Tabula Rasa Jacket 2

Here is the “nice” version of the Tabula Rasa.

Fabric – wool crepe that I bought a very very long time ago. This blueish grayish color is a favorite neutral, but it’s not always easy to find. This version is lined; I followed the instructions for lining and they are just fine as long as you don’t mind hand stitching. I have yet to bag a jacket lining…one day…. This version does not have any closure. Bound buttonholes seemed too tailored for this style, but I didn’t want standard machine buttonholes, either. No prob, since a fastener-free kimono front works fine.

Again, not a good photo. I’m so sorry not to be able to get an informative picture of this jacket for you. I think you can see the part that I am happiest with, though. That’s the lack of excess fabric through the shoulder and underarm. For an art-to-wear type jacket, that is an outstanding feature.

Fit for Art 2

Here it is with the brightness turned way up…maybe it will show a little more what I mean.

Fit for Art bright

No long navel-gazing, although this is sure to be my last post for 2014. I didn’t sew as much because I didn’t need much! The stash is down to a very comfortable level. I experimented with some lagenlookish styles but they didn’t take. There you have it, my sewing year in review.

Wishing you all a happy and peaceful 2015!


tabula rasa jacket

The Tabula Rasa is from indie pattern company Fit For Art. As the name of the pattern indicates, the jacket is meant to be a blank slate for your piecing, color blocking, or embellishment. Likewise, the name of the company shows their concern about fit. Lots of art to wear jacket patterns are just big and boxy, I guess that you are supposed to ignore that and just look at the embellishments. This one, while still a relaxed fit, has eliminated much excess fabric and provided bust shaping. Details on that a little later.

We had a little cold snap here that made me realize I had a few tops that didn’t really work with my coats. A cardigan-like jacket with a warm lining would fill the bill. First I went to my Ottobre and Burda magazine binders, but didn’t find exactly what I was looking for. I’m glad I remembered this pattern that I’ve kind of had my eye on for a few years. It has a folkloric-type feel to the design that I like – a little bit like a kimono but with a skosh more fit.

Lightened, but you still can't see anything. Sorry.
Lightened, but you still can’t see anything. Sorry.

The illustration on the pattern doesn’t do this design justice. That’s really too bad. The jacket is designed with no side seams. There is a side panel that, combined with the uniquely-shaped armscye, provides vertical princess-like lines front and back. A band finishes the center front and neckline, your choice whether to add a button or three or not.

On the topic of fit – you can tell that a nicely-fitted jacket is the designer’s goal here. There are two different front pieces included in the pattern – one for A/B busts, and one for C/D that has an extra set of bust darts rather than a single larger dart. There are also two different side panels – straight sides for narrow hips, and an angled side for full hips or if you want a swingier jacket. Horizontal balance lines are also included on the pattern. The intention is that you will first make an actual muslin muslin with the balance lines marked to aid in evaluating the fit and where adjustments are necessary. The very complete instructions (a 15-page booklet) advise making a real muslin with the balance lines, and then a wearable muslin in a fabric similar to the artsy fabric it assumes will be used for the final version. In addition to some fitting advice included in the booklet, there is an eleven-page document available on the website with instructions on how to address 16 common fit issues. Lining, interfacing, and seam finishes are all discussed in the instruction book.

Unlike other arty jackets, this one does not have extended shoulders. That’s one reason that the fit seems relatively trim. Also, a lot of fabric that is usually bunched up under the arm has been eliminated.

I skipped to the wearable muslin, but marked my balance lines in soap (washable jacket). I used one size up from the size recommended for my bust measurement, because I wanted a jacket that would fit over some other layers. I went ahead and made a forward shoulder adjustment before cutting out, and added an inch to the length. I had to cut an inch and a half off the sleeves. They were long!

