Mise en Place

Silk Shorts, Deja Vu

My my, is it August already?

This has been one of the more pleasant summers we’ve experienced in Austin, but August is always the hardest, like an oven that’s been slowly heating for a few months. It’s that time of year I like to read more, just chill more, and generally halt all forms of pressure and deadlines. And really just enjoy basic Southern pleasures like sitting on the porch at night with a iced tall something. (I love making lemonade.)

One of those summer pleasures was going to include that floaty pair of silk shorts, the remix of last summer’s ill-fitting pair. You are about to experience a bit of blog deja-vu because here I am 10 months later, posting some pretty pictures again of pretty purple silk shorts with pretty interior details, but NOT on me.

These became an epic do-over. I bought more of the same gorgeous silk charmeuse (this time in stretch, just in case) from Mood. I made three muslins and redrafted the leg to my liking. I hacked off the fly and just like my last pair drafted my own with a fly shield. I changed the waistband to a longer and folded tab front. I spent even more time on the insides than I did on the last pair. Things were going so well…

And then, you know what’s coming, I did a try on before sewing in the final buttonhole and hemming up the cuffs. They were girnormous! So much so that I can’t model on me or I’d be indecent without a paper bag waist belt. An epic do-over turned into another epically unwearable piece.

I went back over my fitting notes and realized two things: 1) Don’t try on muslins at night and right after you eat. I’d made a good adjustment to the waist and hips but then decided against the changes after trying them on again. And 2.) Stretch fabrics can play a number on you. I made my muslins in a light rayon challis which has gave me an idea of the weight and drape, but I really didn’t think about how the stretch would strettchhh. I so wish it was easier to predict stretch behavior… and perhaps I need to get in the habit of fitting as I go.

However… I love this fabric too much so I am going to unpick. I will have to unpick quite a bit of understitching and somehow make my way into my very tiny trimmed waistband seams. Unfortunately, charmeuse is prone to needle marks, but I will have to live with that. Am I crazy? I don’t know what it is about this project. Normally I’d be really disappointed but I wasn’t the last time, either. More than anything I feel as if I’m getting the hang of trouser interiors and perhaps am ready to attack the satin tuxedo pants I’ve always dreamed of making…

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It Was all Yellow

Last summer I was having a serious love affair with almost the entire spectrum of yellow. Gold. Ochre. Lemon. Canary. Sunflower. Mustard. There were a couple of spring 2011 runways that were to blame for this. Marc Jacobs clever use of marigold and diaphanous yellow with plum and coral. And Salvatore Ferragamo’s sun-kissed yellows falling into skin tones. It wasn’t just the color; I was very taken with the 70s influences of both collections and wrote about my plans to hijack one of these peasant looks back in May 2011.

Knocking off the Ferragamo outfit was near the top of my list last year and a must-finish this summer.

Normally, I’m not into big skirts but something about the easy Italian glamour thing appealed to me, romanesque sandals and all. How to translate without feeling too costumey is always a good challenge when being inspired by runway looks. And since I’m past the age for cropped tops, I wanted a similar cotton-y blouse without the belly-show.

You got to see a sneak peak of the blouse earlier this week and I really love it to pieces! I’ve worn it a few times already. A few of you commented on my buttonholes, and I wish I could say I could do that by hand, but the hand-stitched parts were only the buttons themselves. I’ve been blessed for the last year or so to have a machine that makes buttonholes which don’t make me scream. I once spent a week of nights practicing tailored buttonholes with gimp and button thread and needless to say I think it would take me another year practicing until I actually put them on a garment.

Blouse: Simplicity 7892, dated 1977. I dug this gem up on Etsy. It’s been awhile since I’ve sewn from a vintage pattern and boy, this one is a beaut. I don’t know if it’s the 70s cut, but it has a narrow-to-wide shaping from bust to waist that’s perfect for a pear-ish figure like mine. Here’s how it looks untucked:


There are a lot of little details I really liked about this pattern, like a curved sleeve hem–a drafting detail that seemed to disappear from patterns after the 70s–and lots of little helpful dots and notches to get all that gathering lined up. I didn’t make any fit changes but trimmed the seam allowances on the tissue to 3/8″, and raised the sleeves to 3/4 length (which I liked in the Ferragamo blouse).

