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

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

Business Forest

For a week+ in January, I had something flu-ish. I wasn’t stoic. Exhibit A: I am still complaining about it. (I’m so lucky that I could take sick time and that thanks to Professor Boyfriend, I had literally no responsibilities beyond choosing my next mug of tea. One lucky couch potato.) Anyway, I couldn’t focus on books and I got sick of TV, and eventually, despite feeling lousy, I turned to the sewing machine for a change. These are my flu pants.

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Also, my coming-down-with-something shirt! I’ll zip through the shirt – it’s a Sew House Seven Tabor V-neck in cotton knit, and it’s definitely snugger and stiffer (oo-er miss) than my original poly sweater version, but I could use a hot steamy iron (oo-er again?) so I was happy. I bought the fabric at Gather Here so I was able to get the exact yardage – 1 3/8ths yards – and I was impressed, it was spot on. I sewed it pre-Nyquil, and have nothing further to report. Except that you can’t see in the long shots, but in the details, it’s neon Funfetti! Yay!

Okay, flu pants: the pattern is Simplicity 8842 and it’s an Amazing Fit pattern. I wouldn’t ordinarily go for pants that sit at my lower-natural-waist, so I was trepidatious, but in the end I found the fit Good Enough. I have sewn so few Simplicity patterns, none actually spring to mind, but I decided to sew size 16 (lowest size in the bigger envelope). My measurements put me in size 18 but I didn’t notice until I was almost done tracing; that’s the kind of precision and quality control you can expect from the rest of this project! But the outseams and the back seam at the waist were all 1” wide, so I bargained on using that wiggle room.

So why S8842 in the first place? I wanted pleats!

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Prior to sewing these I thought pleats on pants were some kind of arcane rite performed upon the most deserving of legs. These taught me that it’s just a bit of fabric you fold over. I guess I could just pop them onto any trouser pattern. Huh.

See above – my biggest mistake! The fly is weird! It’s so much weirder on the inside, but I am inside so I cannot show you. Can you see the vertical line of stitching just to the left of the fly overlap? That’s holding a hodge-podge of seams sort-of in place because I either skipped steps or added new ones and either way it got strange. Also, it’s teal because I ran out of green thread and felt too crummy to go to the thread store. Exhibit B, same as A: STILL COMPLAINING.

By the way, I used the ‘curvy’ fit pattern piece for the back – it’s got extra side-to-side room for the tush and a second dart per leg.

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I don’t think this pattern makes the most of my rear view but I’m ideally situated not to see it anyway!

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Because this is an Amazing Fit pattern, you add the waistband before baste fitting, and adjust everything simultaneously. I removed a ¼” wedge from the center back but didn’t need to change the side seams. I trimmed the 1-inch seams to be ½-inch before permanently constructing them, but I suspect my trimming was less than perfect; I probably cut off more like 5/8ths in some places. I was worried that I had overfit these. Luckily the corduroy relaxes with wear so it’s alright!

My only “design” change was making the curved pocket openings into straight pocket openings. I used a scrap of gingham from one of Professor Boyfriend’s shirts for the pocket bags, which makes sorting the laundry pleasantly confusing. I was new to some of Simplicity’s terminology; what I would call a “pocket facing” they called a “yoke”, and so on, but the directions were clear and the pockets are nice and roomy.

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The back ‘pocket’ is just a flap! I constructed mine differently than the pattern instructs. You’re asked to interface the flap, fold it right sides together, stitch, turn, sew it with the raw edge up towards the waist, then fold it up and topstitch in place. All those interfaced layers folded over each other felt way too hard and structural. I just cut a rectangle, turned the short edges to the wrong side, and folded it in thirds the long way. The top edge is the folded edge, and the raw edge at the bottom is caught in the topstitching. Lemon squeezy.

This pattern gives you a lot of flexibility width-wise, but not a ton length-wise. I wouldn’t have minded a little more height in the back rise, or an extra inch in leg length.

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I just want to cuff without fear of ankle breezes.

