Fashion

Black and White Tulip Tee

I have an easy one for today. I was in the mood to make casual tops, so I pulled out a pattern I have been wanting to try for a while: McCall’s M7247. I bought the pattern because I really liked the views with overlapped curved edges. It seemed like it would have interesting possibilities for color blocking.

I also had some very nice knits in my collection that I purchased with the hopes of using them together. Fabric 1 was a rayon/spandex blend in black. Fabric 2 was a horizontal black and white stripe. I had bought both fabrics from Fabric Mart Fabrics online thinking that they were the same material in different colors. They weren’t. That’s one of the pitfalls of shopping for fabric online. Don’t make assumptions. If you have doubts, ask!

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One of these knits is not like the other. Opacity issue led to Choice No. 1 with black on top.

The stripe is lightweight enough that dark colors show through. The black is tightly woven and has good stretch and recovery. Looking at the pattern, it seemed like it would still be fine to combine them, as long as the black was always on top of the white, not vice versa.

I took the pieces for View C and made my own variation. My top has long sleeves and uses only two colors.

Construction was really easy. Ironing the curved hem was the only part that I wished would end before it was over. But it’s a wide curve and really not difficult.

I considered a few different embellishments. I decided against a little pocket because I couldn’t find a shape that really worked with the big sweeping curves. Instead I made a cover button with the stripe fabric. Putting the button on the shoulder of the top flap just seemed to fit. Also, it gave me a way to see the stripes on top of solid black without the black showing through.

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Pocket? Button? Both? None?

This is the first time I have made a cover button. If I had known it was so easy, I would have done it sooner! I used Dritz 7/8 inch “half-ball” cover button forms which just snap together. No special tools needed.

Back opening in a RTW top (Amazon)

Overall, I really like how it turned out. The one issue is that the bottom flap can easily show bare skin depending on how high the waistband is on what you are wearing underneath. My plan is to wear this with yoga pants in the winter and a high-waisted long knit skirt in the summer. The jeans I am wearing in the pictures looked fine for a while, but as the waist loosened up, my skin started to pop out. Some people have lengthened the top to combat this. I suspect that this issue is the reason that I have only seen this type of style in stores with the opening in the back.

The pattern is staying in the keep pile nonetheless. I think it would be really cute sleeveless or short-sleeved for warm weather. I might try eliminating the hemmed edge and do a bias facing instead.

Coming soon: more sweater knits and Marfy blouse toile.

Fashion

Marfy Blouse 1 – The Pattern

I’ve resolved to complete one major skill-building sewing project each month in 2018. Full disclosure: I’ve been planning on making this one for a while. But it’s daunting, and I haven’t gotten further than the drawing board yet. So it seemed fair to make this Marfy blouse my January project.

Hopefully it will expand my skills in shirt construction generally, fitting complicated patterns and improving my buttonhole execution.

I’ve been lurking around the Marfy online catalog for a while. Every link to Marfy seems to come with a big, bold warning: FOR EXPERTS ONLY. Am I the only one who sees that as a dare?

Marfy does not make things easy. They provide only the most basic information about their designs. For my pattern, there are only two images of the blouse – both kind of weird illustrations. Add to that this description and you have the complete set of instructions.

This blouse has cap sleeves cut kimono style at the back and raglan at the front with gathers, baby collar, pockets with turned up flaps.

Approximate fabric required: 1.00 meters (1.40 meters wide)

Oh, and the pattern costs $16.00.

 

Why am I doing this? Other than the dare factor, I have a blouse that I really want to duplicate. I don’t know where it came from. It’s old. It’s wearing out. But that blouse fits so well, is so comfortable, and is so flattering that I think it might be magic. I have never seen another one like it. But this pattern comes really close. I’m hoping I can capture some of that magic and then make one in every color.

So, the game is on.

I ordered the pattern in October through the Butterick patterns website. It took a while to arrive, but one day in November I got a tiny envelope from Italy.

As advertised, the Marfy pattern was pre-cut and single size. It has no seam allowance and no instructions.

I’ve heard stories about people who can take a pattern with no seam allowance and cut their fabric pieces with the right allowance by eye. I am not one of those people. So the first thing I did was prepare a new pattern with allowances.

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Tracing a new blouse front piece with added seam allowance.

I could have added any seam allowance I liked. Since I knew I would probably need to make fitting adjustments, I went with a relatively wide 5/8.” The task was make much easier with my new pattern drafter ruler. It’s specifically designed to add seam allowances. I like it so much I got one in the 3/8″ size as well.

I traced my new pattern onto Swedish tracing paper using different colors for the cutting lines, seam lines, and markings.

When I was all done, I set up an envelope to keep everything together. I used just a regular 9×12 clasp envelope. I made the label by printing the pattern illustration onto a peel and stick shipping label.

