Not So Much of a Pattern Review – Simplicity 5581 Men’s Top

I’ve made this pattern many, many times, but not recently. It’s one of DH’s favorites, and my go-to pattern for Aloha shirts for him. I’ll spare you too many details, since it’s a repeat, but here’s the Reader’s Digest version

Pattern Description: Very loose fitting men’s shirt with short sleeves.

Sizing: Men’s S-XL. I made a Medium.

Fabric Used: Hana Honey cotton from Gorgeous Fabrics. I LOVE this print, and so does DH.

Needle/Notions Used: Universal 65/9 needle, thread, Pro-Tricot interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply, coconut buttons.

Tips Used during Construction: Press that Bad Mamma Jamma, Sew From Wide to Narrow.

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes

How were the instructions? Didn’t use them.

Construction Notes: DH has lost weight recently, and this pattern is really big on him. My bad for not checking the size, but he likes it roomy, since he can then wear it open over a t-shirt if he wants. The shoulders on this pattern are MASSIVE. Next time I make this for him I’ll make a size S.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Yes, and yes. But do make sure to check the size against your measurements. You may want to go down.

Conclusion: Here are a couple of pictures on Shelley:



And on the Man himself. With a tiki glass.

In other news, I spent last weekend in Chicago to attend the annual fashion show for the Haute Couture Club of Chicago. What a wonderful weekend! It was the third time we got together, with our host Patti (who doesn’t blog), Liana and Nancy. The show was wonderful. I didn’t bring my good camera, so I only got crappy cell phone pictures, but the outfits were inspiring, and Cennetta (this year’s fashion show chair) arranged a fantastic show. Bravo, Cennetta!!!!

While we were there, we also went to see “Inspiring Beauty”, the Ebony Fashion Fair exhibit at the Chicago History Museum. If you are in the Chicago area, GO! It’s not a huge exhibit, but it is breathtaking, and you can get up close and personal with couture. There were some stunning gowns and outfits by the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and Bob Mackie. For me, the most memorable piece was a gray day coat by Christian Dior. Compared to the other, showier pieces surrounding it, its simplicity and stillness was profound. The construction was breathtaking, and I could have stared at it for an hour and still not have drunk in all the details.
Ebony Exhibit

As I say, if you have the opportunity to see it, go. It’s a wonderful exhibit and it will inspire and awe.

Happy sewing!

Sunday Sundries

Happy weekend! It’s been kind of dreary here in the Boston area this weekend. My tomato plants are really happy, and my oregano is growing like a weed. We had a nice weekend. Saturday was spent doing house stuff. DH stained some doors. DS the eldest had a graduation party to go to, and we took DS the younger to dinner at the local Chinese/Sushi restaurant. I did get to spend some quality sewing time, which is always nice! I made another version of Simplicity 3503. I had made two versions of this dress, and I love it, but I had pretty much forgotten about it until Eugenia highlighted her fabulous versions in a recent blog post. I wanted a maxi for summer, and this did the trick. I made it with Abstract Animal-ly Print Rayon Jersey. I’m not going to re-review it here. The difference from my other versions is that I didn’t line the bodice this time. I kind of wish I had, since this knit stretches in the length as well as the width. I haven’t hemmed it yet. I’m going to let it hang on Shelley overnight. I’ll probably take a solid foot off the bottom and then hem. It’s really, really long. I went down to a size 12, and I could probably go down another size. But doesn’t this scream “cocktails by the pool”?

Oh Cabana Boy! Bring me a drink please?

New England ASDP Program!
You may know that I’ve been the VP of programs for the New England Chapter of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (formerly known as PACC) for the last four years. This year is the end of my term, and I gotta tell you – I think we have one hell of a program coming up! It will start in September, and it revolves around the theme of the Little Black Dress. Four of the sessions will be open to the public. The first will be on fitting. Sue Bennett, who did a wildly popular seminar on fitting in general, will be back to bring her expertise to fitting your LBD. The second public program will be in December, and it will be a two-day seminar by (are you ready?) Susan Khalje! The third public program will be in March, on embellishment, and it will be by (another are you ready?) Anna Mazur! The final public program will be a fashion show featuring Little Black Dresses by participants in the programs. I’ll post more details later, but do join us!

