Dress for Success: My Seersucker Vision

Pattern: Francois Dress by Tilly and the Buttons

I was going to start this month off writing about this great new skirt I made, but it ended up being not-so-great. I think actually it will end up as a “take two” entry, when I get around to re-making it. These last three weeks, I’ve been super busy with summer stuff and marathon training stuff, that I have not had much time for sewing. But I did want to at least showcase another win I had fairly recently, making the Francois dress from Tilly and the Buttons. I loved this pattern, and it was so well-made that I ended up getting this dress right on the first try, which is pretty amazing. It’s also a relief because I bought this fabric specifically to make a dress like this, so it’s always a gamble to go right into it.

When I bought the brown seersucker, I knew I wanted to make a dress with it – something good for summer and fall workdays. This was before I knew I would be working 90% from home, but I was still determined to see this vision through. I wanted to fully line the dress because the fabric, being that crinkly texture, would not be the best against the skin. For some reason, I thought this pattern was going to be perfect because it was a lined dress. When I finally got started on it, I realized it was not lined at all. I decided to put a lining in anyways, which skipped any need for a facing. I made another dress with the cotton lining and then sewed it in at the neck. I slip-stitched the lining to the invisible zipper in the back and used the bias tape on the arm holes as directed in the pattern, which held everything in place.

The result looks great and I think it’s one of my better made dresses for sure. Even the fit came out great – I was real lucky with this one. I even found the perfect buttons to go with the style I was looking for.

After I finished this, I thought to myself, “hey maybe I’m getting pretty good at this sewing thing!” I should have known my luck would eventually end. I’ve had so many hits lately, it was about time for a miss – well I’ll save that for another day. In the meantime, I will bask in the glory of fall-colored seersucker and a slight a-line shape. It’s enough to (almost) get me back to the office!

Fall Fashion 2022: The Tank

Pattern: Itch to Stitch Lago Tank

Sometimes, I like to check out future fashion trends to see if I can stay ahead in my clothing makes. I usually get a few ideas of what might be “hot” for next season and then I promptly run out of time to do anything. But this time, I hit the jackpot. I was looking up a few sources for what’s trending this fall and something caught my eye among the bizarre runway contraptions they call outfits – white tank tops. Apparently this is one of the looks that is in-style for this fall. Now this was something that I could actually accomplish before the summer ended.

I wanted to make a basic ribbed white tank top. I searched a bunch of patterns (and there are a lot that are free for this type of thing) and settled on the Lago tank from Itch to Stitch. This was a free pattern that I already had in my stash and had the look I wanted – neck bands and arm bands, with a slight racerback-like style in the back.

It could be a bit more fitted I guess, but all in all, it’s very comfortable. I decided to go with the double stitched seam for the hem, using a twin stretch needle. I made sure to put some interfacing along the hem so that the stitches didn’t create a tunnel effect. I increased the tension a bit as well.

Now I can say I made something for upcoming season. Some of these fashion sites also happened to mention bomber jackets might be making a comeback, so this is another goal to make one of these for the fall as well. I have an idea of what I want it to look like, but still need to get the main fabric for it.

I don’t think I could pass this off as one of those tanks that are selling for over $100, but hey it fits! What other fashion trends for this year are people planning to make?

Summertime and the sewing is easy

Pattern: McCall’s M7571, View C

I have a new favorite shirt for the summer. I found this very soft cotton shirting in my stash and it looked like I only really had enough fabric for a short sleeved shirt (especially with plaid matching). I was thinking of just making a simple button-down, but lately I’ve been really into shirts with the deeper armholes, sort of like the batwing sleeves. I have another purchased plaid shirt I wear all the time and I think I was looking for something similar. In my search for a pattern, I came across this pattern from McCall’s, and I was intrigued. It definitely was something different than just a plain blouse and I liked the wide sleeves with the cuff. I went for view C, since I was working with plaid, however I did add the sleeve tab shown on view D.

