two tops

There are a couple of tops to share with you. Both are old patterns, but not so terribly dated.

First up, Sewing Workshop’s Tribeca.

This is one of the first Sewing Workshop patterns I ever bought, so it must be at least 8 years old or so. I made it once before, but in a very sober color and a smaller (boo hoo) size.



This was a fabric-generated project. I think it came up in a search for chambray on, and it was described as having two different sides. When it arrived, I was happy to see it was actual double cloth – two layers of gauze-like cotton attached to each other with tiny “stitches”. You can barely see the blue attaching threads on the white side of the fabric. It aged for a few months while I thought about patterns that would take advantage of the double-sidedness, and eventually the old Tribeca was my choice.

Tribeca has no facings – the outside edges are turned and stitched with tiny little miters at all the corners. It also has a ton of darts. Shoulder darts, two bust darts (including a curved frenchy dart), back darts, and elbow darts shape and control the fullness in this shirt. The buttonholes are reinforced with little backing squares to make up for the lack of facing support. Directions call for french seams everywhere. The double cloth was a little heavy for real french seams, so I made flat fells – grading the layers inside the seam.

Sleeves were a little long, but they look nice rolled up so that’s not a problem.

I doubt I will make it again, as there is something about the shoulder that just isn’t right in either version, despite my comparisons to TNTs and tweaking. It’s not enough to keep me from wearing this, but I don’t think it is worth my time to try to fit and sew again. This will work nicely as either a shirt or lightweight jacket.

Claire Kennedy in her blog recently drew attention to a BurdaStyle pattern that is now available as a download. I recognized it as one I had noted as a possibility for me back when it appeared in the magazine – in the July 2010 issue.

BS_10_07_122_drawingIt’s style #122 – here’s the line drawing.


And here it is, made up in handkerchief linen.  BS_10_07_122You can see that I had to make use of some “design opportunities”. This was originally supposed to be long sleeved like the pattern. However, the upper bodice and attached sleeve is such a large piece, that you have to do single layer cutting. So I cut one side, unpinned the fabric, then flipped the pattern piece and cut out the opposite side. Set the pattern piece aside with the second fabric piece still attached. Can you guess where this story is going?

After most of the main pieces were cut out,  I grabbed the biggest scrap I could find for the collar stand. Yes, the “scrap” was one of the bodice/sleeve pieces that wasn’t attached to the pattern tracing. This is not the first time I’ve done this….some corrective action needs to be worked into my cutting procedures.

So now you know why the sleeves are short and the left front is pieced. I don’t mind it this way, but would still like a long-sleeved version!

I recently adjusted the measurements on my sewing dummy but it truly is only good as a clothes-hanger now. That bust seam really does go across the fullest part of the bust (there’s a dart built into it). You can see where the bust apex is on the dummy. Not an adjustable measurement.

Other notes on the pattern – the sizes ended at 44, but this was easy to scale up to a 46. The collar stand is loose in front when it is buttoned up, and when it is not buttoned it falls away from the neck in a relaxed way. Also, that stand is very narrow and consequently a pain to sew. I’ll probably  make it a little wider when I make my long-sleeved shirt just to make the sewing experience less stressful.

BS_10_07_122_BACKHere’s the back view – when I make this again, I may put a pleat in the lower back piece at the center, or a couple of small pleats at the side, just to give a little extra ease over the seat.

Next up is a pair of pants in a black and white cross-woven cotton to go with the white shirt. When I hung this in the closet, I realized that I have a couple of white tee shirts, but did not have a white woven shirt. This will probably get a lot of wear, as white shirts are a good thing to have.

I realize I’ve been slow with the blog postings lately, and feel guilty because in the meantime I’ve been enjoying everyone else’s blogs. Partly it’s because I have had computer problems, and partly because I don’t need to sew as much now that office wear is not required. The computer has been replaced, and I am slowly learning to use the new platform since the replacement is a mac. The differences between it an my old windows machine are just enough to be a little aggravating, but a little time (and a few time outs!) will get me over that.

Happy sewing, everyone!


Top A Month #4 – Burdastyle + Sewing Workshop

It’s nearing the end of April and I haven’t made a knit top for the TAM exercise. But I did make a woven, so that will be “Miss April”.