Speaking of Susan Khalje, I have been asked to fill her place (Aaaaah! I’m not worthy!) on the board of the Master Sewing and Design Professional (MSDP) Certification Program. It’s a great program for professionals.

That’s about all the news that’s fit to blog. I hope you have a great remainder of your weekend. Anyone watching the Tonys?

Happy sewing!

A Quick Top and Some Musing

I am teaching a class right now, Sewing With Knits. It’s a lot of fun, and I have great students. I was demonstrating how to sew a neckband for them. I had already cut out another version of Simplicity 2603, using some beautiful rayon jersey that sold out in the first day I had it on Gorgeous Fabrics. There’s nothing new or surprising here, so I will just leave you with a picture of the finished top on Shelley:
Simplicity 2603, third edition

I’ve been bad lately about reading and commenting on blogs. I apologize. I have been really busy of late and my blog reading has fallen behind. I have a bunch of blogs that I subscribe to, but I’ve been mostly just scanning the readers.

I did read a post over at Burda Style about sewing as protest. It’s interesting, but I’m afraid I’m not at all virtuous when I sew. For me, sewing is a way to relax, and a way to have clothes that would cost thousands of dollars if I were to buy them in the store. On one level I guess I’m saving money. After all, my “Chanel style” jacket cost probably a couple of hundred dollars (as opposed to $27,000 for a Chanel couture jacket). I love it, and I’ll wear it forever. I also recently came to the realization that I don’t have to sew every last thing I own. I did a little poll not too long ago asking folks how much of their wardrobe they sew themselves. My estimate was that I sew about 90% of mine. I may ratchet that back a little bit. I was going to make a trench coat, but I decided instead to buy one, a really good one that I know that I’ll have for years and years. And you know what surprised me? The fact that I didn’t sew it myself makes it more appealing to me! Who woulda thunk?

I also think I’ll go through my closet and do a major edit/purge next weekend. I have an awful lot of clothes that I don’t wear anymore, like suits or skirts. I live in pants for my job, and when I meet with vendors I prefer to wear a pant/jacket combination to a dress or bona fide suit. I hope Goodwill or Dress for Success can put them to better use than I am.

Anyway, enough navel gazing. I need to clean my sewing room and prep for the jacket fitting class.

Happy sewing!

Pattern Review – Simplicity 4076 Twist Top

Pattern Description: Knit tops with sleeve/neckline variations. I’ve made this pattern several times before, but never the twist top. This time I made it (View F – the sleeveless version)

Sizing: 8 10 24. This runs big through the shoulder/upper back, in my experience, so I started with a 12 and tapered to a 14 at the bust point. That was the right decision. A straight 14 would have been too big.

Fabric Used: Extra Wide Rayon Jersey in Deep Coral. This is a reasonably lightweight jersey with a lot of give to it. It’s perfect for spring.

One note about rayon jerseys – I’ve seen some folks complaining that they are see through when you hold them up to the light. Well, of course they are. Pretty much anything that is less than 14 oz is going to be see through if you hold it up to the light. But it isn’t see through in most cases when it is against the body. There are a couple of exceptions (most good fabric vendors will note it when they are semi sheer). But don’t panic if you can see your hand when you backlight a fabric. Hold it up against you and look in the mirror. That will give you a better indication of the sheerness of the weave or knit.

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 75/11 needle. Seam binding for stabilizing the shoulders. Gutterman thread.

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes, though you can see that there is space where the twist takes place. I’ll tack that closed, and you may want to as well if you make this top so you don’t get any peekaboo bra showing.

How were the instructions? For the most part I didn’t use them, though I did use their ordering for construction of neckline and sleeves. In the future I would do it differently. Simplicity has you finish the neckline edges before sewing the shoulders, then they have you finish the armhole edges after sewing the shoulders. The result is this:

One side is clean finished while the other isn’t. Instead – sew the shoulder and side seams first, then finish the armhole and neckline edges. It will look much better.

