When I flew recently, TSA had me remove my (oversized) shirt to go through the body-scanner. Fortunately I had something modest on underneath or I would have been whisked away to one of their “privacy areas”. I’m currently muslining a Guy Laroche suit (Vogue 2578 OOP). The jacket has a flared sleeve and a zip front. And it occurred to me: “I should make something for underneath, just in case. And not just for TSA, but for warm days in the car.”
So, I searched my scrap fabrics and patterns for a shell/shell-like top for it. I chose Vogue 8816 (OOP), a drape-neck sleeveless top and some leftover cream 3-ply silk. I’ve made the top twice before (pre-blogging days) and have been mostly happy with them. It’s an easy top, and can be made in CDC, charmeuse or lightweight jersey.
How is it that the easy projects always seem error prone? Here is a list of just a few things that went wrong on this easy project:
In a previous version, I cut the tissue paper to a size 8 at the waist. What? I guess I was changing it to a more fitted silhouette. I re-graded to a 12.
I was cutting out single layer, as I didn’t have much fabric, and I thought to myself, “this silk is more transparent than I remember.” I compared it to the (unfinished) blouse and realized that I didn’t prep the 3-ply, but the silk CDC next to it intended for lining the jacket.
I was cutting the last piece out, when I realized that I laid the pattern out on the cross-grain, not the length-wise (except the upper front, which is on the bias).
Since I couldn’t do french seams with the overlay, I serged to finish the seams. And serged into both shoulders (but did not cut into the seam). I have no idea how, except that I think the light fabric folded up underneath. I’ve never serged silk CDC before, and don’t plan to again!
I thought I kept my hands clean, but when I was doing the machine narrow hem, I saw a spot… hidden in the hem, thank goodness.
Anyway, this is a simple drape neck top. It’s rated as easy, but definitely more interesting in light silk (the previous two were in silk jersey and cotton jersey). I used french seams on the lower blouse and to attached the upper and lower parts. I serged the shoulders and underarms, and used a narrow machine hem (a la Claire Schaeffer) on the lower hem and sleeves. I wasn’t thrilled with the narrow hem finishing on the sleeves, but otherwise this top is a fine piece if I take off the jacket. Draped necklines can be fiddly, but this one is more modest than most.
While I was making this, I thought I would make another tank-style top with a bit of hammered silk CDC in chocolate brown. In the process of looking for that fabric, I found 2 yards of chocolate brown CDC I had never logged in my spreadsheet. I’ll use that to line the jacket. But that led me to clean, re-organize, and re-inventory the stash. I didn’t find any other fabrics. But now that everything is neatly sorted and folded, it’s not overflowing… Don’t worry, I’m still going to work on sewing more than I buy.
I haven’t really written a “reflections” blog on the sewing year before, but I’m finding reading others’ blogs useful for thinking about the future. Thus, here I am trying to sum up the year and move forward. Frankly, 2018 wasn’t a great year for me personally, so perhaps I dove into sewing a bit more to compensate. Here I will talk about what worked, what didn’t, reflect on the ready-to-wear-fast, and discuss sewing goals and plans for 2019.
What didn’twork: Tops and dresses. The torso is the hardest part of the body to fit, especially without a partner/fitting buddy. It didn’t help that I haven’t been honest about my pre-menopausal body. I finish an item and expect to see the svelte 30 year-old, not the body whose midsection is stubbornly clinging to weight. But I really did have misses with tops and dresses.
Or at least I thought tops were a total failure – I made/attempted 11 tops! I had four complete failures (the Ralph Lauren top, the two attempts at chiffon tops, and converting a woven top, B6134 to ponte). Four of the tops were okay – but I don’t wear them often, and don’t know how long I’ll keep them. The color-blocked ponte top (M7600) is comfortable, but not so flattering, as is the red Mandy boat tee. I kinda like the woven version of B6134, but the fit is off and it’s not comfortable to wear. I might make another version. I also kinda like the statement sleeve top, but not sure it’s me.
I really don’t like the summer dresses I made this year. The proportions are off. I may shorten the black rayon ponte dress. I will still wear the floral for running errands.
I wore the Pucci pant with the terrible fit exactly one time, and like other items I made with bad fit, they went to Goodwill.
