Monthly Archives: September 2015

Finished the Jacket, Started the Skirt

Serging the side seams

Serging the side seams

Skirt for the Sailor Blouse

I like the flounce on View D on Simplicity 1445. But, I don’t like the little pick up with the bow. The pattern is one piece for the rear flounce, and two for the front flounce. I simply cut two back flounce pieces.

A skirt to match my black fitted blouse sat high on my list of to-do projects, so I can wear the outfit next month. Oh, and so I can get the fabric off my project table. I choose a comfortably large size, so I won’t be letting seam allowances out. I don’t mind if it fits loosely, so I won’t be taking the seams in, either. So I can sew the seams directly on the serger.

Last minute design change - I'm adding a waistband to the inside

Last minute design change – I’m adding a waistband to the inside

After sewing all the vertical seams, I sewed the two back flounce pieces together to form a circle,.Then, still using the serger, I stitched the flounce to the bottom of the skirt. I tried the skirt on. First, I rolled the waistband down to the inside just as the pattern tells you to, creating a hidden casing on the inside of the skirt. But, I like wider elastic for my waistbands. Rolling the top edge down enough to form a deep elastic casing made the skirt a bit shorter than I liked. So I am adding a hidden waistband to the inside of the skirt. I’ll stitch the top edge of the skirt and lining to the top edge of the inner waist band. Then I’ll fold the waistband to the inside, and sew it to the lining leaving the skirt itself free. I’m not sure if it will work or not.

Finished Jacket, front

Finished Jacket, front

Finishing the Jacket

My last post left off with the front and back sections of the jacket complete. The only major piece left were the sleeves.

I enlarged and lengthened the sleeves. I slit the arm sleeves open and inserted a rectangular gusset for more width. The extra sleeve seam is hidden under the arm. But, they were still too short, so I added a band at the bottom for length. I couldn’t hide that seam! I thought about emphasizing it as some sort of design detail, but in the end I just ignored it.

I used black poly/lycra ribbing from Fabric Mart to cut the collar and cuffs. I applied the cuffs to the sleeves, and set them aside. I sewed the back to the front at the shoulder seams, and attached the collar. Finally, I sewed the side seams.

The drapey cowl neck on the original dress added ease to the bust line. Cutting away the cowl cut away the ease. The wide overlap down the front added most (maybe all?) of the ease back in. But, because this is a jacket that will be worn over other clothes, I wanted still more bust room. I tossed around some ideas, and finally decided to add football shaped gussets to the side seams directly below the sleeve.

Back of the jacket, showing how I pieced it

Back of the jacket, showing how I pieced it

Finally I set the sleeves in the jacket. And now, I was at the final step; a decorative button and button loop. I had no suitable button. I searched Ebay and Etsy and found the perfect button on Etsy. So I had to put the almost-finished jacket to one side and wait for my button.

My button arrived on a Friday. I sewed it on that night. For the button loop I used a chunk of seam allowance from when I cut the old garment apart. I wore the jacket to a party Saturday night, and first thing in the morning Sunday to go sailing. Finally I took photos on Tuesday.

I love my new jacket! I am way behind the contest now, though. They have finished round two and are starting round three. I’m glad I sewed along on the first round, it was a great challenge and I’m really happy with my remade garment!




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Progress, Disaster and a Change of Plans

Tea rayon challis, abstract floral poly chiffon and the pattern

Tea rayon challis, abstract floral poly chiffon and the pattern

I wanted an easy, stylish pattern for my first blog project. I picked McCalls 7192,  a loose fitting woven pullover top with a decorative chiffon overlay. It’s labeled Easy, so it probably is. The project was put on hold when my fitted blouse for the Sewing Bee took priority.

I chose a soft rayon challis (from FabricMart) and an old crepe textured poly chiffon from deep in my stash.

The huge chiffon print is one directional. The purple flowers always point the same way. The front piece is oddly shaped. All these factors gobbled up quite a bit of fabric.

