It took me so long to make up the shirt from this set that not only is this pattern out of print, it’s not even listed on the website anymore. Oops. Also this means that if any of you like and want to make this … you’re out of luck. Sorry.
I actually originally bought the set for the skirt, which has some very cool seam lines on it, but this winter I found myself in need of long-sleeved shirts. Now, if you are like me, the word “need” comes to have a very ambiguous definition for sewing projects. Like: “I ‘need’ to find a jacket pattern to make up the felted black wool I picked up downtown on a whim,” or “I ‘need’ to find a lightweight jersey with a bit of body so I can try that jersey dress from this month’s Burda.” Or, more recently, “I ‘need’ to find some brightly coloured wool crepes so I can make up some skirts like Mia wore in La La Land.” None of these would pass the global-issues sniff test, and I wince a little every time I catch myself thinking anything like them.
All of my previous year’s long-sleeved shirts were loose and drapey. And then last year went and did it’s I’m-2016-I’m-going-to-make-you-cry-uncle that we’ve all enjoyed so much. And I lost my appetite and a bit of weight. So last year’s “drapey” and “loose” became “looks like a five-year-old dressing up in mom’s clothes.” (Along with a few of last year’s pairs of pants, necessitating a new pair of Style Arc Jasmine‘s, but you don’t want to see another one of those, do you? Suffice it to say that it’s grey and it fits.) On a “need” scale this isn’t “I haven’t eaten in three days” but at least in a first world context it is somewhat legitimate.
So, after my recent sequin adventures and a black skirt that is in the blogging queue, and a long-sleeved shirt for my daughter who also has an unaccountable need to put on clothing that fits and is appropriate for school every day, it was time to do something about this. Shirt #1 was Yet Another Renfrew, and again, you don’t need to see another one of those. It is a purpley blue, long-sleeved, and I’ve finally altered the front pattern piece so that it fits properly, which just goes to show that buying a pattern from a company that specializes in patterns for pear shapes is not the smartest thing to do when you are not a pear shape, no matter how nice the pattern is.
This is basically a raglan-sleeve t-shirt with a very wide neck band and a wide neckline. In terms of construction it is completely uninteresting, except for the neckband which has to be stretched out to its fullest extent while attaching to the shirt in order to lie (mostly) flat when worn. I made this a bit easier on myself by first basting and then serging.
When on the hanger, there are gathers along that seam that largely smooth out when it is stretched out on the body. However I do find that that neckband really wants to contract and it won’t stay as wide as it is supposed to according to the pattern drawing. I also find that some of the gathers remain on the back of the neck, but I don’t much care as that’s covered by hair anyway.
Overall it’s a fun pattern with some interesting details that make it a bit different–I mean, check out that side seam:
Such a small thing but a nice touch.
But I somehow doubt people are going to be paying much attention to the side seam because holy hell is it snug. There is nothing left to the imagination. This was supposed to be a shirt for work–and it probably still can be, if worn with a roomy skirt and a cardigan or blazer. Or I could go for broke and wear it with that front-split burda skirt I made in the summer and get myself sent down to HR.
It is a cool pattern, though. I’ll probably make it again, and maybe give myself just a smidge more ease.
I altered the pattern tissue after my first attempt so I wouldn’t have to worry about remembering what needed to be changed, and on the August long weekend here in Ontario, I finally cut out that fabulous rainbow linen, and sewed it up on the Monday holiday.
And here it is almost November and I’m finally blogging it.
Am I the only sewer out there who persistently underestimates how long it’s going to take to actually sew something up? I had this idea Sunday night: “I’ll spend tomorrow sewing and then I’ll have a dress for Tuesday and salsa dancing!” And this was, technically, almost true, if one extends Monday by 45 minutes or so into Tuesday morning. I started after waking, and barring food and bathroom breaks, kept sewing all day, all through the evening, and into the wee hours of the next day.
But except for the interior tacking stitches of the bodice lining to the bodice, it is done. And I wore it to work on Tuesday and will wear it out salsa dancing.
Every alteration made to the tissue but one was exactly what I needed. The shoulders are just where I want them; the arms don’t gape or bubble anymore; the waistline doesn’t tilt and it sits just above my natural waist.
But I shaved off a little more from the waist itself than I should have. There’s lots of seams so it wasn’t hard to do.