The jacket went together very quickly. Took me about four hours to complete, and I am not Speedy McSeamstress by any means. It was fun to sew, too. The unique sleeve and lack of side seams mean that the construction is different, so I followed the steps in the booklet. They include lots of other specifics that are often left out, like which side to have on top when stitching and which way to press the seams. My only nit-picky point on the instructions is that there must be some tricks to making the finishing of the band a little easier. I’ll have to search through my Cutting Line patterns and see if there are some band finishing instructions that can be borrowed.

Still doesn't tell you anything except that it needs to be longer.
Still doesn’t tell you anything except that it needs to be longer.

So…wearable muslin is done and I’m really pleased. Sorry the photos don’t tell much since it’s black. My only fit issue is that the upper back is a little wide, so I’ll consult the fitting document to see how they recommend adjusting that. I’ll also make the next one two and a half inches longer than designed. Some wool crepe is earmarked for the nice version, once I get some nice lining for it. I dabbled with embellishments for a little while and decided that they aren’t for me. I enjoy doing the work, but didn’t like wearing the garments. So plain wool crepe it is. Maybe with some topstitching to emphasize the seams.

You can probably tell that I like this jacket, since I wrote so darn much about it! It could be adapted to a nice tunic, too.

ready for fall

photo has been enhanced, but it's still black and hard to see
photo has been enhanced, but it’s still black and hard to see

Ready for cooler weather with 3 jackets!

First up, yet another By Popular Demand jeanish-type jacket. This one was lengthened a lot, and a little shaping was added to the sides. I’m coming to realize that my back-to-waist length must be at least 2 inches longer than this pattern line is designed for.

This is a TNT pattern, so no other refinements were needed. I did change the construction a bit in order to include an underlining that also hides the seam allowances, a variation on the stitch & flip technique.

Fabric – cotton pique. I really thought it would be nice and stable to work with. Surprise! Wrong! This stuff grew on every edge. I’ve never used pique before, so I’m not sure if that is characteristic of the weave or if I just ended up with a very “special” piece.CLD BPD black 2

Underlining – printed silk charmeuse that I bought long ago for another project that never made it to the cutting table. It works great for this little jacket, though. I’m glad to finally have it out of the stash. Stash is like compost – it fertilizes your mojo, but it’s better if you turn it over once in awhile.

I used gunmetal grey snaps from Snap Source for this jacket. These were the last of a large-ish order I placed many years back. Time to get some more as they are nice to have on hand.

CLD OTMThis one is another Cutting Line design called Of the Moment. I had muslined this jacket before and thought it looked sloppy on me, so I put it away. I really wanted to make the style work, though, so made it the first experiment in developing blocks with different shoulder fits. The original OTM design has a sleeve seam, but without any shaping. It’s essentially a straight kimono/dolman shoulder and sleeve.

I overlaid the Paco Peralta asian jacket that fits me well and altered the OTM shoulder & sleeve to match it. I’m MUCH happier with the fit of my altered version – this one now can move into the win column! Again, the pattern was lengthened at least 2 inches. For this version, I used two left fronts (as designed, the pattern has more drape to the right front, less on the left). Topstitching was done with the machine’s triple stitch using rusty orange thread, like on jeans. It only shows when you view the jacket close up, but does add a nice little detail.

The material came from Fabricker and had the nice quality of being the weight of a denim, but soft and drapey – right in the Goldilocks zone for this style. This pattern would really show off double-sided fabric, and I hope to find some to make it again.

An unusual thing about the OTM pattern is that the neck facing is the most important piece! How often does that happen? If it becomes distorted or is not sewn accurately, the mitered effect of the turnback lapel is ruined. The rest of the jacket is straight and very easy sewing.

V7975_finishedThen there is this one, the snakebit project. Finally finished after more than a year. It started life as V8804, but ended up V7975. From pattern errors to notions sourcing difficulties to design indecision to seamstress mistakes to inevitable compromise, this one dragged me through it all. Here it is – quilted lining, chain at hem, not perfect but complete at long last.