Lil Pud (aka Bill The Cat) approves of my plans

Lil Pud (aka Bill The Cat) approves of my plans

I always look at the instructions before sewing. I may or may not follow them. The usual assembly order is to sew darts first, then shoulder seams, collars, etc. Sewing side seams is a relatively late step in the construction process. But the construction order for this top deviated quite a bit from the norm. Bust darts were first, as usual, but the second step was to sew a side seam. Next came the side seam in the chiffon overlay, then the overlay is hemmed.

It took me a moment to realize it was done this way so that the chiffon overlay could be sewn into the shoulder seams, and one side of the overlay could be sewn into one side seam, while on the other side, the underlay and overlay are unconnected at the side seam.

A hairy French Seam. When a French Seam is well sewn, the raw edges are completely encased, with no stray hairs

A hairy French Seam. When a French Seam is well sewn, the raw edges are completely encased, with no stray hairs

I breezed quickly through these steps. I used a french seam in the side of the chiffon overlay. A French Seam is a narrow seam sewn with wrong sides together. The tiny seam allowance ends up on the outside of the garment. Then, the garment is flipped inside out, and a second, slightly deeper seam is sewn right next to the first one, wrapping the raw edges inside the seam allowance.

I used my serger to make a three thread rolled hem with metallic thread for the long hem on the overaly.

I hate switching and changing setting, pulling needles in and out, and fussing with my machines in general. I like to sit down and sew! Sometimes that means changing the construction order so I don’t need to reset my serger over and over again.

I wandered from the instructions and prepared the sleeves next. I used a french seam in the under arm, then the rolled hem. Finally, I ran a line of basting stitches along the sleeve cap for easing into the armhole later.

I re-threaded the serger, finished the existing seams inside the top, and used my Symphony sewing machine to insert the sleeves. Things were looking really good. I decided to finish the seam allowances with a 4 thread overlock stitch on the serger.

And that’s when disaster struck. I was careless, and the knife cut into the top of one of the chiffon sleeves. I don’t think I have enough material left to cut new sleeves, so I’m just going to have to make do with this damaged sleeve. I think I will remove both sleeves, then trim the tops back below the sliced fabric, following the contour of the sleeve top. It might work. We’ll see.

A Change of Plans

Wool blend sweatshirt dress

W11ool blend sweatshirt dress

One reason I started this blog is that I hope to participate in the Fabric Mart Fabricista challenge next year. So of course I had to sew along with the first challenge, even though I started really late.

The challenge is to take an unsuccessful hand made garment and remake into something wearable. I have the perfect garment for this challenge. A couple of years ago I saw a heavy sweatshirt dress with a cowl neck in a high end department store. The designer dress was grey wool, with cuffs on the sleeves. I used red heathered black wool blend from Fabric Mart. It made a warm, snuggly dress. But I spend little time in cold corporate offices these days, and the dress was just too warm.

Inspiration Vogue 8854

Inspiration Vogue 8854

Time for the dress to become a jacket. Vogue 8854  was my inspiration. I borrowed the neckline and high-low hem. I wanted the jacket to open all the way down the front, so that meant extending the placket all the way down the front and eliminating the front pocket. Instead of adding more buttons and loops to keep the front closed, I’ll try to hide a zipper underneath the placket.

The first step, cutting everything apart, is easy and scary. The detached pieces exposed potential trouble spots. The sleeves are narrow, and a bit short. The back neckline of the dress is cut waaay tooo low.

The cowl used a ton of material, so I cut the cowl facing out from the cowl neck. I laid the cut facing out flat, then placed the back of the dress/jacket over it, in such a way that the piece filled in the gap where the neck was too low. I stitched it in place by stitching over the two rows of top stitching along the neck edge. I tucked the raw edges of the shoulder seams under, then used two rows of top stitching to secure them to the under piece.

The pattern pieces from the inspiration design are very different - doesn't look promising

The pattern pieces from the inspiration design are very different – doesn’t look promising

I used the front and back pattern pieces to guide my cutting for the neck and hem of the jacket front and back. The pattern pieces don’t match well to my garment pieces, this does not look very promising.

The rules say nothing about leftovers. I am using a black poly blend ribbing for the thick collar, and adding cuffs with the same ribbing, I could use the ribbing for the extra front placket, too, because I don’t have enough material in the dress alone. But, I am sewing this for fun and I have the leftovers, so I’m going to use them. I cut two front plackets. I have enough left to fix the sleeves for sure, or maybe even cut new ones.

