Monday, December 5, 2022

McCalls 7981, View D (new) and View A (toile)

Warning: The waistband on this pattern is 4" longer than listed on the pattern piece. Although it matches the other pattern pieces, it is larger than the lengths in the size chart. However, the discrepancy between the size chart and the pattern pieces can be accounted to ease. If you don't want ease at the waistline, size down. Do not refer to the measurement printed on the waistband, at least in the L-XL sizes. I prefer elastic in the back of my waistband and use the larger size to allow for it. However, it is nice to know after sewing the toile that I don't need the size XL in this pattern.

Another revelation from sewing the toile is button placement: Reviews of this pattern report a problem with gaping between the top two buttons. That problem ocurred with my flannel toile. It's because the buttonhole is placed horizontally on the waistband and vertically on the button band. In that case, the head of the buttonhole on the waistband should line up with the buttonholes on the buttonband, allowing the button to slide all the way over and still be lined up with the other buttons and the button band to align with the buttonhole band. In the toile, I centered the waistband buttonhole over the button band buttonholes. That didn't work because the pressure at the waist will make the button slide over the the head (left side as worn) of the buttonhole. The simple fix was to move the button over so that the bands align. However, on this and subsequent versions, I will place the waistband buttonhole further away from the edge of the buttonband and make sure the button is sewn in the correct spot to allow it to sit at the head of the buttonhole and still be lined up with the other buttons. Still, a fastener at the bottom of the waistband might help line up the button band with the waistband.

About a year ago, I made a wearable toile in this pattern, using View A, with an additional 6" in length. That made it between View A and B. I cut a size XL, even though L would have been large enough. Since there are only two sizes in the size block I purchased, it made sense to use the larger size for this wearable toile to allow for alterations and to take advantage of the drape of the fabric. This length used the full complement of 7 buttons, plain off white ones that were left over from a sweater project.

The fabric was purchased at JoAnn and was 3 1/4 yards of cotton flannel in a printed plaid, 44" wide, $11.90. After machine washing and drying, it shrank to 40" wide and 3 yards long. There is at least a yard left over, so the actual cost is nearer $8. The contrast fabric is a brown Buffalo plaid flannel remnant from JoAnn (161008103, 3/4 yard, 86 cents).

All pieces were cut out with the fabric flat, except for the back which was cut on the fold, folded along a vertical stripe. Nonetheless, the plaid matching was difficult and is not as good as it should be. Matching the pockets to the exterior fabric, which meant cutting two of each fabric, did work well, since the side seams sit at an angle and the pocket and side plaid pattern can not be matched the full length of the seam. Matching the front button bands to the front panels was close--the horizontal lines of the plaid match and the vertical lines would have matched if I were happy with leaving the seam of the band that the buttons are sewn to exposed. I was not, so the plaid misses matching vertically by 3/8".

The hem method was a simple blind hem 1 1/2" deep with the button band folded over the hem. I put tailor tacks in the button bands to mark button and buttonhole placement. However, the 1 1/4" buttonholes were adjusted to the button size to 1 1/8" by the machine and the placement is 3" apart. The tailor tacks, which took some time, might not be necessary, especially in a small plaid like this one, where the buttons can be placed along the lines of the plaid.

There is a little extra fabric in back waistband that is taken up by 14" of elastic which is sewn down at the sides (where a side seam would be). The elastic could have been a little shorter, but not any longer than that. Adding the elastic made it a 32" waistband.

The buttonholes were very quick and easy on the Janome. I will be looking for more patterns with buttonholes now. The buttonholes in the beige thread that I used for the skirt are quite obvious on the plaid. Black would have been a better choice since they run down the black/gray stripe. It is a relief that they are even and tidy, since uneven buttonholes would have been noticeable.

Even with the difficulty of plaid matching and button bands, it is very likely that I will make this pattern again. I have just the right amount of tan linen to make View D, no matching required.

Now for the second version, a size L cut from view D, but 3" shorter. This used 2 1/2 yards of 56" wide linen, in beige, nearly 6 oz. (5.88) per sq yd, so it is heavy. Cost was $32.38 from Taos Adobe Quilting. It washed and dried beautifully, even smoothing out some variations in the weave that were like slubs. There was just one large slub that hangs ominously from a tiny hole at the lower back of the skirt. With a dab of fray check, it may stay put and not fray. This fabric does not fray as badly as a thinner linen does, but it still frays, leading me to overcast stitch the unenclosed seam allowances. It is too heavy a fabric for french seams and too light in color for a contrasting Hong Kong binding finish that might show through to the front. (In my view, a Hong Kong finish isn't worth the effort if you can't use a cute contrasting material.) Assembly was much simpler without having to worry about matching plaid patterns. After stitching the back seam and side seams, including pockets, the the hem is next. Wait, what?

The hem is sewn before the button and buttonhole bands are attached, simply because they are turned under around the hem. Although the different order of assembly is not difficult, it precludes the ability to hang the skirt, letting the fabric stretch into place, before hemming. As a result, the hem may look a bit uneven. However, the fullness of the skirt may disquise most problems.

After the waistband is attached, there is slip stitching--down the bands, around the hem and around the waistband, about 6 yards of hand sewing. Actually, the hem is supposed to be topstitched, but if you're slip stitching everything else, why not the hem?

The waistband is a puzzle. Even after stay stitching the skirt at the waist, the waistband is too short. Perhaps if the stay stitching is done immediately after cutting the fabric, it will reduce the size of the waist. However, the instructions put the stay stitching off until the skirt is assembled. At least the stay stitching can be used to ease the skirt into the waistband. Finally, putting elastic through the back waistband brought the 36" waistband in to 32-33".

View D is quite long, would be a maxi skirt on me, so I cut it 3" shorter. The result, at 31", it is a little long. It is recommended that a skirt hem hit your leg at the narrowest part in order to be flattering. (!?Flattering in what way, should it make your leg look thinner or more muscular?) For me that would be 28" for a below-the-knee length and 34" for a maxi skirt. The buttons I have chosen are smaller than required, but I have them, they match, so on they go. The eight buttons are 3 1/2" apart, a little closer together than the pattern calls for the larger buttons.
The vest is a recently completed knitting project, something quick from leftover yarn. I thought I would have to make a top to wear with this skirt, but it turns out that my hand-knitted sweaters all look great with this skirt.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Button-up Dress, Peppermint Magazine

When I ordered the linen doggie bag cut I used for my Sorbetto top, I also purchased another cut from The Fabrics Store. This one was DB IL019, softened linen in Graphite, a dull dark gray. It was 1.5 yards long, 59" wide, and weighed 5.3 oz/sq. yd. The total paid was $13.78. Inspired by a dress I saw on Net-a-Porter, I was hoping I could get a simple sleeveless dress from this lovely linen. These are my inspiration photos:
The front is busy, with the contrasting buttons and scalloped asymmetric closing, but the back is simpler.
Once I found the Button-up dress pattern (a free download from Peppermint Magazine), I hoped 1 1/2 yards of this wide fabric would be sufficient. To work around the short yardage, I cut the facings from black Sheermist Batiste (45" wide, 65% poly/35% cotton from Hobby Lobby). This lining fabric was on sale for about $4/yard, but since it did not take a yard for the facings, the cost was less than $3. Even without the facings, I was short on fabric and had to cut one of the pieces. Rather than have a seam across a pattern piece, I cut the side front panels and added a pocket, lined in the batiste, at the seam. There will be lots of deets here because it looks so good that I may make this pattern again.

