Red Wool Sweater Top

Pattern: frankenpattern + redrafting
Fabric: 1 1/2 yds red wool ponte
Cost: $18

During my winter holidays I found myself with more time on my hands than usual, which soon led to me turning even the simplest sewing tasks into more involved projects. Making Mr. Made a fourth pair of pants? Redraft them! Making a simple knit t-shirt? Learn all about cap height and armscyes! But learning about fit is time well spent in my book, even if it's causing my basic sewing projects to become increasingly complex.

My latest project is a redrafted t-shirt pattern, which was inspired by this luxurious wool ponte from Crossroads Fabric in Santa Cruz County. The store is in an unassuming building hidden behind a motorcycle repair shop, but you can find the most amazing designer bolt-ends amongst the stacks of fabric. While the owner claimed that material like this can sell for upwards of $50 a yard, she had this one marked at $14 a yard and sold it to me for $12, plus an extra half yard for free as we finished off the bolt. The red wool gave me visions of a classic sweater top, and I wanted to use my Bonnie Sweater pattern with its boat neckline. But first I knew that I had to fix some issues with bunching around the armpits from my first version. My research into the issue led me down an internet rabbit hole to this article on sleeve cap height, which of course then led me to this contradictory article about sleeve cap ease. Who knew t-shirt sewing could get so theoretical and complicated?

According to my reading, many shirt patterns are drafted with the sleeve on the wrong grain, which I have attempted to illustrate below. This is easiest to examine on a shirt with stripes or plaid, where the stripes should run parallel to the garment body (right image) rather than jut off at an angle on the sleeve (left image). The incorrect grain line can cause the sleeves to flare out or create drag lines in the body because the rounded shoulder needs more room in the sleeve cap before the sleeve turns into a tube going down the arm.

I had never heard of this issue before, and a trip to my closet revealed that all my shirts, from self-made to ready-to-wear all had the so-called "incorrect grain." Very interesting! I don't find the problem to be particularly egregious if is isn't causing visible fit issues, but in an effort to improve my drafting I decided to try to fix this problem on one of my patterns in the hopes that it would improve the fit of the shirt. One article suggests you should correct the issue by adding height to the sleeve cap, while the other recommends fancy drafting to recut and reshape the sleeve without any ease at all. Since I don't know much about fancy drafting, I decided to try to lengthen the sleeve cap instead.

One question I had, however, is what happens to the overall look of the shoulder when you lengthen the sleeve cap. The adjustment isn't fully explained in any of the articles, but I imagine that lengthening the sleeve cap creates extra ease at the shoulder, which could result in 80s type sleeve heads. Yikes! But according to the article, not enough ease and you don't have enough room to move your shoulder, so adding in the right amount of ease is important.

For this reason, I ended up choosing to alter Deer and Doe's Plantain shirt, which didn't have much ease in the sleeve cap to begin with, allowing me to start small. In fact, some initial measurements showed that it had negative ease, which is very odd. Normally, the sleeve head is supposed to be eased into the armscye, but in the case of this pattern the sleeve head was actually smaller than the armscye, measuring 14 1/2" compared to the 16" at the armhole opening. I have never encountered that before, and felt it was very strange.

Other initial measurements confirmed that it, too, suffered from a poor sleeve grain issue. Online photos show that the sleeves tend to flare out on some people's versions, as mentioned above. Indeed, the shirt had a particularly short sleeve cap at 4", compared to the recommended height of 5-6".

Lengthening the sleeve cap allowed me to fix both the ease problem and the grain problem at the same time (and, indeed, they are probably one in the same issue). Various sources say the sleeve cap should have 1/2" to 1" more ease than the armhole in a knit t-shirt pattern (more for a jacket), so I would want to increase the sleeve cap circumference from 14 1/2" to 16 1/2" to fit into the 16" armhole. This could be accomplished by lengthening the height of the sleeve cap by 1", thereby adding an additional inch on each side and increasing the overall height:

To lengthen the height of the sleeve cap, I followed Thread Magazine's instructions to slice above the notches and lengthen by one inch. This resulted in a 5" cap height and a 16 1/2" sleeve cap circumference, all fitting in to the unaltered 16" armscye. Perfect!

While I was at it with the pattern tweaks, I performed my first swayback adjustment by pinning out the excess fabric in my existing Plantain shirt, which ended up being 1" at center back. I then slashed the pattern at that same spot and pivoted so the center back was overlapping by that amount. There's a great tutorial for how to do this on the Pattern~Scissors~Cloth blog. It could probably use a touch more, but much improved.

I then cut out and sewed up my new pattern, using my altered Plantain pattern and the boat neckline of the Bonnie. The raw edges were all serged individually and sewn together with a lightning bolt stitch, pressed open, and topstitched down on each side of the seam to create a pretty seam finish. I also incorporated small side slits using instructions from True Bias's Sutton Blouse, which made this garment a true frankenpattern!

