Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Another shirt to pack

I finished this shirt this afternoon. It is from the pattern McCalls 7351 with the sides straightened and cut to shirt length. The fabric is a fine cotton plaid that I bought in Texas in February and the gingham is a piece I bought to go with something else but then changed my mind. 

One change I did make was to trim off 3/8 inch from the top of the collar band and I also trimmed off 1/4 inch from the outer edge of the collar. I wanted the collar to be somewhat smaller so that it wouldn't come up too high on my neck. The shirt is meant for those hot summer days in Ontario which we will be getting next week.

I made the buttonholes with green thread and used seven half inch green buttons for the front closure. I bought a bag of buttons at Michael's the other day, and already I have used them for two garments. A real bargain, about 100 buttons for less than $4.

I matched the side seams at the hem until I got close to the bust dart. I cut all pieces out single layer to match the plaid. And cut the outer yoke on the bias, the inside yoke is cut from the pink gingham.

The armholes fit really well without any gaping and they are finished with bias binding cut from the pink gingham. And with that, I have closed up my sewing room as we will be away for a month. It will be knitting needles for the next four weeks. 

Unfortunately the wool I ordered will not get here in time, so I will have to find something in the stash to knit while we are away.

Lots of fun, we are having a family reunion in Ontario. At some point, there will be 20 adults and 15 children. People are coming and going at different points, but some will be around for a week and there will be a lot of chatting, a lot of wine drunk, and a lot of laughter I am sure.

I was rushing to get this shirt made before going, and then I decided to count my summer shirts. I have 10 that I have made in the past year, so I think I am ready for this vacation. 

Fabric purchased:  0 metres
Fabric sewn:  2 metres green cotton plaid and pink gingham

Running total for the year: 36.6 metres purchased and 37.6 metres sewn up

Summer Sewing

A dress for daughter Elena. Butterick 6208. One version was made for her daughter Hannah and mom hinted that she would like one in the same colour as the pattern photo. I found a pretty shade of orange at our local Fabricville store; it may be too light to be a dress, and I will wait until she tries it on before we make a decision whether or not to cut it off as a tunic. 

Personally, I wouldn't want to have to wear a slip under a summer dress, it kind of defeats the purpose of being cool. And this dress is too see-through to wear alone. It is 100% cotton lawn, beautiful fabric but perhaps better suited to a blouse or tunic.

I did buy some white rayon fabric and made her a slip, but I don't see this being worn under the above dress. However, one can always use a slip. This is from McCalls 6696, a pattern for a classic shirt-dress. It also includes a pattern for a bias slip with spaghetti straps and it is really pretty. The rayon has a silky feel and drapes beautifully and even more so when cut on the bias.

This will have to wait until a try-on before I can hem it. I enjoyed the tiny edge finishes on this; it reminded me of a sheer shirt that I made some years ago and used the edge finish methods of Tom and Linda Platt that were written up in an old Threads magazine. It really is much better than serging and turning under; you sew on the seam line, then press that under, trim the seam allowance to a scant 1/4 inch, then turn that under again and stitch again. So every edge has two lines of stitching, it takes time but gives a wonderful finish that won't pull out or fray as a serged finish might do over time. For the side seams, I made French seams, they seemed in keeping with the pattern and the fabric.

I added some elastic lace trim to the front and back necklines just to make it a little prettier.

The slip is a nice bonus to get in a pattern that is already great.

Fabric purchased:  1.5 metres white rayon for slip
Fabric sewn:  2.5 metres coral cotton lawn
                    1.5 metres white rayon

Running total for 2016:  36.6 metres purchased and 35.6 metres sewn
Closing the gap!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Shirt-dress success - McCalls 6885


This shirt-dress was posted on the Britex website.  And I thought I have a fabric very similar to this, a dotted denim shirting that I bought last summer at Fabricville. I had intended to make a shirt-dress with it, but didn't get around to it. Kind of glad that I didn't cut it then because I think it will be perfect for McCalls 6885 that I just made up in seersucker above.

The seersucker is very light fabric and I think that might be why it works better as a tunic than as a dress. But this denim-y fabric is a little heavier and should have just the right weight for the pattern.

I will make it with short sleeves and will cut the hem straight with side slits.

I was spurred on to make this version after seeing the pattern on this site.

I will also eliminate the little pleat at the front at the bottom of the placket, I don't see any reason for this pleat and I will simply fold it out all the way down to the hem before cutting out, then cut straight down the sides for a straight hem and will sew the sides leaving slits at the bottom.

I have often thought that making the same pattern two or three times is a good idea. After all, ready-to-wear is made after numerous samples are sewn to work out the kinks, to work out what fabric works best, etc. And yet we sew-ists hope to achieve success on our very first try. Often we do, but many times there is that little something that bothers us about the finished garment. Rather than just remain frustrated about it, why not make the pattern again and fix those problems?  The second version will sew up much quicker, it will probably fit better, and you may just hit that sweet spot. Success depends so much upon hitting that sweet spot where the finished garment meets or exceeds our expectations.

June 21, progress made and dress is finished.

Front of dress with placket opening; these get better each time I make them.

