Saturday, February 18, 2017

Shirt Duo

This is my first version of Simplicity 1538. Made up in a poly/cotton shirting blend from the local fabric store. It kind of looks like a man's shirt, except for the feminine buttons. 
From this version, I learned that I cannot skip the broad back alteration as I had some pulls in the back yoke that seemed to indicate I needed extra width there.

Image result for simplicity 1538
 This is version #2. I bought a stretch cotton shirting from Emma One Sock about a month ago, and wanted to add some contrast similar to the pattern above. This was the result of getting the advice from a lovely woman who works at Fabricville. She is a quilter and has a wonderful gift for putting fabrics together. I asked her how she knows what will work.

She had a couple of tips. One is the scale of the print, you need to keep them similar. For instance, I had a polka dot cotton picked out and she said the polka dot was too large for this printed shirting. Another fabric she said had too  much contrast in the colour, it was too sharp.  The original shirting had a muted look to it, so she picked out a couple of quilting cottons that might work and then we eliminated them until we had this one. I think she is a genius and told her that I hope the manager realises this and gives her more scope in her job there. For instance, she could be a wonderful window dresser instead of just cutting fabric for customers.

I put the contrast on the yoke, the collar, the cuffs and the front bands.

The pattern calls for a ribbon to be sewn down the button band, but I simply cut a narrow strip of the shirting and folded it so that it was about 1/2" wide.

There is one more version of this shirt to come. The fabric was also chosen by my newly found friend at Fabricville. I had chosen a vintage cotton print in lovely tones of pale mauve and yellow and she found a contrasting yellow made by the same manufacturer so it matches perfectly.

I was saving this fabric combo until I got the fitting just right on this shirt. It is definitely my go-to shirt pattern now.

Too bad that Simplicity patterns aren't sold in Canada. Apparently they aren't allowed into the country because they lack a French translation of the instructions. Bah!  what a silly excuse to ban the patterns. New Look suffers the same fate apparently. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Knitting Projects

A sweater for grand-daughter Hannah - this is called Granny's Favourite by Georgie Hallam. Downloaded from Ravelry. Knit in Cascade Superwash Wool in a double-knit weight. This was a very nice sweater to knit, and I even learned how to knit the sleeves on circular needles using the Magic Loop method.

I found the lacy pattern on the yoke easy to do, and then the rest of the sweater is plain stocking stitch. It did get kind of boring, but it is a good project to have on the needles when you are watching movies. 

My only concern is with the washing of this sweater. Since Hannah is one of 7 children, there are loads and loads of laundry and everything gets tossed in together. I think I will warn her to keep this sweater separate and I will wash it for her when it is required. Although it is washable, I don't think it will survive the grueling laundry in her household. The other alternative might be to put it into a mesh laundry bag to keep it from getting stretched out too much.


And on the needles now is this sweater.
The Harvey Pullover by Hannah Baker and in the Interweave Knits fall issue, also available as a download on Ravelry.


I am knitting this in the recommended yarn, also my favourite yarn, Cascade 220 a pure wool worsted weight. I chose a heathered turquoise and bought it, sight unseen, from

When it arrived, it seemed a little washed out in colour to me, but it has grown on me and I am really liking it now. I don't usually knit pullovers and am not even sure how much I will wear it. But with an upcoming move to Ontario this summer, the seasons are different than Nova Scotia and I anticipate this will get worn come fall, especially since we will have a new dog that needs lots of walking.

This is also knit in the round and the front of the sweater is done in a Brioche stitch which is really pretty. Only four rows to the pattern, so not too hard to commit to memory and this can be knit while TV watching.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

McCalls 7470

From Palmer Pletsch patterns, McCalls 7470 offers a tailored shirt with front and back princess lines, a shirt-dress and the option of sleeves or sleeveless. 

Image result for mccalls 7470

I tissue-fitted this pattern as I did the previous knit top, following Pati's order of alterations. An alteration for high round back (3/8" at CB tapering to nothing at the shoulder seam). Then altered for a broad back, adding 1" to the back by setting it 1/2" away from the fold. Then a full bust alteration, spreading the pattern 1 1/2" which gives a total of 3" across the front. 

The result is a wee bit snug through the waist and hip area, but a good fit in the shoulders and bust. (Weight Watchers better kick in here). I didn't follow the instructions for the collar and band, preferring to use the burrito method for a nice finish. Somehow I goofed on the collar band and for some reason, I matched the band to the shirt at the wrong place and wondered why I had a hard time getting the band to fit the neckline. I ended up trimming off the band and just going with it as is. After all, I was treating this version as a muslin for fit, and used some cotton check that was in the stash. What I was aiming for was to get a good pattern for a princess-line shirt and dress. And now I know what needs to be done with this pattern. So it is being laid aside for that summer denim dress that will be so nice to wear.