Skirt: I think both of my inspiration skirts are basically dirndls (two rectangles). So that’s what I cut. I measured my waist and multiplied by 3 to get the total skirt width and then measured down to mid-calf to get the length. I added a button stand to the front panel and a wide waistband with belt loops (which you can’t see because I couldn’t find a small enough belt!). That width is a good idea in theory, and true to the runway style, but the gathering was a beast and after an hour working it all out and trying it on, the cotton was so poofy it gave me an extra set of hips.

So I ended up unpicking and drawing in a hip curve at the side seams, taking in the waist by a good twenty inches. When you do this to a straight rectangle, the side seams will drop a bit. So I also drew up a little curve along the the hem to compensate.

Fabric: I really had in my mind a goldenrod colored cotton poplin to match the runway outfit. And I was absolutely delighted to find a Radiance silk/cotton poplin in–ooh, yes–butterscotch! Do you know about Radiance? It’s a lovely fabric, with a cotton-ish drape but one side has the silky sheen of a satin. It feels like heaven. I’ve used it before as a purse lining but never in a garment. Usually this fabric prettier and richer with the satin side facing out but I really didn’t want something that dressy, so I used the “homespun” side, and for a touch made the sash with the satin side.

Despite it being a waylaid project for so long, I’m glad I still feel inspired by it and think it adds some fun pieces to my wardrobe. Isn’t it fun to be surprised when a style risk clicks? And this golden Klimt yellow is surprising, bringing out the amber in my eyes.

And p.s. the photos were taken on a very grey day, in an uninhabited but historic art deco home that we’ve adored for years. At one point we trespassed (tsk tsk) just to get a look at the truly surreal deco fish tanks in the living room. We tried to get inside again but…

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Playing Catch-up and a Cote D’Azur Dress

This was a dress that started its life as part of my Mise En Place project over the fall.

Recently Amy of Sew Well asked me if I was back to working on one project at a time, or working on multiple garments at once. Coincidentally, I had just pulled out the remaining garments I cut for that project. My serger went on the fritz toward the end of a silk jersey dress, and I never got around to finishing the rest of the them so they’ve all been on my to-do list this spring!

One of the motivations behind the Mise En Place was to find an organizational system for myself. It seemed like every time I got down to actually sewing something I’d be missing something important–thread or notions, or forgetting to fuse part of the fabric and then having to salvage wadded up fusing. And it would just take so long to finish. I just wanted to sit down at the machine and sew when it was time to sew! This time I had a real pleasure out of having eight different projects all prepared to go, cut out, bundled up with their requisite notions, fused, etc. No more running out for something at the last minute. I liked pretending I was a small factory sewer for a moment.

I also really like working on the same type of project for extended periods of time. So all said and done it was a good experiment, allowing me to give all that attention to individual stages of the process. (And I got much faster at tracing patterns and refining seam allowances as a result.) Thinking eight projects ahead was fun, but I don’t know if I could do that all the time–no room for whimsy or the latest pattern a blogger made and I just have to have!

Speaking of which, I’ve been having a hard time coming up with a summer wardrobe sewing plan. There are just so many good ideas swirling around my head and my original list was about 10 or so garments. I’d love to join one of the palette challenges and I’m wondering if three is a better number. Leaving room for whimsy. I love the Me Made concept, too–but I think my personal challenges in the months ahead relate to fitting more than wardrobing. (I’m dreaming of a custom dress form. Just dreaming, at the moment.)

Anyways, that was a long answer to Amy’s question but I’m trying hard to put periods on some of my ellipses!

Now that you’ve made it this far: the dress!

Pattern: HP Cote D’azur Dress. Last summer I really wanted to try a Hotpatterns pattern. (And that sounds funny funny.) I have a few that I bought in some mad fabric.com discount. I figured a knit dress was a good way to start.

