Tag Archives: Sewing patterns

Shirtless in Seattle

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I’m bottom heavy.

I’m not referring to my behind. That is practically non-existent as I’ve inherited flat-ass-itis from my father.

I’m referring to my wardrobe. I have more than enough bottoms, especially with my recent skirt making spree. But I’m pretty sparse on tops, specifically warm weather tops.

As a knitter I have more than enough sweaters for fall/winter, but my summer wardrobe mainly consists of tanks and t-shirts. I’m ready to graduate to a more stylish look.

My real motivation though is I booked a trip to Seattle this fall to visit my son and want cute clothes to wear. Temperatures range anywhere from 50-70 degrees there so I’m thinking layers and blouses.

This forced me to address a part of my stash I’ve been avoiding – those silky, drapey, pain-in-the-ass-to-sew fabrics.

After perusing my Pinterest board I decided to step my toe in the water with a pattern I already own.

I think this is a good option because it’s a basic pattern that I can use as a jumping point for other designs. It also has several sleeve and bodice options. I decided to make view B but substitute the short sleeve.

I traced off the pattern size I wanted. I haven’t always done this but I want to make it a regular practice to preserve the pattern pieces in case I need a different size or for the next person who uses this pattern.

There’s a lot to break down with this project so let’s dive right in.

There are several elements that make up a satisfying sewing experience – having the right tools, the right materials and a good pattern. As for tools, make sure you have the proper pins (I used silk pins, which are thinner than the quilting pins I usually use), the correct needle size (mine was a 70 universal) and an iron with adjustable settings (I almost melted my fabric so lesson learned).

As for the fabric, I chose a polyester acetate (I think) from my stash. The only good thing about this fabric is the color, which is a deep, rich eggplant (the picture does not do it justice). It was gifted to me and after working with it, I think it’s a lining fabric because it’s a bit stiff. In its defense, it wasn’t hard to cut out or sew with. On the other hand, weird stains/water marks magically appeared as I was working on it. I have no idea how they got there but I’ll give it a wash and see if they come out because I really do love the color.

The pattern actually fits me perfectly, which was a bit of a surprise. It’s a good basic with or without the bow. The construction/instruction for the neckline seemed clumsy to me. The bow is attached and then a bias strip is used to cover the raw edges but I don’t think they got the miter right for the V-neck. It could have been my error but I rechecked my fabric piece against the pattern and it matched. I followed their directions to the letter yet it turned out a bit sloppy. Luckily I will be the only one who knows since it’s on the inside of the blouse.

Having done a run through on the pattern and actually liking it, I picked a better fabric from my stash (unfortunately I think it’s still a polyester but it has a much better drape) that would go perfectly with my brown pants.

And here’s where it gets interesting…

This pattern is cut on the bias. Which is great when using a woven because it has a bit more give and nice drape. However, I am not used to working with slippery fabrics. I cut out my pieces, marked them and as I was unpinning I casually picked the piece up for the bow from one end and it GREW! I quickly realized you have to handle these pieces carefully because being on the bias, they’ll stretch. I didn’t have this problem with my the other fabric as it still had some stiffness to it.

Another consideration when working with slippery fabrics on the bias – do not stretch or pull them when you are sewing. And because long rectangular pieces, like bindings and in this pattern, the bow, will grow, you’ll need to manage it by easing those pieces in. Let the feed dogs do what they were designed to do and put those pieces on the bottom. Another helpful hint for dealing with its tendency to stretch is to use a lot of pins to keep the fabric from shifting around.

This is a pretty straightforward pattern except for the neckline and I toyed with the idea of changing it up. I was going to try a cotton bias binding but decided to give their way one more try. The directions have you sew the pointed ends together to get the mitered edge for the V-neck. The problem is, they don’t have you sew it far enough. When I made that slight correction, I found the bias strip worked just fine. The neckline was still a bit fiddly but I took it slow and it was a big improvement over my first attempt.