Now that I have all of my ducks in a row, I can’t wait to dig in.

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Clockwise from upper left:

  1. The folded wax paper envelope from Marfy that contained the pre-cut pattern pieces. The Marfy envelope is on top of the 9×12 envelope I put together to store the pattern.
  2. The pattern pieces as they came from Marfy, after ironing. Grainlines, notches, and general construction information is written on each piece.
  3. My neon yellow pattern drafter ruler is on top of two pattern pieces I made from the Marfy pattern. The collar has different pieces, very slightly different in size, for the top and under-collar. This is going to be interesting!

Next time: Making a toile.

 

 

Fashion

Lazy Winter 2: Cowl-neck Pullover

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My first version of V9055

I wanted to do another easy project for the top to my lazy winter outfit. I really enjoyed making the Burgundy Cowl-Neck Tunic (Vogue V9055 View C), and I wear it all the time. What could be easier than making a pattern I have already tried and know to work?

Yet again, I have fabric that I bought without a plan. This time the fabric was from a mystery box of knits from Sincerely Rylee. It was full of all kinds of goodies, but as soon as I took the thin, drapey hacci knit out of the box I knew it was meant to be my second cowl-neck.

It was obvious after test-sewing a swatch that the new fabric would be tricky to sew. The knit had a much lighter, more open weave than the one I used before. I couldn’t seem to get either the serger or the regular sewing machine to to grab on to make a stitch.

At first the two fabrics seem very similar.

 

Looking closely, you can see that the second fabric has thinner yarn and larger stitches.

What ended up working was pinning strips of water-soluble stabilizer under all of the seams before sewing. I lightened the presser-foot pressure a little bit and that did the trick. The knit was so floppy that I took extra precautions around the neckline as well. Instead of just stay-stitching, I stitched stay-tape around the entire opening.

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Note to self: look for a good fusible or sticky back dissolvable alternative. That pinning took a while!

I noticed that the zig-zag stitch I used to sew my label on was just about invisible from the outside. So I made it easy on myself and did the hems with a simple zig-zag on my regular machine.

Adding all of that stabilizer meant that I had to re-wash everything before I could wear it. But it worked. All of the stabilizer just disappeared!

The finished top is just as comfortable and flattering as the first one I made. I think that this one might get a little more use because the lighter weight will be comfortable in Spring and Fall as well.

Here’s my final lazy-day look. Now, excuse me while I take a snooze.

 

Fashion

Lazy Winter 1: Greenstyle Brassie Joggers

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Front view

After finishing my pinstripe trouser and vest, I was ready for something quick and easy. Winter holidays mean lots of lounging around, enjoying all kinds of delicious food, and generally not trying too hard. With that in mind, I pulled out a nice dark gray french terry I bought without a plan last year. (Another 2018 New Year’s resolution – stop doing that!). I was going to make some awesome DIY sweatpants!

Some of the features I wanted were fitted silhouette, pockets, elastic rather than drawstring waistband, cuffs instead of elastic on the legs, and a nice, long length. I decided to use the Greenstyle Brassie Joggers PDF, which offered all of those options. I haven’t used independent pattern designers very often, since patterns from the Big 4 pattern brands (Vogue, Simplicity, Butterick, and McCall’s) are so inexpensive and familiar. The pattern sells for $10, which is more than I am used to spending. But I like the idea of helping new designers and at the same time contributing to a more diverse marketplace. (The Big 4 and several others are now all owned by the same parent company).

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Side View

Once I purchased it, I was able to download the PDF pattern and instruction files to my laptop immediately. If I had wanted to, I could have printed out the pattern right then on 19 sheets of printer paper. But then I would have had to tape them together. That didn’t seem like a lot of fun, so I went with option B – sending the included “copyshop” version of the pattern (one great big page) to a printer.

I looked into having the printout done where I live, but it was really expensive. Most places were quoting me between $12-$20 per sheet! The best option price-wise right now seems to pdfplotting.com be where you can have black and white sheets printed for a more reasonable $0.60 to $5.70 per page, depending on size.

Once I had my sheet, I unrolled it and set about planning. Mainstream patterns have been printed on thin, semi-transparent tissue since at least the 1920s. Tissue is easy to cut and pin through, although you need to be careful not to tear it. Regardless of who does the printing, PDF patterns will use opaque office paper. I rely on being able to pin through my pattern. I also want to be able to see through it well enough to make sure that I have stripes and other designs placed where I want them. So I went through one more step and transferred my size to Swedish tracing paper. It wasn’t too much work, and using the tracing paper is actually much nicer than using tissue. It’s sturdy, semi-transparent, and does not shift and blow around as easily.

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One of those pesky pockets

Careful reading of the instructions is important. This pattern assumes a 3/8″ seam allowance instead of the typical 5/8. If you don’t need to let out any seams, 3/8″ is great. The serger works best with 3/8″ width, and of course, you won’t waste as much fabric.