The almost finished front. The zipper is in place behind a full front overlap

The almost finished front. The zipper is in place behind a full front overlap

I sewed the placket on to one side, then attached half the zipper to that side. Using that side as a guide, I pinned and sewed the other half of the zipper to the other placket, then attached the placket to the front bodice. The seam allowance on the second side had to be deeper than the seam allowance on the first side, in order for the underplacket to be completely hidden under the over placket.

Next Up

I like to have a couple of projects going at any one time. I’m almost finished with the chiffon top (in fact, I’d probably be finished by now if I’d been more careful!) so it’s time to start looking ahead.

I’ll use the leftover fabric from the tie blouse to make a skirt. I’ll use Simplicity 1445 , view D.

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Last Minute Entry

Sept 1

Summer flew by in the blink of an eye. I was completely unprepared when the Sewing Pattern Review Sewing Bee kicked off on Sept 1.

Round 1 is a fitted shirt. Now my body is not exactly the “fitted shirt” type, but I did want a nice bow blouse. I had a wonderful fabric in my stash – black stretch polyester charmeuse with gorgeous purple flowers and vivid green leaves. Of course, it came from Fabric Mart. I had black interfacing and plenty of black thread. But, no pattern and no buttons. I decided to pass on the contest, and continue with my plan of making a McCalls pullover top.

Sept 3

I unexpectedly found myself in a shopping center with a sewing store. And they had the perfect buttons. Now, all I needed was a pattern. Suddenly I was back in the game.


Lekala 4406 NOTE: The “yoke” in front is not a yoke, it is a sailor collar that lays on top of the blouse. The ties are far too short to tie into a bow

I like Lekala patterns, I’ve sewn several of them. The custom size feature usually guarantees a reasonably good fit on the first try, especially once you know a couple of little secrets. First, these patterns have less ease than the major American brand patterns. Patterns for stretchy fabrics have even less ease. Skirts are often short with narrow hems.

Using slightly larger measurements than my actual size makes a slightly larger pattern, which provides some extra ease.  I buy the patterns without seam allowances, and if I’m worried about a too-snug fit, I make extra deep side seam allowances. I always measure the length skirt pieces before I lay them out, about half the time I add more length, anywhere from 1 to 4 inches.

Late at night on Thursday Sept 3 I choose my pattern, a princess seamed bow blouse. I ordered the pattern, Lekala 4406, and  sent the pdf files to my local FedEx Kinkos.

Sept 4

I picked up my pattern print out at Fed Ex Kinkos around 11 am. I had to be home from noon until 5 pm to wait for the range repair man. Sad to say, he did not arrive until 6:15 pm, only to tell me the parts are not available. He’s right, I searched the internet myself but all I found were other people looking for the same parts. Time for a new range.

We ordered Chinese take out for dinner. I prepared the pattern and cut the shirt out. Matching the large print would have wasted miles of fabric. Making no effort to match the print required only about half my 4 yard or so piece, leaving enough fabric for another garment.

Sept 5

I began sewing. I sewed all the seams with the sewing machine first. When I was satisfied I finished the seams on my serger. I did not take the time to photograph the construction process.

At first, the blouse seemed to come together quickly and smoothly. Then I got to the “yoke”. It looks like a yoke in the pattern technical drawing. The cryptic instructions refer to it as a yoke. But it is not a yoke. It’s actually some sort of sailors collar, that is sewn into the armhole and shoulder, then lays over the blouse bodice.

If I was not making this blouse for a competition that ended on Sept 7, just two days away, I would have scraped the whole weird collar thing and used the tie collar that Claire Shaeffer demonstrates in her book High Fashion Sewing Secrets from the Worlds Best Designers.

Front bodice of blouse, right side out. The collar/tie piece is in place, but wrong side up

Front bodice of blouse, right side out. The collar/tie piece is in place, but wrong side up

The only work-in-progress photo I took was when I finally figured out that the “yoke” was actually a “collar”. I think I ripped the shoulder out at least 4 times before I finally gave up and sort of did my own thing. All this ripping and resewing on a short deadline was frustrating, to say the least. But, I finally managed to finish the bodice and collar.

