Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fabric Makes All of the Difference

I have a lot of button down shirt patterns in the pattern stash. Each one purchased for a different reason, idea and/or dream. Lately I've wanted to make a couple of them. I found an out-of-print (OOP) Vogue 7700 in the stash recently...and I loved it...until I looked at the line drawings closely and realized it had dropped shoulders. I don't really like dropped shoulders on anything but I loved the yoke and gathered back on the pattern.

Butterick 5678

So I decided that I would mash up my tried 'n true (TNT) blouse pattern - Butterick 5678 and Vogue 7700. This gives me the fitted princess seam look on the front and the flowy artist type smock look on the back that I wanted. I'm always looking for comfortable, flowy types of button up shirts and/or tunics to wear alone or with a cardigan.

OOP Vogue 7700

At first I really wanted a couple of white blouses but I decided that I have so many colored and patterned shirtings in my fabric collection, that I would go with one of them. I chose these two shirtings from Fabric Mart (really did you have to ask where they came from? LOL!)

One is a cotton shirting I bought from Fabric Mart years ago when they were running a sale on shirtings.  The sticker says I bought 3 yards for $4 a yard. My second choice is a Cotton & Steel cotton I bought during my Christmas vacay, directly from Fabric Mart's brick 'n mortar store. It's one of the pre-cuts, 4 yards for $1 a yard.

Pattern Alterations ~
The biggest change was to the back of the shirt because I love the full gathered back of Vogue 7700. It was what I wanted to incorporate into Butterick 5678. The princess seams on the front will give it a tailored look and the swingy back will give the button down a more casual look.

So I made a pattern sandwich (original back, yoke back from V7700 and a new piece of tracing paper) and I made a yoke back that would match the neckline and shoulders of B5678. 

Then I altered the gathered back piece. The original had a dip which I filled in because I wanted a seam straight across my back. I also changed the armhole so it would match the B5678 one. Especially since I'm still using the B5678 sleeve.

Construction Deets ~
Seeing that I was mashing the patterns I used the Butterick directions for the front. This was my sewing process:

Button down Body:
1. Serge finish the cut out pieces.
2. Sew the back yoke to the back piece and set aside.
3. Sew the princess seams of the front.
4. Stitch the front pieces to the back pieces at the shoulder seams.

Collar and Collar Stand:
For the Cotton & Steel one, I made the collar and collar stand as the pattern suggests, just topstitching everything before adding it to the body of the shirt.

Sleeves and Finishing the Button down:
a. When I cut the sleeves out I added a little extra to the side seams (without messing with the sleeve cap) to give the sleeve a little more room.

b. Then I changed the cuffs from regular cuffs with a button to a solid cuff that you slip your hand through. I took pictures of the process they will be in the next blog post.

c. The cotton button down has a double hem and buttons & button holes.

A few pictures of the Cotton & Steel Mashup ~

After making the first version, I realized the shirt would work better in a flowy type fabric. The cotton version is okay but it lacks the drape that I wanted. So I chose another one of my pre-cuts to make a second version.

I used a polyester crepe pre-cut from Fabric Mart for this one because I'm in love with the pre-cuts from Fabric Mart. I may have bought a few more when they were on sale for 60% off! LOL!

Things I changed for the second one ~

1. I lengthened the back yoke piece by 1". It seemed short on the original version. 
2. I added 5/8" to the cuff because I added piping to the cuff.
3. I added piping to the collar of this version to break up some of the pattern.
4. In the first version the back was longer than the front piece. So I cut 3" off the back to make it work.
5. For this one, I lengthened the front pieces by 3" so the finished top would be tunic length and match the unaltered back piece.
6. I also took in 1/2" on each front princess seam from the waistline down to make the bottom front a little more fitted. While the loose fit worked with the sturdier fabric, it was a little too much drape with the drapier fabric.
7. The sleeves were widened to give them a little more flare before gathering them into the cuff.

8. Piping was added to both ends of the cuff and then gathered into the sleeve.
9. The shirt was hemmed by turning it up 1/2" and topstitching. Then buttonholes and white buttons from the collection were added.

The button down in action ~

A picture of the two shirts side by side ~ 

Conclusion ~
I know that I used out of print patterns for these makes.  However, both of these patterns are readily available on the internet for purchase. I don't know if there are any patterns with these features currently in the pattern books, though. 

I have to admit that I love the blue and white one more. It has the length and drape that I want. Also the piping takes the design up a notch. I loved it so much that I immediately pulled out more fabric to make a couple more button downs.  

