Friday, September 17, 2021

Black & White Remnant Blouse

I've started making pieces for my Fall wardrobe -- bright jewel tones are my theme, and black and white prints are my neutrals :) I made a Jalie Florence last fall with some great black and white cotton from Fabricville, and on looking into my stash I realized I had enough left over to make a blouse to go under jackets and sweaters. I tried out a few patterns, and found that this Burda 128-09-2011 fit perfectly.

I have had this pattern bookmarked for a while, and was happy that I could finally use it. The cotton holds the distinctive shoulder line pleats nicely and the cap sleeve means both that I could fit this onto my remnant and that the blouse sits nicely under a blazer. 

It looks pretty simple, but oh my, that collar construction! The shoulder seam is dropped to the front at an angle. There are two pleats that overlap to form the inner neck edge. And then you have what looks like a stand-up half mandarin collar. But how to attach it? Well, not the way I first tried. 

Left side: correct -- Right Side: Wrong!

I finally checked PatternReview and was relieved to find many reviews of this blouse, and one of them explains the collar construction very clearly. Once I read that I understood, but I don't know how long it would have taken me to figure it out otherwise! The collar isn't attached above the front neckline, but flush with it. The pleats are sewn onto the front edge of the collar, leaving the seam allowance at the top, and then the second collar piece is attached along the top and turned in, which covers up all the raw edges. Sheesh, how hard was that to figure out! When it's done, it hugs the back of your neck and sits flat against the body.

Other than that particular struggle, this one wasn't too hard. I cut my usual Burda size, 42 and grading to 44 at the hip. I measured the pattern, which looked very long, and took up an inch between shoulder and bust (just below the pleat markings) which shortened the deep armhole and moved the bust point up to where it should be -- I didn't want that first button to fall below the bust point! Now it sits exactly where it should be.

I also finished the armholes with some premade bias tape as I'd have had to piece quite a few tiny pieces from my scraps to make enough self bias. If I make it again and have a touch more fabric, I'd use self-bias - it just always sits more nicely, I think. The only other change I made was to topstitch down the pleat edges for about 1.25" from the shoulder line so that they didn't puff out weirdly. I like the way they lie now. 

And luckily, I had the absolute perfect buttons in my stash. Love the match. This is the first item to be finished in my fall sewing queue, but I still have one summer dress to share soon which is just waiting for its buttons. I'm starting my fall wardrobe with some of the lighter and easier pieces that I can wear now with my late summer outfits as well as with the planned fall clothes.

 I think this blouse will be handy with everything. Although I didn't get a picture, I realized that undoing the bottom 3 buttons allows the blouse to be tied at the waist in cute 60s style as well. Very versatile :) Another black and white top is on the sewing table, hopefully to be finished quickly!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Acid Green Summer Frock from McCalls

Today's project is a dress I'd cut out in July and finally finished a couple of weeks ago. Had to finally get around to taking some photos to share here -- not every project is a win, and this one just doesn't really do it for me. I love the pretty rayon fabric but overall I just find the fit fussy despite all my attempts to fix it up. 

I chose McCalls 7712, View B (the simplest one with no added frills). It's a loose summer dress, almost cocoony in a way. As drafted, there are pockets in the middle seam, so that the pockets hang right across your front belly. Not my favourite look! So the first change I made was to move the pockets to the side seams, where I prefer them. I was just careful to transfer the pocket placement lines to the outer edges at the same levels. 

I also raised the point of the neckline by an inch, and did the same to the facing, so I'd be a little more comfortable wearing it. That worked out fine, but I think I slightly stretched the right neckline while attaching the facing despite stay stitching, and it bothers me! If I decide that I like this after all, I may unpick the shoulder facing and shorten the right side by 1/2" at that shoulder seam to get it to lay flatter. I often shorten the right side by a fraction anyhow, as my right shoulder is lower than the left. 

I finished and tried it on, and despite the beautiful fabric and the intent to make a loose caftany dress, I just didn't like the fit. It looked too oversized and shapeless. I considered taking in the side seams in the bodice but then thought about putting a tie in the back. However, I'm not a fan of back ties in general, so then it occurred to me to copy one of my favourite RTW dresses and put some shirring in the centre back panel. I used that RTW dress to figure out the optimal placement for the gathering and then drew my stitching lines with a Frixion pen and got out the elastic thread for some quick shirring.

I followed the instructions by Closet Core Patterns, with the only difference being that I couldn't tuck the ends into the seams as my piece was already constructed. So I carefully pulled the threads to the bottom and tied them off together to secure them. It seems to have worked but I'm still not 100% in love with this one. 

