McCall’s 6794

Back in high school, I had a red micro-check shirt with puffed sleeves, a peplum, and a tie in the back. I wore that thing until it was dead from overuse. One of my favorite tops ever.

So when I saw McCall’s 6794, basically an updated version of that red shirt, I knew I had to make it sooner rather than later.

blue top

The original red top had shorter sleeves, a longer peplum, and narrower ties. It also had some banding on the neckline, which sat higher on the sternum. Other than that, this is a pretty near clone of that shape. I’m thrilled with how it turned out.

There’s another view option on this pattern that I might end up making.

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I don’t usually wear dropped shoulders, but I think I might be able to get away with those. I don’t know. I don’t care to have a lot of fabric under the arms, so it might not work, but I do like the look of this view option quite a lot.

The pattern looked like it would be fairly time consuming with all those gathers and the waistband details. But actually, it was an easy make that went together very smoothly and didn’t take as much time as anticipated. There were no tricky techniques or strange construction methods. This is a very straightforward pattern. If you can handle gathers and a stitch-in-the-ditch, you can handle this pattern.

I’ve been sewing like mad lately, and I have other FOs to show you. It’s all part of the stash busting contest over at Pattern Review, where we’re committed to sewing up a lot of old stash. This is turning out to be great fun, and watching everyone race through stash is wonderful motivation to spend a little extra time in the sewing room right now. Plus, it’s just the excuse I need to clear out some old stash.

That blue poplin shirting, for example, was purchased two years ago at Haberman’s in Detroit. I was in Stratford, Ontario, for the theater festival, and decided to take the Detroit path home specifically so I could stop at this legendary shop. My gosh, what a great place. Amazing fabrics, great selection, and lovely staff. I just happened to be there when all the cottons and linens were on sale, so I bought four lengths of this same poplin in four different colors. It’s as smooth as glass — if you’ve ever had the opportunity to touch a really top quality man’s dress shirt, the kind that retails for around $500, you’ll know just the kind of shirting fabric I mean. It’s so crisp and smooth. I love it.

I have another length in yellow that I expect to cut on Saturday — I’m flying through my already-cut projects for this contest, so I’ll have to do some cutting in the near future. And some more blogging and reviewing! This has been such a worthwhile experience for me so far. I’m to the stage in my wardrobe-building process that I don’t need multiples of basics anymore, but I need those one-off, special pieces that add a little oomph to the closet. So while many others are working on cutting and sewing many tees or pajamas or other necessary basics, I’m focusing more on statement pieces than on basics. But if I do this contest again — and I suspect I will! It’s really fun! — I would definitely think about running up a stack of tees or something. It’s a great excuse to sew a lot of basics all at once, and it’s a smart approach to the contest, which looks at total yardage sewn in 30 days. People are sewing so fast that my only goal at this point is to finish in the top ten. And that might be impossible! We’ll see!

Have you ever remade an old favorite garment for nostalgia?

Theresa

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Favorite Things Wrap Dress

I have a feeling I’ll be showing a lot of finished sewn garments this month. I’m off to a strong start with two new garments already complete and two more within inches of completion.

Here’s the first. This is the wrap dress from Favorite Things, and indie pattern company.  This is literally a wrap dress in the truest sense, held closed only by ties at the waist.

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I chose this pattern because I love wrap dresses and because the flounce at the skirt really seemed to give it an extra dash of fun. I really like the skirt, and the body of the dress came together beautifully. Other than my standard FBA, I didn’t make any adjustments — though I wish I had lengthened the flounce by about an inch. It doesn’t quite reach the waistband in the front, and no amount of pinning and fiddling and basting could get it closer than a half-inch. This is a minor detail and might be by design, but I did want it to be just a whisker or two longer in front. Overall, the body pieces — skirt, bodice, flounces, facings, ties — came together very smoothly and easily. It’s a well-drafted pattern in those respects.

But the sleeves, you guys. I just don’t know what to make of these sleeves. I was curious about these flutter sleeves. The pattern has two sleeve options, these flutter sleeves and sleeveless with a facing. Here’s the pattern image showing both options, and even a casual glance will let you spot the fact that the cross-back is fairly wide. Look at the fit of the shoulders on the blue sleeveless version. That sleeve cap extends out over the arm, past the point where we would normally expect the sleeve seem to fall. But I also think that’s cute — this isn’t a criticism, but an observation. I like the placement of the armscye on the blue version very much.

favorite things wrap dress

I kept dithering over the sleeves. With a broad cross-back, I thought it likely that the sleeve cap would need adjustment to accommodate my slightly narrow shoulders. I don’t usually do a narrow shoulder adjustment, but I thought I might need to do so here. But the flutter sleeves might mitigate that, as long as they draped in a pleasing way. This matters to me because I don’t like tinkering with a narrow shoulder adjustment or with an armscye re-shaping. I just know from experience that I’m likely to be frustrated with the results when I start down that path. I’m better off picking a pattern size that fits my shoulders and upper bust, adding an FBA, and making any other adjustments through the torso as needed.

