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

The Sultan of Swat

If you’ve ever noticed a valiant 2-inch curl or a little extra pink on my scalp, it’s because I get occasional bald spots. They always fill back in, and the number one enemy of hair regrowth is worrying about it, so mostly I ignore them. But I’m in a high-risk group for skin cancer and the last thing I need in the summer is exposed skin on the part of my body that’s closest to the sun! The solution? Hats.

I’ve dipped my toes into hats before, but I find them tricky. Whenever I put one on I feel like people are thinking of me the way I thought of this one tween who wore a fedora to school every day (“You’ll learn, kiddo”). But finally I decided: hey, for a hat that says “I’M NOT TRYING, YOU’RE TRYING”, why not wear…a baseball cap?!

I tried one on and actually liked it, except the only one that fit my head also had embroidery that said DOG DAD, which alas ’tis not I. I peeked at the construction and decided I could make one. And then I made one!!

There are free patterns available, but I paid for the Style Arc Baseball Cap because I wanted a little more hand-holding and assurance. I was also wild with curiosity to find out what was in the brim, since that notion wasn’t listed. Answer: it’s ‘heavy canvas’, which is not very specific or helpful. Oh well.

I’m happy with the pattern itself. It makes what I think is described as a ‘dad cap’, a little over-sized and vintage-feeling (though, and this is probably the first time I’ve said this, I think there were too many notches!). But the instructions are frankly a scandal. They don’t quite fill a 3” x 5” square and there are no diagrams, just a drawing of the pattern pieces and then a drawing of the finished object – essentially this, for sewing.

So I did my own thing, mainly based on the RTW cap I tried on. Most significantly, I omitted the lining, and instead sewed bias tape over the interior seams. This was the last of my favorite bias tape – it’s just a perfect weight and color. This pale khaki green coordinates with everything!

I also skipped the interfacing. The pattern recommends an interfaced outer AND lining. So my version is only about 25% as thick as recommended! Obviously, it’s a lot softer and lighter!

Because I didn’t use a lining, I needed a new solution for finishing the edge of the little igloo door in the back (I don’t know what that area is called). I tried a bias facing three times but it wasn’t happening. Eventually I drafted a 2” wide facing, which did the trick! After topstitching it I realized I had forgotten to insert the back ‘straps’ between the facing and the hat, so I put them in the sweatband instead.

I used 3 layers of heavy interfacing in the brim. It’s still not very stiff, but it’s what I had on hand, and it holds its shape pretty well. I added two lines of topstitching. Incidentally, I think I need to get my machine tuned up – my stitch length has been all over the place!

I omitted the covered button because I didn’t have one and because I don’t think the meeting point of the seams looks too shabby.

And finally, I used snaps instead of Velcro for the band because – and I cannot stress this enough – I bought a ton of snaps a year and a half ago.

It’s certainly not perfect – that back asymmetry isn’t just in the photos, and the center front seam isn’t centered on the brim. But if I consider it a wearable muslin it’s pretty cool! I’d like to make more! It’s a snappy, satisfying project with a neat result.

I have a scrap hierarchy – if I have a lightweight piece I make a tank, pocketing, or bias tape, by order of size. If it’s medium/heavyweight, I make shorts. If it’s too small to make shorts, it just sits there. But now I have this as an option. So, this is a broad plug for making a cap! It’s fun AND efficient! If you try this pattern and have any questions (totally justified by the terrible directions), please send me a note. It’s all doable.

The other scrapbuster is this Tessuti Romy top, which I made in my scrap frenzy in March. Obviously it’s the linen leftovers of my shorts! I wasn’t wearing this top at all, because it was a funny betwixt-and-between length, but I cropped the side seam to 6.5” and now I love it as a coordinating set. The hem is actually hand-sewn because I didn’t feel like hauling out my machine and it ended up being a nicely meditative summer morning activity.

I’m also warded against evil in my new Danny Brito pins, which is always handy.

Finally, this is the face I make when I’m quoting The Sandlot at Professor Boyfriend and he quotes The Goonies back at me. They’re both great flicks, but I was TALKING about BENNY THE JET.

FOR-EV-ER.