Dear Readers, this dress is perfect, so long as I have no plans to breathe or eat.*
Unfortunately, I always have plans to both breathe and eat. Breathing and eating are always high on my list of priorities. I like oxygen, and I like food. So.
I’m calling it the Three Pounds Dress after Regina George in Mean Girls, because this dress would fit just perfectly if I lost three pounds.
Or so I assume. Given my aforementioned love of food, this 3-lb weight loss seems very unlikely.* Still, in theory, if it were to happen, the waistline of this dress would no longer be painful after consuming a meal. Anyway:
I LOVE IT.
Unintentionally constricting waist and all. I love the colours, I love the pleats, I love how it swishes when I walk (you’ll have to imagine that part; I have no video footage). It is just the dress I pictured when I bought the linen, which is a very gratifying feeling and makes up for the loss of sensation in my feet. (I kid.) As a kind-of-bonus, the waistline goof does make for a more interesting silhouette.
I am definitely going to risk losing consciousness and wear it out salsa dancing. If I do faint I have faith that some kind soul will pick me off the dance floor before I am trampled, and in the meantime, it’s going to be fun to twirl in.
*I ended up having a fairly stressful August/September and lost the 3 lbs despite myself, so now I get to breathe even when it is fully done up. Huzzah!
Thanks to the Golden Age of Introversion Online, I can trust that you will all know what I mean when I say that I am an introvert.
I score well into the 90s on any test measuring that trait. Go ahead, throw one at me: it’ll spit back a result roughly stating “you never leave your house, do you?”
Q: When you go to a party, do you …
A: [interrupts] A party? Are you out of your mind?
Q: When approaching a group of strangers …
A: [interrupts] Strangers. Oh god. Is hyperventilating an option?
You get the idea. An instinctual horror overtakes me at the idea of being in crowds, particularly crowds of people I don’t know, and especially particularly crowds of people I don’t know with whom I am expected to interact.
This made it extra fun when I got to organize public meetings for angry crowds of people I didn’t know with whom I was expected to interact, but that’s a story for another time.
I am also a bit of a goody two-shoes.
People are generally surprised when they hear me swear for the first time, having assumed that I would never do such a thing. I’ve never been drunk. The closest I’ve been to smoking is picking cigarette butts off the ground and putting them in the garbage. I’m a professional tree-hugger by trade and I tend to sign up for volunteering activities well beyond my time and mental resource capacities. I got straight As. And I’m one of those unfortunate people who tends not to consider that lying is an option when being asked a direct question until after I’ve answered it truthfully. My main hobbies are sewing and reading, for the love of god. Sewing and reading. Put a bonnet on my head and slap me back in 1850, why don’t you.
In fact, my reputation for goody-two-shoes-ness was so complete that druggy friends in highschool would use me as their mule. (“Can you hang on to this for me until third period? Thanks. Oh my god. Do my eyes look fucked? My eyes look fucked, don’t they? No one’s going to check your bag you look too innocent.”) (And they were right–no one ever checked my bag.)
But I did have one minor vice.
Using friends’ fake ID to sneak into nightclubs underage and go dancing.
(American friends, the legal age here is 19. So this was strictly a highschool endeavour as back then we all graduated at 19.)
Possibly alone amongst all of my nightclub-sneaking acquaintance, I’d go the bar and get a water and spend the night dancing. Because it was fun, and all-ages clubs were spectacularly lame–empty and boring, populated by the sad dregs of young people without fake IDs and older men with young-people fetishes. Ew. Sure the real thing was filled with letches with a blood alcohol level so high they didn’t even know they weren’t maintaining eye contact, not to mention the smoke that would take two showers to get out of your hair. The music was loud and the dance floor was packed.
Then I decided to do something super-smart and get married at a ridiculously young age to a guy who promised he loved dancing too and we would go out dancing all the time–and after the wedding ceremony reneged (on that and a pile of other things which shall remain nameless). And my friends stopped having so much fun at bars, and I had a kid, and the kid needed a fair bit of extra help, and then my friends had kids, and one thing let to another and almost 20 years passed without dancing, barring the odd wedding.
(Sometimes being a grown-up just sucks.)