For the pocket modification, I first cut out the fronts, back and the side back. With the remaining fabric, I marked a line on the front side panel at the height for the pocket, (meaning my hand would easily reach the pocket and my fingers would just touch the bottom of the pocket when my arm was fully extended. I used the "lenthen or shorten here" line, measuring 5" above it.) Placing the marked pattern piece on the remaining fabric at the shorter section of what remained after I cut out the back, putting it at the fold, but not on the fold put the pattern piece over the end of the remaining fabric with my pocket mark on the fabric, within 1/4" of the edge. I cut out that piece, then placed that piece and the attached fabric (still pinned to it) on the longest part of the remaining fabric, the part that remained in the center after cutting out the shorter back side panel, lining up the bottom hemline to the end of the fabric. That allowed me to cut another piece of the front side panel that extended well above the marked pocket line. I folded down the extra fabric to make the front of the pocket bag. Then I cut a portion of the pattern, from 1" above the marked line to 8" below it from the Sheermist Batiste, following the pattern piece. This was attached to the top piece of the side front panel to serve as the pocket bag back. After sewing the Batiste to the top piece, I folded the bottom piece and topstitched it in place, keeping everything aligned with the pattern piece. To further secure it, I basted the bottom piece together an inch down from the topstitching. Then I marked the pocket bag in a tapering line that began 3" off center of the bottom of the bag and ended at the joining of the bag to the pattern piece on each side. Then I sewed the bag together, down one side, across the bottom and up the other side. After trimming and finishing the seams, I was on to the facing.

After prepping the facing according to instructions, I just turned the bottom up 1/4" and top stitched. There's not much fraying in the lining fabric. Then I forgot to stay stitch back neck and armholes, which made it hard to attach facing due to stretched out linen. Except for that, attaching the lining per instructions for front and neckline, pinking the seam allowance and clipping curves, and understitching were all simple. However, it isn't clear that the edge of the lining lines up with the edge of the placket that is then folded over after attachment, making the facing edge sit between the placket and the front of the body. There's no other way to do it, but the difference in the sizing of the facing and the body are not addressed in the instructions.

After I puzzled through the neckline facing attachment instructions, THEN they wanted me to use the burrito method for the armhole facing attachment. Wait, that is not necessary. I watched 3 or 4 you tube videos and the last one said that no is burrito needed if there is a back opening. Obviviously, that works same for garments with a front opening. Just for fun, I tried their burrito method. I didn't do it right and somehow pulled the dress through the shoulder to end up with the facing and dress wrong side out. No problem--I just pulled the front through the shoulder with my skinny little fingers. Since it worked once, I sewed the second side with the right sides together and the pieces flat. I found it much easier to sew without the burritoed fabric in the way. Then I repeated the trick I did on the first side to just pull the front through the shoulder.

While it was easy to understitch the armhole almost to the shoulder in the back, it was not so easy in front. The understitching there just goes to the princess seam. Sewing the side seam was easy except for changing back and forth between black thread for facing and gray for dress. I decided to use hem tape to make the dress as long as possible. I sewed the black hem tape on with gray thread in zigzag stitch. Black thread would have been better. However, since I used the gray thread to hand sew the hem down, there is gray thread visible at the top and bottom of the hem tape. I found the hem tape helpful as far as extending the narrow hem. However, the poly hem tape has no stretch and sticks out as the hem curves. A final note on construction: the interfacing covers the entire placket, resulting in two layers of interfacing when the plackets are folded over and stitched down. Cutting it and fusing it to the front half of the placket should be sufficient.
The buttonholes and buttons were done by my newer machine (Janome Skyline S3). The only problem occurred when the thread broke, stopping the sewing but not the machine, midway through the first half of the third buttonhole. I had to finish that one with manual zig zag and made notes in case it happens again. I think the thread broke because I had the machine speed set too fast. However, regarding thread, in my determination to find a better color match in the limited thread available locally, I noticed too late that I had sewn the dress in 100% cotton thread but purchased a better matching 100% polyester thread for the buttons and buttonholes. Three things to remember: sew buttonholes on slow speed, raise the needle between sewing each button (or set of eyes if you have a 4-eyed button) to reset the zig zag stitch, and check the thread content before you buy. On that last one, though, I don't have a preference on thread content. I realize 100% cotton may shrink, but I don't worry about that if I am sewing a fabric that will shrink along with it. Hopefully, they will shrink at similar rates! The buttons came from Hobby Lobby, gray plastic, $9.10 for 10 buttons.
Finally, here's the dress with my hands in the pockets so you can see them! This is also full disclosure that there is a good bit of width in this dress. I can go down a size in the next version. I am sorry about all the picky comments on the pattern. It is a great pattern. In my view, if the pattern is free, the company should not stress about the instructions. The instructions are very helpful. My comments are just for my own clarification when I use the pattern again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Old Sewing Patterns

Retro, Vintage, or just plain old, is it worth it to save sewing patterns? Today, older patterns in uncut and excellent condition can be purchased on resale sites. Additionally, patterns from the 50's and 60's are now available in reissued form from the major pattern companies. Obviously, there is interest in using vintage patterns. How about those patterns we cut, use and age out of, should we keep them or not? Unfortunately, I can't definitively answer the question, but I can relate my recent experience in that regard.

A few years ago, I was cleaning out a closet and found about a dozen sewing patterns that I had saved for decades. Some dated back to my college years, the last time I had regularly sewn clothing for myself. Others were newer. Once the retail price of clothing declined enough to make it less cost effective to sew, my incentive for sewing vanished. At that time, I never really enjoyed sewing. It was one way of keeping my expenses down. However, even after switching to ready made, I still sewed for special occasions. Sometimes I could not find or afford exactly what I (or my family) wanted to wear. These few patterns spanned those years of occasional sewing. I went through these old patterns and kept some that were standard clothing styles, like skirts, tank tops, and simple shorts or pants. The others I posted on Instagram and asked if anyone was interested. Unfortunately, that post got no response at all. Much to my regret, I tossed the patterns in the trash can.

Over the next couple of years, my knitting feed was infiltrated with sewing posts. Project Runway was popular. All the pretty handmade clothes renewed my interest in sewing. First came upcycling my old jeans into skirts, then a new sewing machine. Finally, new patterns and sewing supplies. The newer tools and techniques have made sewing more enjoyable for me. I don't miss the old stuff, except for those patterns... I wish I hadn't tossed them. More on my biggest regret later.

Now on the old patterns that I kept. I have successfully modified a couple and use them repeatedly. Actually, there are only two items I tried that didn't quite work out.

I saved Simplicity 8192, 2 Hour Separates, published in 1992.

This is a great pattern! I bought it for the full skirt and made that for a formal event, in black moire. After that it went into the box with the other patterns. In my recent first attempts at sewing garments from scratch, I dusted this one off and produced two pencil skirts and a tank dress. The only item I hadn't made was the long-sleeved shirt. Well, I couldn't leave that untried.

Using off-white silk jacquard purchased from Taos Adobe Quilting, (2 1/2 yards, 50" wide, weighing 3 3/4 oz./sq yd.) I cut the size 12 shortened by 2 inches. Since there was a little over 1 yd left (39"), the cost was $20.