One thing I noticed about this pattern and must remember is that there is too much ease in the sleeve cap. I will reduce that in the next version. Shirt sleeves should not require as much easing as these did.

Also I can see that I could gain the extra ease needed at waist and hips by letting out those princess seams in the back. I am straight at the waistline and don't need the shaping that this pattern provides. It does look nice though in the photo, even if I am not shaped like that.

I am on a shirt kick and am now making up Simplicity 1538.

                                        Image result for simplicity 1538
I compared this pattern with the McCalls 7470 and could make the exact same alterations to this one. High round back, broad back and then an FBA. As this shirt has straight side seams, it should provide the extra ease at the waist and hip area that I need.

There is something very satisfying about sewing shirts, they have the lovely details that I so enjoy sewing. I see lots of possibilities for this pattern, especially in print mixing. I bought a vintage cotton print yesterday and the lovely clerk at the store found me a second print that would work perfectly with it to give some contrast in the front band, collar and cuffs. How nice to find a fabric store clerk who has an eye for colour.

I google patterns now before sewing them to see who else has made the pattern and to get tips and inspirations. I was pleasantly surprised to find this shirt was on Lucky Lucille's blog, a blog that I really enjoy. She did it in a flamingo print and used black and white gingham as the contrast. Such a nice shirt. Just check out her extra bit of pink trim on the side of the band with the buttons.

She has also made it up in the sleeveless version, but my favourite is her flamingo and gingham one.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Pattern Alterations - there is always something new to learn

Since shortly after Christmas, I have been under the weather with this virus that is going around, a long cold that hangs on and hangs on. So last week, since I couldn't do much except sit around, I treated myself to a couple of classes on Craftsy.

I chose two fitting classes with Pati Palmer and her daughter Melissa Watson. One is for fitting shirts and tops, the other for fitting knit tops. This is not new material to me, but having this in a video format is a new way of learning. I decided to actually take a pattern and follow their instructions to the letter and see what the results would be.

I chose The Fearless Tee from Material Things, an old t-shirt pattern that I have used for years with success. I wondered if I could improve upon the fit.

                                                     Fearless T-Shirt 

First up, I went down a size, using my high bust measurement to select the size. As Pati explained, when patterns were first produced, the bust meant that measurement above the bust. She said think of a sculpture of a "bust" and that is what was meant by a bust. The measurement that we take of our full bust is actual a measurement of our breasts. Huh, that made sense to me. And if you read the disclaimer in pattern catalogs, they will tell you to pick the size by your upper bust measurement unless there is less than 2" difference between high bust and bust, because then either measurement will put you into the same size.

So down a size I went, which meant that there was no way this pattern would go around my body.
On to a tissue fitting, following the order specified in the video. First off, I saw something new to me: the need for a high round back alteration. I didn't know I needed one, but it became obvious that I did. I also needed a broad back alteration as the tissue would not reach to my center back.

So I altered the upper back, slashing the pattern and spreading it 3/8" at CB and coming back to nothing at the armhole. Then I slashed the pattern through the shoulder seam right down to the lower edge and spread it 1/2"  Another fitting with the tissue and I was amazed. The back now fit but what amazed me was that my shoulder seam was now straight. I have been troubled by a weird shoulder seam for years, but it is the reverse of all the fitting books. Rather than having to alter the seam at the armhole edge, my seam was pulling toward the back at the neck edge. Adding 3/8" to the high round back released that area and the shoulder seam was now sitting right on the top of my shoulder where it should be.

Altering the front was easy; I needed a full bust alteration of 1 1/4" to provide enough circumference so that the centre front would meet my center front. And this meant I now had a bust dart added to the pattern. As Pati says, if you buy a $200 designer t-shirt, it will have a bust dart in it. If you don't like the appearance of a dart in a knit, she advises trimming the dart legs to 1/4" and pressing it up, rather than down. I did all of this and the only remaining alteration was to shorten the dart by 1/2" as it was too close to my apex.

I sewed up the new altered pattern in a bamboo knit that I bought last year from Blackbird Fabrics. The fit was good, it could be a little tighter in the front but that is easily fixed by sewing deeper side seams.