This pattern is pretty decent for beginners. The only real confusing directions I encountered was the section on attaching the sleeves. It just wasn’t super clear that these were not attached like normal sleeves, because they are meant to fold up like a cuff. The seam you are making ends up on the outside of the shirt, and it’s hidden when the cuff is folded up. None of this is really mentioned, so if you didn’t realize it, you may just sew it on like a normal sleeve. I decided to tack two ends of the cuff, so it stays folded. I’m also glad I added the button tabs as it’s one more thing to hold that cuff in place.

These are cuffs, not really sleeves, so they are sewn around the outside with the shirt inside out.
The cuff is folded up so the seam is hidden. I added the tab and button and also a few tack stitches to keep it folded.

I serged the seams, mostly out of laziness, but maybe I was just burnt out on french seams from my bird blouse. My biggest concern for this shirt was that the style would make me look like I had a big protruding stomach, but I actually think the bias plaid at the bottom has a slimming look. I think that I’ve gotten the most compliments about this shirt – or at least the most comments about how people want one for themselves. It actually didn’t take too long, even considering the neck band is slip-stitched on. People who know me, know how much I hate hand sewing, but this shirt is definitely worth it. I don’t think I could have found a better use for this fabric and I’m so glad to have another comfortable plaid shirt exclusively for summer.

I decided to wear this while testing out our new drone for the first time. I thought it would be so cool to get a drone shot of my new shirt. Unfortunately being so new to flying, we couldn’t figure out how to get a decent overhead shot.

When we were trying to get closer…the drone almost crashed into me and I had to run out of the way.

Well at least you can see the shirt here!

Something to strive for another time I guess. For now, I guess just regular photos of my new makes.

Pants that are a cinch!

Pattern: Simplicity 2414

It’s time for another wardrobe builder and this time it’s for capri or three-quarter pants. I really like this style of shorter pants with the cinches up the side as I have a pair I purchased that I like to do light hiking in. The only problem with this pattern is that view C is technically shorts, even though they don’t look like it in the drawing. I ended up lengthening these a bit so they were more like capris, although the length is still on the shorter side. As is, they were a bit long for actual shorts anyways.

The pattern promises you can make these in an hour. I’m not sure I am that skilled – I mean cutting these out alone takes over a half hour including set up. However they did sew up fairly fast as I was able to sneak away on lunch breaks and after work to get these done.

One of the things that tends to frustrate me about the Big 4 patterns, is that I sometimes come across directions that don’t make sense to me at first glance. On this pattern, it was telling me to keep the twill tape from getting stuck in the seam allowances when it’s inserted (into the waistband), use fusible web or machine basting to anchor “them” to garment within the casing area. It seems obvious now, but I was confused by why I would need to anchor the twill tape by basting it. Then I realized after re-reading the awkward sentence, the twill tape could get caught if I had sewed the waistband up with a regular unfinished seam. Since I had used a serger, I didn’t have giant seam allowances, but I did decide to iron some stay tape so the seam stayed flat. This would hopefully allow a smoother ride for my twill tape drawstring, around the waist.

Stuck this over the serged seam so it would lay flat when threading my drawstring around the waist

Another issue I had was making the casing on the side of the legs. The drawing made it look like I would sew a box for a casing before I inserted the twill tape with a safety pin. With the top of the casing sewn up, I had no way of removing the safety pin at the top so I could sew the twill tape in place. I finally had to undo the stitching to get the tape to come up to the top edge and then I sewed it in place to close up the casing. I’m not sure why this wasn’t described this way and the drawing seemed to show sewing this casing first. I’m baffled to how this would work, doing it this way.

This was a good first attempt with some practice fabric. Finding matching twill tape will probably be the biggest difficulty in making these again, as it was hard to even find a normal beige for these. If I do remake these, I think I would make the waist one size smaller and maybe do some adjustment on the crotch seam. I think the chances are good I will re-make these, maybe even a different view. These simple pants seem to have a lot of versatility and were very easy to make.

