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

Stitch Twice

Recently, a woman biked past my house wearing a pink shirt and warm brown pants. I thought “I like that! Why don’t I have an outfit like that?” and so now I do*.

This is my second pair of Papoa pants in as many months and they helped me cement my new philosophy: sew everything twice. At least! I’m not going to throw good fabric after bad if a pattern/finished garment just doesn’t work for me, but I like sewing repeats and I want to prioritize that. It goes so quickly and smoothly the second time; my first pair of Papaos (including an hour and a half of pattern assembly) took me 7 ½ hours, while this second pair only took me 5 ¼. I shaved 45 minutes off my sewing time, mostly through knowing better when to finish seams. This includes the hidden tie end, which I remembered to finish BEFORE sewing it into the crotch seam, a pleasant change.

The flip side is that I’ve been feeling a bit boring lately. I’M not bored by my clothes, but I might be, I don’t know, measurably boring? So I’d also like to take more risks, for a given value of ‘risks’. Brace yourself: my back pocket – are you sitting down? – uses – do you have a heart condition? – the wrong side of the fabric. TA-DAAA.

Okay, so I’m inching past “tiny, basically unnoticeable risk” like a little inchworm. But someday I’ll wear pants on my arms with an Elizabethan ruff and one big sock and this will have been the gateway decision. Well. Maybe. 

If you take only one piece of advice from me (and who wouldn’t after that fashion prediction), let it be this: sew the butt twice. I sew the seat seam with each leg side up once. You can put these lines of stitching side-by-side or on top of each other. I don’t care. Secure your butt and thank me later!

This was especially important for this fabric, because the stitches tended to float on top, rather than sink in. It’s Kaufman fineline twill in Walnut (not the color of a walnut; I’d call it ‘old honey’ or ‘new penny’ or ‘timely chestnut’ or ‘I want that job where you get to name paint swatches’, which I felt very qualified for until my mother saw these and asked “Don’t you already have pants in that color?”. I hadn’t noticed. Last time I called it russet). Even though I used a fresh 80/12 needle and my machine purrs over heavier denims and twills, I could feel it working to punch through. I guess it’s a tighter weave – it felt, basically, like it had greater surface tension. It pressed like a sonuvagun though. Dang, I love cotton.

I made no real changes, except grading the waist facing to match my hip grading, which I forgot to do on my first pair. I also made the back patch and the tie openings a bit larger. I had hoped it would reduce wrinkling in the tie. It didn’t, but that hasn’t stopped me wearing these as often as possible!

I love this pattern, I love that there’s no interfacing or pocketing or zippers or buttons needed, I love that it was a one-bobbin project when I was low on coordinating thread, and I love my new discovery – that 3 yards of 45” wide fabric are enough yardage for my size! Hooray! I limited my fabric search the first time around to 54” wide fabric, but now the world is my (45” wide) oyster.

*Because you are as wise as an owl and as clear-eyed as a hawk, you’ve probably noticed that my shirt is, er, not actually pink. But because you are as discreet as a Bourke’s parakeet (known for your quiet and gentle nature) you were not going to point it out. Thank you. Anyway, what happened is, I ordered two rayon knits together – a pink one and this grid – and once they arrived I discovered ONCE AGAIN I had managed to online order a fabric the exact saturation and value of my skin tone. I don’t want to look like I’m wearing a Lia suit, so the pink fabric has been rehomed, and this is my spiritually pink shirt.

It’s made from luxuriously heavy bamboo rayon, which for some reason always feels a little damp. I am uneasily conscious that the reason might be: it’s damp? I try not to over-dry my clothes, but there’s such a thing as too much moderation. The pattern is the free Stellan tee, which I keep making because I find it perfect, this time with a scooped neckline – 1” wider at the neck (so 2” wider total) and 3” deeper. It’s a good start, but too conservative. Next time, more.  

More scooping. More crotch reinforcements. More repeat patterns. More, more, more!

We took these pictures on a wonderful cool evening between scattered thunderstorms. Thematically, I finished this blog post while listening to Rain; I just discovered Mika has an orchestral album and I am SOLD.  More orchestras!!

Wishing you more safety, health, and justice too. And more pants, if that’s your bag!