Pattern: Style Arc Baseball Cap

Pattern cost: $5.88

Size: NA

Supplies: scraps of Kaufman cotton/linen in Forage; thread, interfacing, snaps from stash

Total time: 3.5 hours

Total cost: $5.88

Pattern: Tessuti Romy top

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 95% of M with changes

Supplies: scraps of linen blend; thread from stash

Total time: 2.25 hours

Total cost: $0.00

Can’t Elope

First, real and urgent: here’s an efficient way of contributing money to multiple bail funds and advocacy groups, and also an article (with further reading linked) that I found useful.

Now, back to trifles – sewing. I like to buy fabric in person (who doesn’t?), but the coronavirus stay-at-home order has put a geas on that and will for a while. I live in the most densely populated city in New England and we’re taking reopening slow (except for protesting! Okay, trifles again). Anyway, I made a misstep when ordering the fabric for this top. It’s perfectly nice in terms of quality, and I’m often attracted to these pale oranges and buttery yellows, but I couldn’t ‘try it on’ in person so I forgot that they’re a little nudie on me.  

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Much like Rogelio de la Vega, I don’t pop in peach. Actually it’s ‘Cantaloupe Check’ by Carolyn Friedlander, so I guess I don’t pop in cantaloupe. Oh, well! The fabric is soft, stable, and firmly woven, with no wrong side; the layout left a lot of scraps, and the 1/4″ square checks made it extremely efficient to cut and sew those into masks. And I got to try a new-to-me pattern, so the time and materials weren’t wasted, really! Except for paper, since it has a wasteful layout. If they marked both necklines and hems on the same boxy body piece it would save at least a dozen pages.

The pattern is the free Fibre Mood Frances top, and the war on trees aside, it’s fine. I like it on the model a lot, but her fabric is much drapier! My cotton is poofy, not drape-y. Add the check and I might be a farmer, possibly in the dell? The shirt as drafted is almost exactly a box.

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Except the front hem is curved, a little optimistically for my shape!

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Given that I wear my shirts knotted or tucked, I could have skipped it. Still, that wouldn’t have conserved much yardage. Because the sleeves are grown-on, I needed a full 2 yards of 45” wide fabric to fit the pattern pieces, with a lot of wasted space whether I cut them on the straight grain or the cross grain. But I really, really liked the look of those elastic cuffs. (No way the Fibre Mood model is comfy with them stuffed into a blazer, though.)

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By the way, if you know a way of French-seaming a right-angled armpit without clipping into the seam allowance, please let me know! I couldn’t find one. I stitched the seam a couple times for extra strength, but I still feel funny about the two tiny raw spots when everything else is enclosed.

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The shirt tips back on me. I have to fiddle with it more than I’d like to keep it symmetrical/covering my bra straps (the peep through the large armscye of my quite sensible bra is fine; I pick my battles). I briefly considering elasticizing the waist as well, which I think would keep it in place, but that would be a deliberately poof-forward solution!

One random thing I liked about this pattern: the neck binding length is provided. It saved me a step (normally I pin, measure, un-pin, join my binding in the round, then pin, then sew…I could skip right to pin and sew, nice!).

I’m wearing this shirt with the first shorts muslin of my Perse-phony pants draft. The buttons are waaay under the overlap (too far!), but as the denim relaxes, I’m having an easier time getting in and out.

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The back pockets are in extremely the wrong place. They were the spontaneous product of a couple large scraps and a desire to hide my pointy dart ends, but seeing these pictures, I might actually care enough to drop them a good 3”.

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I love my butt! It deserves better!!

I have no grand pronouncements about the Fibre Mood Frances; I think I still kinda like it, but my iteration needs a new home (or I could get a tan, but actually I can’t). I’ve got some ivory rayon leftover from a long-ago project and I’m waffling over trying again in that.  And if I do, you’ll hear it here first on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!

