Tag Archives: sewaholic

I made a Cambie, but I had a good reason

I loved La La Land. Yes it was silly and frivolous and presented a LA that doesn’t really exist particularly racially and hired actors who are neither professional singers nor dancers for roles that required a lot of singing and dancing and basically was another Hollywood-loves-to-make-movies-glorifying-Hollywood movie. You know what? I don’t care. Or I care, a little bit, but not enough not to love La La Land.

Partly it was just so much fun. I loved the dancing. No surprise. I also loved the dresses. La La Land had my platonic ideal of dancing dresses. Just look at the colours!

Now. Emma Stone is lovely but in build we are nothing alike. I could probably fit two of her in me and have room to spare, for one thing; for another, there is a conspicuous absence of space for bra straps in these lovely dresses, and that is a distinct dancing dress no-no for me. So while I loved the dresses I knew that most of them would be best loved from a “they look fantastic! … on you” vantage point.

But the yellow dress.

The yellow La La Land dress I have to try to make.

(For the rest, I will be content with stealing the colour scheme.)

I could not find any pattern with all the features:

1. Square neckline front and back
2. Sleeves join to neckline front and back; slight cut-on cap/flutter shape
3. Gathers into waistband
4. Waistband (as opposed to skirt and bodice directly joining)
5. 3/4 or full circle skirt

There were a ton of posts a few months back about how to make the La La Land dresses, but none of the patterns were really a good match. The skirt’s not a challenge–I can draft that; a pattern’s not needed–but the bodice is, and the Cambie looked like it would provide the best starting point, with the front sleeve construction and the waistband. Once I got the bodice to fit, altering the sleeves and changing the sweetheart to a square neckline would be no big deal.

Cambie Dress by Sewaholic Patterns, Line Drawings of View A & B

But getting a bodice meant for pear shapes to fit me is itself not a no-big-deal. So I am, slightly, eating my words on giving up on Sewaholic patterns. It was the Cambie or start from scratch, really.

So step one–look at that Dear Readers, an excessive prologue to a post about a dress that is itself a prologue–was to just make a straight-up Cambie with known alterations to the bodice, and tweak the fit.

This is a cotton voile floral from Fabricland, bought on sale, lined with a white cotton voile from Fabricland, also bought on sale. Altogether the dress probably weighs about 3 oz, the fabric is so light; it’s going to be perfect on those summer days when it’s scorching and muggy and anything feels like it’s too heavy to wear.

The Back

Alterations and tweaks:

1. 3″ FBA to the size 8, traced to a new sheet so I wouldn’t butcher the original
2. 1/4″ removed from the shoulder seam, front and back
3. Front neckline raised about 1/4″ at the join with the sleeve
4. Sleeve shortened about 1/2″ inch at the join with the bodice
5. Added about 1″ to and changed the shape of the top of the pocket pattern piece so I could sew it to the waistband and provide better support on the inside. It helped, but it’s not super relevant to the eventual La La Land dress.
6. Originally nervous about the waist measurement of the size 8 so cut a size 10 in the back to give me fudge space. Took out the fudge space, and an additional 1″ on either side of the zipper near the neckline.

The Side

And then once the dress was assembled, moved the front waist dart on the bodice pattern piece about 1″ closer to the centre.

I love it. I think the main alteration for the La La Land dress is really just going to be the back. I’ll use the sleeve lining piece for the sleeves, extend it a bit, double it up for the back, and then lower the back neckline and square it off. Straighten off the sweetheart neckline in the front and–voila. La Land Dress bodice ready to go.

Oh hey look! It’s another Renfrew!

But this time, with a little added something.


I made it purposefully quite loose, even adding extra space to the sleeves, and then dug through my Fabric Manipulation book to get some ideas for adding a little something extra. Originally, I wanted to do something like this:


It’s just little angular bits of self-fabric sewn to the t-shirt in the centre (storebought). But the bamboo jersey I made for this renfrew was too high quality to curl up at the edges, gosh darn it, so I looked for something instead that would force some floof and curl into the fabric and settled on the split circle technique. It’s a denser, heavier look, to be sure, but I like it. It adds a little something to what is otherwise a very basic pattern.


And then I took some spiral bits and folded them and stitched them over the cut edges of the split circles so you can’t see the ugly bits.

The embellishment took longer than it did to make the shirt (but isn’t that always the way?). But I’m happy with how it turned out and have already worn it a ton, and it was a good use of fabric scraps, too.

A Renfrew with an experiment and an unintentionally funny fitting issue

Admiring my overgrown lawn and weeds. In a Renfrew.

So. Well.

Guess that FBA wasn't quite F enough
Guess that FBA wasn’t quite F enough



I guess I know what I need to fix for the next one. Plus a wedge taken out of the centre back.