Then my Dad got sick and family dysfunction exploded into new shrapnel-laden patterns and Frances’s hips got worse and we were told she would need reconstruction surgery and I decided that this would be the absolute perfect time to just go out dancing with strangers.
“Oh my god this is such fucking bullshit. This year is a bullshit monkey that can suck on an elephant’s balls I am so sick of this. No embroidery in the world is going to distract me from this overwhelming mountain of fucking bullshit and its bullshit spawn. Either I am going to punch this year in the fucking face or I am going out.”
I went out. I found a meet-up group for dancing lessons and just showed up in a room of strangers and started learning the bachata. I did not even know what the bachata was. Now I do. It’s a 4-step latin dance. There has also been some swing dancing, involving a lot of spinning, which is fun, even when I trip over my feet and/or fall over. If no one gets a concussion or loses a limb, I count it a success. (The secret to happiness is often having a low bar.)
As a result, almost every free weekend night for the past month-plus has been taken up with dancing. With strangers and near-strangers. It has been a very effective distraction.
My one issue being:
An almost complete lack of going-out clothes.
I don’t buy clothes anymore and everything I’ve made myself for the past few years, that one dress excepted which yes has now actually seen the outside of the house, has been either for work or for casual wear. I’m not even sure what counts as dancing-wear for the 40-something set. (Going shopping for some brings to mind that scene from Sisters–you know the one.)
So when I haven’t been out dancing, I have been home sewing clothes for dancing. My poor neglected pile of library books remains noticeably un-shrunk.
Which brings me, at incredibly long last, to V1353:
(Andrea’s Prologues! Now 10% longer, with added swearing!)
Here is the first try:
The fabric is a mid-weight linen/rayon blend bought last year at Fabricland, lined with a poly/rayon that I’ve decided I really like as it is mostly rayon and not at all slippery, unlike bemberg. Easy to sew with, presses beautifully, dirt cheap.
This is a test version, so I made a few obvious adjustments to the pattern–grading between a 14 at the waist and an 18 at the hips and bust, then adding another inch at the bust to the side front piece, plus an extra 1/2″ to the shoulders–but otherwise left it alone to see how it would work up. The instructions were clear and worked well, all the notches matched, and it mostly fit.
I do recommend basting the shoulders together quickly before adding the lining to see how it fits. A few more changes at that point:
1. removed 1″ from each centre back seam, tapering to 1/4″ at the waist, to stop it from gaping. I could have taken out a smidge more and will for version #2.
2. Took in side seams at the waist about 1″ (1/4″ per piece). Will take in a bit more from the next version. The bodice is quite loose.
3. Need to take out some at the armscye between the front and side front pieces–a bit too gapey. Also need to lengthen the front piece on the next version as it’s just a bit too high to hit the waist properly in the front. Since technically it isn’t supposed to hit my waist at all this isn’t a pattern error–but thanks to being bizarrely short-waisted, it does hit my waist in the back and I’d rather lengthen the front to match than shorten the back.
Then hours upon hours of hand-sewing to finish internal seams plus the saddle-stitching, which is a nice touch but does take forever.
I love it, and have a fabric and lining all picked out for version #2–this brilliantly fabulous lightweight linen which just screams dancing dress. (For sure it does not scream business suit or casual summer shorts.)
I’ve yet to see any bad versions of this pattern on the interwebz, so it seems a pretty safe bet and like it suits a variety of body sizes and types. I’ve noticed that for those who posted their tweaks and fixes as part of their review, taking an inch out of the top of the back centre seam on each side seems like a consistent alteration, so be warned.
Who knew I would finally have a valid excuse to sew up a bunch of dresses?
*I don’t think they do, actually. But bonus points if you recognize the source of the quote.
To say that the second half of my period of unemployment did not go as planned would be an understatement. Rather than a bit of a break wherein I tried to catch up on things and also had some extra fun and sewing time, I ended up spending a hefty chunk of time in the hospital with my father before and after he had emergency brain surgery to remove a tumour. Yes, you read that right. Not all eventualities can be prepared for and brain tumours, as it turns out, are one of those unplannable things.
He is recovering at home very well now. The pathology results have come back and I’m not sure if or when I’ll be talking about them here.