Fabric: This is a somewhat weightier rayon jersey (I think 14 oz?) and it was purchased for a draping project for a friend, as a birthing dress. I will have to share that story some day but it remains my second ever draping attempt and it was a blast. Anyway, I’d ordered far more than her dress needed just in case.

Details: This is basically a t-shirt dress with seams down the center back and front. Super simple, the whole thing is serged. The special part about it is the bias shaping down the center front seam that forces it to drape as it does. (Sort of like a cut-on godet?) It also has hem facings, which I like, because it allows a for the nice, curvy hem shaping.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about a design with a gathered seam going down the bust, but I decided to give it a shot and just use up my fabric. It’s pretty cute, I think. I like the fact that it’s a maxi (or midi?) and that it’s purple. I’m not very good at binding knits yet, and I had to rip out this binding THREE times to get that V right, but I’ll get there.

One word about fit: I didn’t measure or alter this pattern before cutting (a risk, I know). And there were no reviews of it on PR at the time–but I learned afterward how much bustage is in this pattern. If I did this again I’d take out some little darts in along the neckline and gathers. (This review is helpful in explaining that.) Guaranteed, if you are a B or below, you will have to do some bust adjustment for this pattern. It’s not an ideal fit for me, as you can see:

It doesn’t bother me too much because the overall dress is nice, and looks even better when I don’t have a belt on–it weighs downward. There is a t-shirt version of this, which I doubt I’ll make but if I did there’s no way I could get away without taking it in in this area. Yes, this is going to be the summer I learn about small bust adjustments. No more balloons of fabric!

Summer + maxi(midi) dresses + my iris garden = happiness. (Sadly the irises have all bloomed and left by now!)

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Bramaking and Dreams of Stella…

Frankly, I could fill a whole drawer with Stella McCartney bras.

So pretty, girly, vintagey. Earlier this year I indulged a visit to Underwear, a local lingerie boutique and got to touch and try some of Stella’s bras in person. The laces and materials are as pretty and soft as pictures seem to show.

Although if I really had the dough, it might be a luscious set from Carine Gilson, a Belgian lingerie maker.

Lovely lovely lovely–silk appliqued lace!–and putting one out, oh, about $500 for a bra.

If there was one thing I’d love to sew for other women, it’d be bras. Body confidence is such an intimate and complex combination of things, but I’ve noticed when clothing fits and seems mysteriously made for someone’s exact body, it can really affect a sense of self. It’s amazing how beautiful, great-fitting undergarments can imbue confidence and celebration of one’s body.

I know y’all have those pilling three-year-old bras in your drawers. Most of the time I’d rather be buying shoes, and I get lazy and ignore the bra needs until the elastic is beyond dead, but when I finally replensish with just one or two sweet bras that fit, I feel like the rest of my clothes are fun all over again. Bonus.

I like pretty underthings but have never found a style that feels like the magical “it”. Fit and comfort gets sacrificed for style or vice versa. I’ve gotten spoiled by getting more fit-conscious as a sewer, I’m sure. Anyway, I fall in between sizes–either a 32B or 32C or 34A depending on the manufacturer–and almost always look for demi-cup styles. Soft-cup and bralette types are very comfortable and perfectly fine for me, but sometimes a smaller gal likes a shapely underwired bra.

Seeing the beautiful bras on Novita’s blog gave me motivation to pull out the bramaking kit I’d bought over a year ago from Bramakers Supply. The kit included all the notions and fabrics for one bra, along with their “Linda” bra pattern. The fabric for cups is Duoplex, a kind of shiny non-stretchy type of knit, and the band fabric is powernet. Not exactly my dream bra fabric but I really needed the hand-holding of a pre-assembled kit.

According to the pattern, I measured a 32B, but I decided to test out the underwires first. The wire for a 32C felt more comfortable and was closer in diameter width to my closest-fitting bra, a 32B. I decided to forge ahead and make the 32C pattern but with the depth of the B cup. I did this by splitting the B cup and spreading it out to the width of the C, making sure the underwire length was the same.

