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

M7360 Sleeveless

I took a break from enthusiastically sewing pants to squeak out a little something to wear on my top half. I say little because it required very little fabric – I used the last odds and ends of a piece of chambray I’ve had for at least 5 years. Until now I hadn’t tried a pattern that would fit on the scraps, but this one did!

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The pattern is M7360, and it’s also been sitting in my house for years. I think the spirits were in a good mood when I rediscovered it. I had just decided that I shouldn’t buy any more patterns before either trying or donating my unused ones, so I recycled a stack of assembled PDFs that were no longer my size or style, and moved paper packets into my sewing drawer for later sorting. Separately, I looked over my clothing Pinterest board for general inspiration. I saw a shirt I liked, wondered which of my existing patterns would be easiest to adapt to match, opened the drawer, and found this on top!

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A great place to start, right? I traced a size 12 with a few changes. I combined views, using the cropped length (view A), but without side vents. Instead of cutting a single front with a separate popover placket, I cut two mirrored fronts with grown-on plackets (I measured the finished width of the placket, doubled it and added 1 seam allowance). I also drafted 3” deep hem facings and omitted the pocket.

I did a quick and dirty layout on my chambray and decided with some grainline hanky-panky the pattern pieces would all fit! I put the traced pattern and the fabric into a Ziplock bag and left it there for weeks. You know, to marinate. And judge me.

Anyway, then my city locked down!

My crisis management skills were apparently all learned from Molly the American Girl Doll, so the immediate effect of what I’ve heard described as reasonable panic is that I stopped wasting things. I wasn’t particularly profligate before (absolutely I will reuse tin foil), but I went into, like, a scrap fugue, and spent a week dawn-to-dusk stashbusting with “USE IT UP WEAR IT OUT MAKE IT DO OR DO WITHOUT” echoing in my brain. (Also, I planted a container garden (Jade Cross Brussels sprouts and raspberries so far – this spring is cold, but tomatoes are next!)). The result: masks on masks on masks, my Perse-phonies, and thou this top.   

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The shirt mostly came together smoothly. It’s a coupla bust darts, some short seams, and a lot of straight lines. I think the bust dart is just about right; fabric catches above my bust when I raise my arms, but when I tug it down, it sits correctly. Maybe I could use more space, or maybe it’s a fabric/friction thing?

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I big-time flubbed the collar, though. The collar pattern piece is essentially the letter “C”; the resulting collar has a much shorter top edge than bottom edge, so it lies flat and close to the garment wearer’s neck.

I couldn’t sew the dang thing. I tried my now-usual technique, which attaches the collar stand to itself before the shirt neck, and it was bulky and weird and bad. I couldn’t get the opposing curves to meet, despite clipping aggressively. And I didn’t have nearly enough fabric to try again. The only ‘spare’ fabric I had, in fact, was my hem facings.

Hence the double-fold hem!

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The hem facing pieces were JUST long enough to recut the collar, but not as a “C” – instead I used the collar stand piece from the Thread Theory Fairfield, lengthened slightly. This I can sew. I skipped the interfacing (I blame fugue!), so my collar is floppy and fancy-free, and it flippy-floppies in or out according to the breeze.  

I added topstitching to the long edges, so it doesn’t collapse completely, but I’d like to learn to sew the collar as drafted. Any tips? It stumped me completely. (Also, today I’m not so much accessorized as I am garnished.)

By the way, if you were wondering, my city does have a mask recommendation. Luckily taking blogging pictures is great practice in finding and remembering unpopulated nooks, but I wear it to and from locations (and I kept it tucked in my fanny pack for quick retrieval if needed).  

I’m hoping to give up this particular accessory someday, but happy to wear it in the meantime!

Anyway, this is a nice little pattern – simple (collar excepted), adaptable, a bit of subtle shaping, and it works with small amounts of friendly fabrics. I hope you find some pattern gems buried in your stashes, too!

Pattern: M7360

Pattern cost: $5.00 (best guess)

Size: 12

Supplies: chambray from stash; thread, Michael’s, $1.79

Total time: 5.5 hours

Total cost: $6.79

Poppy Chitoniskos

I took a meandering road to this romper. First, I spotted Faye’s adorable playsuit over on The Fair Stitch. Next, I was overcome by the punchy color of the (free!) playsuit pattern sample. Then, I would have printed and assembled the pattern, but I realized…eh, my unused M7577 pattern was traced already. So I made that, but orange-red. And that’s how my cross-bodice shortie romper was inspired by a floral playsuit. You can totally see the similarity now, right?

I’ve been calling this garment my chitoniskos, after the trendy short chitons worn by fashion-forward Greek youths in the late 400s BC. I feel like a mango Artemis.