And the pattern piece for the flutter sleeves made me curious about how they would sew and drape. The pattern piece is shaped rather like a baby bib. I’ve already put the pattern piece away, but this is a picture of a baby bib template that is almost identical to the sleeve.

bib shape

Have you ever seen a sleeve shaped like this before? I haven’t, and I can’t count the number of sleeves I’ve sewn over the years. So I knew I had to sew it just because, you know, it’s something different. I have just enough of the red micro-chevron fabric left to cut a facing if I decide to remove the sleeves. And I just might. I enjoyed sewing them, but I am not crazy about the appearance of the finished sleeves. They’re not terrible, but they pull on the shoulder and armscye a little and prevent a smooth line there. I fitted this dress without the sleeves, and I can tell you, those wrinkles from the bust point to the sleeve cap didn’t exist until I added the sleeves. So I’m kind of leaning toward removing them for an improved fit, though I like the overall look of them. they’re a little playful, right?

I don’t know. What do you guys think? Sleeves, yea or nay?

Theresa

Entering a Contest with Fingers Crossed for Luck

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I have not had great luck lately with online group sewing adventures. The last couple I entered, I was unable to finish because I ran into patterning problems (a sew-along, a coat muslin that simply will not behave), or general life issues (a contest, coincidentally another coat, but one I couldn’t finish because my sewing room went under construction for some home remodeling), or other little hooks (like getting bumped out of a sewing bee contest in an early round, along with about three-quarters of the other entrants).

But we live in hope, right?

The June contest at PR doesn’t require you to pick a pattern and complete that specific pattern during the contest framework. You don’t have to do matched wardrobes or specific assortments of pieces or use certain fabrics.

There is one goal, and only one goal.

Sew.

Sew a lot.

Sew like the wind!

The idea behind this contest is to dig into old stash and sew as much of it as possible in a month. I don’t know how many yards I might churn through, but I know I’m going to have a lot of fun trying.

We can pattern and muslin in advance, and we can pretreat our fabrics in advance. So guess what I’ll be doing this weekend! My tracing and cutting station is already set up. I’ve pulled out several pieces of fabric for pretreating and the patterns I will use to cut them. Right now, I’m tracing the pattern for some fabric I pretreated last fall and still haven’t managed to cut or sew. I’m kind of in the pondering stage — I know, for example, that I would like to make a new shower curtain from some Alexander Henry fabric I bought a couple of years ago, and this might be the right time to make it. It’s a simple project that would chew through some yardage, about 4.5 yards total for some pretty simple seaming.

I also want to make a couple of silk blouses, and maybe a couple of breezy summer dresses (I love dresses on a hot day!), so not everything I do will be easy-peasy straight line sewing. But I’m still in the pondering and planning stage, and one of the fun things about this contest is that it will let me stay nimble all month. As long as I sew with older stash and keep sewing, this should be one I can manage to get through.

And winning that Mood contest a few weeks back makes me think that maybe my luck has changed. 🙂

Are you planning to enter any contests or sew-alongs this summer?

Theresa

Help! Opinions needed!

I’m lighting up the bat signal here. I need a second opinion on the buttons for this cardigan. My original plan was black buttons, but the ones I bought (very pretty antique shiny black five-petal flowers) won’t fit through the buttonholes.

I sorted through the button box, and came up with these. They fit. I bought them because they remind me of some daisy buttons on a Chanel organdy blouse. But is silver okay with this cardigan? Or should I go shopping for black buttons?

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Miette, unblocked and with many stray ends and lifelines

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A closer view of the buttons

Are they too shiny or too dressy? I think I’ve reached the point where I’ve looked at so many buttons from my button box that I can’t see them anymore. Help help help!

Theresa

To me, from me, with love and lots of presser feet

So, I had a birthday last week. I’m one of those people who is perfectly comfortable dropping a hundred or so dollars on splurge purchases every now and then, but I hate to pull the trigger on bigger-ticket items. I can have the money for something earmarked and waiting for months before I’ll actually go out and buy the intended item. This is why I started using my birthday as an excuse to jump in and do it.

Last year, for example, I bought this beauty.

bike

I live within a football field’s length of a trail head to one of the best trail networks in the country. Buying this bike was a no-brainer, and yet it took me months of dithering before I finally pulled out the debit card. I use the bike all the time. Can’t think why I waited so long to get it.