Pattern: RTS Papao pants

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 43 waist, 45 hips

Supplies: 3 yards of Kaufman 4.9 oz. Fineline twill in Walnut; $34.44, fabric.com; thread from stash

Total time: 5.25 hours

Total cost: $34.44

Pattern: Stellan tee

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: M, with 1″ wider neck, 3″ deeper front

Supplies: 1 yard of Telio Bamboo Rayon Jersey in Grid Print, fabric.com, $16.09; thread, Tags, $3.28

Total time: 2.25 hours

Total cost: $19.37

Grey/Gray

My knit shirts give me a case of the blahs. I’ve been relying on the same RTW stand-bys for years and they’re getting a little tired-looking, so I wanted a refresh. Time to meet my new blah stand-bys! 🙂

Oh, they’re not that bad. I got two yards of this grey French terry from Girl Charlee and it’s pretty cozy and as soft as a little polyester lamb. One pattern called for 1 yard of fabric and the other for 1.5 but I thought I could Tetris the pieces all into two yards and indeed I could!

The first I am calling either my Stellabor or my Tabollan, and despite these rococo names, it’s so normcore.

Hello, grey t-shirt. Hey.

I used the body and sleeves of the free French Navy Stellan tee because I love it and because I’m growing nervous of investing too heavily in drop shoulder tops. Sure, they’re easy to sew, but how many shoulders could a soldier drop if a soldier could drop shoulders, y’know what I mean? And I used the narrow overlapping v-neck of the Sew House Seven Tabor v-neck because I like puckers at the point of my v-necks (KIDDING! I still haven’t managed to sew it smoothly though, and this is my third go at it!).

I didn’t change the back neckline of the Stellan at all, figuring I could stretch the neckband less or more as the case may be. And happily when I lined up the Tabor front over the Stellan front with their centers on the fold, the necks are the same width at the shoulder! So it was simple to graft the two and I just used the Tabor neckband as drafted. In theory. Actually it took me multiple tries to get the “V” right – well, right enough. In the end this order of ops seemed to work best:

  1. Prep pattern pieces by stay-stitching and clipping into the “V”, then match the shirt and neckband centers.
  2. Start with your needle down at the exact center point. Stitch the neckband to the shirt away from the center, towards the shoulder, for an inch or so.
  3. Take your shirt pieces out of the machine, and reset them according to Tabor directions (i.e., pinning the unsewn neckband edge to the shirt, and sewing towards the center “V”). Stop at the “V” exactly where your first line of stitching began, and after rearranging the pieces as per the Tabor directions, sew again over the initial stitching line.

Obviously I didn’t get a perfect result, but it was the best of a bad bunch. I actually had to cut my neck-hole about ¼” wider at the “V”, blending to nothing along the neckline, because of my first tussle unpicking the puckered neckband. The shirt front just ripped along the stitching like it was a perforated line. I was more careful going forward! I got some puckers along the neckband, but mostly on one side of the front near the shoulder, not where I made the shirt slightly deeper.

I was exquisitely careful when unpicking the chest pocket. I thought I wanted a chest pocket. I was wrong.

The hems are zig-zagged. I haven’t touched a double needle in years!

Does anyone know how to read draglines in a knit? This tee is completely comfortable but I think it’s trying to communicate with me, through wrinkles.

My second tee is marginally more interesting, but it’s not exactly gonna put your eye out. This is the Chelsea tee, a Fabrics-store free pattern. It’s designed for wovens (specifically linen) but I was looking for an oversized fit. I realized recently I didn’t have any raglan-sleeved knit patterns and I didn’t feel like forking over $10-15 for a basic top pattern; there’s lots of free raglan tee patterns but they’re all fitted. Originally I was going to use this terrific tutorial to draft my own but lazies gonna laze, I guess.

The Chelsea directions are sparse. There’s 3/8” seam allowances, but no notches, so I had to guess how to insert the sleeves. So I matched the “scoopier” raglan sleeve seam with the shirt front because I assumed the longer seam would contribute boob space (and if I was wrong there’s not too much difference between my front and back volumes anyway). I’m pretty sure I guessed right, even though once again my wrinkles are off the chain.

I did something unusual for me and sewed most of this directly on my serger! This was not a good decision, because a) I made the neckband way too skinny and uneven and b) I feel like every serger-only seam is going to simultaneously fail and the shirt will just shuck off of me, like Antonio Banderas sexy sword-fighting off Catherina Zeta-Jones’s dress in the 1998 movie The Mask of Zorro. I recut the neckband and attached it by sewing machine, but I continue to live in fear about the other thing.

My neckband is about 23” long un-stretched, by the way. Maybe shorter? I sewed it by feel, but the pattern calls for 26” of bias binding, so I knew the knit band should be shorter than that. This neckline is also about 3/8” wider than initially drafted, thanks to my early zeal for serging with the knife on, but the neckband makes up some of the difference. I probably could (should?) have stretched it more tightly, or taken more fabric in the neckline pleats!   

