Test Driving the New Donna Karan Shirt (Vogue 1440)

The pattern and the future fabric.
The pattern and the future fabric.

I bought this pattern for the jacket.  While I was sourcing supplies for the jacket, I read the directions… for the shirt.  I liked what I saw – this was an interesting top, with interesting lines, and some sewing techniques that I wanted to perfect.  Eventually I’d like to make the shirt with the rust linen/silk from Urban Zen fabric in the picture, that I obtained from Emma One Sock in 2012.  In the meantime, I thought I would test drive it in a white shirting (with a little lycra), also from Emma One Sock just languishing in my stash.

I haven’t completed a button down, collared shirt in years.  I want it to look perfect, from the collar points, to the topstitching, to the button holes.  Well, this one isn’t perfect, but I’m pretty proud of the result.  All I can say is that with this pattern, precision/accuracy really, really matter, so measure well and baste, baste, baste!

Close up of the back left shoulder.  I love these details.
Close up of the back left shoulder. I love these details.

I took the pictures on the dress form after laundering and re-pressing.  I had to launder because I made the mistake of using yellow chalk for marking.  Even though I preshrank this fabric, many of the wrinkles you see could not be eliminated.  I will wear this in a day or two, and hope to post a picture of it on me.

So, onto the review:

Pattern Description: From Vogue’s website:  Top has collar, collar, back and armhole bands, yoke back, mock front band, bias hem facing and conceal button closing. A and B: semi-fitted.

Sizing: 6-8-10-12-14 (Really – five sizes on one pattern?  This makes cutting a challenge, when it’s difficult to distinguish between the sizes on the curves;  accuracy is critical on this pattern). Because this is not really semi-fitted – loads of ease below the bust – I made a 10, instead of a 12.  Recently I’ve been thinking of making 10’s for the bodice to better fit the back and shoulders.  This worked – the fit was much better, and the armholes didn’t gap.  I did not add the usual 1.5  inches in length, because this has no defined waist.

Fabric Used: White stretch shirting purchased as a roll-end from Emma One Sock two years ago

Machines and Tools Used: Janome Threadbanger 12, edge-stitching foot, 1/4 inch foot and all the other minor tools in your arsenal.

Using the edge stitching foot to understitch.
Using the edge stitching foot to understitch.

Tips Used during Construction: The Vogue Sewing book.

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes

How were the instructions? I followed them to the letter.  Not what I normally do, but this helped me be more careful.  The instructions were pretty good.


Construction Notes: Precision, precision, precision.  And baste, baste, baste.  I used a small stitch (1.5) and went very slow.

I had trouble lining up the side seams, but when I folded the pattern to put it away, I notice I cut the front hems at a 12, and the back a 10 (darn multisize patterns).

The french seams in this top are the narrowest I’ve ever made (first sew a 1/2 inch seam wrong sides together, trim and continue, whereas I’ve always done a 3/8 inch wrong sides together, trim and continue).  I hope they hold up – the narrow stitch should add some strength.

I also had trouble getting everything to line up perfectly on the shoulder seams – I don’t know why, but I pulled out one shoulder five times.  It’s still not perfect, but it’s far less noticeable.

Couldn't quite iron that curved seam perfectly... next time...
Couldn’t quite iron that curved seam under perfectly… next time…

Last, the bands add to the distinctiveness of this shirt.  For each, you fold and press the seam allowance, then pin to the bodice, baste and edge-stitch onto the shirt.  There must be an easier way to get accuracy, but this was time consuming to get perfect (plus a few steamed fingers).  I think I should have thread-traced the seam lines to make this easier to fold over.  BTW, I found the edge stitching easier to do consistently with the edge-stitching foot (also worked well for understitching as in the photo).

Dozens of button holes in practice and I still get puckering!  HELP!
Dozens of button holes in practice and I still get puckering! HELP!

One last thing.  I’m a novice with the button holes.  My machine is pretty basic, with the 4 step button hole process. This requires careful marking.  But even though I practiced a dozen or so time, I got pulling every time as in the photo.  The only thing I can think of is that the plackets are not interfaced, as per the instructions.  I’d recommend some light interfacing here- unless someone has a better idea?

Likes/Dislikes: I really like it and I love that the top is fully finished on the interior.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Yes and yes. But, make sure you focus on accuracy!

Oh my wrinkled back!
Oh my wrinkled back!


So, I’m giving serious consideration to buying a serger. This is mainly to finish edges on children’s clothing. I know they can do more.

Any thoughts on what I should look for? I know there are reviews on pattern review. I need to narrow it down, especially since my options for test driving are super limited.