I cursed this thing so much that the negativity permeates the fabric like cigarette smoke. How do you exorcise evil spirits from a garment so that it is safe to wear? Seriously, what do you do when you are sick of something by the time you finish it?

A Cute Angle

It seems like Cutting Line Designs patterns are being issued more frequently these days. That’s good news, because I usually like them very much. But now it is easy to get behind with trying them out. And since they are expensive patterns, we can’t have them just piling up on the corner of the cutting table!

A Cute Angle

A Cute Angle is one of the ones I hadn’t made yet. There are two patterns in the envelope: One is a long sleeve blouse with hidden button closure, and the other is an asymmetrical jacket. I was curious about how the blouse differed from some similar recent offerings. The Artist In Motion top looks similar, and I wondered if the front closure was the only difference. A quick muslin later, I had my answer. The ACA top is cut slimmer – there is much less volume than the AIM top. It also seemed like the shoulder is squarer. I didn’t care for the way I looked in it, so I started thinking about the jacket.

The asymmetrical design is kind of “out there” for me. A wrap or an off-center line of buttons is about as far as I have gone. But this one seems like it could hang with a lagenlook collection, so it needed to be tried.

I’d also been wanting to order from the linen specialty shop, So I picked out a pretty blue and ordered yardage plus some swatches of other colors and weights to get an idea of their inventory. The mid-weight (IL019) linen that I bought seems like good quality for the price. Beware, though, they send lots of e-mails. Many of these are about sales and special prices (good), but they seem to come every other day (bad). I’ll give them another week to see if I have to send them to the spam folder or not.

CLD ACA frontHere’s the finished jacket. I like it a lot – and wish I had lengthened it just a little bit more. You don’t want to go making these really distinctive styles multiple times. When the hemline is all over the place, it’s hard to know where to take your length measurements.

In contrast to the little top, the jacket has a relaxed but neat shoulder/armscye/sleeve draft. If I do make it again, the shoulder could be just a tad narrower.

Maybe the lapels could be made smaller and I could do it again as a button-up top. As designed, there’s a single button and you have the option of making a buttonhole or a loop. I went with the loop and a big vintage mother of pearl button.

CLD ACA backYou can’t see it very well here, but there’s a little pleat running the length of the center back that is very cute.

One of the good things about sewing is that we get to define our own goalposts, and move them whenever we like. Much as I like the CLD patterns, the ones with the very square shoulders look pretty sloppy on me. Shoulder pads would fix that, but that’s not going to happen for everyday wear. It occurs to me that what I need are three different blocks so I can refine the fit of the shoulder and sleeves, and use them to modify the patterns. A dolman block, a drop-shoulder block, and a slightly-extended shoulder block ought to cover my needs for these relaxed styles.

Paco Peralta’s dolman draft fit me beautifully, so I’ll use it for the dolman styles.

For the slightly-extended shoulder, I can use this jacket (with the shoulder narrowed a bit) or the jacket from another CLD pattern, Pure and Simple (it’s out of print).

That just leaves the drop-shoulder, and I may look to Burda for a solution. Will need to examine some of the other CLD patterns to compare the shaping of the sleeve caps for styles that fall into this category.

So, a little project is born – I need to prove to myself that I can make those pattern modifications and that they will turn out the way I want them to. I’ll report on the results.

The jacket in this post was made on this machine…


the leopard, she cannot change her spots

needs sleeves, hems, and pockets
needs sleeves, hems, and pockets

Last year around this time I was all fired up about the new Claire Shaeffer V8804, another one of her Chanel-type jackets, complete with the quilted lining and many fussy construction details that I wanted to learn. I was also fired up to emulate the great Ann Rowley, and purposefully gather all my materials and make all my design decisions before starting on the jacket, thread tracing and copying all the other fine techniques Ann uses all the time. This is contrary to my usual way of working in which I kind of make it up as I go along.

I do give myself a pat on the back for having tried to do things another way, but it just didn’t work for me.