The construction itself is fairly easy–working with small pieces leaves so much less room for error. The seam allowances are small and exact. The instructions on this pattern are very clear and detailed. There were a couple of hiccups, though… One was getting the trim sewn on neatly where the bridge and underwires intersect. I fudged it enough to work…

blech…

The other had to do with what might be a pattern error along the center back.

The pattern calls for a 2-hook closure (and is what came with my kit), but the band seems accidentally drafted for 3 hooks. I fiddled with the elastic till it curved correctly into the hooks, but in the future, I probably won’t use 5/8″ elastic–seems unnecessary for a smaller bra.

The final bra feels pretty close and fits well enough to wear, although I think I’d like to test out the 32B pattern separately. There’s only so much one can tell from fitting the cups. I really had to complete the entire bra to get an idea of fit and once it was all together the bridge seemed a little narrow, the underwires too close together. (In bras, as cup sizes increase, the bridge gets narrower.)

The question becomes, what shape is supposed to be happening and how close of a “natural shape” do I want?

The full-coverage style of this pattern is pretty new to me. It might seem cute on the hanger but it’s a tad medical-looking on the body. I’d love to modify or try something closer to a demi bra or a contour t-shirt style, which could certainly change the fit. Most of my bras also have a vertical seam or dart (like the Stella and Carine Gilson bras above) rather than the horizontal seaming of the bra pattern. It seems a bit old school, but maybe that’s just an association I have. But I look forward to re-shaping and playing around the the design details in future bras.

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In Progress: The Good Times Dress

Finally, I have moved more than halfway through my ready-to-sew garments from the summer. The latest is a little bit of Studio 54.

This is Hotpatterns Good Times Dress, which is inspired by a DVF style, and in a totally glam silk jersey. I might be having a silk jersey crush. It’s so lovely and easy to sew, and skims the curves in a very flattering way.

I originally cut this dress for a friend who was performing in a 25-year reunion concert with her band. This was back in July and I didn’t really have time to complete it but I probably needed an excuse to cut it out. I’d always wanted to try Hotpatterns as I’ve accumulated a few. I’d bought the lovely hibiscus-colored jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics over a year ago, for a project for another friend and we ended up going with something else. In the end, I really wanted that fabric (and dress) for myself anyway!

As you might notice, the dress remains unhemmed (the sleeves and hem will be about four inches shorter). This is because I’ve decided to put the dress in time out for awhile so I don’t make any more holes or mistakes.

It took me a couple of days to figure out the yokes. The HP instructions have you roll up the bodice into its yoke “like a sausage” for a clean finish, much like the “burrito method” in shirtmaking. The problem with doing it this way is that the neckline is already closed, making it impossible to turn inside out. Ask me how I know–I had some kind of origami puzzle going on after sewing it according to the illustration.

To do this correctly, one must roll the entire garment (including the opposite yoke), into the yoke, sew and then turn out through the open armhole.

After figuring out the yokes, my serger started acting up. It needs a tune-up like last year. I kept ripping out a lot of serged stitches before I figured out that the problem was not with me or my needle but my machine. I wound up poking a big hole in the garment where the pocket goes, and had to sew over it.

I’m exaggerating by pulling on the dress but sometimes pockets in knits just don’t lay well. I love pockets but might just serge them out of the picture when I come back to the dress.

The whole pattern is basically a bunch of rectangles, which I think is pretty clever in its simplicity. The sleeves are sewn in at right angles to the straight line of the shoulder. I’d probably call them kimono-style, with a square armpit. But I can’t figure out how to sew that intersection of seams at the armpit without all the bunching and this is the point where I stopped before I ripped out yet another seam.

I love the proportions of the shapes in the dress. It has just a little bit of waist-shaping but otherwise relies on the drape of the fabric and ties for style.

I’m excited to see this done and will be back modeling this dress. It’s too much pretty to waste.

In the meantime, I’m going to have to set aside the rest of my project list since most of it requires a fixed serger (except the bra) and I’m ready to get on with some fall sewing!

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Lonsdale in Mocha

Gosh, I love this dress.

The minute I put it on, I knew it would become a regular rotation summer dress. Next summer.