Another like is how the mash-up looks on me. Tailored in the front with some flare in the back which really works for my body type. And since I've been sewing multiples lately, why not three or four instead of just two! always more later!

Friday, February 17, 2017

What's Your Process?

I'm in the midst of sewing button down shirts. Creatively they are really speaking to me.  I'm working with a mash-up of Butterick 5678 and Vogue 7700. I've posted pictures of the cotton & steel version to Instagram here and here.

The first one is done and I'm working on the second one now. Why?  Because fabric plays a huge part in how a garment fits, wears and looks. But that's not the reason for this post. In making the second one, I'm not using the pattern instructions, I'm sewing organically...and I realize I no longer speed sew.

What do I mean by that? Previously, I would do all like tasks together. Serge finishing all of the pieces prior to sewing, interfacing all of the pieces at once, and cutting all pieces out at one time. I don't sew this way anymore. I'm not trying to be first across the finish line now. I'm just trying to enjoy the process.

I do still think the project out ahead of time, planning out embellishment/trims, picking buttons and insuring that I have the right threads on hand. That's done more because I like having a plan when I sew and I hate to run out of anything halfway through the project. Also, because I like the idea of planning out the order of construction before I sew.

This is my process, so tell me yours. I know that a lot of the conversation this year has been about the political atmosphere in the US right now. This post is all about sewing, so talk back to me. Tell me, do you plan out your sews?  Your construction steps? Whether or not you will add trim to your garments? Or do you just wing it?

Let me know...and thanks for talking back to me! always more later!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Simplicity 8059 - A Blue Velvet Vest

When I was making the cardigans, the blue velvet was my favorite. I loved the look of it, the fabric and the ties, but the sleeves were just too tight. I tried to take some of the seam allowance out of the sleeves, knowing that the velvet holds the memory of stitches. Betting though that since the stitching was on the underarm I could get away with it. However, I didn't have enough space for comfort. So I removed the sleeves and made it a vest.

Otherwise this one was sewn just like the other cardigans...and I really like it as a vest. Also, because I used velvet as the base fabric, I used a navy ponte for the facings because velvet on velvet would be too much. To me the tassels are the detail that I love the most. 

I wanted to share a few details about how I made the tassels. From Joyce Trimmings, I bought a couple of velvet ribbons in shades of blue and the tassels to use as the ties for this version. 

How I put the ties together ~

3 yards of turquoise 1/2" velvet ribbon
3 yards of navy 1/2" velvet ribbon
2 shades of blue beaded tassles
Steam a Seam 2

Cut the velvet strips out - 21" long
Added the Steam A Seam 2 to the back of the ribbon

Placed the tassel between the two strips 

Placed the second ribbon on top encasing the tassel
Finger pressed the two ribbons together

Pressed the ribbons using my needle board for the velvet ribbon
...and a silk organza pressing cloth on the top

To insure the ties wouldn't pull apart I added a line of 
stitching down the center of the ties

Finished ties before inserting them between the facing and vest fronts

Some construction details ~
All of the seams were pinned every 1/2" so that the two pieces of fabric wouldn't shift when sewn together.

I used a stitch length of 3 on my Janome 8900QCP and a #70 Schmetz Universal needle.

Each seam was started with the foot fully on the fabric and then I backstitched and sewed forward for each seam to prevent the bunching that can occur when sewing with velvet.
While this is a simple pattern to construct, I gave it a degree of difficulty by using a stretch velvet. It meant a lot of slow sewing, using my needleboard for pressing, a lot of steam and finally all hems were hand stitched down. However, the extra effort was worth it because it's such a luxurious piece. Truly this is why I sew!

A few more pictures of the vest in action ~

I've worn all of the cardigans and this vest to work and I love the ease of wear. They also feel like me. I wear them with jeans and leggings and a sweater or turtleneck. These pieces make me glad I sew!

Again, these photos were taken by me...the music was blasting and I was definitely getting silly but hey this is me! A silly sewist sometimes...*LOL* always more later!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Butterick 6389 - A Vest

I love these loose floaty vests and when I saw Butterick 6389, I knew I needed to add a version of this to my wardrobe.

I bought several of these boiled wools from Fabric Mart years ago. At the time I wanted to use them to make short cardigan jackets to go over dresses for the very professional job. So I was thrilled to find new life for them now.

This is a simple sew because it's a loose fitting garment. Choose your size, I used an XXL, cut it out and sewed it up. That's what I did but there was something missing. It was kinda plain.