I decided to compare the new altered pattern with the one I had been previously using, which was the same pattern, but in one size larger. At first, the differences don't appear that big. But they are significant. First off, I have a shorter shoulder seam, which is good. The new back is slighter wider in the armhole area than the old pattern, and the broad back alteration makes the entire back larger from the armhole down. Previously I had been sizing up both front and back to make this fit.
The new front is narrower in the armhole area, which is an improvement. I often find bagginess in garments in this area. The FBA gives me the added room at the side seam, without making the rest of the tee larger.

The finished results mean that I now choose the large size in this pattern, with 1/2" more in the back, and 1 1/2" more at the front side seams with extra length. Using the extra large size did give me the circumference that I needed but not in the correct areas. Basically I am a smaller size in the back than in the front, it would appear. You know, I should have seen this previously as I can recognize this in my youngest daughter who seems to have inherited my upper body. She is short-waisted with a full bust and a broad back. I can easily see that in her, but it took this tissue-fitting to see this in myself.

So the new alterations do indeed give the room where it is needed. So rather than just getting a pattern to fit around me, the alterations have given me a pattern that is narrower where required, broader where required, and gives the extra length to the front that a full bust requires.

I am impressed with the results and am now going to use this pattern along with the cowl from Sewaholic's Renfrew Top to give a different look in a similar weight knit.

I am eagerly awaiting the materials to arrive that accompany the course; each course gives you a pattern and the fitting manual; you also have access to the video as much as you wish to watch it.
I will wait for the blouse pattern to arrive to make the alterations to that and then I will tackle the princess-line shirt that I wish to make into a tried-and-true pattern.

Many thanks to Pati Palmer and to Melissa for their efforts with this video. I know that Pati has been fitting a bazillion bodies for the past 45 years and her experience is evident. She is now passing that knowledge along to her daughter Melissa who seems to have the same love for fit and sewing that her mother has.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Fabric Store Finds

A quick visit to the fabric store this morning - disappointment that McCalls 7549 is not available yet. So I picked up three other patterns, all McCalls.

McCalls 7248, a tunic top with sleeve variations and choice of two necklines, one deeper than the other but both the overlapping front band.

McCalls 7390, another pullover top with some very interesting angled seams. It looks great in striped fabric, but could also be done in two or three coordinating fabrics. The line drawing shows much more potential than the photo above.


And McCalls 7470, a pattern from Palmer/Pletsch for a shirt and shirt-dress with Pati's excellent fitting advice. Her patterns are like getting a sewing lesson included with the pattern. I have always liked those patterns from McCalls. I may use this one for the princess-seam shirt that I want to make into a TNT pattern. It looks like a great pattern, with plenty of fitting insurance built into those princess seams, and the option of a dress either with or without sleeves.

Then I just wandered through the store, checking out new arrivals. Lots of coating fabrics in stock, it surprises me that so many people are sewing coats, because I don't see them on my friends. Who is buying this fabric? The saleslady said much is being bought to sew into capes, as they are simple and don't require fitting.

A table of lovely pinwale corduroy but I resisted. I haven't sewn up the last bunch I bought. 
Then a table of some gorgeous shirtings, 100% cotton and very fine. Perfect in my opinion. Many stripes and checks, so I opted for 2 metres of this 60 inch wide fabric to be used once I get the shirt pattern to my liking. This one will require precise matching, so I will save it until the pattern is absolutely perfect. 

I also found at the back of the store, which is where they put last season's bolts, a  bunch of pure linen fabrics. Oh so hard to resist, one was a lovely navy handkerchief-weight linen, that would make the great summer shirt. Some others in a dress-weight linen, in soft yellow, brighter yellow, coral and turquoise. They weren't cheap though and, even at 50% off, they would still cost around $18 per metre. I couldn't justify buying any of those, as I know they wouldn't be sewn for quite some time. If they had been cheaper, I wouldn't have hesitated, but common sense told me to restrain myself. 

I am looking forward to the New Year and some new to sew. No pressure, just sewing for the pure joy of it. 

In the meantime, I have been doing a fair bit of knitting. A sweater for Hannah keeps the hands occupied while watching movies during the holidays. I no longer sew in the evening, but keep my husband company and we often watch a mystery on Netflix. I can't just sit there but have to do something with my hands so there are things coming off the needles.

This is a cardigan knit in one piece from the neck down. The colour is a true purple, but appears more blue in this photo. The pattern is Granny's Favorite by Georgie Hallam, downloaded from Ravelry. I am knitting it in  Cascade SuperWash wool and in the largest size since Hannah is 13.