For one thing, I had trouble assembling all materials and trim, because I had specific things in mind that I just could not find. (This is a big reason that I don’t like shopping. I can never find what I want.) I spent weeks just trying to source things, with my mojo fading before I even threaded up the machine. Then the compromises began, and that killed off my remaining motivation. I’ll fess up to the compromises when I show the finished jacket.

I usually don’t have UFOs because I am strict with myself about finishing project A before moving on to project B. Finishing is the most tedious process, and it is much more fun to start something new. So I have to make myself finish. In this case, I was so frustrated that I cut myself some slack and put it all in a box where it sat reproaching me all through the spring and summer.

Now that cooler weather is only a couple of months off, I decided to do whatever it takes to get this thing finished. The trim has been applied and the sleeves are all ready to insert. I have chain to apply to the hem. A couple more sessions and it should be done.

And then I’ll go back to my usual comfortable way of working. Not that I’ll never attempt a labor-intensive project again, but I will have to gain some perspective on this one first.

embrace your spots and relax


Cutting Line Designs – A New Dimension

A New Dimension is the latest pattern from Cutting Line Designs. I started looking forward to this pattern when I first saw the samples. In the thread devoted to CLD patterns on Stitcher’s Guild, Louise let us know when the patterns were going to ship, so I was able to shop for fabric and have it all pre-washed in time to cut out the day after the pattern showed up in the mailbox.

The pattern

Both views have shoulder princess seams front and back. Dolman sleeves, swingy flare at the hem. The shorter version has a deep v neckline with a collar band and a tab button closure – good opportunity to use a showstopper button. The longer version has a collar with an interesting origami fold and optional pockets in the side front seams.

For this line of patterns, I like fabrics with interesting textures. Those can sometimes be hard to find. During my fabric shopping for AND, I found a light-weight cotton with a woven-in plaid pattern that was further texturized with an embroidered design. It was the right weight for a breezy dress with lots of gathers, but not exactly right for a jacket. However, Super Textiles also had a selection of brightly-colored cotton batistes. The two fabrics used together would be weighty enough for the design and would also give me the opportunity to hide all my seams in the underlining. I thought of the colors available, I’d like the fuschia combined with the navy fashion fabric.

I also planned from the start to make a bound buttonhole because I still don’t have a good buttonhole machine, and toyed with the idea of using the fuchsia for the buttonhole lips. Then I thought maybe I’d also pipe a seam or two with the fuchsia. Thank goodness for photo software that lets us try out our ideas before we actually spend precious time executing them.



I didn’t like any of those options, not even example “a” with the barely-visible accent buttonhole. So I just proceeded with the idea of making an unembellished jacket.

CLD ANDSingle layer cutting helped me match up the plaid texture. I didn’t bother trying to match the embroidery as well.

This went together pretty quickly, and since there is plenty of flare at the hemline, it didn’t require much in the way of alterations, either. I did a forward shoulder and lengthened it 3 whole inches to make it the length shown in the illustration. If I had made it the original length, it would have reached my waist. Maybe. It is a very cropped jacket. If you are average height or above, be sure to check the length before you cut, because there is only 7/8 inch allowed for hem, and if you want extra length you’re not going to pick up much there.

The buttonhole tab has a seam running down the center of the back of the tab, rather than seams on the 3 sides. This eliminates a lot of bulk in the corners and gives you a tidy tab. I wanted to have a bound buttonhole, and wanted the seam to fall exactly in back of the opening – so that the folded-under seam allowances would form the back buttonhole opening. That required re-engineering the tab, and was the most laborious design change I made.

CLD AND buttonI had a huge vintage mother-of-pearl button that I attached using rouleaux made from the fashion fabric. The rouleau? rouleaux?  was threaded through the buttonholes and knotted on the front, stitched to the jacket on the back. The ends were cut close to the knot and will be allowed to fray. Maybe I should just say “bias tubes” and not try to get all fancy with French.