What I loved: quite a bit, actually!
I fell in love with Paco Peralto! His skirt, his wide-legged trouser, and the big shirt! I made the 8 gore skirt twice and wear them all the time. I made four pairs of the wide-legged trouser – in black linen, purple linen, pink linen (not blogged) and black suiting. I wore the black and purple linen so often I wore them out. The big surprise was falling in love with the big white shirt. It took me a while to pair the shirt properly, but it looks awesome with the black wool suiting wide-legged trousers.
The Pucci shirt was a surprise! I hated it at first: it was too blocky and unflattering on me. I add some darts to add shape, and found myself reaching for it on a regular basis. It transferred into cooler weather well, when paired with a black blazer (which toned downed the loudness a bit as well.)
Just realized I took this in front of the dogwood.
I pretty much liked everything else I made during the year, but the above were my favorites.
Reflections on the Ready-to-Wear Fast: I participated in the RTW fast over at Goodbye Valentino this year. Basically, no RTW purchases (except lingerie) for all of 2018. I found it relatively easy to stick to the fast – I had no real desire to purchase anything. It could be that we had no major events or travel requiring new clothes, or simply that I have slowly, over the years, filled in some of the major gaps in my wardrobe.
The one thing I did learn was to think more deliberately about what to sew. Like a magpie, I’m drawn the the showy, pretty outfits that get worn once or twice. Now, I think more carefully about how pieces I make will fit with existing items. Two months ago, I spent some time purging clothing (both RTW and hand-made) that I don’t wear, or doesn’t fit, or I don’t really love anymore. Some things I still loved, but simply didn’t have a place to wear or would never fit into again. I was surprised at how liberating it was to let go of these pieces. It’s helped me set up my wardrobe planning for the coming year.
I also enjoyed meeting more men and women in the sewing community. Before I moved to Florida a few years ago, I had a neighbor who would ooh and ahh with me over patterns and fabric. She had an eye for fit and proportion as well. I started this blog when I realized I was going to move and lose her daily advice. But it can’t replace her. The Facebook group has been helpful – even on those days I simply read about other trials and triumphs.
Will I continue to fast? Not deliberately. I’ve always preferred what I make to what I buy, even if my skills weren’t up to par. But some things I don’t care to make – technical gear, such as running clothes, and cashmere sweaters (which I can only wear for a very short season here). If I see something that I love, and it fits/flatters, I will buy, but I will continue to build my own style.
So what about 2019? Cleaning out my parent’s house has been a eye-opening. I didn’t realize how much STUFF they had. I’m sorting through photos, old letters, and other items that we’ll keep. But we’re also sorting through a whole lot of things that ultimately just take up space. Every time I come back from their house, I clean out a closet and make donations.
My stash is huge – fabric, patterns, zippers, thread, buttons. How did this happen? I track my purchases and makes in a spreadsheet, so I know what I have. But I have too much. I patterns are one thing – I collect the vintage patterns. But I need to sew more and buy less!
My goal last year was to reduce my fabric stash – and I managed to sew or give away more yardage than buy for the first time since I started tracking. But it wasn’t a big dent, and wouldn’t have happened without donating 20 yards to my son’s school.
Goal number one: sew more than I buy!
Goal number two: don’t be distracted by what others make and blog!
Goal number three: shop the stash before hitting the online vendors!
Other than that, I would like to keep sewing to add to gaps in my wardrobe. I would like to conquer fit on my torso – shirts and dresses. And, I’d like to reduce my UFO pile.
Last night I wrote down (in about 10 seconds) the items I would like to make in the first quarter of the year. Well, I am ambitious – I’d be lucky to make them all in one year. But here are two pictures of what I’d like to make in the coming weeks:
I sew in snippets, usually for an hour after my son goes to bed. Sometimes I lose interest in a project before I finish because I feel like I’ve been working on it forever. I dream of having a day where I can do nothing but sew. We have had upper respiratory illnesses since Thanksgiving, so my gift sewing wasn’t happening at all (too tired nights). I took yesterday off to sew my niece her gift. All day sewing – yay!
Or not. I was exhausted by four in the afternoon. The longer I sewed, the more mistakes I made. The grass isn’t always greener… perhaps having longer occasional sewing sessions would be nice, but not an all day sewing session, to hit a deadline, to mail the gift away.