So this year, I knew I would get a new sewing machine. Actually, I’ve been plotting to get a new machine for a long time, ever since my old iron Singer (circa 1960, one of the really heavy cast iron models) died a painful death. That machine was a work horse. It could sew through anything. I’m convinced it could have stitched through plywood. When it died, I picked up a cheap Singer as a temporary measure, something to see me through until I could decide on a better machine. That was maybe four years ago, five years ago, and the best I can say for that machine is that it was there. So now it was past time to get a machine that can actually handle four layers of denim without a psychotic episode.

So here she is.

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Janome 7330

I’m not a quilter, which means that I’m not the target demographic for most sewing machine manufacturers. Most high-end machines come equipped with features (hundreds of decorative stitch patterns, special free-motion capabilities) that have little to no application in garment sewing. What I need is pretty simple, really. I need a sturdy, fast, reliable machine. I need a straight stitch, a zigzag, a buttonholer, and maybe a blind hem stitch (though that’s not all that important to me). I need the guts of the machine to be strong enough to power through multiple layers of Melton wool coating. I need a sole plate that won’t let flimsy silk chiffons poke into the bobbin mechanism. I need a standard assortment of presser feet. And that’s pretty much it.

My new Janome cost less than the bike I bought last year, and that even included the price of some extra presser feet and a bit of fabric. I played around with the shop model for a while, and I was satisfied that the motor is strong enough to handle an occasional tough job. It’s not a glamorous machine, as far as machine glamor goes, but it’s the best model that does the things I need it to do. The next step up would have taken me into quilting models, not into more horsepower.

I’m in the process of converting part of our basement into a sewing studio. This is a good thing. The basement is finished, with windows and good overhead lighting. As you can tell from the photo above, I need to add some task lighting, too. But I’ve spent most of the past week or so getting things transferred from the spare bedroom (smaller space, also doubles as a home office) to the basement and setting things up down there. My workout studio is down there already, along with a large tv with cable and some comfy furniture, so the whole downstairs zone is starting to feel like my refuge. I’m still fine-tuning the placement of the sewing table, ironing board, etc., but I’d say it’s about 90% there.

What are your favorite features on your sewing machine? I’ve fallen pretty hard for my needle up/down button. Such a silly thing, but I love it.

Theresa

A new summer maxi

I’ve blogged about this dress before, about the process of cutting and seaming it to get the stripes to align properly. I thought I would also show you the two methods I used to finish the raw edges at neck and armscye.

This fabric is a very light jersey, very fluid and drapey, perfect for a floaty kind of garment. The skirt on this dress moves beautifully. With this kind of very light jersey, though, I always want to make sure that the seams above the bust line — shoulders, armscyes, neck bands — are stable and clean.

For the armscyes, I chose an invisible banding finish that I learned years ago from a commercial pattern. First, you cut a strip of fabric on the grain to use as a binding. The strip should be about two inches wide, and the length depends on the size of the armscye. Measure the armscye opening and deduct 20%. Then you add a bit for seam allowances — I do half-inch seams here just because it makes the math easier. But you want this strip to be about 20% shorter than the actual armscye. You’ll stretch it to fit the opening, and the stretch will help it curl to the wrong side and lay nice and flat.

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Each stripe is about an inch wide, so that’s a 2″ strip.

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Measuring a curved edge is easiest when you stand the tape measure on its side.

Because the armscye is a round opening, I make a loop by sewing the short sides together, then folding the piece in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and stitching the raw edges together with a stretchy stitch (in this case, a plain zigzag). Using a stretch stitch makes it easier to stretch the piece to fit the armscye, but sewing the edges together makes the piece more stable when you’re attaching it.

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Just making a loop.

Then you quarter the loop as you would an elastic loop and pin it to the armscye on the right side.

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Quarters marked with pins.

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Loop pinned to the right side of the armscye, raw edges together, using the quarter marks for placement.

Then you stitch this in place using either a 1/4″ or 3/8″ narrow stretch seam (dealer’s choice), and without trimming anything, turn the whole band to the inside and stitch it down to the armscye. This means you’re stitching through five layers of fabric — the garment, plus four layers of the band. When I stitch this second turned seam, I make sure to stitch an eighth or a quarter inch wider than the first stitching line. So, if I used a 1/4″ seam to attach the band to the right side, I use a 3/8″ or 1/2″ seam when I flip it around to the wrong side. This ensures that the raw seam line is encased in all those layers of fabric.

And that’s really it. The result is a clean edge with a stable finish that won’t be distorted by the weight of the dress.

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The view from the public side.