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And, why not make that donation recurring? See you next time. xo

Pattern: Fibre Mood Frances

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: M

Supplies: 2 yards of Cantaloupe Check cotton, $18.00, Gather Here; 3 yards 1″ elastic, Gather Here, $5.40; thread from stash

Total time: 4.75 hours

Total cost: $23.40

Romy, oh Romy

For whatever reason I default to the same few pattern companies over and over, but that means I often miss smaller releases, like the Tessuti Romy top. But then I spotted one over on HollyDolly and it clicked! I’m sort of vaguely restricting my pattern purchases to ones that really do something different than those in my existing collection (not just wider/shorter/more gathered/more buttons, or whatever). I don’t have any tank patterns with a bust dart, and I thought the high necklines and strap placement could be transplanted onto dresses or jumpsuits.

At least that’s what I thought I thought, until I realized I just saw this neckline everywhere in street style and I’m as much of a susceptible muppet as anyone else!

Anyway I’d already made it twice by that point. Whoops. Don’t mind me, I’m just assimilating over here.

I sewed mine at size ‘95% of M’, because I forgot to check the printer settings. But I didn’t want to waste paper, plus the printer is upstairs, UPSTAIRS, PEOPLE. So printing once was enough. That’s roughly equivalent to a size S.

This top is surprisingly long (would I say…unnecessarily long?? Yes I would), but I didn’t need to grade out for my hips! What witchcraft is this? The pattern calls for 1 meter of fabric; I bought 1.25 yards of 60” wide linen, and I squeaked out a full-length and a cropped version, with an assist from some scraps of cotton voile for facing the cropped one. I think somewhere between full-length and cropped would be my sweet spot for tucking in.

I had some issues with my first draft. One was technique – I don’t have a loop-turner, so turning the straps was tricky, and mine ended up more like fettucine straps than spaghetti straps. The other was fit. I had read somewhere that Tessuti drafts for a lower bust point, but it was NOT low enough.

I feel like every time I learn something about fitting my bust I get confusion, not clarification. Normally I have to shorten above the bustline, but now these darts were floating well above the apex! Where are my boobs??? Do they wander?

Regardless of big-picture boob position, I would need to lower the dart. Also, I wanted to raise the bottom of the armscye, so my bra wouldn’t peek out. It seems to show more on one side consistently, so either my sewing or my top story is asymmetrical.

Plus back neck gape, which is pretty standard.

None of these changes are complicated, so I tried them simultaneously. I lowered the bust dart like so by ¾”. I also raised the bottom of the armscye by ¾” and made the curve shallower for more coverage. The back neck is narrowed by ¾”, so I guess that was my magic number. Finally, I had to extend the facing – I made it 1” longer so I’d have room for my lowered bust dart, plus a little extra for the hem! There wasn’t much wiggle room between the dart intake and the hem before.

I think it’s a definite improvement! It’s possible I would have avoided some woe by omitting the bust dart entirely, but dang it, I bought the pattern at least in part to try something new. And it’s much more accurate now!

Okay, so was it worth it? I bought the PDF, and it’s fine, but just fine. The lines for each size are hand-drawn with an identical weight and color. I ended up wasting a lot of paper printing out the pattern pieces for tear-away Vilene, which they recommend instead of stay-stitching. Needless to say I just stay-stitched! The directions also instruct you to interfacing the facings. Nooo, thank you. I changed the order of sewing, too, so that I could French-seam the side seams.

Basically I used the What Katie Sews order of operations for the Ogden cami, with the main difference being that I sewed and understitched the straight necklines first, and then sewed and understitched the armscye curves, instead of one continuous line of stitching per front or back. As long as you don’t get the pieces twisted, this is a much easier way to construct the top!

While it seems like this simple shape would be a good pattern for a beginner, I’d hesitate to recommend it. It’s not really a ‘teaching pattern’. That being said, I’m happy with the results!

I’ve gotten some good use out of these this summer. They’re not revolutionary tops, but they’re cool and useful. It’s possible I would have had more detail shots, if I hadn’t gotten distracted by some friendly strangers…

You don’t care that I don’t use tear-away Vilene, do you, pretty horse?

Pattern: Tessuti Romy top I & II

Pattern cost: $8.62

Size: 95% of M, with changes, above

Supplies: 1.25 yards white linen, Sewfisticated, $8.74; scraps of cotton voile from stash (for facings); thread from stash

Total time: 2.25 hours/1.5 hours

Total cost: $17.36 for both tops

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