Although this pattern is designed for shoulder pads, this version doesn't have any--yet. As a result, it is roomy in the shoulders for a size 12. The silk fabric had enough drape to disguise the roominess, but small shoulder pads might be fun to try. The hips were too tight to go over other clothing but after narrowing the side seams as much as possible, it fit, just barely. The sleeves are big in the upper arms but fit in the lower arms. The sleeve length is fine. To make this again, I would need to use a drapey fabric, cut the body A-shaped and consider adding bust darts. The length could be shorter. As it is, with a 2" hem, it hits right at the hip join, my usual choice for top length. The hip width is 42", a good fit over a slim skirt but a bit too tight for a flared skirt unless I tuck it in or just let it bunch up a bit. It does work well under a jumper. The silk should be dry cleaned, but I have solved that problem--I never wear it.


Another I saved was Simplicity 7024, Ladies Front or Back-Draped Top. I used the heck out of this one back in the day, making several tops to wear under my suit jackets. When I stopped wearing suits it went in the box. Although I saved it, I didn't want another draped top--they don't make sense without a jacket. However, before I tossed it out, I became curious about the long-sleeve shirt. About that time, I placed an order from Fancy Tiger Crafts for several yards of their Rayon Honeycomb fabric. When they informed me that there was only 1 1/3 yards available, I figured that since it was 50" wide, I should be able to get something out of it. The cost was $18. I wouldn't have made that decision if I had realized that washing drastically alters this fabric. The bit I did wash as a test came out without the nice suede-like finish, dooming the rest to use as a toile.

My main focus was on altering this old pattern to fit now so that the cap sleeves are a flattering length and the waist and hips fit loosely. Also, the scoop neck and v-neck are great options. Originally, it was cut to the smallest size, a PT. Adding 1/2" at the fold for the front, back, and neck facings brought it to about a medium. Since the sleeve did not need to be larger, I left the armsyce and the sleeve a PT, shortened the body 3" at the marked line and brought the cut line out as large as possible above the hip, using all the material I had.

The cap sleeve is good, as is the scoop neck. The v-neck is too deep, but there is the option of putting a piece of material across it, either in the rayon honeycomb or in a contrasting material. It is wide enough in the hips at 44 1/2" but is large in the neck and sleeves. If I were to make this again, I would probably make the sleeveless version and keep it a PT at the top and facings, only adding the 1/2" at the hips and that or more on the sides. I would eliminate the v-neck and re-work the front neckline to a higher v-neck or a square neck. Instructions call for topstitching hems on sleeves and body. That was easy to do by turning up 1/4" and sewing it down(this material will not hold a crease), then sewing the hem down from the wrong side.)

Again, it isn't being worn, but it has possiblities.

My big regret is the one pattern I tossed that I wish I had kept. It was a smock top that I made and wore for years. I put extra effort into it and was very pleased with the result. I keep looking for something similar but I haven't found it yet. If I had the pattern number, I am sure I could find it for sale.

There's the lesson here: Even if you don't keep the old patterns, keep notes. That way you will know the pattern, the size, and the method you used for all your makes. That is why I am still blogging -- this is my permanent record!

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Sorbetto

Back when I was building up my sewing arsenal, this was my first attempt at making something from a pdf pattern, using the free Sorbetto pattern by Colette and 1 yard of white lightweight linen from the Fabrics Store. The fabric was a "doggie bag" cut and was only $5. It was enough for Version 3 of Sorbetto in a size 8. That was the smallest size that I had chosen for any pattern in the past year, but it fits my measurements of 37" bust and 39" hips with a few inches of ease. The finished measurements are of 41" bust and 44" hips. There is little waist shaping, so I will ignore that difficult subject, except for shortening the bodice 1" to allow for a higher waistline. The bust dart (thank goodness it has one) was moved 1" lower and reduced to 1" wide (taking in 2"). As a result, the front was 1/2" too long and needed trimming. Trimming it shorter wasn't really a concern, since this should be a shorter top overall to look good with skirts. There is a tuck at the neckline that is sewn down at the hem. To be cautious, it was hemmed without the tuck but that could be topstitched later. The hem is topstitched. The sleeves are cut 1/2" longer. This change and the shorter bodice are now part of the pattern. Not bad for $5.

I have decided that I like this pattern and may make it again. Since linen is not the best fabric for it, I looked on line to see what other fabrics have been used by other sewing bloggers. The short answer is LOTS. This pattern has been available for years, allowing for so many variations and modifications. Since I am still finding it a bit uncomfortable to wear, I should try cutting a larger size and/or using a softer fabric.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

McCalls 7122, 8092, 7606 and 7862

This post covers my incompatible sewing patterns, ones that were sewn up, hung in the closet and mostly left there. It could follow the pattern of my earlier post "Drafting Simple Sewing Patterns" and be titled "Messing up Simple Sewing Patterns". However, the pattern numbers are a more useful reference. It is not that I want to blame the patterns--the problem is not with the patterns, but with my relationship with the patterns. We are apparently, for now, incompatible. Since I have put in the effort to write about the process (I usually make notes as I sew.), I will publish my thoughts, mostly so that I will be discouraged from repeating my mistakes. I'm sure someone will look up these patterns at some time. If so, they may benefit from my experiences. However, clothes fit differently on different people and look different in different fabrics. Sometimes you don't know until you try, so don't let my opinion discourage you from trying these patterns.

First up, but last made, was McCalls 7122, a raglan dress pattern for knits (leggings are included but not attempted by me). This pattern required 1 3/4 to 3 1/2 yards of 60" medium weight knit fabric for the dress, depending on length. The only difficulty in this pattern was the cutting, simply because the large pieces were hard to align on knit fabric. Otherwise, it was a breeze. There was enough fabric to cut the large in the C length with long sleeves. View B was my preference, but after the waist was raised by 2" it would not have been long enough. Although the short sleeves would have been preferable in this fabric, I knew they would look better on me about 4" longer. However, the short sleeves are cut in an arc at the hem, precluding lengthening them.

Here is a bit of the dress, just enough to give you the effect of the print. It looked much better in the photo I saw when I ordered it.

The fabric I used was more of the cotton/poly/lyca jersey from Fabric Mart (used quite successfully for McCalls 7650), this time in a green print. Since I had purchased 2 1/3 yards for only $10.50, I added the pockets from McCalls 8085. The fabric is 56" wide, very stretchy, and sews smoothly, no walking foot required. A simple narrow zig zag worked for all the seams. Although the pattern does not suggest it, I top stitched the seam allowance down below the neckband. I find this prevents the neckband from flipping down and echos the twin needle hems. I cut 2" from the sleeves and kept them long, and then cut 2 1/2" from the hem.

Neckband--that's a nice addition, so much easier than fussing with a turned hem. A neckband also allows me to fine tune the fit by sewing a narrower seam at the back, raising the back neck a bit. The back neck is 2" below the natural neckline in this pattern, a little low for me. I find that a back neck that is too low will make the front neck ride up. Maybe that is a misconception that I derived from knitting patterns that require short rows at the back neck to lower the front?

The combination of the twin needle and the walking foot worked well for the hems. It was all very easy sewing. What is wrong? Either the dress is just unflattering, or the print is a bit too much.