I’m quite pleased with this blouse. I had pretty low expectations going into this project, expecting it to be more of a learning lesson as opposed to getting anything wearable out of it. But as it turns out, if the stains come out of my first one, I will have two nice additions to my wardrobe. The experience gave me the confidence to tackle the more delicate fabrics in my stash because they really aren’t as hard to work with as I had built up in my mind.

And isn’t that the case with most things in life?

10 Favorite Sewing Videos

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I don’t own a TV but I do like to watch videos while I am doing handwork. The problem is I’ve exhausted Netflix and seen every Midsomer Murders about a bajillion times. I needed something else. I went to YouTube hoping to find some Project Runway but the only ones available were pirated ones with weird voices, bad recordings and annoying graphics. So I started down the rabbit hole and found a variety of really good content creators. I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface given the amount of channels there are on YouTube but here are a couple of my favorites in no particular order.

Professor Pincushion

I found this channel recently when I googled “how to make a fabric belt” for a 1940’s dress pattern I’m making. This looks like a good resource for new sewers or when you have a particular problem or encounter something you don’t know how to do such as how to sew a facing. There is just a ridiculous amount of content and I found the instructions clear and easy to follow.

The Closet Historian

Bianca is one of my favorites and I support her on Patreon. She is into vintage and while I don’t think I’ll ever dress up “vintage”, she got me looking at the 1930’s-1950’s styles with fresh eyes. The silhouettes are flattering for so many figures (especially my own) and easily fit into today’s modern aesthetic. Watching her videos got me motivated to sew clothes for myself again because of her “let’s see if this works” attitude. Her main focus is patternmaking but I’ve picked up some sewing tips as well. Her zipper insertion is my favorite. I also appreciate the thought and effort that she puts into her look books. She makes me want to put on some slinky, bias cut 30’s dress, faux fur wrap, diamonds and head out to a jazz club.

Bernadette Banner

I think Bernadette’s channel was the one that sent me down the “vintage sewing” YouTube rabbit hole with this video. (For some reason I am fascinated with seeing how people design their studio/sewing/art/ hobby spaces). She is a fashion historian and interested in fashion pre-1900 and explores the techniques and silhouettes of that era which means she does a crazy amount of hand sewing. And while I don’t see myself abandoning my sewing machine or diving into corsets, her videos are informative and well researched. There’s a reason she has over a million subscribers.

Evelyn Wood

Evelyn is based in Australia (I’m getting good at distinguishing between a British and Australian accent) and owner of the Vintage Sewing School, which is an online “study library and community where you can learn to sew and refashion all your own clothes at home”. In addition to being a great teacher, she also believes in “green” sewing, which means she sources the majority of her fabrics and supplies from thrift stores. She does some “thrift flips” (remaking clothes she has or got at the thrift store into something else) and hers actually look good. Most thrift flips are a hot mess, in my opinion, so it’s good to see her thought process and how to work a garment that doesn’t fit or is dated into something better.

Sewstine

Christine, a doctor “in real life”, is a costumer and quite frankly, her channel is just 18th century costume porn. She has an insane studio space with all the bells and whistles and an embroidery machine that probably cost more than my car (edited to add – after a quick Google search, it is listed at $18,999!) And she uses it lavishly to decorate her gowns. She seems to have some pretty deep pockets to afford all the silk embroidery thread, yards and yards of silk fabrics, laces, etc. and bless her for using her hard earned cash to make beautiful garments, hire professional photographers and make-up artists to create wonderful eye candy and share it with the world.

Stephanie Canada

Stephanie sells vintage patterns through her website Backroom Finds. I recently bought a pattern from her (the video of making the dress should be up next week) and the process was prompt and smooth. She has a wonderful array of patterns through the eras and her knowledge of vintage patterns is incredible. She sprinkles in a fair amount of humor and sarcasm to make her posts entertaining.

Madison McQuary

Madison is a high school fashion design teacher (wish they had such classes when I was in high school) and that comes through on her videos. She has a fresh appeal and her instruction is easy to understand. I enjoy watching her sew and I think her channel would good for new sewers.