The result? Good, I think. The sleeves fit fine, and I imagine I'd have to sew up a short-sleeve version to test whether it corrects the flare-out problem. The grain is better but not perfectly parallel yet. I may have to increase the sleeve cap even more to really improve the grain line, but I am happy with this version for my purposes.

However, I have also realized that I have one more fit issue that is more related to the fit of the front of the shirt than the sleeves. See those puckers or folds of fabric right above the bust? I didn't know it at the time but have since discovered that I need to do a sloping shoulder adjustment, and possibly narrow the shoulders a touch. More on that later, as I have now made those adjustments on a different top and am very happy with the fit of that one.

For now I am loving this shirt - perfect color, good fit, and really great for the weather we are having right now. And I also feel just a tad bit smarter having looked into this particular issue. Slowly but surely!

Vintage Simplicity Jacket

Pattern: Vintage Simplicity circa 1963
Fabric: stable sweater knit
Cost: $18

I'm not going to lie - vintage patterns make me nervous. I'm not the shape of a typical vintage lady (whatever that is - but apparently requires a much bigger bust!), and I haven't had that much success with vintage patterns in the past. While I love to look at them and I even own a few, they are not part of my typical sewing.

That all changed when I wanted to make a simple jacket to wear to work. I initially thought about buying Schnittchen's Coco Jacket of which I've seen some lovely versions, but it's such a simple shape that I thought I better have a look in my stash to see if I didn't already have a similar version. Enter this vintage Simplicity pattern, which I'm pretty sure I bought for its basic silhouettes. It had everything I needed for a lined jacket in my size, and even included bust, shoulder, and elbow darts for shaping. I decided to give it a try.

First let me say that I really enjoyed this pattern. The instructions for cutting and sewing were clear and helpful, and I really appreciated all the extra touches like instructions for interfacing the hem and jacket front. I did make a few modern adjustments such as using fusible interfacing and changing the lining to be slightly different than the jacket pieces using Jen's tutorial. I also widened the hips slightly and lengthened the jacket to suit me. The fit after that was surprisingly good, perhaps because this is a teen pattern and not a women's! I love the shoulder and elbow darts, too.

I wish I could tell you exactly what pattern this was, but it appears I have misplaced it and can't find it anywhere. We live in a 600sf one-bedroom apartment that I swear we keep pretty tidy, so I have no idea how this happened. However, it is very similar (if not identical-looking) to Simplicity 4600 from about the same year.

I took my time sewing this up evenings after school and it was quite an enjoyable process. I used several of the techniques I learned from my session with Beth, including tailor's tacks, thoroughly trimming and clipping my seams, and pressing key parts with a clapper. These techniques lined up nicely with the recommendations made in the pattern instructions. I'm really starting to understand the appreciation of vintage patterns!

The fabric, on the other hand, is not a conventional vintage style. It is made up in a knit design that I found at Fabric Outlet, which has a slight stretch. I liked the neutral colors that were visually interesting yet still conventional for the office. It is stabilized with interfacing and the lining, and works fine for these purposes. The lining is a simple black cotton poplin, with the contrasting side of the knit fabric used for the facings. After trying the jacket on, I decided I liked it as is without the buttons, and off it went with me to work!

I'm glad I finally had some success with a vintage pattern, and if I can ever find the damn thing again will keep it in my back pocket for next time. 

New Year, New Pattern: Tania Culottes

Pattern: Megan Nielsen's Tania Culottes
Fabric: 1 1/2 yds wool woven
Cost: $15

Last week I showed you my Christmas outfit, so this week it is only fitting that I catch you up on what I made for New Year's Eve. Here she is all gussied up in glitter and a party hat to recreate the moment.

Like everything else in the city, NYE is a rather casual affair in SF characterized more by men in dresses and glitter than women in fancy ball gowns. I took the opportunity to make a simple but fun piece for the occasion that I knew I'd get a lot of wear out of later. This proved the perfect time to try the famous Megan Nielsen Tania Culottes, which I'd had in my stash since I hit 'purchase' during a pattern sale a few years ago. I paired it with some black wool that was originally intended for a pair of pants, and the weight and body suited the design well. A more fastidious sewer would probably have lined them, but it works fine as is for me.

I'm usually one for longer skirts, but something about the culotte design (and the fact that I planned to wear these with tights) made me go for this shorter style, and I love it! I did lengthen the pattern slightly by cutting the hem along the XL hem line as Fiona suggested, and that was adequate for me. I had a lot of fun wearing the final product, and I think it will be a handy piece to have on hand when I want to wear something more than just jeans out and about. Here she is in the obligatory spinny pose, where you can see the fullness of each leg.

I realized as I was tracing the pattern that this is my first time trying Megan Nielsen's patterns. While I have been a long time follower, I had yet to sew up any of her designs. Megan Nielsen prides herself on beautiful, easy to sew patterns and the Tania Culottes were no exception. I love that they were only 13 pages to print out and trace, and use only four pattern pieces. I also easily fit the whole layout on 1 1/2 yards. And despite the simplicity of the construction, this pattern appealed to me because it is a unique design not found many other places. Definitely worth the money in this case.