In a last attempt at this pattern, I made a quick top with the short sleeves. I was not pleased with this top, either--the fit and the fabric were the problems. The short sleeves sit up above my arms too much. The fabric was a combination of a remnant and the leftover print from the dress. The remnant I used was 2/3 yard long, 60" wide, 2106847, regular $6.99/yard fabric from Hobby Lobby. The usual 30% off sale put it at $4.89/yard; my total paid was $2.79. The fabric was 96% polyester, 4% spandex, brushed, very soft and very stretchy--close to 100% stretch crosswise, some stretch lengthwise. The fabric was too stretchy to sew nicely, even with a walking foot. Also, the rust color, although flattering to my skin tones, does not go with anything in my closet. Neither the dress or the top has seen much wear so far. That should be enough to warn me away from using this pattern again.

In the summer of 2021, I tried McCalls 7606 on the theory that a wrap skirt would be more comfortable than one with a fixed width waistband. That theory did not prove to be true. For the toile, I used a blue & white variegated stripe fabric from JoAnn, 42" wide, 2 1/2 yards purchased for $22.73 plus 1 yard purchased as a remnant for $3. Since it is striped and matching was a problem, there was not much fabric left after cutting the skirt. It was 100% cotton, made in Indonesia (machine wash gentle cold, tumble dry low, warm iron). After being washed on warm/cold and dried on low, it puckered like seersucker and would not iron flat. Due to the look of the fabric and the disappointing fit, I am sorry I took so much effort with this pattern. For this first try, I modified the curved hemline to be a straight one without ruffles or curves. I cut an XL for the back, and an XXL for everything else, leaving plenty of fabric to accommodate alternations, such as deeper hems--the pattern only allows 5/8" hems. In the end, I kept the hem to 1" since it must be curved due to the a-line shaping. It was easier to follow the pattern lines than to redraft them.

There is an error in this pattern. It shows the ties attached to the side seams. That is incorrect. The ties are attached at each end of the waistband and don't need to be inserted until after the waistband is attached to the skirt.

Next, I tried McCalls 7862, using a black "tie-dye" print from JoAnn, 100% lyocell "Tencel Denim". The cost for 2 yards was $33.58. (I bought another 1/2 yard in Santa Fe for $7.20 but did not need it to cut out this dress.) The fabric was listed as 52" wide but measured closer to 60" wide. The care instructions are machine wash cold, line dry, cool iron. It does ok in the dryer but does pucker under a more than warm iron.

I cut a size 16, moving the darts lower after viewing a Craftsy class on muslins. The fabric is very nice, stays basically as I bought it, smooth, with a little drape and a bit of body. It works well in this swingy type of shape. The sleeves are large so they stick out in this fabric. Overall, with the print and the way it stands out from the body, this dress looks a bit like a caftan.

However, after wearing this dress a few times, I found the neckline was too high in front. That was especially disappointing because fitting the neckline band to the dress was really difficult. The hem construction is similar, very difficult to fit together. Additionally, the back neckline slit is too long and gapes open. To address these problems, I removed the neckband, sewed up the back slit, then bound the neckline with bias binding that I stitched on and turned to the wrong side.

The photo above was taken before this alteration. Since then, I have worn and washed the dress several times. The fabric is puckering and the dress looks disheveled. The altered neckline is still uncomfortable. I doubt that I will use the pattern again.

McCalls 8092 is a pattern I purchased because I was hoping to use an Indian block print on cotton. Before I dared to invest in this lovely piece, I wanted to have a pattern that I felt suited it. A quick trip to the pattern counter was all I could manage, simple patterns were all I was attempting. This resulted in my choosing an off-the-shoulder dress that I hoped I could modify to a standard gathered neckline. Thus began the toile.

JoAnn Fabrics sells several lines of fabric by the name "linen". Some of these are 100% linen, some are linen blends with varying (15% to 85%) amounts of linen, and some have the appearance of linen. One of these is actually 70% polyester and 30% rayon, and is called "linen look". The cut of fabric I purchased last Spring was a beautiful golden brown, almost an ochre. It was listed on my receipt as Anhu(?) Tobacco Potting Soil linen, 52" wide, 2 1/2 yards at $15.39/yd. for a total of $38.48 (012993046). Although that price is a little more than I have been paying for fabric for a first try of a pattern, I thought I was buying 100% linen in one of my favorite colors, a golden brown that is between brown and ochre. Whether it is linen or not is a guess. After washing, it remained quite stiff but thin and a bit sheer. Some of it went for the back side of the two pockets in a skirt. The rest served as the muslin for this pattern.

This dress plus the belt takes over 5 yards of 60" fabric. With less than 2 1/2 yards in this narrower piece, there was not even enough for the dress in the size L. After the substitution of a short raglan sleeve from McCalls 7862, there was enough for pockets and the ruffle at the hem. That meant shortening the dress to the view A length (plus 1" because there was enough fabric and, for me, longer is better). Beside the sleeve substitution, the neckline is 1" higher to allow for the neckline to fall normally around the neck rather than the off the shoulder look of the pattern design. The hemline ruffle is cute, and the dress is a good length, but there is entirely too much fabric in the top of the dress and the sleeves.

After a run through the washer and hanging to dry, it is definitely a wearable toile. I doubt that it is wearable outside the house--even a belt does not improve it much. However, it tops out the cool and comfortable scale and is either a very nice nightgown or an at-home dress. It gets worn now and then, notably on trips when I want something comfortable to wear in the hotel room.

The second version of this pattern was inspired by a ready-to-wear dress by designer Anna Mason. It took some inspiration to move me to make this again. This one uses some quite nice batik print in a cotton that is lightweight, more like a poplin than a quilting cotton. It is an ombre print, meaning the colors (tones in this case, since it is all gray) get progressively darker from one selvedge to the other. There was 3 1/2 yards for $12.99/yd., 30% off, so about $30. Because of the color progress across the grain, I cut the fabric cross-grain, using view A again, with an inch added at the top and the bottom of the body pieces. There was enough fabric for the pattern sleeves, cut to the middle length as well as added pockets from McCalls 7862, as in the first version, and a longer ruffle. The front was cut into two pieces at the fold line to allow a seam that created a v-neck, as in the dress that inspired my second attempt:

To allow for the edging around the neckline, the shoulders should have been raised by more than the 3" I allowed.  As far as my version of this dress, the sleeves came out nice, the sizing looks good. I even made a simple belt rather than the belt that is part of this pattern. After that, there was not enough fabric left to cut the bottom ruffle in the darker part of the print. So I ordered more fabric. It was on sale at Hobby Lobby for $9/yard. Cutting a 3 yard strip 18" deep along the edge produced the piece for the bottom tier.

This dress falls in an awkward in-between, in between light fabric that would be cool enough to wear in warm weather and heavy fabric that would make the length right for colder weather; in between casual at-home wear and less casual going out wear. I haven't worn it much. As a result, I have not attempted to make this pattern in the precious block-printed voile but have selected another pattern for that piece.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Erin's Day Dreams Sweater

I had planned to knit an Erin Cardigan from Vintage Modern Knits, but I just could not work up enough interest in the design. That was especially troubling since I had bought the specific yarn required by the pattern, a blend of wool, cotton, linen, flax and soy silk from one of my favorite yarn companies, The Fibre Company, in one of favorite shades of my favorite color, green. I have knit a sweater from the book before and thus was familiar with the lovely cable patterns. Maybe too familar and thus disinterested? Then I remembered that I have long wanted to knit a Day Dreams sweater from an old issue of Cast On. It is knit in green dk weight cotton. Erin is knit in a sport weight. Combining the two patterns, with the challenges entailed, increased my interest enough to result in a cast on on New Year's Day.

