One in Every Color

Do you have a signature pair of sneakers? These are mine, in my favorite summer color of the moment, a cooling mint–like a mojito on my feet.

I tend to find a classic and stick with it. For years I loved Chucks, then classic Vans. Then I discovered Superga. They are Supercomfortable and seem to last longer than Vans. Unfortunately, all of my sneaks eventually get holes and turn into muddy-colored garden shoes. Derek and I once considered making a wall sculpture out of our dead but sentimental shoes from the past, but quickly realized it’d be a rather stinky sculpture…

So sneakers and tanks are the mode du jour. We are officially in the dog days of summer. The 100s have arrived, and just like last summer I have realized my wardrobe doesn’t have enough floaty, breezy tanks. So over the last couple of weeks I’ve been refining a tank pattern I started in on last summer. I’m determined to have one in every color!

These are a few samples from leftover yardage. Each one is from a different knit (modal/lycra, rayon/lycra, and an organic cotton jersey). I was trying to learn a bit about fabric fit and behavior, particularly with bindings.

One of my favorite tank shapes is a loose sort of a-line fit with a deep u-neck and a slight racer back. My first version (not pictured) looked more or less like a sleeveless tee with a slightly tented hemline. On the next three I added a shirttail hem and kept scooping the neckline and armhole a little bit more each time. It’s super easy to draft a tank from your favorite tee pattern and it’s only taken a few experiments to get the right scoop shapes to my tank. If you need a book to guide you, I really like Built by Wendy’s Home Stretch, a good beginner’s guide to sewing with knits. It includes a few starting patterns, like a tee, and walks through modifying a basic tee pattern into other shapes. Although I’ve never used the book’s patterns, it gave me some starter drafting ideas when I first started playing with my tee shirt pattern (BurdaStyle’s Lydia) a couple years ago.

I think I’d like deeper armhole scoops for future versions. I was being a bit conservative at first, worried I might reveal too much. You can see that the white tank looks a little tighter around the bustline. When I first drafted this pattern off my tee, I narrowed the bustline to account for stretch. The stripey modal fabric stretched over 100% and fit just perfectly. Even though the white knit is about t-shirt weight, it’s quite stable and stretches only about 20%, so I’ll probably need a second pattern adjusted to fit stabler knits.

It’s good to know the stretch percent of knits particularly when it comes to bindings. The more elastic the fabric, the shorter the binding needs to be. I experimented on scraps before binding each tank to get the right reduction for a flat, clean look. So, for example, on the striped fabric, I narrowed the binding length by 30% and for the cotton knit by 10%. Too long bindings cause all that ugly rippling and the binding to stand away, while too short bindings gather too much and pull in and up.

My favorite edge finish is a sewn-on band using this method, which I’ve been doing for most of my tees the last couple of years. I start out by basting the folded binding to the seam (right sides together), then I serge over the basting, then I fold the binding out and topstitch the seam allowance down from the front to keep the seam flat. I see a lot of store-bought tees with this sort of binding, in which the seam isn’t actually “bound”.

For actual bindings that enclose the seam, I think it’s difficult to get a clean, consistent look unless a binder is involved. And I actually have a couple of binding attachments for my old Bernina, but still need to do some experimenting to get them right on knits. For some tanks I’d love to have a little baby binding with just a single stitch on top (rather than twin needle or coverstitch) for a more elegant look. For the white cotton version, I knew the fabric was a bit more stable and would take better to this kind of single fold binding so I tried a method Sherry described on her blog. It came out very clean and pretty!

Stay cool everyone! Now back to that glass of lemonade…


Pen Pals, Peaches and Lace

Did you ever have a pen pal? (Do you remember those?) When I was a kid I always wanted one. Perhaps I’d get letters from France, or Scotland, or Florida, the envelopes decorated with stickers and hand drawings. I don’t know if this counts (because I was 19 not a kid), but I corresponded with a Polish fella for awhile, the summer after the Berlin Wall fell. His English was new and he wanted to practice. I wanted to know all about a place that had seemed behind a wall for most of my childhood. I was thinking about this today because what seemed so romantic then is so commonplace now. Blogging sort of feels like having a bunch of pen pals, and in instant time!

And I was excited to finally meet one in person last week, the beautiful Lavender of Threadsquare. Sadly, I don’t have photo proof of our meet-up but her dapper man was so kind to snap one. She was wearing an enviable fitted modal knit dress of her own making, and I felt a little bit sorry that all my me-made summer clothes were in the wash. (I am a “wait two weeks to do laundry” sort of lady.) Lavender is just as pretty in person as she is online, and gorgeous in the heart, too. After we parted, I realized how much sewing has been such a lone hobby for me, and that needs to change, STAT. I hope she and her husband find a way to move back to Austin, because it was wonderful to geek out about sewing, art, photography and blogging with someone, even just for a brief hour or so.

Maybe I can talk one of you guys into coming for a weekend to make our own dress forms. Or fit those cigarette pants. Hint, hint, hint. Or, or… bra-fitting?

That’s been the obsession du jour. I finally got cracking on my “Peaches & Cream” set, called thus because peaches are in season now, and I keep buying local ones from the market even though I can’t possibly eat them all. (I’m making cobbler today with the quickly turning leftover fruits.)

Ain’t she purty?

The patterns are Pin-up Girls Classic Bra and Merckwaerdigh Mix30 for the panties. The 2nd pair is my own draft. I used the Merck pattern as a starting point and drew out more of a hipster style with a higher waistline just using stretch lace (no elastic).

Over the last month, I’ve been experimenting a lot with my bra pattern, drawing out a few new styles and learning a bit about fabric and fit. My first two versions fit me very well, but only in the fabrics included in the Bra-makers Supply kits. The pattern calls for stable, non-stretch tricot for the cups and bridge area, and a firm stretch powernet for the band. Once you venture out into lightweight or stretchier fabrics like stretch lace and jersey–or anything with spandex–you’ll probably discover as I did that the pattern needs a bit of tweaking. My last version of this bra in my Byzantine set, turned out quite large in the cups and a little big in the band.

By pinching out the excess in the cups of my previous bra, I was able to get a good idea of what to remove and adjust. And it fits perfectly! Hopefully, this illustration will help someone else find a starting point for a similar alteration (say, if you’re changing from a more rigid fabric to cotton jersey that won’t be interfaced or padded). This adjustment removes both depth from the lower cup and length from the upper cup:

In my case, I removed almost 1/2″ in depth from the apex of the lower cup, going to zero at the sides. If you are using jersey or lingerie lycra for the band instead of powernet, you may need to shorten the back band a bit, too.

The fabric and notions are all from a Merckwaerdigh kit. If you’ve been stalking Novita’s bras as I have, you might recognize these fabrics from one of her sets. Peach and grey are one of my favorite color combinations, and I just couldn’t resist snapping up the same kit! The Merck kits are very similar to Elingeria’s, including a meter of stretch lace, and enough lingerie lycra (a nylon/spandex jersey) for one bra and two panties.

I like that Merckwerdigh’s kits also include cotton knit fabric for the panty lining, tiny elastic for the neckline on the cups and a small amount of stable sheer tricot to line and stabilize the lace or bridge, which you can see in the photo above. The tricot feels better against the skin than just lace, and adds a bit of modesty. (While Elingeria offers more variety, you’ll have to add those extras on your own if you want them.)

Happy sewing, y’all!

Back to the peach cobbler…