Back when I first bought the Lonsdale pattern, I envisioned a Riviera-inspired garment and found a lovely linen-rayon blend in a perfect Mediterranean blue. It was even more gorgeous in person than it looked online, but alas, was much heavier than the described “shirt-weight”. I’m glad I changed direction.

I’ve been taken with all the head-to-toe neutral-palette dressing trends the last couple years. Skin-toned garments have a certain unexpected glamour. (Apparently, fashion is revisiting pantyhose as well, although as the more fetchingly named “nude-colored tights”. My memories of pantyhose in the 80s are not good, nail-polish-fixed runs and all.)

This was one of my favorite inspiration images from last winter.

I love how she put these all together and how the effect plays off her complexion. Yes, I get lost browsing Lookbook posts. And that cable-knit bustier totally rocks.

I thought the Lonsdale would be perfect interpreted this way, since it has such unique neckline and so much fabric going on. For me, too much print or bold color would turn it into a special occasion dress and I wanted a oh-I-just-threw-this-old-thing-on bit of surprise.

I was lucky to find some bargain cheap rayon challis in a milky coffee color. I will have to be very careful when washing, since the fabric seems to want to pill the minute I look at it. I like rayon/viscose challis as an alternative to drapey silks, but quality really does vary. But it’s so soft and comfy.

The back:

I didn’t want exposed seam allowances on the ravel-y rayon, so worked out how to sew the zipper within the lining. I have a RTW dress which is lined much like the Lonsdale and features a centered zipper so I knew it was do-able. The lining and inner waistband have to be cut a little bit differently, and the order of construction is changed a bit, but I found the process to be quite easy. (I also took some construction pictures along the way in case it might help someone else–a future post!)

I finished the skirt with French seams and tried out my blindstitch foot for the first time on the hem. After trying to hand-stitch for about ten inches, I realized I’d be at hemming all day (it’s a lot of skirt). I’ve been afraid of that machine foot for some reason, but it was much easier than I thought.

The pockets are such a cool little detail. I actually stuck my hands in them all day, making it feel like a really functional dress, too.

The fit was pretty perfect right out of the envelope–Sewaholic’s fit and sizing is more or less made for my shape so I really look forward to more of her patterns if the styles suit my aesthetic. I made a quick muslin out of rayon scrap to test out the bodice and only had to take in a little bit around the neckline to prevent gaping. I love its almost-maxi length, hitting above the ankles, which makes it perfect for flats or heels.

Overall, I think the Lonsdale pattern is a very lovely style and except for some acrobatic fidgeting in order to tie the bow in the back, it’s incredibly easy to wear. It’s also one of the better drafted patterns I’ve made this year, both in terms of technical draft and proportional balance.

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Silk Tank, Version 4.1a Beta

At long last, a deep drenching rain came to Austin over the weekend. The ground was soggy, the morning had a sweet breeze, and I celebrated by pulling out just about anything with long sleeves. Despite that, I’m still finishing up my summer clothes including the latest in my silk tank top experiments. The latest is a pattern from August’s Burda:

Before this, I’d been working and re-working a Kwik Sew pattern. My last version underwent my first-ever FBA (thanks to advice from pattern whizzes), and came out fitting well, but still felt too boxy and shapeless.

Some of my problem was the design of the garment itself. It’s amazing how something so simple as a tank or shell can have so many subtle style and fit variations. Since I was teen I’ve always instinctually veered away from wide scoop necklines–I just don’t think they frame my angular face very well. I fiddled with the neckline a lot, trying to narrow the scoop which also requires narrowing the back into a slightly more racerback shape, and eventually decided to just try another pattern.

I think I was taken in by all the romantic styling (I’m really obsessed with blush tones right now) so I dropped the Kwik Sew pattern and traced this this Burda pattern

I left out the side zipper and just sewed it as a pullover.

I love this fabric and darker coral hue (a half yard of stretch silk charmeuse that I ordered as a swatch a couple years ago–I’m trying to use up my yardage ends!). The recommended finish is a folded bias strip that is sewn to the right side then pressed inward and topstitched. I thought I’d try it, but think I prefer using facings. (You can see that the bias stretched too much and doesn’t lay flat against my neckline. You can also see, erm, that those darts are not the greatest.)