I don't know if it is the fit, the colour on me, or just that this is a summer project that has been hanging over my head and now it's not really seasonal. I may leave in the magic closet for a while and see if I like it later on. If not, I have a couple of friends my size with the perfect colouring for this fabric and one of them might end up owning it! 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Weekend Review: The Act of Sewing


The Act of Sewing / Sonya Philip
Boulder, CO: Roost Books, c2021
175 p.

Another new sewing book that I've been looking forward to! Sonya Philip is well known for her 100 Acts of Sewing blog and patterns (I've made Shirt No. 1, found at Creativebug, and have others still to try waiting in my queue). This book takes her DIY ethos and presents it all in one go, the perfect book for new sewists -- and with some great tips for us more practiced ones as well. 

The layout is clear and straightforward. It starts with a chapter on basic tools and techniques, then a look at the four patterns included (top, skirt, trousers, shirt, all very much like her existing pattern styles). All the patterns are on traceable sheets in the back of the book, no downloading or printing required. The sizing is inclusive, as with her existing patterns. The size range in the book runs from XS (B32/W29/H34) to 5X (B56/W53/H58).

(all images via publisher)

This is followed by a chapter on adjustments, mostly fitting ones, and then a chapter on modifications - these are more cosmetic ones that can change a pattern for you, like changing necklines, sleeves, adding tucks or gathers, or contrast bands and so on. The final section tackles combining patterns to make something new. 

Each chapter has many line drawings of all the steps. There are only a handful of photos of Sonya herself, wearing various pieces made from the patterns. But the steps are clear and it's a very beginner friendly approach. I really like her approach; she includes discussion of why sewing is so great as a means of expression and self-love. And she makes it extremely approachable. 

The progress of the projects is well done, as well. If someone is quite new to sewing, the patterns are very basic outlines, really cut and sew projects. There are no fussy elements to scare anyone off. But once you have a handle on that you can move on to altering, adapting and mixing. And I think that anyone who starts off in sewing this way won't have much fear of working with other patterns in future. It's great to give the power of personalizing patterns to a sewist from the start. 

All in all, I think this is a really solid book. No frills and fuss, just straight talk about patterns and adjusting them to your body and tastes. This is one I'd recommend to the new sewists in my life. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Celeste at Summer's End

I've been working on a few summer dresses to finish off my summer sewing, and now I can share them with you! My favourite so far from the queue has been the Celeste dress by Itch to Stitch. It's a simple shape, with nice lines and a good fit -- and I love the pockets. I made it in a busy floral linen so you can't really see the lines of it but I love the feel of it. Definitely making this one again. 

I didn't deviate much from the pattern. I graded from one size at shoulder to the next size up at hip (8/10) while tracing the pattern, and that is about the only real change I made. Oh -- also, because of my shape, I was also able to leave out the side zip - it pulls on over my head no problem. It fits really well and I found it really easy to sew. 

I popped down to the public garden in the middle of a traffic circle near me to get these photos in the lovely evening light. What a great spot. And makes for a nice evening walk too.

I was using a linen blend from my stash, and so I finished all the seams with zigzag stitching to prevent fraying. Because the princess line seams were all pressed to one side, I finished most of the seams together. It's very tidy. 

The front yoke is supposed to be self-lined but I didn't want to use the linen in two layers. I had some black cotton broadcloth in the stash that was lightweight and smooth against the skin so I used that instead. The inner yoke is supposed to be attached via stitch in the ditch but I find that when I'm doing something this shifty, I always miss an edge somewhere and the topstitching gets messy, even with the edgestitch foot in use. With this fabric I wanted to do a nice clean finish, so I hand-stitched the yoke down on the inside. It didn't take much longer than setting it up to machine stitch, and I love the smooth and even finish. 

The pockets that are built into the side panels are perfect -- not too big or small, and in just the right spot. They are big enough and sturdy enough to hold my phone :) 

I found this a really easy sew and enjoyed the process. The pattern is clear, the linen fabric was a dream to work with, and I love the final fit. I can see making this up in a variety of colours/fabrics. 

Huge flowers or tiny person? You decide...

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

September Sewing: New Plans and Projects

That August break just flew by in a rush -- feels like I was only away from this blog space for about a week! But it really was a break from my sewing room. I hardly did a thing in August, except read and laze about. It was pretty great :) 

I did finish up one dress that had been half done for ages; that review is coming soon. And I've been working on finishing up some summer sewing before I start in on my new fall wardrobe plans. That's basically a couple of more dresses, nearly done now and nearly ready to be shared here as well. 

