This will be my final post about the TNT Tee challenge from Sewing Pattern Review. This has been a really fun and interesting process. I took a wildly experimental approach to the process of using a tee pattern to create a block. (A block, if you don’t know, is like a blueprint for a pattern.) For my block, I wanted–

  • A vee neck, because that is what I usually wear. Necklines are among the easiest things to change on a tee pattern, but I figured I might as well start with the one I use most.
  • A close fit through the body with waist shaping.
  • A good close fit under the arms — droopy armholes destroy fit, imo.
  • Both cap sleeves and long sleeves.
  • Enough room in the bust to accommodate my girls.

Here is the pattern I chose:


Kwik Sew 4027

After four trial runs in which I changed the rise of the neckline, the armscye shaping, the front bust depth, the cross-back width, the waist shaping, the length and width of the sleeves, and probably a mess of other things that I’ve forgotten along the way, here is the final version from the final block:


Please excuse the headless selfie. I’d just taken a post-workout shower and didn’t feel like bothering with makeup and blowouts. Lazy!

The fit through the shoulders is excellent. The torso shaping is smooth and close without being tight. The neckline hits exactly where I want it. The sleeves are perfect in both angle and volume. I might add just a nudge more room in the bust next time, maybe a half-inch, but other than that, this is a perfect fit. The fabric is a mediocre rayon from JoAnn, but now that I have my block where I want it,¬† can use this to draft patterns and use some of the better knits in my stash. I have a printed ponte knit that will make a great little t-shirt dress for fall, and I’m already scheming to get that cut and sewn in September.

I found this process really useful. I’m sewing for a brand-new body now, and I’m rediscovering things that used to be so familiar, like the way a narrow ribcage can change the fit at the shoulders. This sort of thing used to be second nature, but it’s been a long time now since I’ve sewn in this current size. For the record, that size is a hybrid of extra-small and medium on the Kwik Sew pattern sheet, before alterations. After I lose the last few pounds — just 11 to go now! — I’m sure I’ll need to do more adjusting to the block. But for now, it’s perfect, and the process of perfecting it has prepared me for the work I’ll need to do in future patterns.

Thank you, Sewing Pattern Review, for sponsoring this challenge! It was a pleasure!

Have you ever participated in a sewing or knitting contest? If so, what did you make?





A flurry of pictures for the TNT Tee challenge

A couple of days before Sewing Pattern Review announced its TNT Tee Challenge, I had already pulled out this Kwik Sew 4027 pattern with the intention of using it to create a new block. I chose this pattern for exactly one reason: the v-neck.


It’s a deep vee, but I knew it would be easy enough to move that line up and still preserve the basic shape. I prefer a vee to a crew, no contest. I figured that once I got the rise where I wanted it, it would be easy to modify this to make it scoop, square, or any other shape that shows off a bit of collarbone.

And I wanted to create my own tee block because, frankly, no ready-to-wear shirts ever fit me correctly. It’s always the same problem. Here’s a sample — this is me in a standard Gildan tee, size small, purchased from Michael’s. Notice the wrinkle lines running from the lower armscye to the bust point, and from the bust point down to the waist. Those of you familiar with the acronym FBA will know exactly the cause of this fitting problem.


You might also notice that the shoulder seam is a bit dropped. Narrow shoulders + large breasts = fitting woes. I don’t mind a slightly dropped shoulder on something as casual as a tee, as long as the rest of the fit through the body is good. With that in mind, I used some leftover fabric from this maxiskirt to cut my first version of this tee. (Fabric source: Mood Fabrics.) This one was meant to be a muslin, and though I did alter the pattern to increase the bust, I didn’t expect a perfect fit this first time through. Good thing I had such low expectations.


A wadder!

That fit is atrocious. The less said, the better. I had started with the size medium and added nearly an inch to the bust at the side seam, but this is clearly a bad fit. So, for my next attempt, I used this same body pattern piece and used the pivot method to increase the bust by about two inches — nearly an inch from the original side seam adjustment, plus an inch from the pivot. I cut this version with long sleeves using some white cotton and lycra from the stash. (I don’t remember the source — maybe the Textile Discount Outlet on 21st Street?) This fabric turned out to be a little too stiff to complement the pattern, which works better with a drapey knit. But I’m really glad I made it, just the same — this will be a good pajama tee, and the fit problems with this one really helped me solve this pattern.


