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little white shirt

May 4, 2015

There aren’t many white shirts in the closet because of the way they attract splotches of tomato sauce and red wine. But I do like a white shirt and wanted one to go with the black and white crosswoven linen pants I recently made.

This is the Ottobre Woman Triangle shirt, #9 from the Spring 2013 issue, without the color blocked triangle.

I started with a fresh tracing upon which to work my alterations: small FBA, lowered the bust point, forward shoulder, sway back. Next time I could raise the bust point just a smidge, and increase the sway back a little, if there is a next time. I like the little cut on cap sleeves, but they might not be around much longer.

Here’s a photo on the dummy, which really doesn’t even work well to hang clothes on for photos anymore. The dummy is over 10 years old and there is no amount of dial-twisting that is going to make it resemble me. It would be nice to have one based on a body cast so that I could actually fit on it. However, those are $$ and would probably only be good for a few years, since  my body is going to continue to change. If anyone has solutions that worked for them, I’d love to hear what you did!


And here it is on me. It could have been fitted a little more closely, but loose is better in the summer.

Otto_Triangle2I’ve already printed out and pieced together the PDF for my first try with Lekala patterns. Lekala produces the patterns based on your measurements, not by a selected size. There are also opportunities to input a little more info, like whether your shoulders are broad or narrow, the length of your arms, etc. It will likely take a little back and forth to get my fit mapped out, but there are several free patterns that you can order multiple times to work out those issues.

Link to the free patterns: Lekala


EF Knockoff completed

March 5, 2015

The shirt I was planning in the last blog post has actually been finished quite awhile – has been laundered twice. But in all that time there has not been a nice sunny day when I could take photos. Today there are a few fresh inches of snow, but the sun is shining brightly. At last!

Here is the glamour shot…

EF Knockoff2

You can see the sunbeam. Oh, joy!

The base pattern for this shirt was Ottobre Woman’s 5/2014 issue, style #18. It’s an oversized shirt pattern. My previous post describes the changes I made to emulate the Eileen Fisher original.

Since the topstitching thread matches the fabric, here are a few details to show that the shirt is not quite as plain looking as it appears.

EF Knockoff3

Showing the side vent, stitching at the base of the placket, and the hanging loop on the back yoke.

And here is a photo of me wearing it, sleeves rolled up one time.

EF Knockoff1Critique: Looks like I could use an FBA and will make that change when I use this pattern again. I purposely made my shirt shorter than the inspiration shirt, because the first time I made this pattern (original length) the proportions of the very long shirt just didn’t seem right at all. However, I didn’t pretreat my fabric vigorously enough, and it has shrunk a little from my intended length. Also looks to me like I should rotate the sleeve a little towards the front.

The Ottobre pattern is a good basic to work with for an extended shoulder, loose-fitting shirt. I’ll make my fitting changes to the tissue, because it is sure to get used again.

I’ve never done a knockoff before, so this was a different approach for me. Fun!

EF knockoff

February 12, 2015

A nice Fabricmart chambray inspired my very first knockoff. I’ve swiped plenty of details in the past, but never started a project with the idea of making a copy.

A while ago, I made a classic chambray shirt with black/white woven fabric. This yardage was similar but blue, so I wanted the style to be a little different. Did some googling and found an Eileen Fisher shirt that is just my style. Here’s a link to the original: Eileen Fisher chambray tunic

My fabric is almost a dead ringer for the one used by EF, except theirs is a cotton/hemp blend, I think, and mine is all cotton.

The starting point is a shirt from the 5/2014 Ottobre Woman magazine. It’s #18, called “Autumn Palette”. It’s an oversized shirt with the back gathered into a yoke. I chose it because the fit and slightly dropped shoulder/sleeve combo match the original.

Otto 5_2014_18

Step one was making another tracing of the pattern that could be sliced and diced into the EF style. When you’re making changes like this, it really is easier not to have seam allowances to work around.

Here are the details I wanted to capture.


I guestimated that the waistline seam on the EF shirt was below waist level, so I cut the pattern front horizontally at the same level. The original pattern front has cut-on CF bands. I kept those for the upper front but trimmed them off at the center front for the lower “apron” portion, which gets cut on the fold of the fabric.


The back of the inspiration shirt has a really deep yoke with a little hanging loop. Ottobre has shaping built into the yoke seam (which might not be the case with the EF shirt, but I decided to keep the shaping), so to lengthen I added inches to the bottom of the yoke and removed them from the top of the back. Then I referred back to the original pattern to true up the back armscye shaping.