What’s Sewing On

This is a relatively new channel for me (when I find a creator I like I binge watch everything…) Steph seems like a relatively new sewer and her fearlessness to dive into projects is nice. She uses thrifted fabrics and has given me some ideas for stuff to be on the lookout for when I can buy fabric again (which is when I use up a fair amount of my stash).

Angela Clayton

For as young as she looks, Angela is apparently an old-timer on YouTube, having started in 2013. She is also into vintage and is incredibly knowledgeable. She has a line of patterns with McCalls and her sewing projects go from 18th century on up. Having been in lockdown for a year now, I did enjoy watching her antique shopping videos, it let me live vicariously since I haven’t gone out much except for food, work and the rare run into JoAnn’s to pick up zippers.

Rachel Maksy

Another young talent, Rachel has a wonderful personality. She is fairly new to sewing and also leans more towards vintage but she has a theatrical streak. (Okay, to be fair, I think most YouTubers have one, myself included. Unfortunately mine’s been buried for decades so I’m have a lot of catching up to do). She’s got mad make-up skills (theatrical make-up) and won an award for it. I know I’m way older than her normal demographics but I find her so endearing to watch.

That’s a list of my favorites, I’d love to hear yours. I’m always looking for creative, entertaining and inspiring content.

Comfy AND Cute Loungewear

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After spending the last year with myself and barely seeing another human being (thanks pandemic!), and using my extra time to use up my stash and make myself some clothes, I find my “comfy” clothes just aren’t cutting it anymore.

My current collection of comfy clothes is a rag-tag bunch of hand-me-downs and freebies I’ve collected over the years. Nothing matches, it isn’t particularly attractive but, dang it, they are comfortable (gottla appreciate a stretchy waistband!) But my recent projects made me aware that clothes can really impact your emotional state. And since I spend just as much time in my comfy clothes as in my “work” or “I’m going to see other people” clothes (remember when we did that – go to an office, restaurants, socialize…?), I think it’s time to upgrade them.

As a side note, I think if I ask the question “why can’t my comfy clothes ALSO be cute?”, I need to also think about making sure my “work” or “being seen in” clothes are also comfortable. Cute and comfy shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

The Pattern

It’s spring here in Austin and we’ve already seen 90 degree temperatures so I decided to focus on summer comfy clothes. My summer comfies are usually a pair of short pajama bottoms and an old yoga shirt. (I rarely use my air conditioner. I know, people think I’m crazy but I’m cold natured and I like it warm). That’s my long way of saying I decided on shorts and a shirt.

I used McCall’s 5358 (c.1976). My intention was to do view B, which is the white outfit on the far right – tap pants and camisole. I retraced the pattern pieces onto other paper to preserve the pattern (it is vintage after all even if the envelope is in rough shape) in case I needed to make any alterations.

I tested the pattern and it fit without any corrections. I wouldn’t wear them out, but for hanging out at home they are fine. The pattern calls for cutting out on the bias but I used knit fabric so I cut it on the grain to take advantage of the stretch. They were quick to sew up. In fact, the whole outfit took me a day.

Instead of using the camisole pattern, I used a pattern I drafted from a tank top and flared it out at the sides. It turned out okay but I had to take 3-3/8″ off the hem because it was too long for the shorts as the hem of the top was only two inches above the hem of the shorts. Next time I make it though, I’ll adjust the neckline (it was too wide) and armhole (bringing it up an inch).

The finished pajamas were functional as they were but they weren’t cute. And wasn’t that the whole point? So I took part of the hem I had to cut off and one of my leaf templates and cut out a whole bunch of leaves. Since the neckline was a bit lower than I wanted, I played around with the leaf appliques to come up with a design I liked. Of course I needed to add a little matching flower to the shorts.

Inspired by Alabama Chanin, I found some embroidery floss in my stash that was a lighter shade of blue. I used a running stitch and outlined each leaf twice. Since the fabric is a knit, I don’t really have to worry about the ends fraying so I left them raw.

I’m quite pleased with the result and will feel stylish lounging around the house in them, even though I’m the only one seeing them. And isn’t that the point, that we feel good in what we wear?