Sewing and making things is how I manage stress, so what will probably happen, in blog terms, is more sewing and less sleeping. My plan is to keep this a cancer-free space, for my sanity if nothing else. Please don’t think me heartless. It’s just that most of you I don’t know all that well.
So I still did a good bit of sewing, mostly in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping. I managed not to sew through any body parts (thank goodness), but I did make a series of embarrassing mistakes, like sewing the wrong part of the crotch curve together when making up the pants. I thought briefly about making the rear fly pant closure the latest internet sensation, and then shook my head and tore out the offending stitches.
I managed to get the First Day of the New Job outfit all sewn up and ready before the first day of the new job, and I pressed it and had it all ready to go, and then Frances got sick the night before I was to start. So I spent that day emptying and cleaning out puke buckets (oh the fun things you get to read here!) instead of becoming orientated. I thought briefly of putting the new duds on anyway and taking some photos of myself, sleep deprived, at home, doing Mom On Sick Duty things, but fortunately for you I was just too tired and decided to pass.
Anyway. After much ado, here is the outfit:
The top is Vogue 8689, and the pants are the StyleArc Katherine pants. The Vogue shirt I’ve made before, so I’ll skip most of the verbiage:
1. Blue rayon challis. Very soft and drapey and wonderful to wear as a shirt.
2. 1/2″ self-cover buttons. I couldn’t find any pre-made that matched.
3. Faux-french seams. Serged the seams then top-stitched them down w/ a 1/4″ foot.
4. Shortened the sleeves about 1 1/2 “, and cinched in the cuffs by about 3/4”.
5. Made a total mess of the back of the collar. Good thing no one can see it.
6. Basted the middle of the button plackets to keep all the layers in place while putting in buttonholes and sewing on buttons. But they still seemed to get all out of place when washing.
7. Oh, and I very quickly added a 1 1/2″ ease pleat to the centre back, just under the yoke. I wanted a shirt that was very drapey and loose and would give me lots of movement when driving to and from work, so I just moved the back pattern piece about 3/4″ off the fold line and notched the top seam line where the original fold was so I’d know where to put the pleat. Then I trimmed the shirt down a bit more in the waist so it wouldn’t be too baggy all the way down–just a bit extra across the upper back.
Also, in proof that stylistic inspiration can be found anywhere, this was a shirt conceived after watching Deep Impact on Netflix. That girl journalist had a very nice drapey blue work shirt with a very nice ease pleat in the back.
So that’s the shirt.
The StyleArcKatherine pants were new for me. I thought about doing up a muslin … and then impatience overtook me and I just added some of my standard pant alterations:
1. 1 1/2″ extra on the crotch curve
2. 1 1/2″ extra between the hips and waist, front and back. Lengthened the underflap and overflap pieces for the fly to match.
3. Slimmed the waist down a bit
I used the wool I bought at King Textiles last year in Toronto, a lovely dark gold with a faint plaid to the weave. To combat itchiness, I lined the pants to the knee with bemberg, but imperfectly because I had no idea what I was doing around the fly.
I mean, it works, and no one is looking at my pants on the inside except me, so whatever. But it’s not elegant. And I discovered while wearing them that they really need bartacks on the pockets, otherwise they bag open, even with interfacing to reinforce the opening.
They fit nicely. They’re a smidge on the loose side, which is by no means a negative when you’re going to spend most of your time in them sitting down. My doctor switched out one of my medications recently and I think it’s made me lose a few pounds; I’m never sure whether a medication-induced weight change will be permanent or not, so I left the pants a bit big. I didn’t want to make them small enough to be snug now, only to gain five pounds next month and then I can’t wear them anymore. So.
Also, I sewed in a buttonhole and then decided I didn’t want to interrupt the waistband with a button, so I didn’t slash it open and sewed hook-and-eye closures in instead.
The pattern overall was simple to sew together, and the pockets and the front seam detail add a nice touch. Pieces match up and sew well, with the exception of the smaller pocket bag piece. It didn’t match the side seam of the pants at all. I cut out four of the larger pocket bag piece and trimmed two of them down to fit instead.
And now if I can finish the blazer I have on the go from the same fabric … I’ll finally have that suit!
That’s the quick-and-dirty version. I’ll share some more details when I write up the pair I made from the alpaca flannel I’ve had in my stash for years.
1. Made out of pink cotton voile, mostly to match and be worn with the border print skirt, but also wearable with other things.