Just for the color and the fact that it’s sleeveless, I’ll probably wear this to death, despite the fact that its neckline is even wider than the Kwik Sew pattern. The straps almost fall off my shoulders. I’ll continue the hunt for next summer, or just perhaps draft my own darn tank.

Mondays are kind of like pajama day around here (rarely make-up, rarely even brushing the hair) but I decided to snap pictures anyway. This get-up is more or less representative of my default personal style (the kind which requires no thought when I realize I need to at least leave the house for groceries, or in this case, get in front of a camera)–jeans, a top, some kind of jacket or funky wrap, and brogues. I love brogues–flat ones, heeled ones. My husband calls them my collection of “teacher shoes”. Yep, I was a saddle shoe kid.

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Purple Silk Shorts by Burda. Process by Me.

Every garment has a Big Story, even if it’s small or rarely worn. This is what I love about sewing–it’s taking the narrative of fashion and making it very personal. Making something is such a stretched-out process of meditation–from research to finished garment. Sometimes I think about a person who loves this color, or a place I have been that feels like this fabric.

Or sometimes, as in the case of these silk shorts, the story becomes about the very process of craft.

Pattern: from Burda June 2010. Fabric: purple silk charmeuse leftover from my Lady Grey coat. I’d been wanting to make this pair since last summer so I added them to my multi-pattern project.

This is a really classic and easy-to-wear pattern. The shorts are slightly loose with a nice subtle contoured waistband that sits just below the waist, yoke pockets, and a fly. (The pattern had two styles with options for cuffs, back welt pockets, a front closing bow, or belt loops. I left off everything but the cuffs.)

Before cutting them I did a bit of zipper research. Rather than try and deciper the Martian Burda instructions, I compared various online tutorials and and the instructions in one of my sewing books. Most fly zip instructions include basting the center front, and I wanted to know if it was possible to do them without basting or even pins (partially to avoid stitch marks in silk and partially out of my experimenting curiosity).

So I turned to my favorite sllk crepe trousers and did a bit of examination of the pieces and possible sewing order. Then I cut a couple of templates in rayon scrap, using a similar fly front but with a very short crotch rise, adding a fly shield and making a few seam adjustments. I tried one sample with a cut-on fly facing and another with a sewn-on facing.

I was very pleased with the outcome of both–sewing a fly without basting is quite easy and just requires a few placement marks/notches. I transferred the pattern adjustments to my shorts and here was the final result from the outside:

From the inside (and still need to tie up the loose threads, oops!):

Things pretty much fell together after those exercises. And this was such a great feeling that I forgot to try them on till the end. And when I did, I realized I’d gone and done the ultimate sewing mishap: I’d completely traced and sewn the wrong (and much too small) size! In my past sewing life, this would’ve produced a seam-ripping frenzy, but I happily carried on hemming. At some point, I must have subconsciously felt these were less about an addition to my wardrobe and more about learning technique. I’d approached them almost as a sample-maker would–testing out the engineering and design, so to speak.

Now this got me thinking–how many garments (other than fast and unfinished muslins) had I made just as an exercise or practice, for the sake of practice, without the pressure of the end product? Very little, actually. Sewing tends to be goal-oriented, and coupled with a fear of waste, even the process of making muslins can have a certain goal-pressure around them. I liked how K.Line described muslins as a separate practice, a chance to learn, more like applied engineering.

Whatever your passions or hobbies, there is always more to know or learn, right? Even my most treasured writers filled notebooks with pure writing exercises to the end of their lives–which stretch fluidity in language, try out technique on smaller scales, and improve the process of self-editing. As I was putting these together, I thought, becoming a master at anything is not so much about skill acquisition but a willingness to keep practicing and learning and improving–these things eventually compound on each other and create experience and greater understanding. And those practices are valuable, even enjoyable, for their own sake.

