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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.