I hemmed the body and sleeves of this tee with a straight stitch, since I was sewing a woven pattern in a knit. It’s fine, they’re under no stress, but I actually prefer the aesthetic of a zigzag stitch for a knit top! Well, now I know.

I’d maybe love this in lightweight linen. My wardrobe is pretty rich in summer tops (scrapbusting, baby), so there’s no need, but still…so light…so crispy…

So anyway, neither of these are knockouts, but they’ll both get worn. And to quote a lady in the sewing store who was buying many many yards of fabric, “You gotta wear clothes! I’m not gonna be a nudist!”

Me neither, sewing store lady. Respect.

Pattern: Sew House Seven Tabor V-neck/French Navy Stellan tee

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 10/M

Supplies: 1 yard Heather Gray Solid French Terry Blend Knit Fabric, Girl Charlee, $8.64; thread from stash

Total time: 3 hours

Total cost: $8.64

Pattern: Fabrics-store Chelsea tee

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: 12/14

Supplies: 1 yard Heather Gray Solid French Terry Blend Knit Fabric, Girl Charlee, $8.64; thread from stash

Total time: 2.25 hours

Total cost: $8.64

Thfreepeats

Not just repeats, but freepeats. Three free repeats. Thfreepeats!!! That is, uh, a misty word to try and say aloud.

Hey, guess what? My blog is one year old today. 🙂 Speaking of threes, is this a good time to mention I have a posting schedule? 3x a month, on days ending in 6. I didn’t want to announce it anywhere until I was sure I could sustain it*! Anyway, in the 35 posts that I’ve shared so far, some pattern repeats have already appeared – and here’s two more.

*’I’ is a strong word for an endeavor in which every photo not of my boyfriend is by my boyfriend. ‘We’, this is a ‘we’ project.

First is the Stellan tee, a free pattern from French Navy. The first time I sewed this in a slinky-ish rayon knit, but these new two are in a sturdy organic cotton knit that the Stoff & Stil website strongly implied was for  babies, but don’t I deserve nice things as much as a baby?! I’m not sure they ship to America, but my German-citizen-sister does. Thanks sis. ❤ My particular fabrics are out of stock, but their printed jersey selection is darn cool and the quality is super…BEEFY. Seriously, is there a funnier fabric word than beefy?  

First up, beefy tigers. The tigers are toddler-approved. Since this is printed jersey, the wrong side shows on the cuffs, but I quite like the contrast. I always wear the sleeves rolled, but this is how the shirt looks uncuffed/untucked.

Secondly, beefy bananas! This is a talk-to-me shirt. Strangers tend to talk to me anyway (they do not find me intimidating for some reason?), but a banana shirt causes an epidemic of chit-chat – all friendly! I sewed these two tees back-to-back and made the same changes to both. I lengthened the neckband about 4”, sewing it in flat after one shoulder seam was sewn, and then trimming the excess. Also, um – I followed the directions. Just for the hem! Last time I could not get it to turn neatly. This time I actually sewed the foldline as instructed, and surprise…it folded! I continue to skip the neckline binding, though. I yam what I yam.

Professor Boyfriend says I can’t wear the banana shirt with these pants because “One is French vanilla and the other is vanilla bean!” but what does he know?

This cotton jersey presses well, stays cuffed, has good recovery and is easy to sew. However, those same properties mean that the neckbands could use an ironing now and then. WELL, THEY WON’T GET IT. I’m not going to iron a tee-shirt. Nevaaaarrrr!  

But look at my happy banana accident! It continues across the wrinkly neckband! Complete coincidence, the banana gods must be smiling.

For the tiger tee, I sewed the side seams and then the hems; for the banana tee, I sewed the hems and then the side seams. I think I slightly prefer the banana treatment for ease of sewing.

From here on out, please ignore my straps – since these photos were taken in a public area I needed a layer beneath the tees so I could change in the middle, and since I was getting weird show-through from the double layer of hems, I decided to photograph the pants with just my slightly ratty RTW cami.

So let’s talk about pants, bay-bee! These are the Peppermint Wide-Leg Pants, and I love them, as I loved them the first time I made them. I still haven’t solved my main fit issue though, i.e., the front pockets. I’m pretty sure I need a protruding stomach adjustment. The overall width is okay (you can tell because the side seam is hanging straight) but the front waistline dips a little instead of sitting level. I’m happy to make another pair though, and trial that adjustment! They fly together and I feel very happy and comfortable in them.

The fabric I used is something mysterious from TMOS. It’s quite heavy. It almost feels like indoor/outdoor fabric but it’s not waterproof and it burns like natural fiber. I can’t shake the feeling that it’s coated, though. The pocket linings are a scrap of shirting cotton, and the leather button is from my flea-market stash. I have a healthy chunk of this mystery fabric left but I don’t have a plan for it! Any thoughts?