What I'm most looking forward to, though, is my new fall sewing queue. I signed up for the Design Your Wardrobe project with Seamwork this year for the first time. It was just the right thing at the right time, I guess, since I don't usually plan ahead much in my sewing but this time it really excited me. I worked through the 3 week process, answering prompts and working out what I wanted in a fall wardrobe right now. I came up with the concept words "Bold Playful Power Suit". Here's the mood board that expresses that feeling. 

I'm not planning on exact replicas of the items on the mood board, but the idea of the skirt suit silhouette and the bright jewel tones and fun prints is what I'm going for. I have a couple of bright solids (unusual for me) that are going to be made into my first ever blazer attempts and a matching skirt or two. Then some fun prints for a couple of dresses that will match the colour scheme. And perhaps one or two blouses to coordinate as well. I don't have the exact patterns lined up yet but lots of ideas for what I want. The only problem is whittling it down to a reasonable amount for my timeframe! 

Something funny is that a friend just gave me a bunch of her old Burda magazines ranging from 1989 - 1993. I've really enjoyed sorting through them & viewing the fashion -- which is surprisingly current, especially the 1993 mags. Many of the pieces are things I have seen on runways this season, from jackets to colours. And there are tons of skirt suits in each issue...these 30 year old magazines fit in perfectly with my fall sewing plans! In fact I have bookmarked a couple of skirts and 3 different blazers that are all super modern looking and would be a great addition to my queue.

And of course I can't forget that the next Literary Sewing Circle will happen this fall -- not sure of the exact start date, but pretty soon :) Stay tuned. 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Weekend Review: Stress-Free Sewing Solutions


Stress Free Sewing Solutions / Barbara Emodi
Concord, CA: C&T Publishing, c2021
176 p.

I'm back after my summer break with a book review -- and fortunately it's a hit! I picked up this new title via my library and really enjoyed poring over it during the last week.

Well, in short, Barbara Emodi has done it again. She's created a very useful, practical sewing guide that is also completely in her own voice - quirky and full of tidbits from a lifetime of sewing. If you read her blog or have encountered her first book, you'll know exactly what this one sounds like. 

It's an excellent sewing companion. It's all about how to deal with sewing FAILS (Followed-All-Instructions-Letdown). She discusses specific elements of a pattern that may cause problems one by one, and points out where pattern instructions may fall down on the job. Each section starts with an explanation of the FAIL, clear photos of what a fail looks like and what you might actually want it to look like, and gives directions on a)how to fix it as far as possible now that it's a fail and then b)what to do next time to avoid a fail. This is an extremely useful setup, and will encourage sewists who have those unavoidable projects in which everything goes wrong. This is not only for beginners! 

Some topics include knit neckbands (my own most common FAIL), tower plackets, invisible zips, buttonholes, mitered seams and more -- all those little elements of a pattern that can go wrong and ruin the whole look. There are clear instructions with photos on the suggested quick fix, and better ways to do things next time you start from scratch. (ie: A Wavy Knit neckband: "Cut it off and throw it out the window. I have done just that. Feels great." haha!)

This is a great resource when something goes wrong -- no searching through tons of books or websites -- I'd say most of the common issues regular home sewists encounter are discussed here. 

Also, the final chapter, "50 Ways to Relax your Sewing" reads like one of her blog posts -- funny, offbeat, and also helpful. One of my favourites is #28: "If someone insists on handing you something to alter, put it on a shelf and forget about it." Or the practicality of #10: "Know exactly when to quit while you are ahead. Definitely stop sewing before the 'just one more thing' point if you are tired"

Something that is particularly notable about this book is that the photography is so clear, thorough, and extensive. And, the photographs of the sewing steps were all done by Emodi's husband, as this book was written during lockdown. The garment photos were taken by a local photographer and all the models are her friends and family. The quality of  all photos is excellent, but that extra personalization required by the lockdown also makes this book feel even more down home and so Barbara! I was really impressed by the practical, useful and thoughtful content as well as the presentation of the book overall.

This one is a definite recommendation for every sewing shelf. I'll be picking up my own copy soon. 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

August Pause


I'm taking a break from blogging this August -- I am not sewing much & will be busy with other projects and simply with resting! 

You may find me popping in over on Instagram now & again over the month, and I will be posting regularly on my book blog for August's celebration of Women in Translation as I do every year. 

See you back here in September, refreshed & ready to sew. Have a great rest of the summer!