The Greeks didn’t have elastic, though. Sorry, classical Greeks.   

And elastic is the only notion you need for this McCall’s pattern! I sewed view B, but sleeveless, with Brussels Washer Linen in Poppy. It is the most (and only-est) orange thing I own. I graded from a 10 chest to a 14 waist. The pattern asks you to bind the armscyes and long crossover opening with what I recently read is called ‘the French method’, but I used traditional bias binding instead. The other sounded too bulky for summer! I also added inseam pockets. I caught the tops of the pocket bags in the waist seam so they don’t flop around, a tip I got from a Vogue pattern and really like.  

The bodice is obviously spacious, but I don’t regret a single quarter-inch when I’m wiggling in and out of this romper. The extra ‘puff’ above the waist is essential, especially on the way out! If you’re more flexible than me (either literally, like you can jump rope with your own arms, or metaphorically, like you’re willing to pop in an invisible side zipper) you could achieve a closer fit.   

It’s possible to wear this without the belt – the elastic is doing the meaningful cinching, if cinching is what you’re after – but I like it with! By sitting an inch or two above the elastic, I think it also helps keep the wrap wrapped shut.

I sewed the elastic waist casing as essentially a big French seam; first I sewed the bodice to the pants wrong sides together with a ¼” sa, then I flipped them and sewed them right sides together with a ½” sa, leaving a small gap. Then I threaded the elastic through the casing via the gap, joined the ends, and sewed the gap shut. A nice clean casing! You can topstitch it. I couldn’t. It got weird. I unpicked it. But maybe you can!

My major change (there’s often one) was to the bottom half of the pattern. I traced the largest size in my envelope, 14, for the waist and legs, but I just could not convince myself that my legs would fit inside. The pattern pieces looked darn small; but with straight inseams and outseams that were parallel to the grainline, they also looked easy to alter. I slashed-and-spread each leg front and back piece to make them 3” wider, so a total of 6” per leg.

First, I marked the new width on what would become my pattern paper. After cutting to but not through the waistline of the original pattern piece, I taped the outer bottom corners to my marked lines and futzed the middle bits evenly apart. Then I traced, cut, labelled, and ta-da! Like many people I use bum paper, a.k.a. medical examination paper. It’s see-through for tracing; easy to mark, fold, and store; and one roll is seemingly infinite.

You’re supposed to trim off the seam allowances before adjustments like these, but I wasn’t bothered. It didn’t affect the stitch line dramatically, and this linen/rayon has some give anyway.

Once you have a crotch curve and waist size you like, you can easily redesign a basic pants or shorts pattern into any non-fitted silhouette. Box pleats, inverted box pleats, gathers, a slash-and-spread technique like this – as long as you pay attention to the grainline and finish by fitting the legs to the original waistband, swooshy shorts/pants/culottes are your oyster!

I might have been able to squeeze inside the legs as drafted, but I like these. I think it balances the blousy bodice, plus “snug” is not a summery word. ‘Gimme some of those snug shorts!’. No. “Swishy”, that’s a summer word.

And I’ve never regretted extra thigh room for Terminator-style crouching!

This was always meant to be a straightforward summer sew – it’s not going to do double-duty for work, it’s not transitional, it’s pretty much just for hanging out with friends in hot weather. Which is why I find it bitterly ironic that it looks kinda frosty cool layered under a jacket.

Why?? Why you, when I have so much trouble layering actual fall clothes?!

Until next time, hypíaine! (<– Greek theme).

Pattern: M7577

Pattern cost: $4.49

Size: 10 at bust, 14 at waist

Supplies: 3 yards of Kaufman Brussels Washer linen/rayon blend in Poppy, $25.44, fabric.com; thread, Michael’s, $1.91; elastic from stash

Total time: 8 hours

Total cost: $31.88

Green Monster

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♪Laaast Christmas, I wore this dress

And the very next Christmas, yeah, I still wore this dress♫

See also: my 30th birthday and a murder mystery party. Dear the Internet, meet my Event Dress. Am I overdressed? Probably. Do I mind? Not so much. Do I shave my legs? Certainly not.

Once again I’ve blatantly copied an Allie Jackson make, which is funny, because she’s got such a clear classic/preppy/feminine slant and my style icon might be Gadget Hackwrench from Rescue Rangers (Google with caution, by the way. Image search makes it clear she has, ahem, a fandom). Anyway, I’m getting off track. Years ago Allie J sewed a lush, goddess-like, emerald green dress, and I wanted one too! Only the pattern she made called for 10 yards (!!!) of fabric, and even before taking my relative height & girth into account, that was not in my budget!

