Ottobre 5/2014 “Autumn Palette”

My new sewing machine, a Janome DC4030P, is here and has been put through its paces by sewing a white shirt. The machine did great. The seamstress, not so great. I love sewing shirts, but am out of practice. Foolishly I dove right in without giving myself a little review or pulling out some good instructions. Everything came out OK, but it could have been accomplished in a much more elegant manner. NEXT TIME.

Since I need to re-fit a bunch of basic patterns, I started from scratch with this Ottobre shirt. It is number 18 from the 5/2014 issue and is called Autumn Palette. The design features a back yoke with a gathered back, forward shoulder seams, collar on stand, loose fit with no darts, and sleeves gathered into two-button cuffs with a bound placket. This shirt is voluminous enough that I sewed a straight size 44 with no extra added at the hip/hem.

There is also supposed to be a collar. I meant to sew this up pretty much exactly as given to have a good clean starting point for future design departures. So I made it the full length (which is long – tunic length). The only changes to the pattern prior to cutting was shortening the length of the sleeves. I did some thrifty cutting, and thought I would be able to squeeze in all the pieces, but nope! It came down to a decision between the collar or cuffs, and I decided to keep the cuffs.

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Evidence of thrifty cutting. This is all that was left.

The material came from Farmhouse Fabrics. Last year, they had a very good price reduction on some vintage cottons (in vintage 36″ width), mostly very drapey fine weaves. I had been thinking that the oversized patterns that I like would be more flattering made in fabrics with less body than the usual quilting or shirting cottons, so I gambled and ordered 5 or 6 cuts in mostly neutral colors. This thin cotton crepe is the first one to be cut and sewn.

I love neutral colors. I also love androgynous garments, like basic shirts and trousers. So I look a lot to menswear, where small details really make the style statement, for inspiration. I love Pam Erny’s old blog posts when she showed the details of her custom shirts. I aspire to workmanship like her’s.  So, to make this white shirt a little special, I decided to angle the corners of the cuffs and the neckband. Behold my style statement.

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daring, right?

As far as the pattern goes, everything went together just like it was supposed to, and just like we expect from Ottobre. Here is the shot on the grabby dressform, which defied all my efforts to get the shirt to hang straight, which it does on my non-grabby body. The pockets don’t hang up like that, either. You can also see by how the red shows through how lightweight the fabric is.

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The shirt is completely clean-finished, with french seams on the sides and flat felled ones on the sleeve cap. As I made this up, I thought about doing french seams on the sleeve cap – what do you do in cases like this? French or flat fell?

I used the edge stitch foot that came with my new machine in combination with the needle positioning feature to get nice even topstitching on the front bands, collar band, and cuffs.

My notes on fit for the next time…For this pattern, I really some sort of forward neck/shoulder alteration. The collar band is pulling to the back a bit, and the shoulder seams, which should be visible from the front, are pulling back, too. Will make those alterations for the next time. Other than that, I’m very happy with my new shirt that will keep me comfy and covered even when the weather turns really hot.

On to the next project! I am still working on developing new TNT basics. Next up – plain old pull-on pants.

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Miss Fisher coat – complete!

otto 5_07_20_frontSide note – there is a planning post on this project here with photos of the inspiration coat.

This was a super fun project. I enjoyed sleuthing out the details to make a semi-faithful knockoff, enjoyed sewing, and will get plenty of wear out of this coat.

After waffling between the Ottobre pattern (# 20 from the 5/2007 issue, “Raglan-sleeve trenchcoat”) and some possible candidates from old Burda magazines, I decided to go with Otto. It has an a-line cut, while the Burdas were either straight up and down or extremely swingy. Besides that, I am just going through a period of Otto love and wanted to use theirs.
Modifications: Converted to single breasted, added length, eliminated their sleeve ties and carriers and substituted tabs, and rounded the collar points to imitate the inspiration coat. Eliminated the back facing. Shortened the sleeves a little bit, too. Otto sleeves are always too long on me. I did not do a forward shoulder alteration; maybe a small one would have been in order.