And then I ordered some Cascade 220 wool to knit this sweater in the fall Interweave magazine. The pattern is the Harvey Pullover by Hannah Baker and this one is knit in one piece from the bottom up. The front is done in a Brioche stitch and the back in stocking stitch. There should be enough variation to keep this from getting boring and I haven't knit a pullover in ages. Perhaps with all the shirts I plan on making, a pullover might be a good idea. I love a sweater with a crisp collar peeking out over the neckline. This wool is a turquoise heather so it will have a marled appearance and I bought the shirting above thinking they would work together. Of course, the shirt will be finished long before the sweater.

The pattern is available on Ravelry at this link.

Monday, December 26, 2016

New Year Sewing Plans

                                               McCalls 7549

I made a quilted bomber jacket years ago and wore it so much. It was time to toss it out, the lining was disintegrating. I had used unbleached muslin, quilted it to flannelette and then lined it with a black and gold polyester lining. It went in and out of the wash many times, and was a go-to jacket for many occasions.

Time to make another one and this McCalls pattern looks like it's just up my alley.
I love the different areas of quilting and this is the style of jacket that I feel most comfortable in.
This version doesn't seem to have any closure but it would be easy enough to add an exposed zip.

I also bought the Ginger jeans pattern, the boyfriend version and the Kelly Anorak from Closet Case patterns. I have seen so many favourable reviews of the jeans, but the skinny legs is not for me. Also I am not a big fan of denim with lycra, I find that the waistband grows and the pants are constantly slipping down. The boyfriend pattern calls for regular denim, which I always enjoy sewing.

                                               Morgan Boyfriend Jeans pattern // by Closet Case Files

The sew-along files look like a great help in this. Although I have sewed jeans and jean skirts a number of times before, it is always good to remind oneself of the steps and new designers will have new ideas on how to make the process better. This is the kind of sewing that I most enjoy, all those details like the double top-stitching; this is what puts some folks off, but for me it is the technical side that I enjoy most. I would probably have enjoyed working in a factory making the perfect welt pockets in tailored jackets.

And the Kelly Anorak is a great pattern, Carolyn has made several wonderful versions of this pattern.

Carolyn's blog is one that I just love; she is a beautiful seamstress and just has a fashion sense that is uniquely her, but never takes herself too seriously.

I also want to make a really good shirt, with princess seaming. I have so many fabrics in the stash that would make great shirts and I want to get a pattern that I use over and over just like Lauren at does. Her favourite pattern is Butterick 5526 and there are a number of patterns with the requisite features. I am going to work on Simplicity 2447, first in a plain cotton and then in a plaid shirting that I bought from Blackbird Fabrics.

                                              Simplicity 2447 Sewing pattern for ladies tops, shirts, blouses.  Easy to sew

Some plans for the new year, I feel a sewing blitz coming on.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Burda 6633

                                 Tunic Top, Fastening Bands
This is a nice tunic pattern that I saw in the Burda catalogue. I was looking for a tunic with an overlapped neckline like this one. The pattern is well-drafted, but I have to say it is very sparse with instructions.

Inserting the circular neckline facing could have been better illustrated and things like stay-stitching the edge and clipping it before attaching the facing  (you are attaching a converse curve to a concave one) are omitted. I guess Burda assumes that you should know these things, but if you haven't done it in a while, you charge ahead as I did and then you get puckers!

Oh well, I am getting used to the fact that I have to make something twice before I get it right. So this version was made up quickly in a black embroidered cotton, and I have a second version cut out in a red cotton. 

Making something twice, especially if you make them back to back, helps you to iron out any glitches, both fitting and sewing glitches and I hope my second version is smooth and pucker-free now that I know what to watch for.

I made no alterations to the pattern, and every time I sew up a Burda, I ask myself why I don't sew exclusively with Burda patterns. They are drafted for a C cup so there is no bust alteration to make, and little things like the shoulder seam and the armscye are just drafted slightly different yielding a better result. 

The shoulder seam has a curve in it, rather than just being straight across. The armscye is quite different than other pattern brands, the back armhole is shorter and the front armhole almost has an L shape to it. I think this shaping fits me better and I have seen this before on some Burda dresses that I have made. 

In my second version, I did reduce the length of the shoulder seam 1/2". I think this top would also work well if done sleeveless, in which case I would raise the underarm seam about 3/4" and taper that seam in closer to the body to eliminate any gaping. I would also cut in the shoulder seam deeper as suggested by Sunny Gal on her blog. In fact, it was her success with this style that made me go out and look for a similar pattern.