Take Two for 2022: Blouses from nightmare fabric

Patterns:

  • Butterick B6684
  • Itch to Stitch Mila Shirt

One thing I’ve been wanting to make is a sheer, flowy blouse. I have a few in my wardrobe that I’ve purchased over the years, but I’ve never attempted to make one. A few years ago, I purchased two different colored sheer crepe fabrics, both with a bird print on it. Looking at them, I envisioned a button down blouse with a sleeve tab, so I could roll up the sleeves. It took me a long time to find a pattern like this that I could use with a lightweight fabric. Or at least I wasn’t sure I could use a regular shirt pattern with material like this. I finally decided to go with the Itch to Stitch Mila shirt and started with my navy blue version of the fabric with red birds.

But first, I thought a quick project with some discount fabric would be an easy way to add a nice back-to-school-like blouse to my wardrobe. I’m not sure what type of fabric it was, because I got it off a discount table at Sewfisticated fabrics. I’m guessing it’s some sort of synthetic or polyester. It’s not as sheer as the crepe, but it had a slight flowy quality to it. And it was a bit slide-y when trying to cut it. I decided it would make a nice top with a neck bow, so I opted to use the Butterick pattern #6684. The top would be finished with french seams, but I was a little nervous about the fabric so I opted for a sharper needle. The results were not too bad, but the sleeves are a little tight and moving my arms forward in this top is quite a challenge. I’m guessing the french seams made this top a little tighter, so if I make this again, I will have to compensate on the seam allowances. It’s just so hard for me to use the proper seam allowances with this type of finish as I always seem to need to sew in a bit more to make sure no fabric is poking through the outside.

Since this wasn’t the blouse I was hoping it would be, I prayed I’d have better luck with my bird fabric. The one thing I noticed with that first blouse was sometimes the material would pucker a bit with the stitching. When I tried some practice stitches on the crepe, sometimes the fabric would actually get pulled into my sewing machine. I knew I needed some sort of stabilizer if I was going to make this work.

There were a few options, but I felt the easiest thing to do was to sew with tissue paper. The extra step of setting up the tissue paper under the fabric as I sewed and then tearing it off was annoying and time consuming, but definitely worth it. The stitches were definitely more even and the material kept its shape as I was sewing. I used french seams here too, which also added time to this project, but I like the end result. The other issue I had with this fabric was that it would not press at all, no matter how hot the iron was or how much steam I used. I’m guessing the fabric is synthetic, just from the feel of it. Since pressing was so much of an issue, I decided to do a rolled hem on the bottom, which required me to buy another foot for my sewing machine. I do think it will prove to be a good investment and I really liked the way it folded the fabric automatically as I sewed. It was difficult learning how to use it on a curved seam like the hem, but surprisingly I didn’t have to unpick and re-sew too much of it. I went pretty slow, trying to make sure the fabric wrapped around the foot correctly as I curved around. I think next time I make this with this type of fabric, I might use my serger to do the rolled hem as this fabric is so tough to control.

My new rolled hem foot
Rolled hem foot in action!

Making a shirt with just a front buttoned placket instead of a full button down was also a good choice for this top. I eventually want to make another one with the off-white crepe bird fabric I got as well, but after this project I definitely needed a break. It might be a few months before I attempt it again. The only other change I would make is to shorten the length a bit. I really like the tabs on the sleeves and would definitely keep these on the next version, even though again, it added more steps to the process.

I’m lucky this blouse fits so much better than the other one I made. It’s not perfect, but definitely close to what I had envisioned when I bought the fabric. I wonder though, is working with nightmare fabric like this worth all the suffering?

It’s Summer! Time for plaid shorts

Pattern: Megan Nielsen Flint Shorts

Currently the biggest gap in my wardrobe is shorts. I live in New England so I guess the season to wear them is shorter than in other places, but even still, wearing the same 3 pairs over and over again is very boring. Especially since my work wardrobe has gotten a lot more casual and I’ve been trying to limit the air conditioning. Last summer, I got an email from one of my favorite fabric stores that they had some madras plaid fabric on sale and I thought it would be fun to make some cool shorts from it.