The fabric was a Kaufman linen/cotton blend from stash. I thought I’d be able to order more (the pattern is for a shorter coat) in order to not worry about getting the length I wanted, but the source was sold out. With some thoughtful single layer cutting, I was able to get the whole coat out of the original piece! I was really pleased, because even though my fabric is a little heavier than Miss Fisher’s actual coat, I really wanted the weight and drape of this particular material.

otto 5_07_20_backBack view – the back is plain except for a center back seam.

All the seams were flat-felled, so the inside of the coat is clean finished. For the facings and hems, I thought about finishing with bias strips from lining fabric, but remembered I wanted to try the “Hug Snug” rayon seam binding that Wawak carries. I liked the Hug Snug very well. It molded itself around the facing curves nicely, and the shiny contrast to the linen makes it look a little bit like piping.IMG_6780

The coat was sewed on the trusty old Singer 66 with buttonholes courtesy of an old style buttonhole attachment on this rotary Kenmore machine. I was surprised at how easy the attachment was to use, and am glad that the unreliable computerized machine that I was keeping around for buttonholes can finally be retired. Now I’m on the lookout for more buttonhole templates, if they exist. This particular kit was complete, but only contained 5.

singer66

kenny buttonholer

I like the coat and don’t have any cautions to pass on. I made my usual combination of Otto sizes, and the coat is plenty roomy to go over sweaters and other layers. I have lost some weight, but feel like the coat would still be big enough for layers even if I hadn’t.

otto 2007_05_20

This coat is item #1 in my 2016 SWAP. There are a few made-before-the-deadline pieces allowed in this year’s rules. This will probably be the only one for me. Because I had so much fun copying this piece and the Eileen Fisher tunic earlier this year, my SWAP will feature knock offs. This will be my first SWAP in years, and I am really looking forward to it!

fall 6-pac

The extra material for the Miss Fisher coat is on the way and should be here later this week. Fabric.com took their time getting it in the mail, but shipping is free so I am not complaining.

ejvc hosts seasonal sewalongs on Stitcher’s Guild that are built around 6 coordinating garments. There are always some resulting collections that are really inspiring. The threads are great sources of ideas for both simple and challenging projects, and usually also have lots of discussion of color, as well.

I bought a couple pairs of leggings for fall, something I never thought I would do. Because of that, I really did need to make some tops to wear with them. No short tops with leggings!  2 pairs of leggings (one black, one navy), one purchased gray top, and the three sewn pieces below make up my “cheater” 6 pac.

OTTO 5_15_17This Ottobre top was written up a couple of posts back. The more I think about it, the less I like the high/low hemline. I won’t do that again. But I like the fit of the rest of the top with the slouchy extended shoulders. Good for casual and relaxed wear. This is #17 from the 5/2015 issue of Ottobre.

Burda 5_11_131The silk tunic was adapted from Burda Style 5/2011 #131. I chose it because it has both front and back gathered into the yoke, and bust darts in addition to the gathers. This particular pattern also fit me well in the shoulders and has an armscye and sleeve that I like. I added extra width to both the front and back because I was afraid that without the extra it might look skimpy in the lightweight silk. Maybe I overcompensated? It does feel very lovely and swirly to wear, and probably looks a little more body conscious in motion than in a still photo.

OTTO 5_15_4One of the features of the 6-pac is the suggestion to include a jacket. I went with a long cardigan. This is also from the 5/2015 Ottobre, #4. There are two versions of the cardigan in the magazine. One has a curled raw edge on the front band, the other is pieced of different colors and has a hood. I made the pieced version and went to the trouble of topstitching the seam allowances down on either side of each seam in an attempt to emphasize the piecing. This was mostly wasted effort! With the texture of my fabric, the topstitching doesn’t show unless you look very closely.