2. Added 1/8″ on the seams width-wise to make it a bit less snug. Worked like a charm.
3. Changed the sleeves. At first I thought maybe smocking, but with the gathers on the front, I thought it would be best to remain consistent and use gathers on the sleeves too. So I drafted a fairly snug cuff in the same dimensions as the front button band, cut and spread the sleeve to make gathers the same width and density as the front gathers, and added a smidge to the height of the sleeve cap to give it a nice bit of puff up top.
The only thing I might change for next time is to take some of the length on the front out above the bust, instead of between the bust and the waist. It’s the right length but I think the gathers are just a bit too low for my taste, and I wonder if that would help the neckline stay put (it likes to drift wide). But it’s a pretty minor thing.
I bought this stretch cotton pique at Fabricland on sale for $5/metre knowing that it would make the perfect V8997 sheath dress–snug but still comfy! Big colourful floral pattern! Enough body to hold it’s shape nicely! Figuring out the perfect lining fabric took a little longer, but eventually I settled on a stretch cotton poplin in white. I wanted something with the same give of the fabric, first of all, but secondly, I wanted to keep the cotton feel and breathability for those super-hot days in July and August when anything slippery on the skin feels like a wet plastic bag coated with silicone.
As I’d made the circle-skirt version of this before, the sheath dress was pretty simple. I shortened the bodice pieces on the shorten line, as last time it was too long; it turned out to be just a smidge too much and next time I’ll put back in 1/2″ of it. I also needed to take out between 1/8″ and 1/4″ for all the waist and hip seams (and that’s a lot–there’s eight pieces between the front and back) to make it reasonably snug and sheath-like. I took out about 1/4″ on the princess seam right at the armscye as well, to deal with some gaping that only become evident once the whole thing was sewn together (of course–so it had to be disassembled and reassembled at that seam. Always an adventure).
I also added about 3/4″ to the inside of the v at the shoulders to better cover bra straps.
The main variation was the welting. This is the same white stretch cotton poplin I used for the lining, in 1 1/2″ bias strips, folded in half. One of the things I really love about this dress pattern is the seamlines, particularly that angle around the waist (empire waist in this case thanks to the extra shortening–d’oh!), and I didn’t want it to be hidden by the busy print. And then I thought if I were going to add welting around the waist I should add it at the neckline and armscye as well, just for greater consistency and visual balance.
I’m glad I did. I think it looks sharp, emphasizes those seamlines well, and adds an extra 1/2″ on the shoulders for even more bra strap coverage (key!). But oh my god did it ever make assembling those pieces that much more finicky and time consuming.
The zipper was just a regular white zipper–I didn’t want to mess with an invisible zipper with a really thick and spongy pique fabric. But hey! Check out how those seamlines and welts match up!
Not bad, eh?
Used a blind stitch for the main fabric at the hem, and my new 6mm hemming foot for the lining, which I totally love and which is also going to revolutionize my shirtmaking, I can tell. It was the easiest hem I’ve ever sewn in my life, ever.
And a ton of hand-stitching to attach linings to seamlines internally once most of the construction was done.
I’ve worn it a few times already and I can atest to it being super, super comfortable, thanks to the stretch. Like pajamas comfortable. And find me another sheath dress that you would compare to pajamas, I dare you.
Yes, yes, Saturdays are busy for everyone–but this is my blog, so I get to talk about my own busy Saturdays.
Saturdays are the days I do a full week’s worth of errands (groceries, bills, library, drugstore, etc.) , get in a decent workout, a longer-than-average-shower, any required yard work, and oh yeah, wouldn’t it be nice to do some blog photos or some sewing? All before 6pm, which is when my daughter comes back from her Dad’s house. Technically yes I could do some of that on Sunday, but my Frances-time is precious to me and I prefer to keep it as free as possible so we can hang out and I can listen to all of the amazing and quirky and clever and hilarious things that go on in her head. I do laundry on Sundays. Everything else I try to do on Saturdays, before 6.
As a result, my handmade garments have been piling up and I haven’t had a chance to shoot any of them. Why do I think every year that May will be a great chance to get outside for some decent photographs? Of course I’m outside–mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, picking up branches, trimming the hedges, and generally filling up my time and getting myself so sweat-grimed that a camera lens is the last thing I want to see.