I’ve always loved the look of plaid shorts. I remember when I was in middle school, I bought these brown plaid shorts at a discount clothing store. It was the first time I remember getting compliments on my wardrobe, since I was never really fashion forward growing up. But in practice, I totally forgot that when working with plaid, it always means matching the plaid. Also this fabric was not as stable as one would use for bottoms, so it did tend to have a lot of give, which maybe didn’t cause the best results. The front here looks pretty good, but the matching is far from perfect everywhere else.

Not much else to say about this. I was a little worried about the front pleats, but I think they look pretty good here. These shorts are interesting as you actually enter them from one of the pockets, and then the side is fastened with 2 buttons on the waistband. No zippers or fly construction. I have to admit, even though it took a bit to figure out how these would be assembled, it did make these faster to sew up.

These shorts being so lightweight make them great in the warmer weather. Temperatures last weekend approached the 90s (Fahrenheit) so I made them not a moment too soon. They do look a bit on the big side, but I think it’s due to the stretchy nature of the fabric. I wonder if another fabric would allow me to make a more fitted version. These are definitely one of the most comfortable pair of shorts I own now.

Somehow the back is never as matched up as the front. I’m not sure how this happens, although it might just be more challenging taking into account the back crotch seam.
Taking them for a spin in Martha’s Vineyard on one of the oldest carousels in the United States

Take Two for 2022: Sew Buttons

Pattern: Vogue V9227 View B

I came back from vacation a few weeks ago, but I feel like I’m still catching up on things. Since I didn’t have much time to sew over the last few months, I decided to take both my sewing machine and serger for servicing, since it had been several years. With everything working in tip-top shape, I wanted to tackle another re-do with a completely new pattern. About 4 years ago, I made this knit top that had decorative buttons on the collar and arm seam. I liked the look of it on the pattern envelope, but the end result…not so much. I was cleaning out my closet this spring and happened to find it hanging in the back. Yeah…I knew I wouldn’t be wearing this. Before this, I had never gotten rid of a garment I had made myself. I never had the heart to throw away a make, no matter how flawed it was because of the time spent and the hard work put in. But I knew I couldn’t keep everything forever, especially things I just couldn’t wear. So in the trash it went, after I salvaged the buttons of course.

Navy blue knit top
The old top that I never really got to wear. I just couldn’t get over how wrong the buttons looked on this.

Even though this new shirt isn’t a do-over of a pattern, it had a similar style to the first shirt, with buttons that were decoratively placed on the arm seams. As with this other shirt, I knew would have to be careful and pay attention to where I put the buttonholes to make sure everything looked even. I had to be careful when constructing the collar as well, so everything lined up right. I knew I needed to take my time with this and not rush through it like last time. I think with knit tops especially, I tend to maybe not be as precise since they sew up so quickly.

View B on this pattern is actually a test drive for View A, which I thought would make a really unique winter top. I totally missed the boat getting it ready for the right season, but decided to sew up View B for fun anyways. I also wanted to give myself a break from another project I am working on with chiffon that is making me tear my hair out a bit.

Although I salvaged the buttons on that other shirt, these are not them. I got buttons that matched the fabric, but most importantly were the the right size for the garment.

It’s not perfect – the collar in the front could be a bit straighter and some of the seams could be better, but overall I like the result. This one is wearable for real this time. The panels on the seams look even and the buttons are lined up correctly this time. Most importantly, this is a better pattern that I am able to be successful at, which I think makes a big difference. I’m very excited I have a new, comfortable top for the fall and hopefully one that I will not throw out any time soon. So glad to have my serger back!