Although it would have fit better in the small size, the medium was a safer choice, with the loose slouchy look that is more on trend. However, the design of the small size, featuring ribbing around the armholes, was much nicer than the additional cables the larger sizes required. To achieve a similar look in the medium size, I changed the cable pattern, keeping the double ribs and adding two more ribs by decreasing the cable away. Four ribs total was probably too many, or maybe the loose fabric around the arms is due to the yarn. The general rule is that an oversize sweater needs tighter sleeves. Since I did not modify the armholes and the sleeves to allow for that, this sweater has both oversize sleeves and oversize body. The sleeves could be shorter, the body longer. Since there's a skein of yarn left over, I can change that. But I am happy with it, glad it is a pullover, glad the cotton content makes it a comfortable fall wear. The color is nice, the cables of the Erin design and the Day Dream design work well together.
I am wearing it with one of the fold-over waist skirts I made last winter. I blogged this skirt design earlier, minus the following details. The skirt used 1 yard of Robert Kaufman cotton fleece in cedar (deep green). That fabric came from The Confident Stitch in Montana, for $12. Although it is listed as french terry fleece, it is more fleece than terry. Combined with 3/4 yard of olive green ribbed knit from Hobby Lobby. It did not take the full 3/4 yard--some of the ribbed knit was used for pocket fronts for another skirt. The ribbed knit is like all the other from HL, in poly, total $4. The drawstring is some cute cotton twill tape with bees on it from Hobby Lobby. It is a great skirt for the cooling Fall weather.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

McCalls 7650 and New Look 6458

I consider this my special occasion contingency outfit. A little dressy, but comfy enough for casual wear. After looking everywhere for a mauve python print knit fabric like the one I saw a Craftsy instructor display, I settled and ordered a similar fabric from JoAnn. Hers was a scuba knit, this one is a jersey that is 90% viscose, 10% spandex and 57" wide. I got 2 yards from for $13.58. Using the long skirt view from New Look 6458, I replaced the pattern's simple elasticized waistband with my successful fold-over waistband mod, using a ribbed gray rayon/poly/lycra knit from Fabric Mart. Although the slanted pockets I designed with that waistband worked well on the slim skirts, simple side-seam pockets were enough in this A-line skirt. Note to self: the pockets sit a little low; raise them if you repeat this make.

For the top, there was 4 yards of Matte Black 100% cotton Tissue Jersey Knit 44" wide, also from Fabric Mart for a total of $12. Since this top, cut from McCall's 7650, used less than half of that, fabric cost is only $6. That's good, because this fabric was badly biased and would not pull straight. I am not sure I can cut from it again. It is heavier than what I would consider tissue weight fabric, with a rough texture prior to washing. However, after a couple of wears and washes, it feels smooth. If this style stays in fashion, repeating this make would be a good thing. In fact, another shirt from the rest of this fabric would be a good thing. Perhaps washing the remaining fabric would shrink and straighten it.
The dress pattern was modified to make the top, adding the sleeve ruffle I used when I first made the dress and shortening the bodice by a couple of inches before adding a hem ruffle. The neckline is a bit too wide and does not stay in place well. A neckband would be a nice addition to this pattern.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Drafting Simple Sewing Patterns

How to: Watch a couple of online classes on pattern drafting, select cute, inexpensive fabrics and keep it simple. If the pattern is complicated, you will better balance reward and effort by finding a commercial pattern that has the elements you want.

The first pattern I drafted was based on the Craftsy class on making a custom A-line skirt. A pocket is on the right side. The zipper is on the left. Two darts each for front and back were copied from the slim skirt pattern, Simplicity 8192. A second pair of darts in the back is an option. If I make both the front and back larger (see comment in next paragraph about front), I can use both darts. Bias binding was used to finish the waist on the inside. The back and front are sewn together with 5/8" seam allowances. Since the skirt was a little too small, I reduced the right side seam allowance to 3/8". Still, there was not quite enough room.

Once I sewed bias binding on an inch into the waist to make it a little bigger, the fit was good. (Since the side seams taper outward, lowering the waist made it larger. The next one will need extra fabric at the front, using this one to alter the pattern. The bias binding was wide enough to put 1/4" elastic through it. That made a better fit for the waist and a more comfortable skirt. The hem was 2 1/2" deep, so the next one could be shorter if there is not enough fabric.

It is very cute, and the fit is good after the extra adjustments. After washing and wearing, it has stretched out and is comfortable, but baggy in the back. A more form-fitting one in the back might be more flattering, but it might not work well for sitting. This is, after all, an a-line skirt, not meant to fit below the hip curve.

The fabric is quilting cotton from JoAnn, 42" wide, 2 yards, $10, purchased for the circle skirt pattern but not enough. (The pattern envelope for the circle skirt lists 2 yards of 45" fabric as required for View A, the shortest option. However, what with the width being 3" narrower and the fact that the shortest option is very short, getting that pattern out of this length of fabric did not seem possible.) Although the print is very cute, the quality of this fabric is not great. The finish is soft without the sheen of the quilting cotton I bought at Taos Quilting. There's only so much one can judge from online photos. Another version would require either 2 yards of a narrow cotton or less of wider fabric.


The second self-drafted pattern was simpler to design but more difficult to sew. Cut, sew, gather eternally. That is my memory of the maxi skirt I threw together from thrifted fabric. The cutting was quick and easy, just measure and cut without a pattern. The sewing was simple, the tiers are stitched together at the sides to make loops of fabric and the top tier gets a folded-over band for elastic. The gathering, which required sewing the long bottom loops three times each, twice for gathering and once for seaming, exhausted my patience.

A second version would need a little change to the pieces if I want to add pockets. I found good consistent instructions across several websites -- it is reassuring when you see the same thing more than once. The first tier should be 1.5 times the waist measurement, the second 2 times the waist and the third 2.7 times the waist. But the length of each tier was less consistent. I went with what I considered most flattering, the first tier ending at my low hip, the second just above my knee and the third at my ankle. It looks ok, but the first tier is too short for side seam pockets.


This is a "boho" look skirt. As such, it suits me better than most of my makes, reviving those hippie days. The fabric is embroidered, tuck stitched and tie dyed a bright turquoise and indigo. I paid $10 for the entire piece and there is a little left. I made both these skirts last summer and have worn them frequently.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Harvest Top and Alberta Skirt

Now that hot weather is here, the knit fabrics are packed away and wovens are back out. The change is a welcome relief. As comfortable and easy to fit as knits are, they are more difficult to handle, even with all the modern tools to help manage the stretch. Woven fabrics are much easier to cut. The sewing goes faster, without the need for a walking foot or zig-zag stitches.

The transition sparked the addition of new fabrics and patterns, providing a reason to write about these new makes. However, with easy successes, there is no longer a need for detailed notes on each project. I think, I hope, I can now replicate these garments by just following the simple steps as I remember them.