There is a line drawing of the pants on the first page, but no pictures or line drawings of the many length and finish options. On the other hand, every step is thoroughly explained and supplemented with illustrations. Another nice thing is that the designer’s website features pictures of customers’ finished pants in all kinds of sizes and styles.

Despite all that, I managed to mistake the back pieces for the front ones. I sewed the pockets to the back crotch curve.  I had to completely re-cut the backs and pockets. Luckily, I had enough scrap to cut out two more pieces, but I had to give up 2 inches of length. So. Capri length it is!

One thing I liked about the construction was using fusible interfacing strips to stabilize the curved pocket openings before turning under and topstitching. I used the heat-n-bond soft stretch tape again and it really made a nice stable curve. Because it was fused in place, I didn’t have to mess with pinning it, so stitching went much faster. Good thing – since I had to do it twice! I’ll definitely be using this trick on future projects.

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Back View

The pattern features a waistband with both a drawstring and elastic in separate casings. I like this option, since I think the drawstring is a nice look, but I don’t love pants that use drawstrings alone. Instead of a drawstring, I used a length of black ribbon. It was less of a style choice than finding something on hand that would work. I can always rethread a drawstring later if I don’t like it.

The pants turned out to be ankle length when all was said and done. I like them a lot. They are really comfortable – easy wear and easy care.

I can definitely see using this pattern again. Maybe shorts length or even as pajama bottoms.

Next time: the companion top to my lazy winter outfit.

General

2018 Sewing Plans

I’m trying to find the silver lining in a 10 day weather forecast that doesn’t show any temperatures above freezing. I know there must be one. Oh, yes! I can dig in to my plans for 2018 (and daydream about spring a little while I’m at it.).

This year, I’m going to be working on one large skill-building project each month. Don’t worry – I’ll still be blogging about easy and fun projects. But you can look forward to following along as I cover some new territory as well. Here’s my month-to-month plan:

  • January – Marfy Blouse
  • February – Style Arc Pants
  • March – Easter Dress
  • April – Backpack
  • May – Couture Dress
  • June – Rashguards
  • July – Lace Dress
  • August – Jeans
  • September – Vintage Patterns
  • October – Halloween Costume
  • November – Winter Coat
  • December – Holiday Finery

Do you do New Year’s resolutions? I have a few sewing goals I would like to meet this year. Let’s call them resolutions and make it official.

  1. Keep up with alterations and repairs. By the end of January, I will get to the bottom of my mending pile.
  2. Upcycle more. Repurpose or rehabilitate those fabric items that need a new life.
  3. Incorporate trims, embellishments, and decorative techniques in my designs.

I have a few goals for SeeCindySew as well.

  1. Bring you great images of works in process and finished items by improving my photography.
  2. Establish a regular schedule for posts.

Last year, my goal was to get organized. I’m checking that one off. Now I just need to keep it like this! Did I ever mention I love blue tape?

Do you have sewing goals this year?

Happy new year, readers! And happy sewing as well!

Cindy

 

 

Pets · Whimsy

Wintertime Doggie Sweater

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Brrrrr! Wake me in April.

Here in New England, cold days are hard to avoid. Lately it seems like my dog has gone into hibernation. She’s a pretty furry girl, so I don’t usually do the dog coat thing, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Last winter, I practically lived in my favorite wool fair isle turtleneck. But I found out the hard way that the hand wash setting on the washing machine wasn’t exactly the same thing as actual hand washing. While the sweater still looked good, it was way too small to ever wear again.

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Starting point

Upon closer examination, it was still nice and soft, but now it was a little bit felted too. The benefit of felting is that now I didn’t have to be concerned about raveling if I wanted to cut into it.

I thought about what I could do with it. I considered mittens, a hat, or possibly a vest. Then I saw my dog curled so tightly that she looked like a furry throw pillow. She was going to get a sweater!

Here’s how I did it.

First, measure the dog. You’ll need to know circumference around the middle, circumference of the neck, and length from neck to tail.

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Measure the dog. (Yes, her bed is on my desk. Try not to judge).

I made my own pattern based on her measurements. The easiest way to make it would be to just plan on the pattern being the exact shape of the finished coat. Instead of hemming, I would just sew bias tape on the raw edges. Once the pattern was done, I thought about how to best place the design on the sweater. I brought out some wide double-fold bias tape I thought might work. I also went through my box of bag parts for webbing and closures.

When I get rid of worn out backpacks or other bags, I cut off any good d-rings, fasteners, swivel clasps, and anything else I think I might use. They all go in a box for occasions such as this. For the dog coat, I found a side-release buckle and slider. I added a scrap length of 1 in. black cotton webbing that was the right size to fit them.