A fit so bad, I should not even be smiling

You can’t see it in this picture, but there is a shocking amount of extra fabric under the arms. And yet, the tee still manages to pull at the bust. The shoulder seam drops a good way down the upper arm, too. At this point, I decided the shoulders needed some work, or this thing would simply never fit. So for my next version, I went back to the original pattern. I measure the cross-back carefully to get a neater fit at the shoulder, and chose to cut it extra-small through the shoulder and medium through the body.

Experienced seamstresses are right now zooming in on what that means, and they are shuddering with horror. Yes, I did that thing you are never supposed to do. I redrew the armsyce. And yes, I was quaking in my house slippers the entire time. After I redrew the armscye to grade it from an extra-small shoulder to a medium bust, I measured front and back to determine the length of the new seam. And then I measured the sleeve heads on the pattern to find the one closest to the new armscye measurement. That turned out to be the medium sleeve, minus an eighth of an inch at either end. I also used the pivot method to add about 3/4″ to the bust front. Here is tee the third, made in an inexpensive rayon jersey from JoAnn purchased just for this experiment.


Still some wrinkling from bust point to waist, but overall a better fit


Front view — a nice, smooth fit except for those wrinkles under the bust

When I tried on this version, I knew I was getting closer. Not all the way home, but closer. I would be willing to wear this one in public, which is more than can be said for the magenta (destined for the trash) or white (destined for pajama status) versions. I’m still not happy with the bust, and the drape on the sleeves could use some tinkering. Actually, the problem with that drape results from my tinkering in the first place. I wanted the sleeves about an inch longer, but still with the slant to the hem — you can see that the sleeve hem is not horizontal, but at sort of a 45 degree angle from the body up and out. I like that. I just wanted it longer, so I extended the sleeve, rather badly, as it turns out, but not so badly that it can’t be fixed. I ended up redrawing the sleeve pattern piece to sort this out, an easy fix.

This leads to version four, in the same inexpensive JoAnn rayon as number three, except in red. To sum up the alterations:

  • raised the vee neck
  • narrowed the shoulders
  • extended the side seams at the underarm
  • redrew the armscyes
  • pivoted to add more room at the bust
  • lengthened the sleeves
  • redrew the sleeve seams


Look, ma, no underboob wrinkles!

This still isn’t perfect, but it is finally fitting through the bust and shoulders. In my next version, I’m going to remove some of the extra fabric from the sleeve — see that fold on top of the bicep? That will be gone. And I will remove some of the extra fabric at the waist and hip, something¬† I hesitated to do until the fit at the bust and shoulders was smoother. I don’t want to add waistline darts, but some of that fabric has got to come out. The current cut through the body is adding an easy ten pounds to my torso, and I’ve fought too hard to get the pounds off to let a tee shirt put them back on.

But we’re getting closer. We’re definitely getting closer. I won’t have any sewing time again until Friday, and at that point, I plan to go back to my friendly neighborhood J-store for more inexpensive rayon in yet another color, and given how expert I’m becoming in assembling this particular pattern, I could easily have the next version done by Friday night.

We all have our fitting woes, but this is one I intend to solve. Once this block is perfected, I will be able to use it as a base for any somewhat drapey knit top.


Paging Mr. Cash

I’m not a big fan of country music <—understatement), but I think Johnny Cash was cool in any genre. Whenever I wear an outfit like this, I feel like I’m taking a page right out of his style book.


another terrible selfie … ack!

Black Jones New York jeans, black buttoned shirt, silver chain and leather belt, a big onyx and silver ring, and onyx and silver drop earrings.I’m wearing black platform sandals, but boots would obviously work. (Not cowboy boots. I’m a city mouse.) I still have a few extra pounds to remove from my hips, as you see, but I’m pretty close to goal weight now. I did a little shopping this afternoon, and not one of the mediums fit me. They were all unwearably big. Every shirt and jacket I tried on was small or extra small, though I’m still in a size 8 for pants. My hips will be the last part of me to reach goal, I guess!

