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 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.


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.


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!

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!

Burda to the rescue

Folkwear Croatian Shirt

Back last year when it was Shirt A Month time, I wanted to revisit some of the Folkwear patterns that I still have from my old hippie days. I enjoy ethnic/folkloric styles, and wanted to make something that had a Euro-type heritage. The Asian styles are beautiful, but as a blue-eyed ex-blonde I always feel like an obvious imposter. Almost like wearing a fake moustache.

So, there was ample yardage of a beautiful rustic linen in stash, and I decided to go out and do the best work I could possibly do to make the shirt and its smock-like embellishment based on pintucks. I pulled dozens of threads to be sure everything was absolutely on grain; even pulled a thread for each tuck. I was super careful with sewn-in interfacing, which involved lots of hand basting. There are also about a thousand little pleats that had to be basted, because the shirt body and sleeves are pleated, not gathered, at the yoke and armscye.

It was a punch to the gut when I got to the point that I could try it on and it looked AWFUL. No photos, sorry. I didn’t have the heart. There was all kinds of fabric bunching up going on around the armscye. A larger gusset didn’t seem to help. So I put it all in a plastic baggie and set it aside hoping to somehow save it later. The pattern I threw away in disgust.

The baggie sat on my cutting table, always in my way, for over six months. This week I decided to either make something of the half-finished shirt, or throw it away, too.

Burda 2011_07_121
Burda 2011_07_121

Those old Burda WOF/BurdaStyle (rantette: I hate those run-on names made from two words) magazines do come in handy. I knew I wanted a style that was somewhat shirt-like, but no buttons, and with bust darts. #121 from July of 2011 had all that and more – those shoulder seams are much more forward than normal – which meant that the pintuck embellishment I wanted to save would extend farther down the front.

The original for this pattern had a silk front and jersey back. No fitting adjustments were needed to make it work in all linen. The little cap sleeves are optional – just leave them off for a sleeveless version if you like.

Alterations: Since this pattern was for regular sizes only, I gave myself a 1/2 inch FBA and some extra fit insurance at the hip. Also made the swayback alteration that I now know I always need. I also decided to round off the hem, keeping the high-low style.

finished at last
finished at last

On the front, I added a horizontal seam. On the Croatian shirt, the tucks were just released where they ended, but cuts made to create the front placket meant I’d have a better chance at a save if the fronts were just cut separately and a lower front sewn on. I fell stitched the folds of the original front bands so the inside would be clean-finished, and then sewed the center fronts together by hand, raising the point of the opening. True to Burda form, that original front slit is way too deep for old hippies. The young ones may enjoy showing more skin. Bias binding finished off the armscyes.

Enough yakking. Here’s the end result, shown with the ancient Kenmore on which it was sewn. 3 yards of 60″ linen and I ended up with a sleeveless top! Ah, well. It does feel good that ALL of the fabric didn’t end up in the trash. There is at least something to show for it. And it still has a little folkloric flair. And I can wear it right away.

For those that may be interested, here’s a closeup of the embellishment. First, a set of pintucks is stitched. The two pintucks on the outside are left as is. The four in the center are mock-smocked – the folds are tacked together or to the shirt front to produce a honeycomb effect. I added the machine made herringbone stitch on what was originally supposed to be the button band. (My Janome with the beautiful buttonholes is in a funk and I’m not sure what to do about her. Meantime I’m sewing things without buttonholes)

pintuck detail
pintuck detail

Here’s another shot where I’ve highlighted the positioning of the tacking stitches, in case anyone wants to duplicate this detail. The thread is passed from one tack to the next by hiding it in the fold of the pintuck. The tacking is worked vertically.

Burda2011_07_121 DETAIL2

Happy sewing, all!

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!

a knit top and some pants fitting

V8536This post is mainly to get some photos on the web so I can post them in some forums, so it may be a little short on text.

First up, a top from V8536, which is one of their basic design patterns – a knit top with several different necklines and sleeve lengths. I am following a Top A Month thread on Stitcher’s Guild and want to make most of them knits because I’m badly in need of experience working with knits. I’m really happy with this pattern and the way my top turned out. The V is a little deep but still wearable. I’ll probably tweak that next time, but everything else worked out just fine. A very nice feature of this pattern is that it has some bust fullness to it that you ease in on the sides. It this particular knit (a nice one from Christine Jonson) the easing is invisible. I’ll make this pattern again.

One of the areas that I really need to work on with knits is hemming. On this one, I used four lines of topstitching as suggested by Claire Shaeffer  in her High-Fashion Sewing Secrets book. Claire says this hem was used often by Jean Muir and others. There are two rows of stitching about a quarter of an inch apart at the hem edge, and two more rows of stitching V8536 detailtwo inches above that. There’s a pic of the hem even though the close match of the threads makes it hard to see.

Claire’s book is not a new one. It’s full of nice techniques to give a nice elevating touch to garments. I need to look at it more for ideas.

Now for the less successful. Cutting Line Designs has a new pattern called My Swing Set that has a skinnier-fit pant with side seams. My first attempt was a failure, but that was due to my own errors. When I finished this pair, I thought that they looked pretty good – until I took the photos! Now it’s plain that more work is needed. But I’ll give them another try.






Pinning a quarter inch scoop helps the left side a bit, but the right is still wrong. I suspect my right backside is a different size from the left, and that if I really want to do pants right, I’ll have to start cutting two different backs.CLD MSS 2