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I’m not shy about spending money on quality fabrics for everyday clothes, but for something I would only wear a handful of times, I needed to scale down. Enter M7381, a dress with similar style lines, just a little less extravagance. From 4.5 yards I ended up with this, and enough scrap fabric to make an Ogden cami.

I used a rayon challis in a similar shade of green, and while certainly inexpensive, it wrinkles like heck. See these knife pleats?

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Actually you don’t, because they’re vertical wrinkles I’ve come to terms with. Something about the length and sweep of this dress brings out my latent desire to stand like Madam X, but sewing was not un-fraught, if I remember correctly. This was actually my 30th birthday present to myself nearly two years ago, but its season has come around again! Things I remember clearly from the sewing process: hating cutting the long skirt on my insufficiently long table, figuring out a way to cleanly encase the elastic in back that is now lost in the mists of time, and trying on the dress pre-sleeves and realizing that the raised waist/pleat combination was pure prom.

THANK GOODNESS for the sleeves.

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Like I said, the back has an elastic waist (no other notions needed), and there’s a blouson effect. The bodice is fully lined. Somehow I stretched out the neckline; whether it was sewing on the bias, or the dress’s long periods of time spent on a hanger, what’s done is done.

The surplice neckline and high waist give this dress potential as a maternity/breast-feeding-friendly sew, in some sort of parallel universe where maternity also means cocktail hour. I mean, I am childless. But I’m pretty sure those things go together.

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May we celebrate many more Christmases, dress! Someday I might iron you again! And to you and yours: may you celebrate in the way that makes you happiest, and the New Year only bring you joy!

Pattern: M7381

Pattern cost: $2.50

Size: 10

Supplies: 4.5 yards Telio Viscose Rayon Challis Emerald, $25.11, fabric.com; $3.00, thread, Michael’s

Total time: 11 hours

Total cost: $28.11

 

 

M7840 Bigshirt

I made a big shirt.

A biiig shirt.

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Can you sense my wild enthusiasm for it here?

Okay, it doesn’t look totally terrible in photos. But how about…NOW?

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Help, something is following me!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not tall. But neither am I short. I’m a happy medium – a standard American female 5’ 5”. Why is my behind shrouded so?!

OKAY, let’s talk about this for real. The pattern is M7840, and it’s a pretty recent release. I spotted it in some “mad for plaid” sort of round up (I am, I am mad for plaid) but it was the Woman’s model sample that really compelled me. She looks so cozy and warm and stylish! Her glasses are cute! I wanted those things, so naturally I messed around and paired the short sleeves of that view with the bananarama high-low hem. NOPE.

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This is not the comforting winter bag of my dreams. Drafts go right up those wide, cropped sleeves and it turns out even a nice squishy flannel like this Mammoth flannel doesn’t feel that warm when it stands away from my body. Plus the collar is BIG. It flops open and if it buttoned (it doesn’t) I could still easily fit a hand down it. I like oversized shirts, but I underestimated the importance of a nicely fitting collar. “Deep and floppy” more or less sums it up.

I should have gone looking for a better partial placket tutorial online, but I tried to brute-force it. Unfortunately my attempt based on the pattern booklet is a bit of a mess. Not so much the slight plaid misalignment (I can actually live with that), but I couldn’t figure out how to finish the bottom; eventually I relied on my experience of sleeve plackets, a snip, and a prayer. No bueno. There’s a teeny little hole there now. I fused a bit of scrap fabric to the wrong side. We’ll see if it holds. I’ve gotten spoiled by extra diagrams for new-to-me sewing processes, something McCalls strangely did not anticipate?!

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So what went well? I like the fabric (Mammoth flannel is so easy to work with), plus I like large scale plaid + large scale shirt, at least in theory. The width is kind of cool too, at least when I have a wingspan! That’s probably why the only photographs of it I quite like are the ones where I’m standing like Jesus. It was also fun planning the plaid placement (asymmetrical on front, balanced on back).

The added benefit of all this fabric is that I can remake it. Yep. I’ve pretty much already determined to shorten the back hem by 3 – 5 inches, and I have just enough leftover fabric to recut longer sleeves. If ‘more fabric’ doesn’t somehow solve my ‘lotsa fabric’ problem, I might just go nuts and recut this into my standard shirt-saver – a Melilot. Say buh-bye to the big shirt, folks. They can’t all be winners!

Pattern: M7840

Pattern cost: $8.00

Size: 10

Supplies: 3 yards Robert Kaufman Mammoth flannel in Denim, $21.75, fabric.com; thread from stash

Total time: 5.25 hours

Total cost: $29.75