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.

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.

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.


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.


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!

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.


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.

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!

artist in motion tunic

Last week we heard that there’s a new Cutting Line pattern on the way. Time to get the last one made, right?

fabric puts me in mind of crayons
fabric puts me in mind of crayons

Artist In Motion includes a shirt/tunic and cute little vestee. I was actually all set to  make the tunic when it first came out, but somehow it kept being pushed back. But when I saw Martha’s super version with added sashiko embellishment, it lit a fire under me. Martha’s review is here with links to photos. It doesn’t look like she has blogged the tunic, although she did write about the vesty. I can’t quite visualize myself wearing the vesty, although there have been some lovely versions posted.

So here is the one I made. This fabric, reminiscent of ikat, came from Fabric Mart and is still available. If you’re interested in the fabric, you should be aware that those horizontal stripes are kind of embroidered on the fabric and the thread tails on the wrong side are left loose. I’m not afraid of them unravelling, but you wouldn’t want to use it for a garment where the reverse shows, because it looks pretty untidy. There is also another colorway with a pinky background color. It’s a linen, and although I prewashed, I’m hoping that some additional washings will soften it up a bit more so it will drape better.

I could have moved the towel...
I could have moved the towel…

On to the pattern. This is a pretty simple basic shirt shape – no cuffs, collar, or stand. There is a center-front placket which goes together very neatly and would be a good place to feature some topstitching. The placket is stitched down below the bustline – it’s not a hidden placket with additional buttons. There’s just the one button and buttonhole to make, which means this is pretty quick to sew up. It’s also means you can feature a single dramatic button up there near your face. I considered leaving the button off, since I will probably never wear the neckline fastened up, but decided that the it needed a little punctuation.

Alterations – I went from a M at the shoulder to a L+ at the hip, because I wanted to be sure that the tail wouldn’t hang up in the rear. I think I added just a smidge too much and will remove some width next time. I also lengthened an inch.

Next iteration I will make the same dropped shoulder adjustment I made to the TMA shirt. The shoulders are only slightly dropped on me – they actually end somewhere in the vicinity of my natural narrow shoulders.

The sleeves taper to the wrist which gives a slimmer overall appearance. Nice that you can do that with just a flick of the wrist!

All in all, I’m really pleased with the style and will make it again, especially since it was a quick sew. Bring on the new pattern, I am all ready now.


shirt a month wrap-up

It was last year around this time that I sewed the shirt that led to the resolution to improve my shirtmaking skills.  Otto BoyfriendI was unhappy with my performance in the shirt-y details. The sleeve plackets were clumsy. There were jogs where the collar band attached to the center front, and where the cuffs attached to the sleeves. It’s funny how a little time passing can enable you to overlook faults like that, though, and I’ve worn that shirt quite a bit in spite of my bad workmanship. I didn’t even take its picture at the time. Here it is,  Ottobre’s Boyfriend shirt, #17 in their Spring 2010 issue. There was nothing wrong with the pattern.

So this year I sewed twelve shirts of various styles. I tried different methods for those pesky collar stands, plackets, and cuffs. I also drafted a yoke for the Ottobre basic shirt, rotating the shoulder dart to the horizontal seam at the base of the yoke. I tried to learn to use felling and hemming feet, but still get better results using a regular foot, especially when any curves are involved, like on a shirttail hem. Maybe in future I’ll sew a few nightshirts to practice more with the feet.

shirt a monthHere’s the photo recap of the Shirt A Month. 10 shirts for me (yay!) and two for the Spouse. The Spouse has actually requested me to make him a long-sleeved shirt, and that is proof that my workmanship has improved. The SAM was a very rewarding discipline, more so than last year’s Jacket A Month. The reason: I didn’t do repeats on the jackets; they were all different. With the shirts, I made 4 camp collars and 8 collar bands. I made 4 sets of cuffs and plackets. The repetition really helped. I also discovered that I really like wearing shirts for everyday, more so than knit tops.

Now follows the top to bottom link-o-rama to posts and tutorials that I’ve found especially helpful.

Collars: I now have two ways to get nice, sharp collar points every time.

1. Use the type of collar that Louise Cutting always includes in her patterns, a one-piece collar that is seamed at the center back of the undercollar. This type of collar reduces bulk in the points, puts the undercollar on the bias for a nice roll, and is easy to draft from any standard collar. There’s a tutorial on drafting a collar of this type on Pfaff Follies & Singer Zingers. The resulting pattern piece is an odd shape and eats up a lot of fabric. Sigrid also has a tutorial on this technique: Sigrid’s Collar Tute.

2. So if I’m running short of fabric, or for some other reason decide to use a standard two-piece collar, there is a tip Pam Erny recently shared that works great. A loop of thread is sewn into the collar points that can be pulled to pop out a perfectly sharp point. Pam wrote up her tip on Off The Cuff. It is the entry dated 10/08/2012.

And here’s some interesting information on finessing the shape of camp collars: Fashion Incubator

Collar Bands: The “Debbie & Belinda” method works best for me. Belinda has stopped blogging and her wonderful tutorials are now gone. I hope that this link will stay alive!  Constructing Collars With Stands

Sigrid also has a tutorial for a somewhat similar method: Sigrid’s Collar With Stand. (David Page Coffin is credited in each of these tutorials.)

Sleeve Plackets:

1. When the fabric is lightweight, Gigi’s Magic Placket works great. Very easy, but because a lot of fabric ends up folded in the pointy end of the placket, the fabric really does need to be lightweight. Summerset shows the same technique here: Pins and Needles

2. If the fabric is too heavy for the Magic Placket, Pam Erny comes to the rescue again with the two-piece placket. Classic Sleeve Placket

3. Finally, if you want the experience of making the usual sleeve placket, Mary Beth has an excellent how-to on The Stitchery.

Cuffs: The method shown in a series of posts at Fashion-Incubator is dandy. Don’t nail your sleeve pleats down until you are fitting the sleeve into the cuff. Then if your sleeve doesn’t exactly match the finished cuff, you can make any needed adjustments with the pleats.

Design Inspiration:

I’ve already linked to Off-The-Cuff a few times. Pam’s gallery there features lots of details to include in shirt designs and many more tips than I’ve linked to here.

Cool stitching for a collar that will stay standing up in the back – Margy uses this one: Stand Up Collar Here’s a pic of one of her shirts, combining the one piece collar with the extra stitching in the link she mentioned. Look at those great chevron stripes from the one-piece collar draft. I couldn’t locate her blog post on this, but here’s the detail

Margy’s classy shirt

on the shirt. And here’s a link to Margy’s inspirational blog, Fool 4 Fabric.

I never did make a shirt with contrasting fabrics for details as many of the other SAM sewers did with great results. Places to use contrast: inside and/or outside collar stand, inside/outside front band, sleeve placket, inside/outside cuffs.

Finally, the discussion on Stitcher’s Guild was fun and informative. For photos of the beautiful shirts that the other SAM sewers made, and for a wealth of shirt-related links, visit the two topics there. We had enough posts that the mods cut off the first topic and started another.

Shirt a Month 1

Shirt a Month 2