Lines, lines, everywhere lines.
Lines, lines, everywhere lines.

Anyway. This post is less about the Renfrew, which poses obvious challenges to those of us not a pear-shape, than it is about what I used it to experiment with on my cover-stitch machine, which is: covering the back neck and shoulder seams!

neck binding-24-12


This all started years ago, when Frances would complain bitterly and endlessly that the seams on the knit shirts and pajamas I made her were itchy.

I top-stitched the serged seams down and they were still itchy. I replaced regular serger thread with woolly nylon and they were still itchy.

So I looked at her store-bought t-shirts. They all had fully enclosed neck-back and shoulder seams. And so did mine, when I went to look.

Inside of a casual shirt--straight stitch
Inside of a casual shirt–straight stitch
Outside of a casual shirt--chain stitch. This means that the outside of the shirt was facing down.
Outside of a casual shirt–chain stitch.

Casual t-shirts, dressy t-shirts, workout t-shirts, all those seams enclosed–usually with a strip of self-fabric.

Inside of a dressy t-shirt--two lines of straight stitching, incredibly parallel
Inside of a dressy t-shirt–two lines of straight stitching, incredibly parallel
Outside of the dressy t-shirt. Itty bitty wobblies, also straight stitches, not chains.
Outside of the dressy t-shirt. Itty bitty wobblies, also straight stitches, not chains.
Exercise shirt--straight stitch on the inside. Outside of this one is chain-stitched as well, but I'll spare you more photos.
Exercise shirt–straight stitch on the inside. Outside of this one is chain-stitched as well, but I’ll spare you more photos.

I spent a few months squinting at different kinds of bound seams.

Some had a double-row of chain-stitching. Some appeared to be sewn on with a regular straight stitch, or a narrow zig-zag. Some had only one visible row of stitching on the outside, indicating that they’d been sewn on in the ditch and then flipped over like a quilt binding. And some, where they were only sewn over the neck-back seam and not the shoulder seam, appeared to have been serged in when the neck binding was sewn on, and then flipped over the seam and stitched down afterwards.

Generally, the casual and workout t-shirts are the ones where the binding extends through the shoulder seams. Dressy, drapey shirts tend only to bind the back neck seam. The casual shirts are also more likely to use a chainstitch rather than (what looks like) a straight stitch.

Guess what, Dear Readers? Coverstitch machines can do chain stitches when you use only two needles.

A series of Frances-shirts with bound seams. The top one is inside-out so you can see it extending over the shoulders.
A series of Frances-shirts with bound seams. The top one is inside-out so you can see it extending over the shoulders. Yes, they are messy.

Anyway. I’ve now experimented on half a dozen t-shirts for myself, Frances, and Mysterious Others, and I’ve found the following very helpful:

1. Cut an on-grain strip of self-fabric about 1″ wide.

2. Pin it so that the bulk of the strip faces away from the seam allowance to be covered.

Here it is, lined up with the edge of the serged seam.

3. Using the chain stitch, stitch in the ditch on the inside. So make sure the looper thread matches the fabric, because it’ll show.

4. Trim if you want.

5. Fold the edge, then flip over to cover the serged (or other) seam. Pin excessively.

Showing the folded edge. Sort of. Squint, it's there.
Showing the folded edge. Sort of. Squint, it’s there.
Then flipped over the seam allowance and pinned in place
Then flipped over the seam allowance and pinned in place

6. Stitch as close to the edge as possible, trying to keep an even distance from the first seam.

Why did I take this one? Well, what the hell, Dear Readers. I'll bet you couldn't have figured this part out for yourselves.
Why did I take this one? Well, what the hell, Dear Readers. I’ll bet you couldn’t have figured this part out for yourselves.

It’s best if you do this right after attaching the neck binding and before attaching the sleeves, so you can bind the shoulder seams right up to the edge and neaten the ends up when the sleeves are sewn/serged on.

Holy cow that seam is wobbly. But from the outside it looks basically fine.
Holy cow that seam is wobbly. But from the outside it looks basically fine.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the factories have special machines that do double rows of these stitches at once so there’s less room for error. The store-bought ones are remarkably even, though they do occasionally wobble (I’ve squinted at a lot of these seams by now). But thanks to long hair and personal laziness, I’ve decided I’m ok with the odd more-than-wobble on my own neck and shoulder seams–it’s not that obvious. Best of all, Frances does not complain about itchy seams on these shirts.

And they do look nicer when you’re not wearing them, don’t you agree?

Renfrew outside from the back.
Renfrew outside from the back.

I know! It’s a tutorial, kind of! I’m appropriately ashamed. In my own defence, I did a bit of half-hearted googling and I couldn’t find this elsewhere, so may it be useful to you, and may you soon exceed my limited skills and be producing bound neck-back-and-shoulder seams of great evenness and beauty.