Added some extra on the pattern tissue for the turn-back at the hem vents.

Lastly came the neckline, the only really persnickity part. You can see that the neckline is slightly scooped in the front and on the shoulders, too. The pattern comes all the way up to the neck, where the neckband would attach. I drew a new neckline on the front and back pieces to reflect where the upper edge should be on the finished garment. Center back stayed at it’s original position; I didn’t want the back neckline to dip. Trimmed off that excess.

Then, it looked like the neckband on the inspiration shirt was 1 1/4 inches wide. Measuring from my new neckline, I marked all around the neck 1 1/4 inches, front and back. Cut off the bands and taped them together at the shoulder so the fabric will be all one piece (with the center back on the fold). Last step: round off the edges at the center front like the inspiration shirt.

EF’s shirt has cuffs and little tabs and buttons on the sleeve to secure them when rolled up. I decided to leave off the cuffs and button/tab arrangement. I left the sleeves with a plain hem and will roll them up without the help of sleeve suspenders. This meant lengthening the sleeve pattern to compensate for leaving off the cuff.

In cutting out, I laid out the pattern pieces and then marked the seam allowances with a sliver of soap. I really do prefer to keep my patterns without seam allowances. That’s because I do mostly TNT type sewing.

I’m about halfway through the sewing at this point and can tell already that the hi/lo effect isn’t as noticeable in my version as EF’s. I’ll critique my knock-off prowess in the next post.

Tabula Rasa Jacket 2

December 28, 2014

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

November 23, 2014

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.

coat, top, and Lola pants

September 17, 2014

We actually got a cool front last week that made me decide to put away all the really high summer clothes – the sleeveless white shirts, light colored pants, and the like. What was left (air) made me realize I actually NEEDED to get cracking on the autumn 6-pak.

CLD_PS_coat_edited-1The first item, started a while back, was the coat from Cutting Line Design’s Pure & Simple pattern. I had made this before in a short length and knew there was no fitting work to be done, so it got to go first. This is a fairly quick and uncomplicated sew. The only difficult part was making the corded loops for the pocket buttons.

There has been some discussion on the 6-pak thread about what makes a good piece for the scheme. Many words have been used to describe the quality…”basic”, “cake, not frosting”, “simple”,”boring”….as you can see, this piece fits the description. Solid fabric with just a tiny ribbed texture and simple style. However, I don’t think this jacket will hardly even see the inside of the closet. It will probably live on a peg beside the door, so I can grab it whenever I go out.

The coat as designed has three panels that you can add/subtract/adjust to get the length you want. I used the top two and lengthened each piece by an inch to get this fingertip length. The waistline seam is topstitched and has two pockets inserted which have button and loop closures. Unlined.

BS_10_07_122_blueItem two was another piece that needed no fitting since the first version was made recently. It’s a top from BurdaStyle, July 2010, #122. This time I was able to make the 3/4 sleeves and did not cut up my fronts by mistake. I really, really liked this pattern and wanted another right now, so here it is. The original 6-pak plan called for two knit tops, which I still plan to make.  The color and style of this shirt fits right in with the plan.

This time I used a mid-weight linen. The color is royal blue. No style changes to the pattern, just the usual fitting adjustments.

And, TA-DA, I also completed a pair of pants! I’ve wanted to make Style Arc’s Lola pants for a long time, but dreaded fitting a new pants pattern. Since the Lolas are on the slim side, I was afraid I was in for an ordeal. As it turned out, they weren’t hard to fit at all.

No photos of the pants, sorry. Pants pinned to the dressmaker’s dummy don’t give any information at all, and pictures of me wearing the pants never seem to turn out. I will write about them, anyway.

When tracing the pattern, I was dismayed when I saw the teeny-tiny crotch points on these. So I got out my all-purpose pant pattern to compare, and lengthed the back crotch point a couple of inches. Lengthened the front one, too, for good measure. I also lengthened the center back seam by adding a wedge right at the top of the crotch curve. Then I added 5/8 inch seam allowances because I need the insurance.

Style Arc Lola_edited-1

Style Arc instructions are as cryptic as Burda’s, and I could not follow their steps for constructing the pocket. It seemed like a straightforward operation, so I just did it my way, but some error must have crept in because I ended up with the pants fronts not matching the waistband. A couple of pleats solved that, and they are really invisible because of the gathers. I’ll just leave the pockets out next time.