Any changes? Other than starting with a 12 at the shoulder and going out to a 14 at the bust, no.

Likes/Dislikes: I wanted an easy, fast top for spring to wear with my Burda skirt, as well as other things. This fit the bill perfectly.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Sure and sure. It’s an easy top and it is cute. I debated making it because I was afraid twist tops are so 2006, but I saw a lot of them at Barneys and Bloomingdales when I was there last week. DKNY is showing a bunch for spring and summer, so they are still in.

Conclusion: Cute, easy, fun and stylish. What more do you need? Here’s a picture on Shelley:

 And here’s a picture with the Burda Skirt:

Parting Shot: Vale Carmen and Otto. Friends who have known me for a long time know that, before Hoover, we had two black labs: Carmen and Otto. Carmen went to the big puppy playground in the sky in 2004 at the age of 13. Otto joined her a year later at the age of 14 1/2. We’ve had their ashes sitting on a side table in the living room in cookie tins with their names on it (watch out – that ain’t powdered sugar!) that the pet cremation place sent to us. We’ve been wanting to plant them under a hydrangea bush for a number of years, and today we finally did. So now they will help the hydrangea grow big and strong. They were good dogs.

Happy sewing!

Three Down, One to Go

This is for Maureen, the percussionist. Because she’s constantly whacking something, she doesn’t like anything on her arms, so I made her a halter top. This is based on Vogue 8095. I want to see it on her. I may want to raise the halter just a bit to make it look better. I think I’ll bring my sewing machine with me Saturday.

One more to go. I’m going to make a bell sleeved surplice top from Simplicity 4076. That should be all done tomorrow, then they’ll be ready for Foxwoods!

Happy sewing!

Coda to the Collar Band Tutorial

I’ve been meaning to finish up the second version of Simplicity 2603 for the last several days, but life keeps getting in the way. I think I may break down and make the cardi wrap for this version after all. But I will make it from an amazing Italian Black Wool Jersey, which will go with this and just about anything else.

Back to the tank top, I did finally get around to finishing it today. All I needed to do was hem the armholes and the bottom. I’m not completely sold on Simplicity’s method for finishing the armholes, which is to simply turn the hems in and sew. It’s fraught with the possibility of error, and you run the risk of getting the dreaded twisted hem at the curves. Very Becky-home-ecky. You can avoid it by taking your time, basting (yes, basting knits, I know – but it yields good results) a scant half inch from the edge and then sewing in place. Here’s the finished version:

Remind me to patch Shelley’s shoulders. They are looking pretty raggy.

Happy sewing!

Pattern Review – Simplicity 2603 Tank Top

Pattern Description: The ubiquitous “cardi wrap” pattern – Sleeveless top and cardigan jacket. I made the tank top.

Sizing: XXS-XL. I made a small.

Fabric Used: Birds of a Feather Jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics.

It’s long since sold out, but there’s a cute story that goes along with this fabric. I had fallen in love with it myself, so before I put it up on the site, I cut three yards with the idea of making a dress. This fabric sold like gangbusters. I think I sold out of it in one day. After it was gone, one customer called and emailed me that she was heartbroken. She wanted it so badly, she asked if I could call her if any more showed up. Well, it became a choice of “Do I keep it for myself or do I sell it to this nice lady?” I told her I had one piece left that was sitting in my private stash. She was so happy! She only needed 2 yards, so I cut that and (crying inside) sent it out to her. The fabric sat in my stash until last week, when I decided to try it for this pattern.

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 75/11 needle, ProTricot fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply.

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes

How were the instructions? Bear with me for a moment, I’m going to rant. What is with the large pattern companies and their fekakte instructions??? Seriously. Here’s the way they have you attach the collar band:

  1. apply interfacing to neck band front and back
  2. stitch interfaced front/back sections together
  3. attach interfaced neck band to garment
  4. stitch uninterfaced neck band sections together to make the facing
  5. Finish edge of facing
  6. pin band facing to neck band. Sew and understitch
  7. Turn facing to inside, press
  8. Working from the right side of garment, pin raw edge of facing over the neckline seam
  9. Top stitch

No no NO! Come on, people! (This is to the pattern companies, not you, dear reader) Get your instructions out of the 1970s. No one in RTW attaches a collar that way. For pete’s sake, you sew the facing to the collar band, baste them together at the raw edge and sew or serge that that to the garment. It takes less time and gives you a cleaner finish with less chance of messing up. Sorry – can you tell I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with bad pattern instructions? This is why I almost never use them. And I’m sick to death of having to correct and apologize for them in classes. Grrrr….