The first woven item was the promised third version of the Alberta Street Skirt, in a stretch cotton twill, 1 3/4 yards of black stretch denim that looks dark blue (52" wide, 98% cotton, 2% spandex, made in China, HL $17.83). The size 12 was a good fit, just needing an additional 1/4" at the top of the yoke-style waistband. That meant a 3/8" seam at each side instead of 5/8". There were no modifications to the pattern since I have found the reversed-angle pockets more comfortable as I have gotten used to them. This version was so easy and is a comfortable, flattering and basic addition to my closet. Folliowing it with a jeans-like version in a stretch denim with contrast top stitching is a possiblity.

PDF patterns have challenged my comfort level as well, but finding a printer who can handle the large size prints has helped. Still, it doesn't take too long to tape together the letter-size prints, which are the cheapest option. The Harvest (or Boxy) Top by Project Runway for Peppermint Magazine worked out perfectly for a mere yard of fabric I received by mistake in an on line order. Even though it requires nearly two yards, a size 40, shortened by a couple of inches and with the middle sections cut crosswise, fit on the fabric because I used a cotton/poly blend for the facings. The fashion fabric is a nice cotton/poly voile stripe in black and earth tones that I purchased from Fabric Mart.
There were buttons in the button box, purchased for a sweater but never used because I found ones I like better for the sweater.
I worried that the buttons in the back might be uncomfortable when I am sitting, but so far they have not bothered me. I found the pattern easy to construct, but I did change the attachment of the bottom band by enclosing the seam within it. Otherwise it was all according to the instructions.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

McCalls 8248 and 8085, Sewing Failure, Sewing Success

For 8248, a pleated skirt with a tapered waistband. This is View B, the knee length version. The print in the fabric runs horizontally, forcing me to cut it crosswise to get more flattering vertical stripes, thereby limiting the length of the skirt. There are no options to this skirt pattern other than length and an optional ribbon embellishment. The fabric for this make was purchased on-line from Hobby Lobby--an odd acquisition for me since there is a Hobby Lobby a few miles away. However, I was obsessed with finding a python-print scuba knit fabric similar to the one I saw used for a skirt in a Craftsy class but could not find it in any store. The description of this fabric on the website was crepe scuba knit. Instead it is more of a satin, and a big disappointment in texture and appearance. However, for just $9 total there was 3 1/6 yards of a white and black python-print (snakeskin) 100% poly, 58" wide, crepe. Rather than toss it, it made a good muslin for this pattern that specifies crepe in the fabric choices.

Initially, the pleats were difficult, made more so by the fact that the print obscures most markings. Once the first piece was pleated, it all made more sense. The pleats are to be basted down the full length of the skirt, but just sewn down for the top 4 1/2". They are loose pleats, sewn together, but not topstitched down. Of course, the waistband holds them in the correct direction, folded to the center of the skirt front and back. After the skirt is assembled, before hemming, the basting is removed, allowing the pleats to unfold below the top sewn-in portion.

This pattern is not for me. The problems are three-fold: fabric, construction and style. The fabric recommendation is woven, no-stretch. The construction is difficult. The style looks like a cheerleader skirt. While it does have the tapered waistband I am hoping will fit me better than a standard waistband, there is no stretch to allow for all-day comfort.
The muslin is completed as far as the zipper, and that needs to be redone because it is placed a little too high. The pleating is misplaced in the front, taking up too much material and resulting in a smaller waistband than I find comfortable. If there is a second attempt at this, it should be in a different fabric, with the pleats replaced with gathers. The fabric is as bad as a shiny polyester can be. As far as any positive outcome, there is just the discovery that the smaller sizes do not require the specified 9" zipper--7" is long enough.

It took 10 days away from this sewing failure for me to try again. This time, I selected a 58" wide cotton/poly/lycra jersey fabric and a dress pattern, McCalls 8085. I did not order the fabric for this pattern. Rather, I had in mind the simple shift dress from New Look 6458 that I have made before. However, Fabric Mart sent me additional yardage. Since there was 2 1/2 yards of this cut (for $10.50), there was enough for a different pattern. However, the print on this fabric is directional. Once I decided to cut it with the print centered and pointing upward, the cutting became more complex. Of course, my cutting was not error-free. The sleeve was cut in the wrong direction and over a gap in the fabric. It was possible to cut another sleeve, but only one, meaning the sleeves have the print running in opposite directions. In the end, I used every inch of the fabric, which created a problem. I immediately noticed that the fabric piece had two small holes at one end. That is probably why they cut extra. I saw the holes, marked them to cut around them, then forgot them and cut the front bodice over the holes. Now, though tiny, they are near the center in the most visible piece.

Regarding the pattern, I cut a size L and shortened the bodice by 1 3/4". I also lowered the neck by at least an inch. The neck finish is simple, just turning it under and topstitching the hem. Although I much prefer the look of a neckband, in this jersey, the simple hem worked well, especially since I broke out my twin stitch needle, using it successfully for the first time. The walking foot helps a little in this fabric, but not a lot. In the end, I used the standard foot and a narrow zig zag stitch for most seams--quick and easy!

Notably, the shoulders fit perfectly, probably because I followed the instructions and stabilized them. Since I did not have bias binding, I used the selvedge from the crepe fabric to stabilize the shoulder seams. That worked very well. The waist is large and is intended to be elasticized. Doubting that pulling in the 40" waist with elastic would look good, I trimmed the seam. Now I wish I had tried the elastic because it would stabilize the waist seam. The pockets are easy, simple and functional. The skirt length v. ruffle is iffy. A shorter skirt and a longer ruffle would look better proportioned, with the bonus of the seam between skirt and ruffle not hitting my knee when I walk. I cut the shorter option for the sleeve and trimmed it to end above the elbow simply because 3/4 length sleeves usually do not fit my long arms. Once hemmed, though, the straight, elbow length sleeves looked strange on this design. Then I saw a dress in the Pact catalog and decided the sleeves needed a ruffle too.
Using a sleeve ruffle from another pattern as a guide, I cut a 6" deep, 26" long ruffle for the 12" sleeve. That was about as big as I could manage from the remaining fabric. It could have been less deep, as the other pattern, McCalls 7650, had a somewhat shorter sleeve ruffle (5") that was about 24" long.
My sleeve ruffle idea really improved the dress. Also, the holes have been patched and fray-checked.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Alberta Street Pencil Skirts

First version of this pattern by Sew House 7 uses a stretch cotton/lycra twill from Fabric Mart. This was a designer fabric in a deep brown with a wide pattern repeat of large circles. It was heavier and stiffer than I expected, leaving me uncertain as to how to use it. Thankfully, it made a good toile for this pattern, which is intended for a heavy, denim-like fabric. The only problem was matching the print. This pattern that only needs 1 1/2 yards for the size 14--a starting point. Negative ease is recommended, and there is about 30% stretch. While my initial goal was to match the patch pockets with the front, and the motifs across the back seam, I was relieved to get some of the yoke to match the skirt. There was extra in this cut, since they included the end of the bold. There was a little more than 3 yards when I ordered 2 for a total cost of $9. This skirt used all of it, with just scraps left after careful cutting to match the print.
The zipper installation was a simple process made simpler by using scotch tape instead of pins to baste the zipper in place, but I do need a zipper foot for my Janome to get a narrower seam around the zipper. That machine is new and does not yet have all the accessories. As a result, the zipper tape is just barely caught in the stitching. The wider placket looks good in this sturdy fabric but may need reinforcement later. Next were the side seams, in which all the fitting was accomplished. In sum, it is a 14 in the waist and upper hip and a 12 through the rest of the skirt, a silhouette that can be followed on the next cut for a better, quicker way to a good fit in this pattern. The facings and hem were simple, but made better by hand stitching all the facing and some of the hem. In another fabric, top stitching would work and would make a faster finish.