Beach Towel Hoody (BS Baha Hoody)

IMG_1187My little guy (3.5 years) is taking swimming lessons.  Outside in February.  The pool is heated (hot) but the air temps are in the 50s and 60s (I know, that’s balmy for many of you) and class is at sunset.  When he gets out of the pool he’s shaking like a leaf!  All the kids line up for cookies afterward wrapped head to toe in towels, and the instructors place cookies in their mouths like they are baby birds.  The little guy needed free hands and the ability to walk quickly to get inside to the shower.IMG_1183

I’ve had the Blank Slate Baja Hoody in my stash for some time – I wanted to make it for beach trips. But he needed it now!  So we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond, and he chose an over-sized beach towel that he liked.  Fun!  A beach towel?  One of the suggestions from the pattern (and messy, like all terry, to sew with, btw).

I made 4T, which is what he wears in RTW.  It fits fine, but it would be easier for him to put it on if I sized up (to be fair, he was rushing to put it on).  I liked that he chose a stripe – it gave me practice with matching stripes.

IMG_1186The pattern is super easy to make, and the directions are very detailed (except the way she has you attach the hood, but that could be me).  I made this in an evening.

I did a few things differently:

  • I eliminated the center front seam, and cut on the fold.  This made matching stripes easier and simplified the pattern. This meant that I now needed to do a bound slit for the neck opening.
  • I cut the pattern so the lower hem was the towel hem – I also lengthened the top by three inches to help give more warmth.   Doing the towel hem made sense – simplified the sewing, taking advantage of a pre-existing feature. (This does mean that you are ignoring nap for the front and back).
  • I lengthened the sleeves out to the towel sides – again to take advantage of the pre-existing selvedge.  I got lucky – perfect length to make this his size as a long-sleeved top.
  • I didn’t have double-fold bias tape on hand (as recommended by the directions), so I used one inch twill tape to finish the edges.  This came out okay.  Better than the tape, but marginally.
  • Placed the pocket to have horizontal stripes against the vertical.

IMG_1188A few things I would do differently next time (because there will be several more next times):

  • I would do the pocket differently.  I didn’t practice how I would do the twill tape, so it’s off.  I would finish the sides of the pocket with binding, but not the bottom edge. Not sure how I would attach the pocket, but differently, to get a better, more professional result.
  • I would practice the bound slit!  This looks fine in the pictures, but I know it will fall apart in the wash eventually.
  • Consider a button/loop closure at the neckline (for warmth).
  • Instead of lengthening the sleeve by extending the pattern, consider making regular sleeves, trimming up the body (have the shoulders extended, but not fully as in the pattern), and setting the new sleeves in flat.
  • Cut in a single layer layout (with terry and the thickness).

IMG_1189I like sewing for him, especially since the indie companies don’t ignore little boys.  It’s got me thinking that perhaps I should buy a serger (for easier seam finishes.)IMG_1182

We took the pictures inside, as it was pouring rain outside (and we still had practice outside). I also took them with my phone, so the quality is not as I would have liked. (Didn’t want to bring the nice camera out in the weather or to a pool).

All in all, I’m pleased with the result, even though I know all the flaws.  I feel pretty good about my almost perfectly matched stripes.  The little guy loves it (or at least the hood and pocket).  And my husband said, “that looks good, really really good.”

Let’s Talk about Ease (McCalls 6796)


When I started this project, I had no idea how popular this pattern was (McCalls 6796).  I just thought it was cute when I saw it on another blog.  But fitting this on my body turned out to be a real challenge.

I chose a beautiful sweater knit from Gorgeous Fabrics (sold out).  In retrospect, this knit may not have been the right choice for me – it added bulk where I didn’t need it.  But it’s beautiful!

I was really concerned about fit, as this is one of my goals for 2015.  When I read the pattern, this is what I saw:  “close-fitting, pullover top”.  Page 119 of the Vogue Sewing Guide notes that close fitting tops should have 0-2.25 inches each.  Here’s what the pattern for size 12 says, followed by the finished garment widths printed on the pattern:

  • bust 34″, 36″ finished (2 inches ease)
  • waist 26.5″, 35″ finished  (7.5 inches ease)
  • hip 36″, 38.5″ finished ( 2.5 inches ease)

That’s a lot of ease through the waist. In fact, the Vogue Sewing Guide would say that is loose fitting.

Anyway, I stitched it together as is to start.  I ended up having to take the shoulders up about 1/2 inch to fit me better there. And take the armcysce seam a little deeper (1/8 inch).  But when I tried it on, it looked like a rectangle on me and didn’t flatter at all.  So, I took it in, way in.  Better, but the style still didn’t work for me. In fact, I think I over-fitted just under the bust area.  I like it on the dress form, but not on me.  I’ll be donating it.

As for construction I did three things differently from the instructions.  First, I set the sleeves in flat.  Second, I cut the collar out on the lengthwise grain instead of the cross grain.  I wanted the contrasting effect with the ribbing.  Third, I hand-hemmed the sleeves and top, since I tend to get wavy hems.

So, what did I learn from this project?  That I’m still struggling to fit the upper body, I need to do a better job choosing fabrics that flatter my body, and styles, too.  I may try the pattern again in the future with a different style knit – one that drapes.