Sometimes the style is in the details, the small items rather than the big pieces. The shirt and jeans are plain, really, but the belt — I love this belt. It’s a no-name, no-brand trinket I picked up at Carson’s for like $30, a bargain for as much use as I get out of it.


check out the leather lacing through the silver rings — very nice

And the ring, another detail that takes this from ordinary to a little more pulled together.


desperately needing a camera that doesn’t turn everything orange and blurry

I wanted to wear a necklace, too and tried on several. Every one of them competed with the belt and made the outfit look overdone.


The silver leaf necklace in the middle is part of a set that belonged to my great-grandmother. She had an amazing collection of deco costume jewelry, and I was grateful to get a few bits when she passed. In any case, love and nostalgia aside, none of the necklaces worked with the belt.

So this is what I’ll wear to a casual family gathering for birthday cake at my sister’s house tonight. There will just be a few of us, and I’ll probably be overdressed because the others will be in sport shorts and printed tees. Par for the course. Yes, I’ll wear head to toe black in August. I can hear my grandmother scolding me for wearing black in summer, but oh well. That was one childhood fashion rule I was more than happy to drop as an adult. I’ll also wear head to toe white any day of the year, if I feel like it, cuz I’m just a rebel that way.

What childhood fashion rule did you abandon as an adult?


Super soft and super cozy

Everyone needs a big roomy sweater with just a dash of pizazz. Mine is the Salted sweater designed by Alicia Plummer in a heathery purple Classic Elite Classic Silk.


another terrible selfie — and if you think this is bad, you should see the ones I took with my phone, ugh

I chose this pattern because I liked the boat neck and the mesh detailing across the yoke. The original is knit with 3/4 sleeves, but I want to get more use out of this so I knit the sleeves full length. Because it’s bottom-up, it was a little tricky to gauge exactly where the hem would hit, and if I had to do it all over again, I might shorten it an inch or so. It’s big — I knit it to 39″ bust knowing full well that would give me a good couple inches of positive ease. But that was how I wanted it. Roomy, cozy, super soft because of the cotton/silk yarn, and with that casual everyday vibe. This is one to wear with jeans or yoga pants around the house on my at-home days. It’s every bit as comfy as an old, much-washed tee shirt, even though it’s fresh from the needles.

One other thing that I might change is the tubular cast-on. In my experience, this cast-on works best with elastic yarns like ordinary wool, less effectively with non-elastic yarns like cotton. With this yarn, the ribbing doesn’t really contract much, and the tubular cast-on creates a soft, floppy edge. I was in a rush to cast on and didn’t really think it through, but if I’d paused before starting, I’m sure I would have picked a different cast-on method.

The yarn is absolutely delicious, and after starting this knit, I bought some more in a denim blue color for another sweater. It’s soft and lofty and has a bit of heathering to give it a whisper of textural interest. Here’s a snapshot from the early stages of knitting that shows the yarn and the loose cast-on both a bit better.

salted silk yarn

That picture captures the color better, too. My camera hates all colors except yellow and orange, which it thinks everything should be, but it managed to stay pretty true to this purple here.

This leads me to a question. What kind of camera/phone/whatever do you use, and would you recommend it? Another question — do you use photo editing software, and if so, do you recommend that? I’ve been pretty unhappy with my pictures lately (my old Coolpix really seems to be falling apart), and I’m thinking about upgrading.


Today’s outfit

This particular outfit has become one of my go-to summer outfits, but it won’t be for much longer. Blame the fit.


terrible selfie, yikes

The skirt is made from white jersey and it has an elastic waistband, so it is about as comfy as yoga pants. You can see from the photo it’s no longer a straight skirt (as it should be), but a sort of full, gathered, used-to-be-straight skirt. That’s because I bought it around 20 pounds ago, and it’s really getting too big to keep wearing. It’s a 12, and I typically wear an 8 now, sometimes a 6.

The short-sleeved sweater is a navy knitted thing with dolman sleeves. Dolman sleeves were created by the devil to make us all look lumpy and shapeless and enormous above the waist, but I thought the mesh lace was sheer enough to counteract the awful dolman shaping. It’s probably not, and it’s also starting to get big on me. I won’t be sad to relinquish this piece even though I wear it a lot right now.

Usually, I wear this with a bright red lipstick and some red sandals, but today I was carrying a red bag, and red sandals plus red bag is too matchy matchy. So I wore my new Vince Camuto silver metallic thong sandals.