I only made one change to this pattern, which was to grow-on the fly extensions. However, I forgot to extend the pocket bags to match! See those short lines of stitching to the farthest left and right? Those are keeping the edges of the pocket bags in place. Luckily they’re not visible when the pants are zipped. Also, I only changed thread color once (I like tonal topstitching) and it was to match the zipper tape – at the time I readily acknowledge it was a pain in the neck to rethread for, like, two 6” lines of stitching, but now I think it was worth it. Mm. Tonal.  

I quite like these patterns and garments as a benchmark, actually – a year ago I never would have worn wide cropped pants or exuberantly printed tees, and yet I have not travelled so far that I don’t appreciate a $0 pattern price tag.   

Also, my basket-weave button matches my basket-weave shoes. Ladies, gentlemen, and others, I feel I have ARRIVED.

See you on a six-day!

Pattern: Stellan tee

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: M

Supplies: 1 meter of organic cotton (tigers), $17.30, Stoff & Stil; thread, $1.91, Michaels/1 meter of organic cotton (bananas), $17.30, Stoff & Stil

Total time: 2.5 hours/2 hours

Total cost: $19.21/$17.30

Pattern: Peppermint Wide-Leg Pants

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: F, with adjustments

Supplies: 2.5 meters of heavy linen/cotton canvas (?), $15.19, TMOS; zipper, Sewfisticated, $1.40; thread, Michael’s, $1.79

Total time: 4.75 hours

Total cost: $18.38

Cheap and Cheerful

I have, one, a new t-shirt and, two, a pattern stashing problem.

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I was preening myself on how quickly I made this tee after the fabric arrived, and on my general immunity to fabric stashing (on the other hand I hoard scraps like my mother was frightened by a quilt while pregnant but NEVER MIND THAT), when I went to store the pattern and discovered my pattern stash was now overflowing two W.B. Mason boxes.

And that’s just paper patterns and assembled PDFs. To say nothing of my downloads folder.

Fabric is finite – you use it, it’s used up (except the scraps, ssshh), it’s transmogrified, it’s a shirt now. A pattern is a pattern forever and you tweak it and hack it and store it in a plastic sleeve and keep it in a box and then your box is full, but you keep seeing new patterns…

So have you seen the Stellan tee yet? By the way – it’s free!!

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If you can resist everything except temptation, give in like me and download this lovely gift from French Navy!

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Seriously, it’s a great little sew. I don’t often make t-shirts but this one kind of grabbed me, plus the price was right! I read somewhere that Sarah describes her style as ‘girl-meets-boy’ and I think this walks that line nicely. It’s a stylish basic with a neat hook – it’s got a relaxed fit that narrows through the hips, perfect for tucking in!

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My new tee is made from 1 yard of a rayon knit, but I could have squeaked it out of ¾ of a yard if I wanted to (a future consideration if I ever buy one of those fance organic cottons that cost like $20/yard). Fabric.com says this fabric is “medium/heavyweight” and I say that it’s “bs/not true”. It’s slinky and light, but a good medium neutral blue, and so comfortable to wear. Plus the edges didn’t roll while cutting or sewing, huzzah!

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I made one bloomer while sewing – see those puckers above my left shoulder, your right? I prefer to install neckbands in the flat, stretching by feel instead of pinning, but I guess my feels were taking a nap because I wasn’t assertive enough at one end of the band and had to make up for it at the other, i.e., stretch the crap out of it. I could have unpicked it but I’m kind of a satisficer, and my standards for sewing knits are…uh, not lofty.

Which makes my hem even stranger. The only place I struggled with the sewing directions was turning the 2 cm wide, gently curved hem without getting puckers and drag lines…so I did a double fold hem. On a knit!

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On a shirt, what’s more, I will never wear untucked! I used a zigzag instead of a twin needle, guided by the wise words of Lucky Lucille. I seriously dislike twin needling. I couldn’t even be bothered to buy one spool of thread in the right color, ha! But the only place the navy topstitching was obtrusive was around the neckband, so I just forwent it there.

I have a secret motive for wanting a shirt in this particular shade of blue. Hopefully I will disclose more once I sew the perfect pair of voluminous khaki shorts…and that’s your hint!

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Ignore my sourpuss face, I really like this tee!

P.S. Good bye paradise, welcome back urban decay! I’m reunited with my ol’ reliable brick wall!

 

Pattern: Stellan tee

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: M

Supplies: 1 yard of rayon knit, Fabric.com, $6.98; thread from stash

Total time: 2 hours

Total cost: $6.98