Burda Mag 2011_05_131
Burda Mag 2011_05_131

It is almost always satisfying to go back to the Burda magazine stash. This one is from the 5/2011 issue, # 131. It’s presented as a dress, but hemline, schmemline. Mine is a tunic.

I wanted to use a cotton voile that came from Farmhouse Fabrics. This place has become one of my favorites, even though most of their inventory seems to cater to the sewing for kiddies market. They still have plenty of shirtings, cottons, and linens appropriate for grown-ups, like this teal-colored voile I found among all the baby colors. Quality has always been good there, too.

Voile is sheer, so I wanted a pattern with volume. The thinking was that all the gathers in the fabric, along with the breast pockets, would team up to mitigate the peekaboo effect. Wrong. When I got things assembled enough to try on, I realized that this would need an underlayer to be modest enough. There was enough fabric left over from the tunic to make the tank from Sewing Workshop’s Mixit pattern. Even with the two layers, the fabric is so light that the ensemble is very very cool to wear. It will be nice in the heat of summer to have something that gives coverage in the form of sleeves, but is still cool.

Some construction notes: I basically made view B but added the pockets from A, minus the flaps. Originally I was going to make the sleeve tabs, too, but they seemed out of character with the softness of the voile, so I left them off.

voila --voile!
voila –voile!

The first decision was about interfacing. I had white, offwhite, and gray interfacing in the stash. There was lots of showthrough and it seemed to me like self-fabric interfacing would be the best bet. Also because of the showthrough issue, I eased the dart at the side seams instead of stitching. The voile was loosely woven so easing worked OK.

Burda instructions for the placket weren’t sufficient. I’ll find better placket instructions to copy off and save with my pattern for next time.

Side seams and sleeve seams are flat-felled. The pockets and yoke are edge-stitched and topstitched. Sleeve hems were turned to the right side for a 3/4 sleeve with mock band. Since I was not going to flat fell the armscye, and also wasn’t going to mess with getting teal thread on the serger, the armscye is overcast with a machine zig-zag. I kept the wide hem of view B for weight. Gray-ish mother of pearl buttons pick up a little of the teal color.

In the photo, the neck was left unbuttoned so you can glimpse the tank top underneath.  Since the tank is from the same fabric as the shirt, the placket with its multiple layers really disappears. I started with the SW Mixit tank because it is dartless, and made a few changes. From the illustration on the pattern, you wouldn’t know how high the neck of this tank actually is. Lowered it an inch. Cut out on the bias on the theory that it would hang closer to the body and not cause the overshirt to pouf out too much. Poufing is not an issue when the two are worn together. I wonder if the bias cut actually made a difference?

To simplify construction and reduce handling of the bias cut pieces, I cut the hem with a shirtail curve, enabling this zip-zop easy construction:

1. Hem back & front with a tiny baby hem.

2. Sew sides and shoulders with french seams. The raw edges of the curved hem are hidden in the french seam.

3. Bind the neckline & armscye.

4. Finished!

Sometimes I have a little binding issue with Burda shoulders and sleeves, but this pattern is especially nice in that area, IMO. I’m really glad to have given it a try and will probably make it up again.

SAM #4

Sweet Liberty!

Shirt-A-Month #4 is Sewing Workshop’s Liberty. It’s also the overlayer part of my spring 6-pak, and can be worn as a jacket over either of the previous matchy-matchy columns. Way to make one garment count towards multiple goals, right?

The skinny (I wish) on this Liberty: The double-sided linen was purchased a long time ago from Fashion Fabrics Club. It was a clear must-have for me. One side matches my eyes and the other side matches my hair. Someone doing historical reinactments could have done the whole Civil War with this fabric if they had had enough. One side for the Union, the other side for the Confederacy. Anyway, the fabric was very special for me and I dithered for years over what to do with it. One pattern after another was considered and cast aside. Finally I decided I wanted to make the Liberty with hems and facings turned to the outside. The irony here is that you could absolutely make the same effect with two contrasting fabrics. The only place the double-sided characteristic of the fabric was utilized was the hems, and you could easily cut a hem facing in your contrast.