Please ignore the toenail weirdness on the left foot. I’m a runner, and toenail weirdness happens to runners. I usually try to keep the toenails covered in a solid polish to hide any weird discolorations or other anomalies there, but the one thing polish doesn’t cover is a fallen-off nail. Eh. It will grow back eventually, and then I can polish that toe properly again.

Meanwhile, I love these shoes with any casual look. They’re the first pair of flats I’ve bought (other than athletic shoes and hiking shoes) since my shoe size went down, and the silver metallic snakeskin finish feels pretty sexy for a flat sandal. The polish is OPI Haven’t The Foggiest from their San Francisco collection. Their polish is durable enough to survive even the abuse I give my poor tootsies, so I tend to wear nothing but OPI. I went through at least eight or ten different colors this summer before I tried this one, and now I’m hooked. This is the only color I want to wear right now. The silver metallic is right on trend, and it has a way of picking up a tint from whatever I’m wearing. Black pants turns it slightly pewterish, and my magenta skirt makes it gleam almost like the reflection of a stoplight in a puddle at night. Love it.

What is your go-to polish color these days?



This year’s haul from Stitches Midwest

Another Stitches is in the rear view mirror. This time, I took a class on sleeve cap shaping with Patty Lyons, and I have to say, this is probably my favorite class I’ve ever taken at Stitches. She explained the math thoroughly, made sure we all grasped the theory, and both knitters and sewists know the importance of a good fit around the armscye. I have put the notes from that class in a safe place, and I’m sure they’ll be dog-eared soon from frequent consultations. I think next year I might try to take another one of her classes — she was really amazing.

I didn’t go into Stitches this year thinking I would buy much. I had my little shopping list, and my budget, and some ideas for some maybe splurges if the right yarn at the right price could be found. The thing is, in the Stitches marketplace, the right yarn at the right price can always be found.

Here’s the haul.


From top left corner, top row–

– A set of Sophie’s Toes coordinated mini skeins intended for a Crazy Stripes cardigan (ravlink), once I find a coordinating yarn. I’m thinking a heathery dark gray would make those pinks really pop.

–¬† A new yarn winder. My old one was so bad that it is the stuff of legend. This was a necessary purchase that I’d put off for far too long.

– A t-shirt saying, “My drinking club has a knitting problem.” This will be good for the gym!

– Three skeins of Charlemont semisolid sock yarn — mostly black, with little flecks of gray, for a Hitofude cardigan. This was on my must-buy list, and I was delighted to find just the exact type of yarn I had in mind for it. The yarn is kettle-dyed, so I nearly didn’t buy it — I have a bad history with kettle-dyed yarns. But then I decided this one was worth a risk because the skeins looked consistent even under different lights.

– Two cones of Ito Kinu yarn in two shades of gray for this amazing pullover, Wavelets. I’ve been in love with this pattern since first sight, and I thought I would make it in some purple and dark teal Habu tsumugi silk, but I never could bring myself to cast on with those colors. It needs to be gray, and these cones are perfect.


Middle row, from left–

– A mill pack of gray DK merino with a dash of cotton. My stash is light on DK yarns, but this will work well for any of several planned projects.

– A bundle of peach and pink cotton worsted I won in a daily drawing. I expect this will become a market bag at some point.

– A mill pack of black fingering yarn and two coordinating skeins of the same yarn in different shades of gray to make the Cocktail dress. I love this pattern’s sporty vibe, but I’m toying with the idea of using red yarn instead of one of the grays.

– A mill pack of black DK merino, same as the mill pack of gray, and for the same reasons.

– A mill pack of Misti Alpaca lace in a lovely rich black to make the Oriel Ballerina cardigan. This one takes a ton of yarn, a full 2000 yards even in my 36-ish bust size, because of the wrap and tie waist detailing. I have a ton of sweater quantities of laceweight in my stash, but none with quite enough yardage, so this was on my must-buy list.

– Two gorgeous skeins of Shaky K fingering — red yarns are surprisingly hard to find, and this one was bloody enough (rather than orange or brick) to satisfy me. There’s a mini-skein of gray Three Irish Girls for the trim, too, for the SpliTTop Tee. The second I saw this pattern, I thought, RED. I can’t wait to knit it and have already wound the yarn.