I’m happy-ish with the finished pants – kind of a mori boy meets businesswoman feel – but I don’t think I constructed them well. Also, the first time I wore them the back seam split open, which feels like a personal criticism. I’m used to sewing with love and attention to detail, and I sewed these because of boredom and coughing, with a headache and several bottles of seltzer. My attitude when sewing has a bigger effect on my feelings about the finished garment than I realized! That said, I’m glad I have something to show for my downtime besides catching up on Spidermans.

Maybe it’s the first pancake phenom! 2/3rds of my January 2019 sews were giveaways, and at least I’m keeping these.

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I hope you’re all beating your colds out there! And if you’re in the middle of one, I hope you can enjoy some couch time!

Pattern: Sew House Seven Tabor V-neck

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 10

Supplies: 1 3/8 yards of Speckle cotton jersey in Natural, Gather Here, $20.63; thread from stash

Total time: 2 hours

Total cost: $20.63

Pattern: Simplicity 8842

Pattern cost: $9.42

Size: 16

Supplies: 2 yards of Kaufman 21 wale corduroy in Forest, fabric.com, $18.62; thread, zipper, rivet from stash

Total time: 8 hours

Total cost: $28.04

Winter Knit Shirt Bumper Post!!

It’s a Winter Knit Shirt Bumper Post!!

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If you’re like me, you have a hard time covering your top half in winter. Legs = jeans, almost inevitably (which can get boring, but always works for my day). Torso = some old RTW sweaters, oftener than not, unfortunately. Sometimes I try to get interesting with ~layers!!~ but what I really want are easy-wearing, cozy tops. I prefer sewing with wovens, so my selections are a little meager, but see the collection below!

1 . Wrap Nettie

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This is the Closet Case Nettie, with the innovative wrap variation from Self Assembly Sewing. I botched the hem of the underlap layer and stretched it out (technically it didn’t need hemming at all, but I was worried about the raw edge rolling) so now there’s some slightly odd vertical wrinkles, but it’s less noticeable in person. Especially when the big bow is spruced up! I used the tie pieces from the Seamwork Elmira, just tucked into the side seams. I’m not linking to the Elmira because I dug the style but the drafting seemed very off. Masses of extra fabric in my armpits – I cut it up almost immediately and repurposed it into this bodysuit.

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  1. Deep back Nettie

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On one trip to London I was able to visit The Man Outside Sainsbury’s, as recommended by Did You Make That? and others  – he is my Tir Na Nog, my Shangri-La, my Wabar of men near supermarkets. I miss him every day. He said this knit was silk jersey and my amateurish burn test did not disprove it. This fabric is very soft and the edges didn’t roll at all – really paradise to sew. I worked hard to keep the flower bunches unanatomical and it worked! But…

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The deep back was a mistake! I don’t feel comfortable wearing this to work (my youngest students are 4 and 5 and get a hold of any edge and pull when they want your attention, and I can’t help but feel one tug on the wrong place would leave me looking a little let’s say Minoan), and for winter weekends…

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It’s cold! I still pull it out occasionally. It also peps up my drawer, which is important in a drab season.

  1. High-neck Nettie

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This black bodysuit might be my favorite. It’s a bamboo knit, which is a little thin but has a very firm hold. No way I can push up my sleeves. The high neck is super cozy and goes with everything – every necklace, scarf, layer, bottom. I need another basic black Nettie!

It seems very prim and sober with the color, high neck and long sleeves but I’m also 50% cosplaying as Kim Possible at all times.

  1. Dark navy Nettie

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IT’S FUNCTIONAL!

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SO FUNCTIONAL!

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Scoop neck, high back, navy blue, works great under dungarees. See, this is why not every top needed its own post.

  1. Tabor V-Neck

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This is Sew House Seven’s Tabor V-neck in a spruce sweater knit. I usually resist basic tee patterns but I was seduced (or is it sew-spruced?! HAR HAR HAR) by this view, with the thick overlapping neckband. I got a little puckering where the V meets the body of the shirt, but that’s because I ignored the designer’s direction to sew with the shirt side up, then serged my edges, and then noticed the pucker. I decided to leave it alone, as my experience with art (and popping pimples) has taught me that the more you pick at a minor flaw, the more noticeable it becomes, without usually improving it at all. This will be a leitmotif in sweater knits for me.