I let it hang overnight and when I looked at it in the morning the armholes that were kinda long had grown. I'm sure it's because I didn't use the facings that are in the pattern. The facings that I saw no need for definitely had a purpose. Also, the next morning the vest seemed unnecessarily large in some areas. 

To fix this, I took the side seams in some. Then I added a fusible interfacing to the armhole seams that I turned in and stitched down. Instead of hemming the vest, I serged around the edge twice to finish. Oh one more thing, even though I cut the pocket pieces out, I sewed the vest up without them. I realized that I didn't really care if I had them or not so left them off and I never missed them when I wore this to work on Monday.

I also left the collar seam unfinished. The pattern tells you to do a french seam on the collar seam but my fabric was really thick and I just didn't feel like wrestling with it. Since I was going with an unfinished hemline, showing the unfinished collar seam just seems part of the theme.

Here is the finished vest ~

In the above picture I wore the vest with a belt to emulate the pattern envelope. I may or may not wear the belt but it does work for me. Lately I'm more casual and like the loose and flowing look better!  

This was a quick and stylish addition to my wardrobe.  Worn with a thick turtleneck or one of my cashmere sweaters, it will be warm enough for the cold days ahead. I may make a version of the turtleneck that's included in the pattern because I love turtlenecks. However, right now I have button down shirts on the mind so that's what's on my cutting table. always more later!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Cashmerette Turner Tunic

I really like this pattern cause y'all know I love a dress but dresses only figure predominantly in my wardrobe from late May to September. Somehow a dress in the spring/summer works in my very casual office but not so much in the fall/winter. So I don't wanna wait until spring to make a version of the Turner Dress, that's why I decided to work on a tunic version first.

I went with a border print ponte recently purchased from Chic Fabrics to give it a little oomph. I'm slowly bringing myself around to the "I can wear any color, print, etc. I want camp" even though this is still a print on a black background! *LOL*

How I posted the fabric and pattern to Instagram

Pattern Alterations ~
Now there aren't many of those because Jenny has thought of most things that a plus size sewist needs to do to make a pattern fit and they are incorporated into the pattern.

But it is winter and the neckline was quite low on me, so starting with the bodice front for a C/D cup, I added 2" to raise the neckline per Jenny's instructions in this blog post

Construction Deets ~
I cut it out originally in a size 22 front and a 24 back and size 22 sleeves, put it on and thought ummmmm no. It was way too tight. Some of the tightness could be attributed to using a ponte with minimum stretch and some may be attributed to the fact that the pattern pieces are cut on the cross grain which could be affecting the little stretch the ponte possessed.

Since I bought three yards of the fabric, I recut the front using the 26 E/F cup and the 24 back. I needed all of my extra in the front. I'd already cut the skirt using the border for the bottom of the skirt. There wasn't enough fabric leftover to recut the skirt so I "made the bodice" fit the skirt. A good press helped make it work too.

The original sleeves that I cut from the border print ponte were too tight and I despise tight sleeves. When I went to recut them there wasn't enough fabric for them even when I tried to piece them together. So I pulled out my trusty black ponte fabric (which has a little more stretch) and cut new sleeves from it. If I look closely, I can see the slight difference in the fabric but since the print is so vibrant, that is what your eye is drawn too.

Designer Deets ~
I wish I was capable of just sewing a pattern out of the envelope as the pattern designer made it but I'm not.

Here are the changes I made to the pattern:
1. Made it tunic length
2. Gave the side hems shark tooth hemlines to emphasize the border print.
3. Used Jenny's instructions to raise the neckline
4. Instead of lining the top with self fabric, I used black foldover elastic to finish off the neckline. 

Some pictures of the tunic in action ~

Conclusion ~
I like the ease of this pattern. How easy it is to sew. How easy it is to interpret and change up using fabric and details...and how easy it is to wear. I don't know if I will make another tunic but it will definitely be on my spring/summer to-sew list. I'd like one with a very full skirt and calf length in a lightweight knit. It will be a perfect spring/summer dress and will have more fabric to cover the abundance of behind that I have.

Also, I took these pictures myself. My daughter and the grand kids are all under the weather. I've forgotten how hard it is to take my own photos and I applaud all of you who do!

One more thing, most of these pictures are taken with me wearing sneakers because honestly this is my footwear choice most days. I'm slowly but surely buying interesting pairs of sneakers cause they're fun and since I can wear them to work, I might as well. always more later!