I wanted a really drapey cardigan and that’s what I got. The fabric was described as a rayon sweatshirt knit. The textured side has silky short fleece-like fibers, kind of hard to describe. Ottobre called for merino wool, and I think on the whole a more stable fabric, like a medium weight wool knit or real sweatshirt knit, might have been a better choice. Especially if you plan to put in the pockets as designed. I interfaced the heck out of my pocket openings, but they are still droopy, so they are going to be sewn up.

2015 Fall 6 pacLastly, here’s the whole shebang. The purchased tunic is the last on the right…and I only photographed with the navy leggings. If I were sewing this over again there are a few things I would do differently, but that’s always the way it is. I’m satisfied with my little 6-pac and will wear all of these items a lot this fall and winter.

Ottobre “colorful concrete”

The newest edition of Ottobre Woman is even heavier on the knit designs than usual, but that actually fit right in with what I need.  Leggings are soon comfortable that I decided I would start wearing them. That means I need some long tops to wear with them. This style, #7 from the 5/2015 issue, looked like a good option. It is a flared hem tunic with very dropped shoulders.

A nice beefy rayon/Lycra knit in a tie dye print seemed to echo the spirit of the colorful print they showed in the magazine. My knit came from Fabric.com and it is nicer than I expected.

imageThis is easy sewing with only 3 main pieces and a flat sleeve head. I did a forward shoulder adjustment, widened at the hip, and shortened the back by an inch and a half. The high/low effect is still a little more extreme than I like, so if I make this again I would also lengthen the front. And shorten the sleeves.

There are center front and center back seams which are supposed to be accented with a cover stitch. Since I don’t have a cover stitch machine, I used the feather stitch on my regular machine. Some tearaway stabilizer kept those stitches nice and flat. I also needed to stabilize the hem for twin needle stitching.

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Cooper thinks I should accessorize with a red dog towel.

There is a cute hooded cardigan in this issue that I also got grey fabric to make up. It will go well over this top. Then I think I’ll also make a woven tunic that will coordinate and that will give me a nice little fall grouping.

I hope your summer has been long and relaxing! I’m all ready for fall activities to begin, although cooler temperatures are still at least a month off.

Sure Fit results

The thing about working on fit is that you can’t just slap the results up on your off-the-rack sewing dummy and take photos with any meaning. You have to stage a shoot and you have no unpaid interns to do all the prep work or even snap the shutter for you.

Since the last post, I made many more muslins to complete my Sure-Fit dress blueprint.  I omitted the skirt portion to speed things along and strictly worked on the bodice. Selecting the right dart size took care of my issues in the front. The back, which looked like this…..

back blog…took more work. Glenda gave me some very helpful advice, which included adding a shoulder dart. I was amazed at how much of a difference that made. It cleared up issues that I thought were length-related. I am not as swaybacked as I thought.

I also worked on my sleevecap and armscye and eventually got them wrinkle-free, but they were also over-fitted and not right to wear. Even though I would very much like to understand the mysteries of sleeves, I was tired of making muslins, so I borrowed a sleeve and armscye from Ottobre and called it finished.

I then used my blueprint to fit and adapt a basic blouse from the first Ottobre Woman issue. I had made it before and knew that it fit better than average. Now I knew that it could fit even better. I checked the shoulder slope and pitch, waist length, dart placement, and pattern widths against my blueprint and adjusted them where needed – most of the work needed to be done to the shoulder. Here’s the blouse made from the adjusted pattern.

front
front
back
back

There’s still some room for improvement, but this is better than I was doing before. I also happen to know that one of the creases is due to a cutting error. I can do a little pin fitting on this blouse, refine the block a bit more, and give it another go. This is where the intern would have been useful, giving a little artful pull here and there so that all would hang right.

I also used the blueprint to modify the shoulders on the Cutting Line Designs Anything But Ordinary top. I had made this top before and was not happy. Here it is, much better – a simple, breezy, casual top.