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My only issue with this shirt is that the seam of the dropped sleeve has me constantly convinced my bra strap is slipping off!

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The shirt pattern also includes this lovely, neatly finished split hem. I’ll be omitting it in the future though and just sewing the side seam fully closed, since I only wear the shirt tucked it. And here’s why:

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Just don’t love that shape, guys. I do want to make more of these anyway! One of my fifth graders said I looked “elegant” which warmed my heart (she didn’t see this picture, obviously). Thank you sweet monster. ❤

  1. Hemlock tee

I’m having a Grainline moment several years into my sewing career.

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For whatever reason I suddenly sewed up a batch of woven Hemlock tees last year (my first two are detailed here). This is my first knit Grainline Hemlock (free with newsletter sign-up) and I sewed it almost exactly as written except a lot hecking shorter because it was made from the scraps of the Tabor, above! #sewingleftovers

I sewed and serged one shoulder seam before realizing I had placed the shirt body pieces right-side-to-wrong side, and the front would now be permanently wrong side out. Ooor I could unpick.

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Yeah. Front side is wrong side out for keeps. Since this was a scrap buster and I’d already committed to less than perfection I tried something I had never done before –serging my construction seams directly! Usually I seam with a zig-zag on a traditional machine and finish the edges with the serger. I wouldn’t do this for a bodysuit or probably anything with negative ease but it went almost unbelievably quickly for a loose fitting tee like this one!

  1. Thread Theory Camas blouse

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I really like this pattern – it combines the comfort of a knit with the detailing of a woven – except I’d like to figure out a better way to finish those front edges. There seems to be unnecessary bulk there. Also, I’m not sure why that top button seems to be fighting for its life, I’m not exactly Dolly Parton.

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Gathers! I should wear this more, but I find myself avoiding it! Mustard is my Colonel Brandon of colors – I always think well of it, and never want to wear it. Luckily my man looks positively luminous in this color so I’ll put any future mustard on that hot dog.

And there you have it, every knit winter shirt I’ve sewn over the last three years! Knits are such a small percentage of my total output, but in winter they’re what I wear. I’d love to add some really snuggly sweaters too. I’m considering the Ali sweatshirt after seeing Sierra’s makes, but then I have another hurdle (beyond my reluctance to work with knits)…where are people sourcing their snuggliest fabrics?! Let a chilly woman know!

 

Patterns 1-4: Closet Case Nettie

Pattern cost: N/A (I made a summer one first)

Size: 10 at bust, graded to 12 at hip; shortened about 1.5” at waist

Supplies: 1. Refashioned Elmira sweater, stash; $1.79, thread, Michael’s; 1 meter jersey (silk?), $2.65, TMOS; $2, snaps, Michael’s; 1 yard Telio Ibiza stretch jersey knit in Black, $8.98, fabric.com; thread and snaps from stash; 1 yard Kaufman Laguna Stretch Cotton Jersey Knit in Navy, $8.55, fabric.com; thread and snaps from stash

Total time: 1. 4.75 hours; 2. 2.75 hours; 3. 3 hours; 4. 2.25 hours

Total cost: 1. $1.79; 2. $4.65; 3. $8.98; 4. $8.55

 

Pattern 5: Sew House Seven Tabor V-neck, version #4

Pattern cost: $14

Size: 10

Supplies: 2 yards Telio Topaz hatchi knit in pine, $15.96, fabric.com; thread from stash

Total time: 4 hours

Total cost: $29.96

 

Pattern 6: Grainline Hemlock tee

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: one-size pattern

Supplies: leftovers from Tabor V-neck

Total time: 1.25 hours

Total cost: $0.00

 

Pattern 7: Thread Theory Camas blouse

Pattern cost: N/A (I made a sleeveless woven one first! Oh personal spending accounting practices, sneaky sneaky)

Size: 8 at bust, graded to 12 at hip

Supplies: 1.5 yards Fabric Merchants Cotton Jersey Solid Yellow Mustard, $8.75, fabric.com; thread and buttons from stash

Total time: Lost in time! I sewed this before I started spreadsheeting my sewing

Total cost: $8.75