Take Two for 2022: The problem with pants pt. 3

It’s been awhile since part 1 and part 2, since I kept putting off finishing my jeans for a few reasons. First, I ran out of top stitch thread and had a real hard time finding the exact color online or in stores. Then my serger broke, making it not possible to finish my seams properly. However the worst problem I ran into was when I tried to sew the legs up together. I sewed up the inside leg seams and everything seemed okay, but when I tried to sew up the side seams, everything seemed really twisted and the sides were not matching up.

I went back and read and re-read the directions to see how I could have gotten it so wrong. Then I saw it – it mentioned the back leg was supposed to be shorter than the front. When I had adjusted the length on the legs to fit my height, I didn’t account for this. They were both the same length, which caused a problem for this pattern. Since I was not able to properly fix this by cutting out new legs, I decided to just trim from the bottom, so it would at least be able to line up right, even if the shape was not exactly correct. Now the directions made sense, where I needed to ease in part of the inside leg seam and how the sides would match up. Unfortunately, now the plaid didn’t match up, but I couldn’t really do anything about that. Because I had to re-do some of the stitching after I had already finished the seam, I knew these pants would be even tighter which made me nervous. I may not be able to zip them up.

To make sure this wouldn’t happen again, I traced out a new pattern for the front and back legs, properly measured to account for what the difference in length should be. I made sure to shorten where the pattern indicated and traced out a new pattern to use. It’s pretty hard to use a pants leg pattern piece when it’s folded to the right size, so I think this new piece will help for future jeans. After sewing on the waistband and belt loops and top stitching to death, it was time for the moment of truth…

Well they just barely zip up, but these are stretch jeans so they may stretch out a bit. It does seem like no matter what size I make jeans or pants, the waistband always seems too big and doesn’t fit my waist right. This is something I may need to research or work on with the next pair. Not a horrible attempt at this new pattern, but definitely some mistakes to learn from. I’m not sure if I like these better than my green cords, since the fit is not quite right, but it’s getting me closer to my own pair of homemade jeans.

The new business casual: My bamboo joggers

Pattern: Hudson Pant from True Bias

I’ve been working from home since March 2020. Although it has many advantages, especially with the gas prices being what they are, I do miss going to another location to work. My company has said we are going to go back eventually, probably as a more hybrid experience, but the date has been pushed out so often I’m not sure what to think. In the beginning, I tried to wear my normal work clothes. However, after awhile I noticed myself going more for what is comfortable and even wearing the same outfit multiple days in a row (less to wash right?).

Working from home has been great for my sewing. Working in close proximity to my sewing machine means I can stitch up a few things on my lunch break or between meetings. For awhile I was even sewing up masks on my lunch break or just after my work day completed (when I would normally be commuting). Small projects can be completed during the week instead of trying to fit everything on the weekend.

What working from home has not been great for is my clothes wearing. I tend to grab for the same comfortable outfits, ignoring my old work wardrobe and even worse some of my recent makes. I made a cute pinafore last year with some great plaid material. I have not even put it on once. Same with my seersucker dress – and I had been planning that garment for many months before I even got to it.

Sometime during this pandemic, I happened to see a pattern for some casual lounge pants. Realizing that these pants looked closer to my current wardrobe, I immediately purchased it. I cannot remember exactly when, since time seems to run together now when I think about the last few years. But now that my serger is back to its usual health, I figured it was time to cut into the plum bamboo and cotton stretch knit fleece I ordered online at Mood Fabrics. Making them in an interesting color would at least make them more unique than just the pants I have now, right?

I have to say, now that I’ve worn these three work days in a row, I love them. I’ve always been a fan of bamboo knit – it has to be the most comfortable fabric ever and something I need to seek out more often. On my first try, these ended up being the perfect size and the pattern was definitely easy enough for a beginner to follow. I definitely want to make more of these – it sewed up pretty fast and this is one of the first pants patterns that I didn’t have to adjust the length for my average height body! The only difficult part is trying to serge on the bottom cuffs – because the circle is so small it’s tough to keep the fabric stretched right as you sew around. I think basting the cuff in first and then serging would have made it easier to avoid the fabric bunching so that is what I will do next time. The pockets are great and I love the extra detail with the strip at the top.