Other changes from the pattern: lengthened an inch. I have made this before and did

not really care for the wavy collar in the pattern, so this time I cut a straight band. Also, the instructions call for french seams. Since this linen is pretty heavy, that was not the way to go. Instead, I pressed the seam allowances open and then turned them under, using a triple stitch topstitch on either side of the seam to secure.

This is the way it looks from the outside.

And this is the way it looks on the inside.I’ve only used decorative stitches on my machine a very, very few times. The idea for using the triple topstitch came directly from Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic fame.

There must be something about the Liberty that makes me want to use the decorative stitches, though. My previous version (also linen) used a wing-needle and hemstitching along the hem and facing edges.


This is a very fun pattern to make, and not difficult, but it is so distinctive that I may not make it again. But I see that an Eskandar design (at Nieman’s) seems to have a similar hem/vent in a longer length. That might just be different enough to give the pattern a third whirl.

Wearing Art has had Liberty Tana Lawn on sale and I treated myself to a couple of pieces. Liberty Of London Tana Lawn Pepper Blue/GreenOne is the teeny-tiny “Pepper” print that is so bitsy that it reads as a textured neutral from a few feet away.




Liberty Of London Tana Lawn Strawberry Thief Green/Blue The other is a small piece of the print titled “Strawberry Thief”, designed by William Morris.

 Morris is one of my design heroes. He was a big player in the Arts & Crafts movement in the late 1800s, founding a decorating company with an emphasis on hand-made goods and core principle of fair pay for the workers, viewing artisans as artists. He designed textiles for the firm. He was a painter and hung with the Pre-Raphaelite crowd. He was particularly interested in book arts, printing exquisite volumes at his Kelmscott Press. He was a pioneer in historic preservation. He was also a poet. Even though his poetry doesn’t do much for me, this additional credit belongs on the list.

But here’s the thing – a textile designed by an idol was on sale for a good price, and I only bought a half a yard. Just enough to cover a cushion and have a bit left over, because I’m shy about wearing art.

 On the one hand, I really think that hand-made clothing should fully exploit its hand crafted-ness, including details and techniques that don’t lend themselves to the manufacturing process. I admire art-to-wear on a mannequin. But on the other hand, I’m not comfortable in clothes that draw a lot of attention. Coming up with a balance will take some experimentation. I DO know that I want Peggy L to teach me silk-screening.

 Here’s an experiment. I had some left-over linen, and I had the Sewing Workshop’s Mixit pattern. Many Sewing Workshop patterns are perfect blank canvases for surface techniques. The dartless tank I made is one of them. (The other tops in Mixit are good candidates, too.) The idea was to try some discharge dyeing using a bleach pen, and making a wearable muslin at the same time. A woven tank is a good TNT to have.

 Step one was to thread-trace the outlines of the pattern. I didn’t want to be inhibited by the edge of the fabric when drawing the design with the pen.

 I experimented on scraps with bleach from a bottle before I got the bleach pens, mixing it with some flour so that it would stay where I put it. The experimental pieces took a full 10 minutes for the bleached areas to go to white, so I planned a design that would take a little time to draw.

 Good thing I did another trial when I got the pen – it bleached super-fast! I was all fired up to forge ahead, so decided to just scrawl random circles with a kind of graduated effect, leaving the hem area untouched. And here you see the result. A bit crude because of the lack of planning, but there are some things I like about the effect.  There’s a nice difference between hard and soft edges which you can control by how quickly you draw with the pen. The overall effect reminds me of low-contrast tie-dye. I might do another piece using the bleach and flour mixture in a more controlled design.

 Thoughts on the pattern – there’s no shaping to this tank, so if you want any you’ll have to add it yourself. But because there’s no shaping, the hem is straight across, making it a great a great candidate for a border print. I sometimes need an FBA in most patterns, and this tank would hang a bit better if I made a small one. All in all, the fit is better than I expected from such an unstructured pattern. The shoulder sits well on me, and there’s no armhole gap, so I’m pleased. Add to that, it goes together in no time at all.

 I plan to wear this around the house and see if it makes me feel too much like an old hippy.

Interested in discharge dye? Some links….

Lois Ericson in Threads one of the art-to-wear masters.

Paula Burch some specific information on using a bleach pen.

Vintage Threads this blog post has some good ideas.