Bias-Cut Camisol

Pattern: slip from Vogue's Anna Sui Misses' Dress and Slip #1177
Fabric: 1 yd cotton silk blend
Cost: $18

I love love love cotton silk blends. Whenever I go to the fabric store I drool over their rich feel, luxurious softness, and relative stability. And in an array of jewel toned colors, they are so pretty! But at $18 a yard they are a bit more than I like to spend on most of my projects (hello grad school budget!). I do have a yard of gold and a yard of white in my stash, and I decided it was time to sew one of them up for a quick mid-semester project.

With limited yardage, I landed on making a camisole top. I've seen quite a few of these around, and they seem fun yet casual. I also need some for under jackets and such. I dug around in my stash and found an Anna Sui dress pattern that came with a slip, which seemed like a good and free option. The slip is cut on the bias so that the top hugs your curves, and I had just enough fabric to make it in my size.

Overall this is a very simple top to make, but the precious fabric and bias cut require careful handling. I used french seams on the sides and drafted facings for the neckline for a seamless look. Unfortunately I made the decision to draft the facings on the grain rather than the bias which proved too constricting, and so I had to cut them shorter for ease of mobility. I guess I should have known better, but I don't often sew things on the bias so it was a learning experience.

Interestingly enough, I've actually made this pattern up once before in the same type of fabric, but cut on grain. The bias cut definitely improves the comfort. However, I repeated one mistake in cutting it the exact same size, which for me results in extra fabric at the armpits. I had to unpick my precious french seams and facings and perform some garment "surgery" to get the fit right. In the end, however, it worked out well.

I'm not as in love with the top as I could be. It might have worked better in something a bit drapier and less prone to wrinkling, and I still haven't made my mind up about the color. I'm also not convinced about bias-cut garments - the fabric doesn't behave the way I think it will on the body, and overall feels a bit shifty. This is definitely the type of garment that requires technical knowledge, despite its simplicity. I have worn it out, however, and I think I'll give it a few more chances to win me over. And I still have yard number two in white to experiment with.

New Wardrobe Staple

Pattern: Sewaholic's Granville Shirt
Fabric: 2 yards cotton shirting
Cost: $20

While I usually don't have a problem getting rid of old clothes, there's one section of my closet I haven't been able to throw out: my button-front shirts. Most of them don't fit, have odd details, and hardly look professional, but without a suitable replacement I'd have nothing to wear when work called for it. It's sad to admit, but I've worn these shirts for far too long.

After trying out Sewaholic's Granville shirt, I knew it was time to start sewing up my own replacements. Enter my white button-front shirt, a wardrobe classic and much-needed addition to my closet. It replaces this sad shirt:

I know. It's amazing I even have a job. And while I've also officially started grad school now, it seems even more of a reason to have a well-fitting professional wardrobe. It's about time!

This pattern is designed to be fairly fitted, which makes it great for a work top. However, some of the parts ended up too fitted on me in my test version, namely across the upper back and sleeves. So, as noted in my last post, I made several tweaks to the pattern to improve the fit:

  • Graded from a 4 at the bust to an 8 at the waist and a 0 at the hip (I guess I'm not much of a pear shape after all!)
  • Graded sleeve side seam up about one size (to a 6), and added a pleat where the sleeve meets the cuff
  • Shortened sleeve by 2 1/2 inches - her fit model must be gangly!
  • Added 1/4" to 1/2" to the upper back princess seam to give more room across the back
  • Shortened hem by 1" at center front grading to size 0 line at the side, and shortened by 2" at center back. This is more of my personal preference for length.
Here is a pic of the back and the much-improved fit. Pardon the wrinkles, my iron needed to be cleaned and could not be trusted on a white shirt, which I have already worn to work. 

I am quite pleased with the results. There's still some drag lines at the bust, but overall it feels nice to wear and is comfortable all day, plus allows for plenty of movement. So now I can ride my bike, walk the dog, or hop on the train and still show up to work in style. 

Gingham Love

Pattern: BurdaStyle's Printed Blouse 08/2012 #109
Fabric: 1 yd mixed fiber gingham
Cost: free from fabric swap

I do not need to justify my current obsession with this print. It's perfectly casual, can be dressed up or down, and if you need any more proof that everyone is wearing one, head on over to #thatjewcrewginghamshirt.

Mine was made up in a couple of evenings using my TNT BurdaStyle 08/2012 #109, which I have modified to have normal armholes and fitted to my body shape. All that was left to do was cut it out and sew it up. It's a loose casual style that slips over my head and isn't too constricting. I have tried this pattern in a ponte before, but it really hangs better in a woven like this. The main fitting feature of this blouse is the French dart, which I think gives it just the right shape without over-fitting.

I also love how the back hangs. Unlike my recent button-front shirt, it hangs without any pooling around the lower back, but is still loose and easy to wear. I have also fixed this issue (hopefully!) in my next button-front shirt, coming to the blog as soon as I attach the buttons. 

The one detail I added to this shirt was sleeve slits. It does make the sleeves hang extra wide, but allows for more movement and I think is a cute detail. While the rest of the garment is French-seamed, the slits were made by serging each seam allowance, pressing the seam open, and stitching down the seam allowances around the slit.  