Oddly enough just after I finished these, I saw a Facebook ad about “Oprah’s favorite joggers” and saw some bamboo joggers that looked very similar to the ones I just made (not in plum of course). It was a really great feeling knowing what I made was currently in style. I guess joggers are now the new business casual. I just hope someday soon I can show off my other clothes, even if it’s just a few days a week.

Take Two for 2022: The Switzerland Sweater

Pattern: Sew House Seven Tabor V-Neck

Most of the time when you make a garment for the second time, it comes out better than the first. Unfortunately I learned this is not always the case, and there are certain factors to consider when attempting to recreate a item you have already made. In the case of my Switzerland Sweater, I didn’t realize the difference in fabric from my wearable muslin would make such a difference in the final outcome.

To back up a bit, this all started when I decided to buy this very expensive merino wool fabric when I was on vacation in Switzerland. I wanted something to remind me of the trip, and the blue wool knit seemed reminiscent of the electric blue lakes and rivers I had seen. I envisioned a cozy sweater that would transport me back to the mountains, even if I was just drinking coffee on my snowy back deck. The Tabor V-neck pattern by Sew House Seven seemed to have a look similar to what I was going for, but of course wanted to test it out before cutting into my pricey new fabric. I found a nice neutral gray sweater knit and went to work. Making a test version seemed like a great idea, especially since the V-neck construction was a bit confusing in the directions. I ended up carefully sewing the raw edge of collar towards the middle on both sides, being extremely careful about not getting the fabric to bunch up. I did not pivot at the tip of the v-neck, but actually sewed a seam on either side, towards the point. Then I finished the seam around on my serger, making sure the stretch was right. The result was better than I expected as the front stayed flat with no puckering.

The rest of it sewed up pretty fast and the fabric was so comfortable, this top has actually gotten a lot of wear this winter.

The sizing ended up being perfect as well and since everything had gone right, I had no fear cutting into my Switzerland fabric. I followed everything the same, but unfortunately…

It ended up being huge! The sleeves were too long, the neck was too wide and it just had a totally different look. I was so disappointed – this was not the sweater I had envisioned. I wanted a cozy sweater that was appropriate for the mountains. This was just an oversized boxy top that was falling off my shoulders.

Well of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone…so I decided to try to shrink it. With a little research, I got the idea to wash it in hot water. I mean, it was so baggy I had a lot of room to play with, right?

Big mistake.

Instead of the sweater getting smaller all the way around, it only shrank up. I pulled it out of the washing machine and realized I was holding a doll sweater. Panicking, I managed to stretch it back out somewhat while it was still wet. But now I had the most expensive crop top I’ve ever owned. How could this go so wrong, when my first attempt came out almost perfect? When I thought about how much money I had spent on this fabric, it nearly brought me to tears.

There is a lesson here that not all fabrics are created equal and the same pattern can behave very differently with a different fabric type. The main issue is that there was no way I would be able to make a test version with fabric that expensive, so it is always going to be a challenge to know how to prevent this going forward. I guess with experience you can start to know the little differences in the fabric you work with. I am not in a hurry to sew with any merino wool in the near future.

I also learned about shrinkage – this time it is about laundry. Trying to make a garment just a little smaller can cause it to shrink up like a frightened turtle. Even though this isn’t the top I envisioned to take me back to the glacial lakes of the Alps, it is still wearable.

This is definitely not a Take Two success story. However, my “take one” has now become one of my favorite winter sweaters in my wardrobe, so I guess it’s not all bad. As for this attempt, the neckline is still too wide and also isn’t as straight as my wearable muslin. Despite this, I did manage to get rid of some of the bagginess and sleeve issues. It’s still a very pretty color. And it still does remind me of Switzerland.

Zurich, Switzerland
September 2019