This Saturday I was determined to get those photos done. I thought–hey! The lilac dell is in full bloom at the Royal Botanical Gardens; I need to renew my membership anyway; I can combine it with a hike while I’m there and kill two birds with one stone, plus it’s the RBG and so guaranteed to be gorgeous. Accordingly, I brought my camera, timer and tripod to the RBG and took some hopefully discreet selfies in the lilacs and along the trail while Getting My Exercise, Appreciating Nature, Renewing My Membership, and Losing Five Pounds in Sweat Through My Face.
It was so hot, Dear Readers; almost 30C. In May. I tremble to think of August.
Keep all that in mind while you read about the many ways I unnecessarily complicated my Fail Bingo shirt.
Partly because it was a new pattern, to me. I made it up in a size 14D as a test garment, tweaked the fit to be a bit looser around the bust and less loose around the waist, along with the standard shorter in the back and broader in the shoulders. On the whole it was pretty good and I consider these minor tweaks. Oh, plus moving the shoulder seam forward by about 3/4″.
Partly because I made it out of the cotton/silk voile that I adore so much and used for the other Vogue blouse. It is quite sheer and needs underlining. In fact, even with the underlining, it`s still a bit sheer. But I can wear it to work without embarrassing myself, and that’s key.
Of course, it`s a yoked blouse with princess seams, which means there are fifteen pieces to be underlined before assembly.
Two of each, of course, stitched together carefully by hand before assembling the blouse. I bought 1 1/2 metres originally, and ran out and needed to buy an additional half metre to finish the shirt. That’s two-metres for one short-sleeved blouse (cost-wise still not bad though; under $30 including thread!).
Partly because this blouse pattern suggests felled seams. Which means sew together, trim one side of the seam, press the other one in half, fold it over the trimmed side, and sew it down again. Or you know, buy a felling foot and use that. I don’t have a felling foot. I`m reconsidering this, however, in light of the amount of time spent assembling this blouse. Though Janome doesn’t make a felling foot. Anyone have any generics they can recommend?
The pattern does not suggest finishing the seams in the sleeves, which is just odd. I ended up felling the sleeve seams and french-seaming the shoulders, then top-stitching the french seams down. This voile is incredibly light-weight and cut edges essentially disintegrate on contact with air, so sturdy finishing is necessary. I accidentally top-stitched the french seam down outwards instead of inwards (oops) but I love it anyway.
I wish the buttons were a bit smaller and a closer colour match. It turns out that citron is not an easy colour to find in small shirt buttons. Who’d have guessed. Other than that, I freaking love this shirt. It’s incredibly soft and lightweight, it’s loose enough to be comfortable to wear without being baggy, and it’s CITRON. Consider: it was 30C, just about; my face was a river and my bottom half got plenty sweaty under those shorts but the shirt, even double-layered as it was, stayed comfortable to the very end, even hiking in the woods.
I interfaced the shirt with a light sew-in interfacing; I avoid fusibles wherever possible. It’s not as crisp as a fusible would have been but it keeps the softness and drape beautifully.
I’ve now fitted three separate and slightly different Vogue button-up shirt patterns (this one with yokes and princess seams, one with princess seams only, and one with princess seams and a gathered front–yes, there’s a theme). I’ve got one with pintucks left, and then I’ll have four blouse/shirt patterns that should get me through whatever kind of button-up shirt I want to make pretty much forever. Add to the list a wish to learn how to make a hidden button placket on every shirt forever so I never need to worry about perfectly matching buttons. I’m reading through David Coffin’s two shirtmaking books right now (yes, simultaneously) in an effort to master this and other tricky bits of shirtmakery before tackling the pink cotton voile shirt I’ve already cut out.
Dear Readers, far be it from me to pass up any opportunity for self-exploration. There is so much about myself I don’t yet know! And sure there is an entire world of books, movies, songs, science, hiking trails, locations, cities, cultures, languages, and nearly seven billion people I also don’t yet know, but I’m sure that I can’t properly figure all that out until I am chock full of self-esteem as a result of hard-earned self-examination.
And what better way that a purposeful self-voyage based on an analysis of and appreciation for the many and varied garments I have made and worn this month of May?