I tried a few colors of bias tape and settled on the hot pink.

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Once I had all of the supplies together, I cut into the sweater. I removed the sleeves and cut the front from the back. I took off the turtleneck, but left a little of the main sweater attached in case I wanted to use it. As I expected, it didn’t ravel.

While it wouldn’t work out every time, in this case, the turtleneck was just the right size to fit the dog comfortably. So I made that the neck piece.

Once I cut the coat shape, I did a rough fitting.

I pinned the neck and the body together to fit the dog’s proportions. The I sewed them together using a 3-thread overlock stitch on my serger.

Next I bound the raw edges with the pink bias tape.

Around this time, I realized that I didn’t have a plan for the raw neck edge at the base of the turtleneck. I didn’t want to use the bias tape because I wanted to maintain its stretchiness. I found some black fold-over elastic (FOE) and used that, even though it wasn’t a perfect match. I didn’t think the dog would mind. Also, it’s practically invisible when she has the coat on.

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I thought the FOE would also be a pretty good solution for making a buttonhole (for a leash attachment point). I zigzagged it into place, then carefully opened a slot in the piece’s middle. If I were to do this over again, I would put some stretchy stabilizer under the buttonhole area before stitching. It’s fine, but it could tear given enough pressure.

The last step was the strap that goes around the dog’s middle. First I put together a test belt using the hardware, webbing and a few pins. After some convincing, I was able to test it on the dog. I snugged it up a bit and brought the pieces to the machine. I chose to sew the entire belt to the underside of the sweater instead of making two smaller pieces attached to the sides. While that would be fine for stable fabrics, I’m sure that the knit would stretch.

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I’m warm!

The finished product is slightly imperfect, but sooo cute – just like my dog!

Fashion · Vintage

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 3: Button Up!

pinstripe31My fear of buttonholes has been holding me back, but I finally worked through it and finished! I don’t suffer from Koumpounophobia, but I was perversely amused to learn that fear of buttons is a thing. Apparently, Steve Jobs had it. My reluctance had more to do with a long history of messing up sewing projects on the very last step.

I chose simple dark brown buttons and brown all-purpose thread. Before starting, I needed to do a little trial and error. I haven’t used my machine to sew buttonholes in years, and I never did it often enough for it to become automatic. Rather than ruin my work, I set up a trial swatch to match the fabric and interfacing in the garment. Boy, was I glad I did!

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My “Easy to Sew” pattern gave these instructions:

Transfer buttonhole markings to garment.

Make buttonholes at markings.

So….  that helped a lot.

Next step – read my sewing machine‘s manual. The machine’s instructions were also basic, but at least gave me enough to start experimenting.

I made a swatch with the same interfacing, lining and pinstripe fabric that I would be sewing.

After much experimentation, I was finally able to consistently stitch the buttonhole I wanted. I actually had to make a second test swatch because I ran out of room on the first one.

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Here’s a full list of adjustments and additions I used.

  1. Place tear-away stabilizer under the buttonhole area.
  2. Use a walking foot.
  3. Set the stitch width to the maximum (in my case, 5mm).
  4. Run the bobbin thread through the eye of the bobbin case’s hook. This increases the tension on the bobbin thread.
  5. Increase the stitch density by adjusting the machine’s balance.
  6. Increase the presser foot pressure.
  7. Mark the vertical boundary of the buttonholes with two strips of blue tape.
  8. Insert a strip of wash-away stabilizer between the lines of tape. Use wash-away marker on the stabilizer to mark the buttonhole placement. Bonus – the lines are highly visible against the bright white wash-away.
  9. I still had problems with the long side of the buttonhole rectangle staying straight. Solution: set up the seam guide and use more blue tape to give it a “track” to follow.
  10. Make several buttonholes on the test swatch. I did not work with the actual vest until I could get three in a row exactly right.
  11. Open the holes in the test swatch sample and make sure the button fits. I used a very sharp seam ripper to cut the slots.
  12. Apply Fray Check to the buttonhole stitching.
  13. Before cutting the holes open, remove the stabilizer and place pins just inside the holes’ bartacks. The pins prevent over-cutting.

I checked and double checked my markings. Yes, I psyched myself out a little. One more triple check and I was ready to go.

Overkill? Maybe. You could make a case. But it worked!

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Why yes, those stripes do line up! So kind of you to notice.

I decided to hand-sew the buttons rather than machine-sew. The reason is that I wanted to make sure they were not attached too tightly. A too-tight button can pull through the fabric or distort the nice flat plane of the button placket.

I can’t believe it, but it’s really done!

I am so pleased with the finished outfit.

Do you have any tips for making buttonholes? Write a comment below – I would love to hear them.

In case you missed it, here is the rest of the series.

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 1: the Pants

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 2: the Vest

I have lots of great things planned for 2018. I can’t wait to share them with you!