Side view, hem has been straightened and short slits left in the side seams.

Back yoke with added pleat at centre back. The pattern didn't have a yoke piece, so I just cut one from another pattern and shifted the back over from the fold to allow for a pleat. I think it adds some interest to the back of a garment and the self-lined yoke sits better on the shoulders than a single layer of fabric.

The back of the dress. 

My favourite part of this pattern - the collar and collar band. This pattern comes together so well that I may just use this collar and band pattern piece for other shirts.
I used the method that Louise Cutting uses for collars, sew the bands on the neckline, then sew the rounded front edges, leaving the top of the bands open to insert the collar.

Then sew the finished collar onto the inside collar band, and tuck in the raw edges of the outer band over the encased collar and top-stitch all around the band. This produces such a nice edge on the band. I used to use the technique of Margaret Islander, which is slightly different than this method. I have found that I have more control with this method and get good results every time.
Not one hand stitch on the collar, everything done with the machine for a professional finish.

I am so pleased with this dress and with this pattern. I have plans to make another version, perhaps the colour-blocked one. I saw a woman at church with a beige dress and a black border, and immediately thought it would work in this pattern!  She wore it with a black cardigan, black shoes, and a black chunky necklace and did it ever look sharp.

Next up: a dress for my daughter Elena.

Fabric Purchased:  0
Fabric Sewn:  2.5 metres cotton print

Friday, June 10, 2016

Can't stop sewing


I am really on a roll here. I just can't stop sewing. In the past month, I have made three muslins for myself for shirt-dresses, a blouse that I haven't taken photos of yet, three dresses for my grand-daughter Hannah (no photos of those either)  and this dress which will be finished either today or tomorrow.

This is McCalls 6885, a simple shirt-dress. I sliced the back so that it would have a yoke, added some to the lower back to make a center pleat, altered the pattern with an full bust alteration (using the directions from The dress doesn't have too much shape to it, but it is meant for those hot summer days when we will be in Ontario in July. We don't get heat here in Nova Scotia but in Ontario, they do and summer clothes are quite different for that location. 


I wanted to play with some pattern mixing here. And so I cut the collar, collar band and front placket from a black and white print that I had stashed to make up a poet shirt about 10 years ago. Never going to make that now, so better to put the fabric to use now. When I put on the placket, I thought the contrast was a bit stark and realised that the seersucker may look grey and white, but in reality it has a subtle blue shade to it. My contrast fabric would have been better had I chosen a blue print, but I wasn't going to take off that placket after fastidiously stitching it in place. Once I added the collar, I liked the contrast better (I guess there was more balance with more of the contrast fabric in there) and will finish off the armhole bindings and hem later today.

The collar and band went together really well and I think this pattern, while looking very simple, actually has good bones. I often find that collars are too tall for me and I trim them down. I left this one as is and am really pleased with it. The undercollar is the seersucker and I only interfaced one collar piece and one band piece. I usually interface both but this single application is the perfect weight for this fabric. I am super pleased with how this collar turned out.

Update: just tried on the finished dress before hemming and thought 'this looks too bag-like'. I am too short to carry this off as a dress. So I pinned it up to tunic length and it works. Took the scissors and lopped off 6 inches at CF and CB, cutting a gradual shirt-tail hem at the sides. Much better in my opinion. 

A dress of this style on me would have to have some waist definition, I think. But I love love love the collar on this pattern.


I sewed up Butterick 6208 for grand-daughter Hannah in a purple and white dotted quilting cotton and mailed it to her, so no pictures yet. I raised the opening as I knew it would hit too low for her. She is right on the cusp between girls' patterns and women's and none of the girls' patterns appeal to her. She chose this one and fortunately it came in a range of sizes from size 6 to 14. I cut the size 6 for her and took in 1 inch through the bust as she is a very slender 13-year-old. She told me she loves it.

Her mother hinted broadly that she would love one in the same colour as the pattern illustration, so I just returned from Fabricville where I bought 2.5 metres of cotton lawn in that very shade. This will be a surprise for her, she is such a wonderful daughter that I want to make something for her that she really wants. She is a bit of a fashion plate, despite having 7 kids to look after, and she is dark haired with olive skin so this coral will work on her.

Hopefully there will be some pictures of these garments on real people soon. Getting pictures is a real problem, mainly because I hate taking photos of myself. Yup, self image problems for sure.

Keeping track of the fabric inventory:

Purchased  2.5 metres coral cotton lawn
                  1.7 metres pink cotton gingham

Sewed up  2.5 metres cotton seersucker

Running total for the year - purchased  35.1 metres
                                       - sewn up   29.1 metres

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Keeping Track

Keeping track of fabric purchases and how much gets sewn up.

Since I last kept record, I have bought 9 yards (=8.2 metres) of fabric in Joanne's, Bangor Maine, 2.5 metres of cotton shirting at Fabricville, 2 metres of quilting cotton at Fabricville, Halifax and 3.5 metres of shirting cotton from Blackbird Fabrics in Vancouver.