Accordingly, to begin, I looked for myself everywhere. I looked in the kitchen, the dining room, the front yard, the bathroom, even under the laundry basket in the basement. All I could ever find of myself anywhere were my own two hands, just ahead of me, always out of reach. My hands were all over the place (and are, even now, taunting me on my laptop keyboard), but the rest of me? Just glimpses, Dear Readers.
It was a very confused May (though a much warmer May than last year, where I remember shivering in the backyard all through the month for the selfies and wondering when it would ever be green again, and for the excessive warmth this May I am mostly grateful). How am I meant to Discover myself if I can never find more of me than my own hands? To be sure, it’s those hands that make the things I wear. But why? I can’t question them. They have no ears and if they did, no mouths to give me answers. Not that I’d want mouths on my hands. I’d never be able to go to the bathroom again.
At last I discovered the secret. And myself. In a mirror. Gazing into a mirror is, I’ve since found, a time-honoured way–nay, THE time-honoured way–of truly divining the ultimate worth of oneself and one’s purpose on this earth. The earth itself can wait. Right?
In so doing, I discovered something legitimately surprising: I wear a lot of yellow.
I had no idea I even owned so many yellow clothes. If anyone had asked me what my favourite colour is, I would have given the three replies, in order:
1. I don’t have a favourite colour. Any bright colour is fine by me.
2. I wear/own a lot of red though.
3. And I have a lot of blue fabric.
How did all this yellow slip under the radar?
My fabric stash is … err, stashed … in the den closet. I bought a few of those hanging Ikea sweater-storage thingies and fold my fabric up in those. It’s cheap, it keeps everything viewable when the closet doors are open, and when closed, shuts it away–except for the overflow currently serving Purgatory on the den floor. In contrast to the two full compartments of red/pink and the THREE full compartments of blue/teal, I have one total compartment for both yellow and orange and it’s not even full. Previous working theory: I don’t actually like/wear yellow all that much. Competing hypothesis: I like it so much that I sew it up as soon as I bring it home (except for the yellow cottons I brought home to make work pants–yes! it’s true!–which are still in the stash, weeping silent cottony tears).
Moreover, it’s all just so much more proof that I make a lousy 40-year-old. Yet another magazine has confirmed for me that in one’s 40s, one is meant to be wearing red. Alas.
However, it must be said that today I am not wearing any yellow at all. Burgundy pants, grey shirt. It may be that I will never Discover myself well enough to have the impact on this world that I know I am capable of. I suppose I’ll have to just muddle along the old way, without much thinking about Who I Am and How That Intersects with What I Wear. (Except for when I do. Yes, I know.)
I also discovered that I still need to make more shorts, and that it wouldn’t be amiss if I focused less on button-up shirts and more on knit shirts. Whether this will happen is as yet anyone’s guess. I couldn’t even begin to tell you, as apparently I just don’t know myself at all.
I made a wearable muslin of the top from this Vogue coordinates pattern package last spring, and loved it. NowI finally made it up as a ‘real’ garment.
I don’t know why it’s been so overlooked. I can’t find any reviews online. Let me correct that:
The sleeve construction is very cool. Kind of like a raglan-sleeve, only flutter style, and at the back it’s joined in towards the middle so you get this overlap.
The back shaping is totally awesome. I know that makes me sound like Jem. I do not care. There are four pieces, fitting snugly through the back and then flaring out at the hips.
The whole thing is cut on the bias so, if you choose a good drapey fabric, you will have a flattering fit.
The front has no darts; they’ve been rotated out to gathers at the neckline, which provide shaping while still giving plenty of room to get the shirt on and off.
And it is lined, and the lining is joined in such a way as to get all of the seams inside the lining, so no seam finishing is required.
It is a lovely, woven pullover top without closures and with good shaping.
My first wearable muslin was a bit loose in the waist for my liking, and a bit snug through the bust. So this time I added an inch–cut the pattern in half horizontally below the armscye, cut the top half in half vertically, slid each 3/4″ out from the centre line, taped them back down, then trued them up with the waist a size down. I gathered in from the same points on the neckline so I didn’t have to change the facing pieces at all. I also added an inch to the outside of the sleeve to account for my shoulders. The only thing I would change on this new fit is that the back is a bit loose at the armscye. I’d snug that up a bit next time, maybe 1/2″ on each side. And yes, there will be a next time on this top; I just love it. It is comfy, classy, flattering and easy. A bit time consuming due to all the pieces involved, and take some care when attaching the lining to the armscyes, but follow the directions and be patient and it will all work out.