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

It's All in the Details

Honestly, I may never get the other three cardigans photographed. I guess I'm not that good at faking it until I can make it. Thanks Sallie for that reminder! Cause I'm doing good just getting myself together to go face the world every day! *LOL*

So I thought I would talk about the details of each cardigan and how it makes them different. I really made no pattern changes to any of the four patterns, what differentiates them are the fabric and closure choices - you know the details.

First is Fabric Choices ~
My choices were deliberate because I wanted four cardigans that if I wore them all the same week, no one would think I was wearing the same thing. Fabric has a way of becoming the focal point so people stop looking at the style.

I chose a black ponte, a beige ribbed knit, a bold tie-dyed stretch velvet and a hard to look away from border print. BTW, I wrote a post on border prints here if you have any questions on how to use them.

Closures ~
Since the length was going to be exactly the same for all of the cardigans, how the cardigan closed became another important design feature.  I put a lot of thought, and in some instances more money than the fabric cost, into the closures. To me they give the cardigans distinction.  So even though the pattern recommends self fabric ties, I used other items to close the cardigans.

A glass button from the collection for the border print version ~

...and a link to the Instagram video of me making the loop from a hair elastic.

Button and loop in action

Velvet ribbons and beaded tassels for the tie dyed stretch velvet version ~

Braided leather ties for the beige ribbed one ~

Other details ~
To add some additional distinction to the cardigans, I added pockets from a cut-out faux leather from the collection to the black ponte one...

...and some elastic to the sleeve hems on the beige version

...a little lace on the back...

All of these details are how I handle making a pattern over and over again...the details keep me from being bored with the pattern.

If I get to the place where I'm taking photos again, I will post them to the blog. Next up on the cutting table is my border print Turner's almost done and if I wasn't being so social this week, it would be finished.  As soon as it is, I will put it on Lulu and shoot it for the blog. always more later!

Sunday, January 29, 2017


This is one of my versions of Simplicity 8059.  I wore it to work on Friday because I knew I was meeting Tasha, who authors the blog, The Tell Tale Tasha for dinner.

These pictures were taken by my coworker shortly before I left to meet Tasha. I'd planned to take a few photos today of the other three cardigans but I just didn't have the heart to do it. It seemed like such a frivolous thing to be doing. Taking pictures of garments when there are people trapped in airports, being turned away from the United States in foreign countries, and when permanent residents (green card holders) of the United States are not being allowed to return to the US because they happened to be vacationing, visiting family, or working in a Muslim country.

I've alternated between crying and wanting to scream  I can not believe that we've come to this in America...and then in the next breathe...I can because Black people have been persecuted in America for the last 238 years.

These words kept running through my head all day...

"First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me."
Pastor Martin Niemoller 

Pastor Niemoller was a national conservative and initial supporter of Adolf Hitler but he became a founder of the Confessing Church, which opposed the nazification of German Protestant churches. He vehemently opposed the Nazis' Aryan Paragraph, but made remarks about Jews that some scholars have called antisemitic. For his opposition to the Nazis' state control of the churches, Niemoller was imprisoned in concentration camps from 1937 to 1945.
Info from Wikipedia

One more thought and Imma tie this all together. I was a small child during the 60's and I remember it as a decade of upheaval...Vietnam, Civil Rights, riots on collage campuses and three assassinations - John F. Kennedy, Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.  Up was down, right was wrong and it seemed like we were on the edge of a cliff waiting to fall into a great abyss from which there was no return. I was a small child and I remember the fear and uncertainty.

I've felt that same fear and uncertainty since November 9th...I feel it even more now that he is in office. Because I know that even though it seems like fear should take the day and we should prevent Muslims from coming to this country, I totally disagree with this stance. See I was in NYC when the Twin Towers fell. I didn't watch it on TV from the safety of my living room. I had to come back to the city day after day and walk past the signs where people asked about their missing loved ones. So if I don't want Muslims or refugees banned from entering the country, why do others?

I know in my heart that once they've finished banning them others will be next. Hispanics, Black people, members of the LGBTQ community, women who have an abortion, will we all be banned and censored by hate?

Will history repeat itself? Have we not learned anything as a human race?

So while the world is upside down, when wrong is right, when hate is the currency of the day, and morality has been thrown out the window, I will be sewing (because it keeps me calm and from falling into despair) but I'm not sure I will be smiling in my new garments here. 

It will be a day by day thing because today I can't stop crying...


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