CLD ABONow, my unpaid intern/stylist, had I had one, would have advised me to wear darker foundation garments before shooting. But I’m not going to do it over.

Lastly, I used the blueprint to adjust the shoulders and compare widths to make a block for a basic sleeveless knit top based on an Ottobre pattern. I also used it to modify the Style Arc Abby cardigan, so I have a little twinset.

knit block_Abby Cardi

By the way, the pants that you can’t see very well in these photos are Style Arc’s Jasmine pants. I was not too happy with these when I finished them, but after they hung around for a month or so I finally decided to wear them. Evidently the time out improved my attitude, because now I like them well enough to go back and fine-tune the pattern to use again.

Reviews of the Jasmine pants often mention that the pants poke out where the V of the back yoke meets the center back seam. This is why:

style arc jasmineI sewed up the CB following the line indicated by the ruler to avoid the pointy poke.

Speaking of Style Arc, I have some thoughts on home garment sewing in general that have gelled because of working with some of their patterns lately. Style Arc seems to me to kind of replicate the RTW sewing experience in their styles, terminology, and assembly methods. I can’t cite anything as a real fact, but I believe I’ve read that Chloe Parker, the woman behind Style Arc, has a background in RTW and is bringing her expertise to pattern design for home sewers.

What follows here is not knocking Style Arc at all. I like and buy patterns from them. One of their features is small seam allowances – like a quarter or 3/8 of an inch, as opposed to the 5/8 inch that has long been a standard for home sewing patterns. Many home sewers are very enthusiastic about the narrow seam allowances and wonder why the other pattern companies are so old fashioned as to retain wider ones.

To me the wider seam allowances make more sense. I do not sew in a production environment, where consistency is a primary goal – that is, where the garment is being made by the thousands, and it’s important to have every size 12 be exactly the same as every other size 12. Narrow seam allowances help with that kind of accuracy. And they save fabric, too.

But I’m not trying to make identical multiples of a garment. I won’t use “couture” to describe what I’m doing, but it is “custom” work, like custom dressmakers used to do. I may make the same pattern a few times, but it’s going to be in different fabric each time, which means that I might need to let out the seams a bit. Can’t do that when the seam allowances are 1/4 inch.

Also, I’m not making a garment to a set of pre-determined size 12 specifications. I fit as I sew, and need to have enough fabric to work with. It also means that my construction steps might be different, since there are some options I want to keep open until the very end. That’s not always the most efficient (as in fast) way to sew.

Funny that 3/8 of an inch can cause you to think about what you are doing, why, and who your tribe is.

My resolution to the seam allowance question comes from becoming used to Burda and Ottobre magazine patterns. Leave ’em off. Trace the patterns without seam allowances, then add whatever you need when cutting. Makes for easier pattern alteration, style changes, and fitting. For me, that more than compensates for the few minutes it takes to chalk them on.

front

an Ottobre palate cleanser

Thanks so much to those who left comments on the previous post, and also to those who sent encouraging vibes out into the ether. The sleeves are in on the jacket – hems, chain, and general finish/press are all that are left. Since my goal is to wear the jacket to Christmas concerts this year, I think I’m in good shape.

A long time ago, Leslie in Austin prescribed a knit top as the answer for mojo fatigue. The latest Ottobre Woman has just arrived, and they do such a good job with knits, so it was a quick trace and sew to make #4 from this issue. It’s a raglan-sleeved T with a wide neckline. I used a gray heather-effect ITY from Marcy Tilton specifically to be a light-weight layer under this vest. The vest is one I like, but it hasn’t been worn much because a navy or white layer underneath just seems too matchy.

made specifically to wear with the vest on the right
made specifically to wear with the vest on the right

Here are the findings: I was concerned that the neckline might be too wide since my shoulders are slightly narrow. Good news, bra straps are covered and the top does not slip around from side to side. The sleeves are a bit narrow for me on this style. I widened them a little, but they are still quite snug. I swung the hem out quite a bit  – maybe too much – so that it wouldn’t get hung up in back. That’s really fine since this piece will probably always be worn as an underlayer.