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The Endless Summer Wardrobe

Hello! I have been a bit radio silent here, haven’t I? We ran away to San Francisco. We never wanted to come back. Cool breezes, fog, rain. Novel! We came home fully relaxed, only to spend the next week packing boxes. Argh, moving. It was exciting at first–a bigger house to live in while we do some major upgrades to our teensy but beloved old craftsman home. Then a week of I-can’t-find-my-freaking *insert essential daily item* craziness. We only moved a few blocks away but still totally discombobulating.

While Austin’s weather is still hovering in the 100s, this week finally brought in some cooler days that don’t feel like they are hijacking our sanity. I’m not sure if it ever plans on raining here again. I’m counting five months without a drop.

I’ve been chipping away at my multi-pattern project when I’ve had space or time to sew. At last I’ve arrived at the stage where all my garments are ready to be assembled at the machine!

If you’re just arriving here, I’ve been working on eight patterns at once as an organizational strategy. I wanted to try a bit of an assembly-line style of garment-making. Most of these patterns are summer clothes and I’d hoped to be done just a wee bit sooner but obviously in our current state of weather, they’ll still get some wear.

Along the way I was heartened by Robin’s guest entry at Gertie’s blog. She wrote that organizing the same stages of tasks together builds motor skills. Things I did like adding seam allowances to every pattern at the same time, cutting a ton of fabric for four days, and fusing all the fabric at the same time definitely resulted in more muscle memory and speed, and less second-guessing of what I was doing. I know these patterns so well I think I could sew them backwards in my head.

I was quite proud of myself when I was able to bundle each cut project with all its requisite notions. One of the things that tends to get me backed up in projects is that I forget I need buttons or run out of thread and then have to wait for the mail or trudge to Joann’s.

Of course, since my process of preparing all these garments was taking so long and I am desperate for a summer wardrobe refresher, I shoved everything aside to sew up an instant gratification dress. You can see the dress on the floor in the above photo… I’m just waiting for (didn’t I just say this backs me up?) the right size elastic to finish it. Here’s another sneak peak:

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Simple, Pretty Vintage Blouses

After sewing a second test of the Sencha pattern, I’ve decided to pass. Even after going up two sizes, the issues in my original muslin are still present, only in larger proportions. Shoulders oddly tight, too much bunching around the armholes and an unreal amount of billowing below my chest that would take too much work to adjust.

There are some lovely Senchas out there, and I think it looks good on certain figures but has the potential to be sloppy-looking on others. I mean no offense by that; it’s not for everyone! I feel perfectly happy breaking up with a pattern; why wrangle it down to something it’s not?

So I went back out on a pattern hunt. Basically, what I am looking for is a slightly loose, 40s-style cap-sleeve-ish blouse pattern with tucks or multiple waist darts. It can be buttoned either front or back–that part is easy to change. There are a motherload of vintage or repro patterns with almost identical shaping as the Sencha–and a few neckline variations.

First up is my favorite from Decades of Style:

I love how older patterns include illustrations of the pattern pieces–you can get a better idea of the shapes and tune into subtle differences. For instance, this blouse has a curved petal-like sleeve opening. It has similar tucks as Sencha, and there’s a back shoulder dart. What say you about shoulder darts? There are a lot of those in vintage patterns, and I wonder how they help fit.

Another from Decades of Style, the Girl Friday Blouse:

Double-tucking on front and back, which I like, a front shoulder dart, and that gorgeous triple collar! I won’t need the collar for my project but it’d be fun to try this out some day.

A McCall’s pattern, almost identical in shaping, but adds a bust dart (which might help with fitting?):

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Another McCall’s, with lovely shoulder gathering and optional cut-on sleeves. I wonder how those fit:

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More ideas:

{Credit: McCall’s 7231, McCall’s 6749, Vogue 6749, Simplicity 4987}

Are you bloused out yet? I think I know which one I like best style-wise, but am more concerned with fit and hope one of these patterns might have better proportions for my body. Which one would you pick? I’m pretty new to sewing 40s patterns. Perhaps it’s time to pull out my old attempts at bodice blocks and draft my own. Either way, starting another blouse will have to wait for fall!

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