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The private side.

For the neck band, I chose an exposed lapped V-neck band. This band starts in exactly the same way, by cutting a strip two inches wide and 20% shorter than the length of the raw garment edge. Because this dress has a vee on both the front and back, I cut two strips, one for each side, because I would lap them in both the front and back. Instead of sewing them into a loop, I just folded and stitched the long raw edge, then pinned it to the right side of the neckband.

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Applying the first neck edge band.

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And then the second band.

I never stitch all the way to the vee point, but leave about a half inch free where it laps. This is because you can make yourself crazy trying to hit that V in exactly the right spot, in exactly the right way. Or at least, I can. Maybe others more gifted dressmakers out there don’t struggle with this the way I do, but I’ve basically given up trying to hit that mark. I found a cheat that works a bit better for me.

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In which I display what a cheater I am.

Then I turn the band so that it lies flat with just a bit of the folded edge poking up from the neck edge. And I pin very carefully to make sure those edges are lapped properly on the wrong side. Some sewists advocate stitching in the ditch at this point, but I prefer to stitch just next to the ditch on the garment piece to catch that band and hold it in place. I aim for a scant 1/8″ or maybe 1/16″ from the ditch, and I use a narrow stretch stitch, the narrowest setting on my machine. As I approach the point of the V, I shorten the stitch length so that there are more stitches at the point. This adds strength to the seam at that point, and it eliminates the need to back stitch at the V.

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The finished band, not yet pressed.

So there you have it. Here’s the finished dress, McCall’s 7121 View B, with lightweight striped cotton jersey from Fishman’s Fabrics.

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Blissing out over the perfect stripe matching. Worth the work!

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I’m crazy about the side view with those stripes.

So that’s it. Another summer maxi, weightless and cool, that will be just perfect for knocking around town on a hot day. This one took a bit of time and fussing, but I’m really happy with how it turned out and can’t wait for the chance to wear it. I’m thinking with either silver or red flat sandals and a bracelet, this one is good to go. With stripes this bold, I wouldn’t want to add a lot of detail in the accessories.

Theresa

Third finished sweater of the year

I finally finished seaming my Stoker Cowl, and I’m already wearing it. (ravlink to the project page) The pattern came from the Knit to Flatter book, an Amy Herzog-led book of patterns premised on the idea that certain body types should rely on certain design features. Although there is some truth that some designs will look better on one person than another, I think most of the patterns in this book were plain enough to have a pretty universal appeal. I certainly think this one fits that description.

green sweater

This is a very simple sweater with 2×2 ribbing, some basic waist shaping, and that dramatic cowl. I love the cowl. It’s very soft and luxurious to wear, and is every bit as cozy as I’d hoped it would be when I first spotted this pattern. Other than the cowl, though, this is a basic sweater shape, something that I think most women can easily wear. My only changes to the pattern were to lengthen and narrow the sleeves — those sleeves! Geez, did they give me trouble. Remember this from a few months back?

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Sleevus Giganticus

 

I had to reknit the sleeves three times before they were narrow enough to wear, and they’re still too big. This might be partly due to the yarn I used. The yarn is Classic Elite Attitude, a silk-cotton blend that I picked up on a super-special sale for $1.75 a skein a few years back. This yarn is now discontinued, and with good reason. It’s pretty wimpy stuff, prone to pilling, and it drapes and stretches more like an alpaca than a cotton. I suspect the sleeves kept growing because of the yarn. The body is also bigger than anticipated — I knit a 38″ bust size but probably should have knit the next smaller size. It’s not a yarn I would recommend, but I used it because I had leftovers from making this cardigan.

green cardigan

That’s the Strawberry Lace Wrap from Veronik Avery’s wonderful book, Knitting Classic Style (ravlink to project page). I love this cardigan, and people comment on it whenever I wear it. There’s something about that wrap and tie front that is so easy and comfortable. Really a great pattern. So now I have a little twin set of sorts — not exactly the kind of twin set that the pearl-and-tea crowd might go for, but it works for me.

I thought I would also show you one of my favorite tricks for seaming sweater knits. Instead of pinning the seams in place, I use baby hair clips.

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They grab the knit and hold it in place without distorting the fabric, and they can handle even the bulkiest knits. And they were very inexpensive. I can’t take credit for this idea — someone else suggested it to me, but it has been so useful that I wanted to pass it along. It’s one of those tricks that, once I used it, I can’t imagine ever not using it.

There are still about 2.5 balls of this green yarn left, and I think I might just pitch it. Comes a point where you just can’t stand to look at the same yarn any longer!

What do you do with your yarn leftovers when you weren’t all that happy with the yarn?

Theresa