Total purchased =  16.2 metres

Sewn up:

-  Silhouette Classic shirt in rayon from Black Bird Fabrics  -  1.8 metres
-  muslin of McCalls 6696 in pink chambray from the stash -  3 metres
-  3 dresses for grand-daughter Hannah using up 7.5 metres
-  shirt in previous post  - 2 metres

for a total of  14.3 metres

Uh, still accumulating more than I am making up.

Running total for 2016:   30.9  metres of fabric purchased
                                     26.6 metres sewn up

Sunday, May 29, 2016

What a great pattern - McCalls 7360


On a recent shopping trip to the local Fabricville, I picked up this pattern McCalls 7360.  I have always liked the Henley tab button front on knit shirts and I couldn't pass up a woven version of this shirt.

Kudos to Mary at   for her wonderful tutorials on bust fitting. I have recently made mockups of two shirtdress bodices, using Mary's great instructions. I haven't made the dresses yet, but now that the bodices are fitted, the skirt part is no problem.

So I used her method with this pattern. So many times, I have just cut the size that will give me the finished circumference that I need, only to find fitting problems in the neck, shoulder and armhole areas. Enough of that silliness. Since I have a 4 inch difference between high bust and full bust, a full bust alteration is really in order.

And I just sewed up the side seams of this shirt and am thrilled with the fit. I have the sleeves to set in, and the hem to do, plus buttonholes and buttons but those should be done tomorrow. Already I have pulled out two pieces of fabric from the stash to make this shirt again.

A soft drapey tencel woven that I had in Timmel Fabrics many moons ago, and a great purple and teal plaid that must have rayon in it, since it drapes so nicely. Another short sleeve variation and then a sleeveless version for those hot summer days that must be coming our way soon.

I cannot thank Mary enough for her inspiration to me. I love seeing her many versions of shirtdresses and her candid advice about fitting. For us larger curvier ladies, she is a great mentor. I so look forward to her posts and her latest adventures in sewing.

You can check out her tutorials on fit here

And take a look at her wardrobe while you're there, such lovely dresses.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sonya's Blouse Photos

As promised, some photos of my two versions of Sonya's Blouse from Silhouette Patterns. I cut size 7W for the first version, it fit everywhere quite well, except that the neckline didn't look like the pattern.  So in version #2, I cut a smaller size in the neck and shoulders, then back to the original size everywhere else. This opens up the neckline so that it looks more like the pattern photo.

This pattern is going into the tried-and-true box.

Version #1 in a lovely cotton shirting from BlackBird Fabrics

Close-up of neckline

Close up of neckline, cut in a smaller size

Blurry photo of version #2

Better photo of version #2

Standard photo with hands on hips
On Saturday afternoon, I decided to listen to one of Peggy Sager's videos about her patterns and fitting. These are available on YouTube, just search for Silhouette Patterns. There are loads of videos on there, some on specific patterns, others on more general topics such as fitting, wardrobing.

Peggy is a real goldmine of information. She began her working career as a pattern maker for a clothing company. It was only after about 15 years doing this, that she crossed over into the sewing world. And she realised that home-sewers were meeting disappointment with their efforts because they had no idea how to fit.

Peggy's patterns are based on garment finished measurements, not on body measurements. The reason for this is that she says we all wear our clothes according to how much ease we like in them. And no one can tell you how you like your clothes to fit. Only you can do that.

So take a blouse or dress that you like and measure it across the finished bust. That is the size you choose when sewing Peggy's patterns. Then she provides different bodices for B, C, and D bra cup sizes.

Her explanation of the three elements of fit was very enlightening to me. She says keep in mind, three things - L, C and D.  L is length, this is the first thing you alter. The old, measure your back waist length and alter the pattern to fit that. Then C is circumference, this will ensure that the garment will fit or close over your bust or largest area. All other alterations fall into the D category which is depth.

Anything that is angled on a pattern is something that affects the depth. So the angled shoulder line is depth. Peggy explained brilliantly how the shoulder line is actually a dart worked into the pattern. Bust darts are obvious angled lines, but so are princess lines, crotch curves. All of these fall into the third area of fitting. Length and circumference are done first. Then you make a muslin and work on the depth changes.

It all sounded so simple to me when I listened. But I know that there is a learning curve and, as Peggy says, we have listened to the wrong advice for so long, that it is hard to rewire our brains. So I am going to give this a try.

She suggests taking her Classic Blouse, one that I have made twice already, and cutting out just the front and back in a knit fabric. Yes, you can check the fit of a woven blouse by sewing it in a knit. Peggy suggests cutting it one size smaller than the finished measurements of something you wear, the knit will provide stretch, and cut the armhole for a smaller size, which will make the change necessary for a sleeveless garment. That armhole should be cut higher up, in order to bring the armhole up underneath your arm and prevent gaping. Sleeves require more room to be set in, a sleeveless garment doesn't need that room.

So I am going to give this a try. The result is that you end up with a nice tank top, that has shaping because the pattern has both front and back vertical darts, plus a bust dart. For the raw edges, simply turn them under and topstitch without stretching the curve.

This all makes so much sense to me. I think I am going to be listening to more of Peggy's videos in the future and trying more of her patterns. After all, she has the vast experience to know what she is talking about.