Bottom row, from left–

– A Besties set from Another Crafty Girl to make some little footies. I love wearing footies inside my Chucks and Keds — don’t like the sockless shoe thing.

– Two skeins of amazing Dragonfly Fibers Dance Rustic Silk in the District 12 colorway, probably my favorite purchase of the show. This stuff is incredible live and up close. I wanted to buy every color, but contented myself with enough to make a Gake tee. Flip a coin to see whether I cast on this or the red Shaky K stuff first. Both are wound and ready to go.

– Two mini-skein sets from Three Irish Girls of one of their fingering yarns. I love the way they’re doing these coordinated sets — one skein in a variegated colorway, then several skeins in the solids to match. This will be a t-shirt.

– Some really cool mesh bags from Namaste. I love their bags, and I couldn’t resist these. They’re sheer enough that you can see into them, but sturdy enough to survive knitting needles.

I also bought some accessories that are hard to see in that picture — four sets of silver buttons from my favorite button vendor, two sets of stitch markers, and two containers of crystal beads — I bought two sets of beads because I wasn’t sure which size I would need for a beaded silk stole I have in mind. And they were cheap, so no biggie. Might as well get both sets and make sure I have what I need.

That was it! Lots of black and gray, but I’m in a very basic mood these days, so that suits me.



A challenging process, a happy result

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a recent arrival from Mood that included some tissue-weight rayon jersey. That jersey has now been transformed into a skirt. Ta-da!


We tried to get some motion shots so you could see the natural movement in the skirt. For some reason, the skirt kept trying to billow forward, so none of the photos really capture the true fluidity and volume here. But you can get a sense of the motion in the fabric.


I think this was a perfect combination of pattern and fabric.The pattern is McCall’s 6608, a four-gored skirt with an elastic waistband. I made two modifications. I shortened it to fit my 5’3″ frame, and I tapered about eight inches out of the waist from hip to waist. You can’t see it in the photos because I’m wearing my tank untucked, but if I had not removed that extra eight inches, the skirt would have had to be gathered into the waistband. Instead, I was able to ease the two pieces together — the skirt was still wider than the waistband, but only by a couple of inches, and stretching the waistband during seaming took care of that. I wanted the fit to be smoother and flatter over the hips, and I wanted to avoid the dirndl look at the waistband.

The fabric was tricky to handle because it was so light and a bit slippery. Rayon jerseys often behave this way, so it was nothing unexpected, and it did not detract from my pleasure in working with this fabric. I handled it much the same as I would handle a silk woven — charmeuse, chiffon, other notoriously slippery stuff — and it worked out just fine. During cutting, I weighted the fabric with canned goods (always handy, and usually the right size and weight) to prevent it sliding all over under the rotary blade. I did still have to re-cut one piece that managed to pull wildly off-grain, but that was a small band piece and not a big deal.

During sewing, I pin-basted the crap out of every seam, and I made sure to hold the fabric before and behind the needle to keep it stable as the feed dogs pulled on it. Because the skirt pieces were each very large and could easily take flight from my sewing table, I also made sure the fabric was well supported in my lap or on the table to avoid that kind of sudden motion and pulling.

For the seams, I simply stitched along the 5/8″ stitching line, and then a second time 1/8″ inside the seam allowance, and then trimmed the excess. I didn’t want a lot of weight in the seams, so that excess had to go.


And I used a simple narrow rolled hem to finish the hem. I don’t use a presser foot for this because I’m kind of a control freak and prefer to roll the fabric myself. The best finish comes when I use a narrow overcast zigzag on the raw edge (about 1/8″), and then use that stitching line to control the roll, like so–


So, nothing fancy, really, in the construction, but the result is just what I hoped for. The skirt is so light as to be almost weightless, and I’ve already worn it twice since finishing it. It moves like a dream. If this fabric came in other colors, I would be buying some to make a second skirt right away. Alas, it seems to only be available in this lovely magenta. I ordered five yards — the pattern called for something like 4.5 yards, and I always get a little insurance yardage in case I do something intensely dumb with scissors. (It happens.) I ended up with enough leftover, easily a yard and a half, to make a jersey of a Kwik-Sew t-shirt pattern I’ll be using for my TNT Tee challenge at Sewing Pattern Review.


My review of this pattern at Sewing Pattern Review is here.