Here’s a picture of the neck band the way I attach it.

Construction Notes: I did a FBA. Other than the change noted above, I didn’t do anything special. I serged all the seams and used a narrow zigzag stitch (.5 mm wide, 3.0 mm long) to sew the hems.

Any changes? Nope

Likes/Dislikes: I like the bra-friendly straps. They are nice and wide. I like the lines of this top. I’m debating about making the cardigan. It’s so common these days on sewing sites, I don’t know if I want to do that or something different. I have a wonderful pleated silk jersey in a matching turquoise that has been gracefully aging in my stash that I want to use to make a coordinating topper for this. I’ll think about it and let you know what I decide.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Probably and maybe. Like I say, I really dislike the instructions, but I like the bones of this top.

Conclusion: A good basic for your wardrobe. Here’s a picture of the finished version.
Next up I think is the skirt to go with my bustier.

Happy sewing!

Simplicity 3503, Version 2

We have finally started having summer weather here in New England! Today we’re waiting for Hurricane Bill to pass by. He’s supposed to go about 200 miles to the east of Boston, and the weather is pretty soupy right now. I’m not complaining though. After the June and July we had, it’s nice to finally get some warm weather! It also has helped clear out the residual stuff from the pneumonia I had. I’m still coughing, but not as much. Yay!

I finished my last dress of summer today. I made it from my modified Simplicity 3503. I had previously made it into a Maxi Version. I didn’t have enough fabric for another long dress, so I made it street length. The fabric I used is a long-since-sold-out print rayon jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics (natch).

This time I went down to a size 12. As with the last version, I fully lined the bodice. This time I used a self-fabric lining:
To do this, I sewed two bodices, then attached them at the neckline and armhole openings. I clipped the seam to the stitching at the notches where the underarm seams join, as you can see on the left hand side of the picture. I sewed the bodice fronts and backs to the midriff pieces, then attached the skirt pieces to the midriff, as you can see. Finally I sewed the side seams together, starting at the armhole and continuing down the entire length of the dress.

I took the lazy way out and did a narrow overlock for the hem. I see a lot of this in RTW, and since this is a cute dress for the end of summer, why not?

Here’s the finished dress on Shelley. Front:
And back:

Parting Shot: The Great Bee Wasp Massacree of 2009
I took a little more space in the building, mostly for storing headers and swatches. Well. Looks like I have some company. I started to suspect something was wrong when I kept seeing wasps in my window, and carcasses lying near the window. So I had the landlady take a look. Waltham Pest came out and there was a massive nest in the back of the building, but the nearest exit was, yep, my new space. Gah! They have sprayed, and supposedly by Monday everything should be back to normal. I’m going to wait to see. Thank God I’m not allergic. But still!

Happy sewing!

Finally Back in the Land of the Living

Oy, I say, oy! I have never been that sick for that long, and I hope I never am again. Thank God for Zithromax.

So what have I been doing? Nothing. Nada. Zip. I do have most of another (one last) summer dress cut out. It’s the same Simplicity pattern that I made my maxi-dress from:

This time I don’t have enough fabric to make it long, so I’ll make the knee-length version.

Oh! We finally got the air date for DS’ episode of “Dancing Tweens”. September 15th at 10PM. It’ll be interesting.

I’m also starting to prep for a class I’m taking next week. I think I’m going to make a bustier, but I’m still not entirely decided. I need to decide today because I have to have the muslin ready to go next Wednesday.

I ordered a new book for my library. I just got it yesterday and tonight I’ll start poring over it, Building Patterns – The Architecture of Women’s Clothing by Suzy Furrer

So far it looks really interesting, and unlike some other pattern drafting books I own, it looks quite useful and usable. Review to come later!