I did understand their waistband instructions, and followed them, but think it would be easier everlastand neater to make the rows of topstitching last, instead of before attaching the waistband to the pants, which is what they have you do. I also want to turn in the edges of the waistband casing instead of just serging it on. It may be an old-fashioned home sewing technique, but I like the clean finish better. I do like the little flat panel in the center front…and it makes me laugh because it reminds me of boxing trunks.

There is optional elastic at the hem of the back leg. I put this in because it’s cute.

Verdict: I like these pants A LOT and will make them again as soon as I find suitable fabric. Fabric choice is important for these – you want something lightweight, but with a good drape, and also with a good substantial feel because they are pants and you don’t want your pants to feel flimsy. I used a mystery fabric that is probably a poly-rayon, in a dark gray, so they are nice and boring for the 6-pak.

As it turns out, I don’t think I needed all the crotch point extensions and will reduce them next time. Not all the way down to the original pattern specs, though. That just looked like there was no way to get a body in there.

The other pair of pants for this 6-pak were already made, so all that’s left is one more jacket (gray) and two knit tops to complete the original plan.

fall 6-pak

August 1, 2014

Each season there is a nice wardrobe-building sew along on Artisan’s Square. It’s the brainchild of ejvc, whose blog is here, and includes lots of posts on the topic. Each season you sew six items, mostly neutrals, and if you actually complete your six-paks, you end up with a very functional closet full of things that work together. At the beginning of this thread on Artisan’s Square, you can read her prescription for this fall. Fall 6-pak.

I have often joined up, but usually punk out after about 3 or 4 items. I think I’ve finished the whole 6-pak maybe twice. Still, even 3 or 4 planned items that go together are handy to have.

Once again, I’m inspired to give it a try. I even have a plan.

Fall 6-pak_edited-1

Colors are charcoal, indigo, a lighter indigo, and dusty plum. The Burda trousers are already made. The Pure & Simple jacket is a TNT, and there are no worries about fitting the other jacket – this is view B and I have already made view A which fits just fine. The Lola pants and Helix Tee have been sitting out cluttering up my work space for a long time, waiting to be fitted and made. The second top has not pattern selected for it – I’m waiting until the fall issue of Ottobre Woman comes out to see if they have something new that fits with this collection.

This plan is not very ambitious, which gives me hope that it can be completed.

Another attraction of this particular plan is that I already have all the fabrics except for the charcoal jacket, and that should not be difficult to find. This is the fabric stack.

fall 6-pak fabrics

top to bottom:

dusty plum knit of unknown content….a flat fold purchased off a bargain table

blue “Parisian knit” from Marcy Tilton

indigo cotton/spandex with a narrow rib woven in. I bought this stuff for pants and later realized that the ribs would make a noise when I walk, like corduroy. Much better as a jacket.

charcoal drapey poly blend for the Lolas. Polyester is not good for summers here, but OK for fall.

Not pictured is the indigo denim that has already been made up as Burda pants, and the charcoal jacket fabric that I will shop for. Something with some texture would be nice.

I’d like to say a few words about the Burda pants pattern. It’s from the Fall 2008 Plus magazine, number 404, but I believe it also appeared in the regular BurdaStyle mag. It may even be offered as a PDF. For my pear-shaped figure, these pants have been a super substitute for jeans. They have a narrow leg, for a close fit, but the line from hip to ankle is straight. When I look at the line drawings in Burda and they show a cut that hugs the thighs down to the knee, and then goes straight or flares from there, I know those are unflattering to me. This cut seems to be unusual for a close-fitting pant.

Other features that make this pant a winner: there are a total of four darts in the back, excellent for fitting and eliminating a gap at the back waist. And note that the waistband in back is in two pieces. This also helps with fitting because the waistband is attached before stitching the center back seam. You can sew the crotch most of the way, leaving an opening at CB, then try the pants on and pin fit the center back so that it snugs up to your waist. Then sew the CB of the pants and the waistband all in one swoop. Alter the waistband facing to match the waistband and stitch it last.

This method of construction also makes future alteration easy. You can easily open up the waistband to take in that center back seam if you lose weight. If you leave fat seam allowances, you also could let the pants out in the back if needed.

I still had to do some fitting with this pattern, but it was a much better starting point than most patterns. You may not be able to find this exact pattern, but if you have full hips and rear and a relatively small waist, look for the same features when considering pants patterns. I think they will make fitting easier for you.

burda 404

Here is the line drawing again, along with the schematic of the pattern pieces, to illustrate what I wrote about.