I really like this skirt. It will fit well in my wardrobe and is a perfect match for the cardigan sweater I knit last year. The fabric has a rough feel but is so stretchy it is comfortable for a tight skirt. The one drawback is that the print is easily marked up. The white fabric shows through when seams are unpicked. Luckily, I didn't have to do much unpicking. It will be interesting to see how it wears--I hope it develops a nice vintage patina. The only problem so far is the pocket shape. The opening slants down toward the center front and provides an awkward angle for my hands. The pockets are usable, but not something I would slip my hands into for a comfortable position.

Although I would like to try reversing the pockets, slanting the opening downward to the side seam, that modification will have to wait. My second version of this skirt was complicated by the fabric, a lightweight scuba knit from Hobby Lobby. It is a fairly nice fabric, with a dramatic combination of stretch, weight and drape. However, even though there was no indication that such a fabric was a good choice, it is obvious now even to stubborn me that this pattern was not intended for scuba knit. In fact, scuba knit may not be intended for my sewing projects. It was an experiment that convinced me that I would not be happy with any method to attach the patch pockets in that fabric. The topstitching was buried in the thickness of the fabric. Rather than give up the pockets, I converted them to side seam pockets. The top stitching was completely omitted for a smoother look. One big revelation was that a combination of a stretch fabric with the tapered waistband omits the need for a zipper! However, this one has a zipper. There was no trouble installing it with the appropriate (3/8" is specified in the instructions) placket width on each side because I was using my walking foot to avoid stretching the knit fabric. The sizing is smaller, mostly a size 12, tempting me to try a size 12 allover in a firmer stretch fabric to achieve the recommended negative ease for this skirt. Reversing the pocket shape would be a nice mod as well. There's no photo of the second skirt. It's rather blah and doesn't get much wear. Instead, I happily post another photo of the first one, a simple flat lay so ALL the dots are visible.
I can wear the cardigan with this shirt and the skirt, but would like another shirt to wear with it. Green? Teal? Oh, maybe just brown.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

McCalls 8055, Straight Skirt plus Fold-over Waist and Pockets

The starting point for this sewing project was a pair of pants with a folded waistband and square top-stitched pockets. The pants are by Pact, a clothing company that produces organic cotton garments of all types.
The pants look comfortable, so I thought I would try the same construction in a skirt. Using McCalls 8055, a pattern with a slim skirt and a flared skirt in several lengths, I chose View D because it most resembles a straight skirt that I purchased from The Loft. The Loft skirt is constructed of a stretch knit (french terry) and features a yoke-style waistband that sits below the waist. It is comfortable and flattering.

The pockets are from Butterick 6525, altered to fit the waist of the McCalls pattern. The fabric is from Hobby Lobby, a polyester/cotton sweatshirt knit and a polyester ribbed knit in similar colors, caramel for the sweatshirt fabric and gingerbread for the ribbed fabric. There was 1 1/3 yards of the sweatshirt fleece, 88% poly, 12% cotton, 62" wide, somewhat light in weight. The caramel color is more orange than toffee brown. It was $9 total, but the skirt front and back took only 3/4 yard, reducing the cost to less than $5 for the skirt plus $3 for the ribbed fabric for the waistband and pockets, total $8. The sweatshirt knit has only a little crosswise stretch, but the ribbed knit has at least 50% stretch. With the ribbed fabric for the pocket inset that will replace the skirt front at each hip, there is enough stretch to allow the skirt to be pulled on and off without the aid of a zipper.

Construction was simple and made easier by two factors: first, the sweatshirt fleece is a stable knit that can be sewn with a straight stitch; second, my new walking foot managed the ribbed knit fabric without stretching or puckering. Although the skirt was started with a size 16 to be on the safe side, reducing it by 1/2" on both sides made it fit. A second skirt in size 14 fit well enough. Basting most of the seams prior to sewing made the process of sewing, fitting, and re-sewing easier. Once the skirt was constructed, however, the waistband construction was simple. It is just a tube, folded over and sewed to the skirt with a zig-zag stitch for stretch. That seam is covered by the waistband being folded up toward the waist, so the uneven line of the zig-zagged seam is not visible. Next, a casing was sewn in the middle of the waistband for a drawstring. The waistband folds over the drawstring. Since I do not wear tucked-in shirts or crop tops, most of the waistband will never be visible.
The rest of the skirt that is visible is near perfect--it fits well; it is quite comfortable; it doesn't ride up; and the pockets work. Below is a photo of the non-visible portion. It looks quite neat. The only two things that were improved in the second version were the holes for the drawstring. Two zig zag stitched rectangles, each a half inch to either side of the center of the front layer were sewn in before the waistband was attached to avoid hand-sewing after the attachment; and the slit on the side--it started a few inches higher up.
The skirt is a good match for the sweater I knitted last year from the Graphic Elements pattern by Tamy Gore. It was mentioned in my end-of-year sweater post. The second version was made from some peachy-pink sweatshirt fleece and ribbed knit fabric. It looks ok with the mauve sweater also featured in that post, although it's a lot of pink.

I have since made a third version of this skirt, using Robert Kaufman cotton/lycra sweatshirt fleece in a deep green, Cedar.  This one is my favorite--cotton beats polyester in this case.  Also, it doesn't shed as much as the first two do.  The excessive shedding of the fleece fluff from those skirts forces me to wash them separately.

Another addendum here is a post about the other skirt in this pattern, the flared version, now merged with the post about the slim skirt version. This one was sewn in May, 2021 after I had finished a bleached denim dress from the New Look 6458 pattern. Since the fabric was exceptionally heavy and comfortable (a rayon blend) for a jersey knit fabric, I bought a skirt pattern for it on Hobby Lobby's $2 pattern sale, McCalls 8055. There was enough fabric left over for the slim skirt but I had my heart set on the flared one.  There was just enough for the shortest version of the flared skirt, barely, a 19" length, in a size 18, reversing the nap for the back.  There is a little shading in this knit, but the variation in the print hides it.

Apparently, I cut the wrong length for the front, the 23" length, and then cut the correct length in the back.  The next morning, although the difference in lengths was obvious, I decided to re-cut the pieces to allow a longer length.   With a yoke across the top of the back, trimming the size 18 down to a 10, and piecing the waistband, it became a wearable skirt in spite of the error. The pattern itself is simple and the visible hem on my S3 looks great.  Otherwise, I used a knit stitch for the seams and a knit zig zag for the edgings.  I used the edge stitch that comes after the standard over edge stitch for top stitching the yoke seam in the back.  Not perfect for that purpose, but ok.  This is where a serger or coverstitch machine would come in handy, but if I cut patterns correctly, I won't need one for this pattern.  I just need a nice medium weight knit, 1 1/2 yards of 60" would be more than enough.
This is the front


This is the back, with yoke
There are just small scraps left of this fabric, so I am allotting the rest of the purchase price to the skirt, $6. I have actually worn this skirt quite often during the summer.