I chopped my hair all off this past weekend. I love doing that. I feel like, in addition to losing 6 lbs from the pneumonia, I lost another 10 when I got rid of my hair. It’s always a surprise to my family when I do that. One time, when I first went from blonde to red, I never told my DH that I was planning to, so he walked right by me without recognizing me at a restaurant! I’m contemplating changing the color again. We’ll see.

I am overdue on posting a review of a biography of Laura Ashley. That will come soon too. Stay tuned, much more later. God, it’s good to feel human again!

Happy sewing!

Pattern Review – Simplicity 3503

I was so inspired by Erica B’s and Cindy’s recent Maxi-dress renditions of this pattern, and I always loved the version that Cidell did last year. I wanted to make one for myself, but I wasn’t sure about the longevity of the Maxi dress trend. So I called my BFAM, Emmett. The conversation went something like this.

“Emmett, what do you think? Can I get away with a maxi dress this year? Or will I be hopelessly two seasons ago?”

“No Ann, you’re fine for this summer. They are still very in. Go for it. Now how are my fabrics [for Sewing Hope] selling?”

So cool! I got the go-ahead and I had the pattern and fabric ready to go. And away we went!

Pattern Description: Dresses in two lengths with neckline and sleeve variations. I made View A, the long, cap sleeved version.

Sizing: 6-22. This runs big. Go down at least one size from your norm. I made a 14 but cut it down to a 12, and I could still take it in at the waist.

Fabric Used: The fabric I used is the same as the classic (and long gone) Bold Boho Chic from last year, but in a different colorway.
For the lining, I used White Tricot Knit from Gorgeous Fabrics.

Needle/Notions Used: Size 75/11 Stretch needle, fusible tricot interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply, thread.

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes, but I made some changes to the structure (see below)

How were the instructions? I didn’t use them. I have heard they leave out a few steps, so I’ll try to check them later and let you know.

Construction Notes: I basted, then serged all the major seams. Also, I stabilized the shoulder seams with fusible tricot.
I was very concerned with the placement of the patterns. It was brought to mind for me recently in a picture of a paisley silk gown where the paisley motifs sit right over the wearer’s boobs. Not a good look. Gigi is always inspiring with her motif placement, so I kept chanting, “What would Gigi do?” and tried to be very thoughtful about where the motifs hit on the body.

Any changes? Yeah, a few. I liked the neckline, but Simplicity’s original design had the bodice front and back criss-cross at the centers. The original design was lower cut than I wanted for a hang around on the deck dress, so I changed the bodice to have the pieces meet with a CF and CB seam . I raised the neckline so I don’t show quite as much decolletage. Here you can see the change to the bodice front:
I then made my usual FBA.

Simplicity has incorporated a weird construction technique in this pattern. They (and the rest of the Big 4 are doing this these days too) have you line the front, but not the back. They then have you turn and stitch the hems on the back neckline and back half of the armhole before attaching the front to the back. IMO, that’s a pretty boneheaded way to do it. It’s just as easy (easier, actually) to cut lining pieces from the back bodice and line the whole thing. That’s what I did.
I understitched the neckline and the sleeves, leaving the side seams and the bodice bottoms open so I could turn the top. I treated those seams like they were underlining and simply serged them. I’ve seen a lot of RTW constructed this way. Here’s the lining at the neckline:
And here it is at the sleeves
It’s actually not completely finished. I have to run it through the coverstitch to hem it, but I’ll do that this afternoon.

Here it is from the front
And here’s the back:

Likes/Dislikes: Love this style. I think it’s flattering on a whole lot of body types. Do keep in mind that it runs really big, so go down at least one size.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Yes and yes. I will probably make this in the shorter version for summer. Maybe in a rayon jersey for kicking around.

Conclusion: Great style. I’m pretty pleased with how my print layouts turned out – as always, there are a few things I would change, but nothing drastic. I’ll get a picture of me in it, but probably not for a week or so. I’m planning to wear it to a dance comp that DS the younger is participating in. That is a really exciting story that I will tell later!

Happy sewing!