life? How did you learn to sew?

 

Pattern: modified Grainline Archer + Colette Negroni

Pattern cost: N/A

Size: 8 at bust, graded to 12 at hip

Supplies: 2.625 yards of linen/cotton, Forage, $27.96, Gather Here; buttons, $3.87, Gather Here; thread, $1.49, Michael’s

Total time: 6 hours

Total cost: $33.32

 

Pattern: self-drafted fanny pack

Pattern cost: N/A

Size: N/A

Supplies: zipper, $1.30, buckle, $1.00, webbing, $4.47, Gather Here; canvas scraps, thread from stash

Total time: 3.5 hours

Total cost: $6.77