There are some weird little folds just like darts running from the side seam to above the breast on both sides. Those will have to be addressed if I make this again to wear without overlayers. I’m not at all familiar with altering raglan styles, but it seems like shortening everything about 3/8 of an inch somewhere above the bustline will help.

I used the neckline facing for view B (a dress) to get the length for the neck binding. It was way too short. Cut a much longer strip using the same width – since the binding is sewn on in the flat before stitching up the last shoulder seam, it’s easy just to cut a long strip and cut off the excess.

The side seams really have quite a bit of shaping to them that doesn’t show up in the photos. If you make your tops more fitted than I do, the shaping should show. The neckline is a pretty shape.

One last note – Ottobre tops, whether shirts or knits, always seem to be a little on the long side to me. Not this one! The stated finished length is correct, and it is shorter than their usual. I lengthened an inch.

Tracing to finish was maybe 3 hours? Not long. How refreshing!

Ottobre Woman 2/13 #3

IMG_4224IMG_4224a…And here’s the finished shirt. I’ve already seen Amanda make this up, and plans on another blog to make it, so this may end up being a popular pattern, for Ottobre. It’s a nice buttonup shirt with a pretty yoke detail. The front shoulder seam is quite forward and slanted, and the back of the yoke is curved. It has darts for a nice bust fit.

This shirt is part of a travel wardrobe for a relatively rugged vacation I have coming up. We won’t be sleeping in tents, but there will be plenty of hiking and hauling of gear, and the climate is different from what we have here so I do need some items good for what I would call cool, but not cold, weather.

Fabric is denim chambray. It’s a little heavier than a regular shirting, so I took the opportunity to use some scraps of a Liberty cotton to make the lining pieces.

Liberty surprise under the pocket flaps
Liberty surprise under the pocket flaps
Liberty inside cuffs and collar stand
Liberty inside cuffs and collar stand
little Liberty hem gussets
little Liberty hem gussets

The yoke is lined with the same print, too. Feels extra nice to wear.

Design changes: added second breast pocket and squared off the pocket bottoms; pocket flaps; added sleeves; changed hem to more like a swallowtail hem. Added a bit to the first fold at center front so the band is self-interfaced.

Alterations: I used my usual Ottobre sizing gambit (44-46-48, with the 44 @ the shoulder), forward shoulder and swayback adjustments.

General comments: I like that the front band is cut-on but am puzzled why they didn’t have the first fold wide enough to be a self-interfacing piece. Maybe I missed something in the instructions. In general, Ottobre makes their CF bands for their shirts a little narrow and dainty for me. Next time I’ll make it a little wider. Another possible drafting (or tracing) problem: The back side seam was about an inch longer than the front. I went back and checked my tracing against the original, and it seems like I traced correctly. But errors could have crept in with my alterations, so I’m not sure where the problem lies. In any case, it’s an easy fix.

I used the sleeve from the Gardener shirt in the 5/2012 issue and it fit into the armscye with just a little easing. HOWEVER, I should have widened the shoulder of the body so that it would fall a little off of my actual shoulder, the way most shirts do. The armhole for “Buttondown” is cut in a little bit, which is more graceful for a sleeveless design. I thought I could leave the shoulder width as is, since my shoulders are narrow, but the hang of the sleeve is influenced just a little bit. It’s really fine as it is, but could have been better, and will be next time.

There are a few more travel-related items at the top of my sewing queue. A couple of oversized shirts that can go over layers, and some utilitarian odds and ends. Marcy Tilton’s pattern V8407 includes a passport pouch, a little cross-body bag, and all kinds of cute envelopes for travel items. I want to make a few of those things, too.

I hope everyone is enjoying a fun and relaxing summer, whether it includes travel or not.