In any case, I made my niece the Carolyn Pajamas (Closet Case) for Christmas, using Harry Potter “Marauder’s Map” cotton and matching mottled red quilting cotton from JoAnns. I started a pair of these pjs for myself back in the early spring, but never finished them. Not an issue with the pattern, so much as repeated operator error on the serger (I cut the shorts out three times). For my niece, I went with the shorts and long sleeved shirt, with piping.
She’s still a little girl at heart, but nearly grown up at 12. Her measurements put her at the size 0, barely. I have a feeling it will be too big, and the button on the shirt will be too low. On the other hand, she should be having a pretty big growth spurt soon.
The Carolyn pjs from Closet Case are pretty popular, and have been reviewed all over the place, so I won’t go into too many details. Rather, I thought I’d give my impressions as someone who usually sews the big 4.
The instruction booklet is very detailed. It’s almost overwhelming.
The instructions have little tiny errors every where, mostly in the artwork. For example, on the shirt pocket, you are instructed to top-stitch above the piping, and the first picture shows this, but in the next step, the top stitching seems to be on the bottom.
The wrong side of the fabric is shaded in the artwork, while the right side is white. This is opposite companies like Vogue, and took some getting used to.
The instructors are definitely written for people who hate to hand-sew. But you’d get better results if you basted, by hand. For example, I sewed the facing on one lapel three times before it went in properly. The next facing I basted and got it right on the first try. I basted often, actually: with almost all of the piping, the collar, and every place you were secure something with stitching-in-the-ditch (cuffs on shirt, short, waistband, collar). Since I had already done the short for myself, I knew I’d get better results with basting.
A recommendation for the piping on the shirt pocket: open up the piping and trim the piping to the seam/foldline on the side of the pocket. I didn’t, the instructions did not suggest it. And as I was topstitching that pocket into place, I regretted it. It puckers slightly at the edges, and is bulky. Lesson learned.
In general, I’m very pleased with how they turned out. I didn’t buy enough of the Harry Potter fabric – I bought enough for the short sleeved version. And the pattern is very busy. I knew, even with a single-layer layout, I would not be able to match the pattern. As a result, I focused on pattern placement and aligning the pattern horizontally as much as possible.
For contrast, I made my own piping with the mottled red quilting cotton. I had intended to do the lapel/collar in contrast as well, but the red faded to a brighter color than the red in the main fabric when I pre-washed. Therefore, I used the contrast only where it helped with pattern matching – the top of the pocket on the shirt, the pockets in the shorts, and the under-collar. When it made sense I used red thread, but mostly used the lighter colored thread.
Take that Miranda Priestly (okay, she was deriding florals for spring…).
I had hoped to finish this some time ago, but this time of year is busy for most people (and pesky little colds get in the way). I know, I have so many skirts, but I’m always looking for a new style. I’ve had Vogue 1170 for a while now, and even muslined it over the summer. I plan to make the top as well, but I have a bit of Christmas gift sewing to do…
Pattern: Vogue 1170, Rachel Comey. Misses top and skirt. This post is about the skirt. From the pattern: flared skirt has front and back seam details, back invisible zipper and wide waistband. I’d say more of the “flare” is on the back side, but that may be because I added 2.5 inches to the length. Other details – you can do Hong Kong seams, as directed, but I serged. The hem is interfaced and faced. The skirt has tiny little pockets, but I left these out (non functional pockets add bulk imho). The wide waistband is also high. The bottom of the waistband sits at the natural waist. Some not so great photos after wearing front (left) and back (right):
Fabric: A gorgeous stretch cotton sateen that I purchased a couple of years ago from Gorgeous Fabrics. I love it. Dark, dark navy with those purple flowers and green leaves… easy to work with, too.
Construction: This one is pretty straight forward, and relatively easy to make. The only real challenge is sewing those corners on the front. It took me two tries on one of them, after nailing the first one. I made a size 14 with no further adjustments (except length). I do wish I had given more thought to pattern placement, as I’ve got a bunch of busy-ness right on the derriere!
I’ve styled it here with a navy silk jersey tank from 2 seasons back DVF, my leather coat from Ecuador (2004!), and last season Sam Edelman riding boots.