Friday, January 28, 2022

McCalls 8064, View B

View B of McCalls 8064 is the midi-length v-neck dress with long sleeves. This version was inspired by a dress I bought at Gap that is showing signs of wear from heavy use. Making the dress used 2 3/4 yards of 60" wide rayon/polyester/lycra blend gray brushed sweater knit from Fabric Mart for a cost of $12.25. The fabric is more a brushed jersey than a sweater knit as the actual fabric is just a single knit jersey with no texture. At more than 5 ounces/square yard, or 175 gsm, it is quite warm, while soft and very drapey.

The smallest size in the pattern I have is a large. Although I was sure that would be big enough, I cut the L and cut the waist at XL, adding additional (probably a little too much) figure-forgiving volume. Once I set to sewing, I realized I had repeated the mistake I made last spring when I attempted to cut out a skirt from a pattern that had several different lengths on each piece. I actually cut different lengths for the front and back. In this case, the front pattern piece had two lengths marked and the back had three lengths marked. Since I cut out the back first, I correctly cut the second to the longest length. Cutting the second length on the front meant I cut the shortest length--there were only two lines. If I had double checked myself, I would have had enough fabric to cut the correct length for the front, but I was distracted by concern that there was not enough fabric for the neckband. I was really determined, however, that this dress be longer than the Gap dress. (I have always thought that one too short for winter wear.) Even though my mistake was in the front, I pieced the front so that it is long enough. The brushed knit and heathered fabric almost hide the seam. Still, I am so upset by this mistake, mad at the pattern company for drafting two inconsistent pattern pieces and mad at myself for not catching my mistake. The cut lines are correctly marked. I just did not register the fact that one was B and one was A.

My other (desirable) modifications, reducing the depth of the v-neckline and adding side seam pockets, worked well. Having learned from my last experience sewing knits, I began the side seam by basting it first, checking the fit and then sewing it with the knit stitch. After sewing I trimmed the side seam. I avoided the extra step of trimming on the pockets by sewing both basting and final knit stitching of the pocket seam closer to the edge so that no trimming was needed. I removed the basting from side seam but not from pocket seam, reasoning that the pocket does not need to stretch and might be reinforced by the basting.

Setting in the first sleeve and a quick try on showed the shoulders to be too wide, and possibly, the sleeve cap too short. Also, after gathering the sleeve and basting it in place, the fit was way too tight. The instructions do not call for easing the sleeve into the armhole, even though the sleeve is larger than the armsyce. Since the sleeve was just basted, it was easy to rip out. After recutting the shoulder and setting in the sleeve by stretching the armhole to fit, the shoulders are a good fit--no sleeve cap adjustment was needed.
Now that it has worn and washed it is obvious that this dress is a small success. The brushed fabric did not pill after washing and the seam at the bottom front is less noticeable after washing since the brushing is more fluffy now. The cut is not flattering, however. The next one needs to be smaller overall with more waist definition--in another sweater knit if possible.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Butterick 6525, a dress featuring dolman sleeve with pockets

The fabric recommendations for this pattern include French Terry, Sweatshirt Fleece, Interlock, Ponte, and Jersey. The french terry in my fabric stash was purchased from Fabric Mart, 2 yards of an apple cider/off white tie dye style print on a polyester/rayon/lycra french terry, 61" wide. It is lightweight for a french terry and has more stretch than needed for this pattern--the pattern recommends a "moderate" stretch of 35%. 

It was cut as it came, no washing, since it will be washed on cold and hung to dry. Although the length was a little over two yards, there was not much left over. For the large size, which is the smallest option in pattern I purchased, the longer sleeve version of the dress requires 2 1/8 yards. A large white splotch in the fabric complicated the cutting, but I managed to cut around it, mostly. All pieces were cut to a size L, except for the sleeves, which were cut longer--to the XL length, but shortened by 3" before hemming.  A neckband from another pattern (New Look 6458) was cut out, since other sewists have objected to the turned hem at the neck. 

The sewing was tricky.  As noted (thankfully) by others who have used this pattern, some of the notches do not match. The sewing is further complicated by a lot of top stitching that, although it could be omitted, does highlight the diagonal seams in the front and back. Since the sewing is complex, basting the seams first is advisable. The pattern is marked to denote the beginning and ending of the pocket opening, but there are other marks along the same seam line that confuse that denotation. Since I was using the lightning stitch to allow for some stretching along the seams, ripping out when I used the wrong mark was quite tedious.  The lightning stitch, with the width shortened and the stitches lengthened, works for top stitching, while the "knit" stitch, with the width shortened slightly, works well for seaming if the seam does not need to the pressed open. However, the knit stitch, which looks like _/_/_/,  really would be difficult, if not impossible, to rip out. After sewing the side seams with a 5/8" seam, there is a little extra ease on each side, more than I need for a drapey knit. The only problem with the side seams is making sure the top stitch seams around the inserts and pockets line up in the side seams. Oh, for a serger--and something that marks french terry easily. Regular chalk markers just do not work on the rough wrong side. 

--later--Now that I have purchased a walking foot, sewing this fabric is much easier. A felt tip fabric marker works well for the marking.  The top stitching went well, using the lightning stitch on a .5 width and a 5 length. The only problem was that the double row of top stitching around one of the pockets did not intersect with the top stitching in the side insert. That was a miscalculation that I need to avoid when I make this pattern again. It could be avoided by starting the top stitching at the insert rather than the bottom of the pocket. This fabric is too soft and drapey for this pattern, not surprising due to the rayon content. It was somewhat sheer, but a cool wash and slightly warm dry in the machines tightened it up a bit. Now it is just soft, not great for this pattern, probably good for a top. Although it is stretchy enough for leggings, it will not stay in place and slips into wrinkles at the slightest touch--not a good look for leggings.  It is disappointing that the fabric and the pattern are not a good match.  The first knit tie-dye fabric I purchased was a rayon and poly blend that is the heaviest knit I have found, outside of the jacquard. Assuming that all rayon blend knits would be heavier knits was a mistake. This one is less than 200 gsm. Most true french terrys, especially the ones with cotton in them, are closer to 400 gsm. It all goes to prove that not all french terrys are the same. Lesson learned. 

The neckline in this pattern is simply turned under, without a band. Using the instructions New Look 6458, I added a neck band. It looks good, especially since the top stitching echoes the original design. It definitely adds structure.  Next time, I would cut the front neck a bit deeper, or the back neck a bit higher when I make this again.  The front neckline sits too high on my neck. The fit of the L size is good. The shape is flattering, tapering to a narrow skirt. This would be nice in a heavier fabric, perhaps with a closer fit.

In a more stable fabric, the shape and seaming would be highlighted.  In the meantime, this one can be shortened to a top and worn with the corduroy pinafore I made last summer--once I get the nerve to cut it off.
I really like those pockets, they are worth the extra trouble.  If you think using the wrong french terry was a big mistake, wait till you read about my next make.  I sometimes wonder if I will ever sew a knit I can wear out of the house. However, as limited as my outings are now, that is a question that can wait to be answered.