The fuschia will be our little secret, OK?
The fuchsia will be our little secret, OK?

And here’s a photo showing the shape of the collar and tab against the BRIGHT underlining.

I like this pattern and look forward to making the long version.

Ottobre Triangle and CLD Pure & Simple

The spring issue of Ottobre Woman arrived about a month ago and what a good issue it is! The editor says they have added a new Finnish designer, Cecilia Sorensen, to the staff. Maybe she is responsible for all the nice stuff? But then, I thought the previous issue was especially good, too.

I liked so much that it was hard to decide what to make first, but the cute summery Triangle blouse won. The pattern instructions specified a sheer viscose/silk fabric (sounds like Radience would work really well for a luxe version). I had no such fabric in stash, so I ordered some Imperial Batiste to make this up, thinking the weight would be about right….and no ironing.

Otto 2_13_9 testBrag time. I ordered exactly what I needed and DID NOT order extra fabrics just to amortize the shipping costs. Changing habits is hard, but if I did it once, I can do it again.

While waiting for the “good” fabric to arrive, I made a muslin from stash. I didn’t want it to be exactly the same, because the triangle design is way too distinctive. But the beauty of patterns without seam allowances is that the front piece was presented as a whole front, with a line designating where the seamline would be to create the triangle. So I just made regular unpieced fronts from a heavy but drapey mystery fabric, and contrast front bands from a ticking-like fabric scrap.

I had recently done some snoop-shopping of Eileen Fisher and noted that she is using a lot of neckline bands. Now, hers are real ones (band plus facing). To mimic that look with less work, I drafted and cut a neckline facing and turned it to the outside. The facing was positioned on the fabric to match the bands which were cut on the bias.

Voila, iteration number one.

Otto 2_13_9Here is the version with the special-bought fabric, made up just like the model in the magazine, with collar and stand.

Construction notes: for both versions, I used my usual gambit for tracing the Euro patterns: find my size based on my bust measurement. Cut the shoulder one size smaller. Cut the hip one size larger. That’s all the fitting I need for a loose blouse like this one.

Ottobre does believe in darts, and this pattern has both shoulder darts and bust darts to finesse the fit. With it’s little cap sleeves, it is an easy sew. The hem does dip a little bit in front, which is more graceful that a straight-across hemline.

Don’t be put off from the pulls that show up around the bust in the photo. They are because of the grabby fabric of my dressform.

I will have to wear this a lot this summer, because the color blocking thing will probably be over pretty quick. It’s a happy little blouse, so that should be no problem. No, I did not have it finished for St. Patrick’s day.

P&S jacketAnother pattern that got it’s first trial by me is the jacket from Cutting Line Design’s Pure and Simple. The top from this pattern is a favorite of many people, but I haven’t seen the jacket made up very much. I can say that I will be using it again for sure! The pattern is for a coat or long jacket with three horizontal sections (another opportunity for color blocking). The first horizontal seam hides the pocket openings. It is easy to extend the top section to the length you want if you don’t want to include the horizontal seams, and that’s what I did. To replace the lost pockets, I made patch breast pockets.

The fit is loose and boxy, the facing is cut-on, so this is another easy-going project. The sleeves are just lovely in this jacket – they are not supposed to be dropped sleeves, and on me they were almost perfect – no weird folds in the sleeve at all. Next time I’ll narrow the shoulders just a bit. As is, the armcye sleeve is in the vicinity of my shoulder, but would look a little neater if it was just a little bit closer.

When you consider the nice shell that is the companion piece of this jacket, it makes this pattern one of the true jewels in the CLD line. I’m glad I gave the jacket a try. It’s a great unstructured jacket that you can add all sorts of details to. In fact, I wore it when I was doing my Eileen Fisher snoop shopping and got invited to a trunk show. Usually salesladies ignore me, so I guess it made me look worthy of attention!

Happy spring, one and all!