I spent the evening with Mr. Made and friends, bar hopping, dancing, and finishing the night at a perfect little bar set up with tables that at the time looked to me like a magical Medieval feast.  I don't often have high expectations for this holiday, but it proved to be great fun in my new skirt.

Hope your new year is off to a great start!

Christmas Top

Pattern: BurdaStyle's Tie-Front Blouse #118B
Fabric: 1 yd novelty print
Cost: $10

Well, the holidays have come and gone and I've already shown you Beatrix's Christmas Sweater, and now I've finally got around to taking photographs of my Christmas top, too. I had purchased this fabric over a year ago and planned to use it for last Christmas, but somehow the holiday had come and gone without any festive top sewing. It sat in the stash for another year, and this time I was determined to make it happen.

The print isn't exactly Christmas-themed, but the deer on the red background seemed just festive enough for me. The fiber content is of dubious quality, but it actually handled pretty well and does seem to have at least a partial cotton component. I bought it because it reminded me of a fun fast fashion print that you see in stores but can never quite get your hands on fabric-wise. I think it might make it to another Christmas yet!

I had one yard or less for the entire project, so I knew it had to be something small. I didn't want to do an overly simple blouse, so I turned to an old standby in BurdaStyle's Tie-Front Blouse, which I've made up twice before. Sadly the previous versions no longer exist due to poor fabric choices, but I really do like this pattern. I modified it to fit within the confines of my limited yardage by turning the sleeves into cut-on cap sleeves and shortening the ties, but otherwise it worked just fine. My drafting of the sleeves was a little sketch because I didn't fully take into account the gathers in the front neckline, but it doesn't seem too visible in the final fit. I must remember next time though to shorten the front neck slit, as it reveals a bit too much under that tie.

Even though it is a novelty print in a synthetic fabric, it is finished with French seams and narrow hems because, why not?

For Christmas we enjoyed a full meal and plenty of drinks at my aunt's house, and I finished off the night back at my place watching the original 1977 Star Wars with my parents and brother. And while it was really great to visit with so many people, I am now quite happy to have some peaceful days to myself (sewing, of course) before the semester starts.

Happy holidays to you however you celebrate them!

Choosing Patterns

BurdaStyle recently included me in their list of the 50 Best Sewing Bloggers for the year, and gave me the opportunity to choose five patterns from the site. Thank you Burda! To further illustrate my pattern selection process, I wanted to share with you how I went about choosing which patterns to get.

BurdaStyle patterns aren't very expensive, but I still felt I had to choose carefully. I'm on a strict budget, not just financially but space and time-wise too. It was important to me to get patterns that were unique and added value to my collection.

BurdaStyle has so many patterns that it was helpful to first knock off some that wouldn't work for me.  Here are a few patterns that I didn't choose:

There were a lot of great shirt options, but I quickly realized that some could be easily created from patterns I already own. The tops with the fold, crossover detail, and cute bow could all be done by modifying a basic t-shirt block, like the Scout Tee. I decided not to buy these patterns, but save them to my Pinterest for inspiration instead.

Shawl Collar Jacket
I don't have any grand coat or jacket plans this year, but I do have some fabric in my stash for a shawl collar cardigan. I have struggled in the past to draft my own shawl collar, so I decided to check out the jackets and coats patterns. Because I was looking for a specific design detail, I focused on how the shawl collar was constructed more than the rest of the jacket details, which could easily be modified. That said, I'm still not sure any of these are the shape I'm looking for, so I'm going to hold off for now.

I wanted two new dress shapes: a sleeveless shirt dress and something akin to this Guy Laroche pattern from Vogue. While BurdaStyle has a huge range of dresses, I unfortunately didn't quite find what I was looking for. I could have gotten something similar and modified it, but I think I could do that with what's in my stash anyway.

Next, I narrowed down the patterns I did want:

BurdaStyle has a lot of great pants options, and I've had good success with the fit of the printed Burda patterns. I wanted a pair of pleated pants to add to my collection, so I compared the different features to choose a winner. Looking at the line drawings really helped me pick a favorite. I ended up going with the one that had double front pleats, single back darts, a zip fly with one button instead of elastic, and a pocket flap option. If the pattern works for me, it will be a great block to add to my collection. The selected one are the Satin Trousers 07/2015 #117A.

Along with the pleated trousers, I opted for some interesting knit tops, including the Assymetric Jersey Top (a BurdaStyle favorite) and the Funnel Neck Top. I also chose the gathered neck Blouse, and for my last pick threw in the Retro Top. The Retro Top technically doesn't meet my criteria of being a novel design, but I liked that it included both bust darts and back shoulder darts, which give it more shaping than a Scout shirt.

While the samples aren't always my style, looking at the line drawings and comparing them to patterns I already own really helped me make my selections. I'm inspired to have some new patterns in my collection, and I hope I get to sew them all up for you!

I also learned that BurdaStyle has an affiliate program which could be cool for some of you out there, but I'm currently not participating so these links are just my personal faves.