The only problem with this top is that I already made Mr. Made a button-front with this same fabric, and he is none too pleased that we might end up some day as accidental twins. Oh well, maybe we will look like this pair. Or we could invite some friends over and have a gingham party. #ginghamlove

Favorite Patterns

A reader recently asked me about patterns that I love, and why. Is it because they're comfy, well-drafted, or have some super special element? For me, my most-used patterns end up being rather basic patterns that can be made again and again in different styles. Of course I will supplement these with a one-off coat or some experimentation, but these are the basic patterns that have earned their keep (see if you can spot the frankenpatterns):

Basic woven top: Grainline's Scout Tee
Why I bought it: Before this pattern was released, I had made a few failed attempts at sewing a woven tee. The Scout Tee was the first pattern to hit the market in a big way that really allowed sewists to make a great t-shirt out of their favorite non-stretch fabric. Now I use it as a starting point for almost all my woven tees or loose-fitting knit tops.
Modifications: lengthened the armhole opening (now is same proportions as my Archer Button-Up)
Alternatives: McCalls 6927, Sinbad and Sailor Dove Fitted T, Salme Color-Block T-Shirt, Sewaholic Belcarra Blouse


Knit tops and dresses: McCall's 6164
Why I bought it: This is a pattern from way back that has definitely given me a lot of bang for my buck. As you will see from the pattern images, it originally came with a lot of sleeve variations that are now mostly out of date, but underneath it all was a simple knit t-shirt which has given this pattern longevity. It fits my curves just right, and is my go-to pattern for knit tops and knit dress bodices.
Alternatives: the ever-popular Sewaholic Renfrew Top, the free Plantain T-Shirt, Bluegingerdoll Bonnie, BurdaStyle Lydia


Pants: Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans
Why I use it: Pants fitting is a b*tch! After many, many patterns and drafts, I finally found my TNT in a modified Closet Case Files as my go-to pattern block. Pants construction is actually quite simple, so once you find your perfect pattern it doesn't take much more to make some up.
Alternatives: BurdaStyle 7250, Named Jamie JeansSew Loft's Emma Pant (which is now free), Colette CloversBurda Style 7447


Dresses: Simplicity Special Occasion Dresses #4070
Why I bought it: This is such a great, adaptable dress, and the pattern itself includes different options for hems, skirts, overlays, and embellishments. I usually keep it simple, but it is my go-to for any formal events. I also love princess seam dresses because they are easy to fit, and the skirt can be changed out for whatever suits your fancy.
Alternatives: Style Arc JanetBluegingerdoll Billie Dress, Colette Lily Dress, McCall's 8572


How about you? What TNT patterns would you suggest to new sewists and why?

Spoonflower Review and Custom Shirts

Pattern: Grainline Archer (women's) and BurdaSyle's Men's Shirt 7045
Fabric: Spoonflower Kona Cotton
Cost: $43/shirt

My friend tells me Spoonflower recently landed a major investor to the tune of $25 million. Can you believe all these people are interested in working with fabric? I am always excited when our little community gets some big interest.

While I have used Spoonflower, the online fabric printing service, once before, I have never used them for apparel. The perfect opportunity came up when the two grooms from this summer's weddings asked if I'd gift them and their brides Cal-themed shirts. While they quite liked the ones that Mr. Made and I sported last football season, I thought it might be nice to get them something a little nicer for their weddings. To make my own unauthorized gear, I marched on over to Spoonflower and designed my own. I started with our mascot and played around with colors and proportions until I got everything just about right. So easy!

From the outset, however, I was very concerned about the longevity of the fabric as I had read online that it fades extensively. I tried to research the issue, but it seems that Spoonflower has updated their printing process, so I couldn't be sure how relevant reviews were from a few years ago. While I tentatively went ahead with my plan, I did try to hedge my bets by buying the more extensive Kona cotton, which I read held the dye better.

My 8-yard bundle arrived promptly a few weeks later. I was impressed with the delivery time, and although the color was a bit lighter than expected it otherwise looked good. The detail was sharp and they had followed all of my specifications. Unfortunately, after washing in cold water with vinegar to set the dye, the colors started to fade. Worse yet, the colors faded more where the fabric had twisted in the wash, making it look like an old, faded shirt. This was really disappointing, and I think for this reason alone I won't be using their fabric for more projects. I just can't trust that the fabric will hold up to multiple washings, and that really is half the point of wearing clothes, isn't it?

After investing in all the fabric, however, I forged ahead with my project, proclaiming these "Vintage-Inspired" with faded charm. I loved the print, loved the colors, and loved the idea of gifting them these goofy shirts to wear together as a big, dorky family. And despite the fading, the results were truly unique. While the two couples will be over-the-top matching, it's guaranteed that no one has ever had a shirt quite like this before.

I turned these out assembly-style, cutting all four shirts in one night (well, three and a half, and then I had to order a few more yards), and sewing them two at a time before each wedding. I'm just going to call it my shirt-making boot-camp.

The first couple, who are both Cal grads, got all bear. But for the second couple, one of whom is a Michigan Tech grad, I mixed things up a bit and added some Husky details. The inside yoke and the under collar a done in Michigan Tech fabric ordered from their website. The details are small, but when they pop the collar or hang the shirts up in the closet you can see it. I hope it makes the bride happy!

So far, we have heard back from one newly-married couple, and they look amazing! I can't wait to see these dorks at the football games this year.

Was the Spoonflower experience worth it? I'm not sure. I love the look of these shirts, and it really was the only way to get such a cool, custom fabric. But there was a moment there where I debated scrapping the idea entirely - who would spend all that time making button-up shirts on faded fabric? In the end the couples loved them, but I'm not sure I'll be entrusting my precious projects to Spoonflower in the near future. Perhaps that $25 million will sharpen them up?