This was made up with Fabricland (the Canadian one) floral rayon challis on sale–so not fancy!–and lined with the same in a solid white. It’s incredibly soft and drapey and a real pleasure to wear.
And I wore it out to dinner with my best girl on the evening I turned 40.
I even dragged out all the cosmetic crap I’ve accumulated over the past mumble-many years and used it. There’s, like, goop in my hair. (Am I the only one this happens to? Remember silicone shine sprays? I have a bottle of silicone shine spray. I bought it fifteen years ago or so, when these were A Thing that people bought. I have used approximately 30% of it in fifteen years. I should throw it away, right? That’s not even the goop I used here.) I have two layers of stuff on my face, one layer of which is supposed to help the other layer stick better. I have stuff on my eyelids that’s supposed to help the eyeshadow stick better. And I am wearing a new lipstick, which is actually kind of nifty, I think. I even bought it at Sephora instead of the drugstore, when I was out buying the tights I am wearing, because I had no tights without holes in them with which to wear my leather skirt. And it’s still cold here.
Plus, yes, that is my silk-cotton voile floral blouse. It matches the skirt smashingly.
I love the pattern. It has really interesting seam lines that provide a lot of shaping and are quite flattering. I did two muslins, one in a woven and one in the faux leather, so I could work out the waist length and the grading, and you’ll need to as the pattern is not super straightforward due to all the seams.
But it makes a very nice, flattering skirt. If you’re looking for a pencil skirt pattern that’s a little different and you have the patience to go through the muslining process, I highly recommend it.
So, the rest of skirt construction:
-partway through making the skirt, I decided having some leather sewing references on hand would be a good idea, and bought two leather books. The postal service took forever in delivering them to me, so the skirt was mostly done by the time they showed up. The good news? Most of what I remembered was correct and the books reassured me greatly. The bad news? The exception to this is the *cold rubber tape, which I’ve never been able to find here, and which you are supposed to apply to seams as a stay tape to prevent the leather from stretching out. … Ooops. The other book recommends linen tape for the same purpose, which would have been a whole lot easier, but much much much too late as it needs to be sewn in. You can’t open up leather seams without weakening the leather, so my plan is to find some cold rubber tape or equivalent and apply it to my leather seams on the inside after the fact. It should still help.
-for the lining, I used the skirt sloper I made with the aid of Suzy Fuhrer’s Craftsty class, rather than duplicating the skirt pattern (which comes unlined). It was a whole lot easier and I knew it would fit. An online leather resource suggested cutting the lining on the cross grain with the hem on the selvedge, and that’s what I did. The lining is just shy of the top of the rear slit.
-there’s also petersham ribbon between the lining and the leather to keep the waist from stretching out.
-pounding the seams with a little mallet was a ton of fun. I may need to do more pounding near the zipper–it’s just not as flat as I’d like. There were some good suggestions on zipper installation in the books but, well, they got to me after I’d finished it. It’s still ok, though. What I did was baste the zipper in along the leather edges so they matched up, sew the seam between the slit and the zipper, then topstitch straight down from the waist to the hem to get the zipper/seam/slit all in place and behaving. It worked, mostly, and it made for (mostly) even (except around the bottom of the zipper) topstitching, which is important.
-the hem is not sewn. I measured where it needed to fall, folded it up with binder clips, pounded it with the mallet to make a nice crease and line, ran double-sided tape along the line on the inside, and then used the mallet to press it into the tape nice and flat.
-apparently, according to the leather books, I made this unnecessarily complicated for myself by picking a pattern with so many pieces. I’m glad I did. It looks really nice, and the pattern provides a lot of shaping without darts. It’s basically a 3D skirt, when finished, which is very cool. Some of the side seams do not match up perfectly but I think from a distance you can’t really tell. Nevertheless, next time I’m picking a skirt pattern with fewer pieces. Current plans are to adapt that skirt sloper into a six- or eight-gore skirt with a bit of an a-line. This time a proper waistband, and waiting for the cold rubber tape.