To my dismay the ties were way short. No possible way could these ties make the luxurious pussy bow shown in the technical illustration. I was disappointed.

Sept 6

I began by preparing the cuffs, then the sleeves. And then I realized this pattern has the cuff vent in the under arm seam. This awkward placement is only used in cheap RTW. I wanted to move the vent, but, I didn’t think I’d have enough time. I decided to just go ahead with the pattern as it was.  I finished the vent edges by turning the seam allowance under twice and stitching it. I applied the cuff with the sewing machine, then finished the inside of the cuff with my Little Blind Hemmer.

Finished blouse, front

Finished blouse, front

I was amazed at how fast and easy it was to do the inside of the cuff with the Hemmer. Slip stitching the cuff by hand is glacially slow compared to my Little Machine. I had to do the very edges of the cuff by hand, but just three or four stitches is not bad at all. It was a lot easier than the Stitch-in-the-Ditch-and-catch-the-back method.

And then I made yet another annoying discovery about this pattern. Unlike most sleeves, which have a single notch to mark the front and a double notch to mark the back, it had a single notch on the front and the back I was in suhMost  it had one notch on the front of the sleeve and one notch on the back. So notches were useless in determining whichwas left and which was right. I had to go by the shape of the sleeve cap. Fortunately very asymmetrical shape made it clear which was which. I think it’s odd that such a beautifully shaped sleeve pattern would be so poorly marked and use such a lazy method for the cuff vent.

Finally I was down to the last few steps. Finishing up any exposed seams with the serger, heming the blouse, and adding the button holes and buttons.

Finished blouse, back

Finished blouse, back

Of course I used my Little Blind Hemmer to hem the blouse. I started just past and finished just before the button placket. It was quick and easy, although the machine made a couple of tiny burps over some of the bulkier seam allowance.  The folded hem at the button plackets was kind of thick, but it only took a half a dozen slip stitches by hand to finish each side.

I was down to button holes and buttons. Back in the 1970s I absolutely hated button holes. .It was an awkward process, of carefully marking, stitching, turning, stitching. Each button hole took for ever, and no matter how careful I was, like snowflakes, no two were ever exactly alike, tho some came pretty close. I used snaps instead of buttons whenever and where ever I could.

I am always confused when I see bloggers and couture sewists rejected automatic button holes in favor of the old-fashioned twist and turn machine method, or even crazier, hand sewn button holes. The usual complaint is that machine made button holes are “a little thin”. Sometimes they can be, but they don’t have to be.

Inside of the blouse

Inside of the blouse

Using buttonhole twist makes a thicker buttonhole. But, twist comes in limited colors and who wants to buy a whole spools of, say, Lemon-Lime Green just for a couple of buttonholes? An alternative is to use two threads at once, through the same needle. Any machine that can use a twin needle will have a set up for two threads. You don’t need two spools of thread, instead, just wind an extra bobbin and use it as a spool.

Decreasing the stitch length (don’t mess with the pre-programed widths) will make a denser buttonhole. Some computerized machines will even let you save a button hole with a modified stitch length, or even reset the default to a shorter stitch length.

Finally, you can do a button hole twice for double thickness. After you’ve completed a button hole, raise the needle, and press Start again. The machine will sew a second identical button hole right over the first, creating a nice, thick button hole, in just a fraction of the time the old-fashioned or hand methods take.

I used just one thread. It didn’t take long to do the buttonholes.

Sept 7

Simplicity 1445. Maybe I'll use view D for a matching skirt

Simplicity 1445. Maybe I’ll use view D for a matching skirt

Last day of the contest! I sewed on the buttons, took the required photos, reviewed the pattern and submitted my entry, just 8 hours before the deadline.

I don’t expect to advance to round 2. I don’t hate my blouse, I love the fabric, it’s comfortable to wear and the sailor collar with the knot tie has a slightly retro vibe. My hand is small enough to fit through the cuffs without unbuttoning them, so I guess the oddly placed sleeve vent doesn’t really matter much.

I think I will use the leftovers to make a skirt to go with this blouse. Oh, and I’ve ordered a new range.

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