Anything But Ordinary Jacket

When browsing Farmhouse Fabrics I found a listing for handkerchief linen with several different co-ordinating stripes of white and natural. That is one of my favorite color combinations and I knew I wanted to make something that would use two of them for some subtle low-contrast contrast. I also needed a lightweight summer jacket for those air conditioned places.

ABO stripe

I bought enough fabric so that I could line whatever pattern I chose to the edge. That in effect makes a reversible fabric, and two layers of handkerchief linen is a good weight for a summer jacket. The Anything But Ordinary jacket from Cutting Line Designs is a nice simple design that goes together easily and made handling the two layers almost trouble free.

Cutting: I eliminated the center back seam and shortened the sleeves to bracelet length. The two layers were cut exactly the same, except that the collar was cut only from the stripe that was being used as the contrast side.

Construction order:

  1. Sew the shoulder and side seams of the inner and outer bodies separately.
  2. Construct the collar
  3. Attach the collar by sandwiching it between the inner and outer body layers and stitching the neckline seam.
  4. Right sides together, stitch all around the outer edges of the jacket: center fronts and hems. Turn right side out through an armhole.
  5. Construct the inner and outer sleeves.
  6. Right sides together, stitch the sleeve hem edge. Turn.
  7. Press under the seam allowance of the inner sleeve cap.
  8. Stitch the outer sleeve cap to both layers of the body.
  9. Attach the inner sleeve cap by hand.
  10. I decided to stitch in the ditch at the side seams through all the layers to give the hint of structure I would have gotten from underlining.

In all cases, I trimmed the seam allowances so the inner layer was not as wide as the outer layer. And when sewing the outside edges, I skootched the inside layer away from the edge so that the seam allowance for the inside was only 3/8 of an inch, while the outside layer was 5/8. It’s a bad look when your lining is too short and pulls on the outer layer.

Here is how the collar and the sleeve cuff look, showing the subtle contrast between the layers. I will probably always wear the sleeves turned up to 3/4 length.


My pressing is not perfect, but this piece will probably never be pressed again! Rumpled linen suits me fine.

When trying on the jacket and deciding on the buttons, I liked the look all buttoned up to the neck, even though realistically I would not wear a jacket that way. But I think I will make this pattern again soon as a loose shirt and make it button all the way up.

Happy summer sewing to any readers!



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.

end of the vintage era

The end of my vintage sewing machine era, that is.

I enjoyed collecting and sewing with my old machines for about 15 years. While I didn’t have a huge collection, when we moved and downsized I didn’t have room for them all any more.  They went up on Craigslist this last week and were claimed in a matter of days. Here is a surprise – all my buyers were men.

The “in memoriam” portion of the program…


My Viking Husqvarna 21 was the first to go. The young man who bought it collects Viking machines and didn’t have this particular one.


The Singer 503A went to a man who was replacing another similar model to use in his upholstery business. He was thrilled with the condition of my baby and I’m sure he will take good care of it.


The Kenmore 158.65 and the Singer 66 whose picture is below went to a third gentleman. He and his wife run a quilting retreat and they will be using them for decor.


I used and enjoyed all of these machines, and am sorry that I can’t keep them.

My Featherweight is the one vintage machine that is staying with me. After all, it doesn’t take up a lot of room. And it does give me the option of using a dedicated straight stitch machine when I want to.

The machine that is replacing them all is a Janome DC4030P. I don’t have the machine yet, but I have cut out the first project that I will sew on it, and that’s a white shirt. I think that’s a really nice new beginning. I can’t wait to get started.

Ottobre basic T

Now that I am not going to the office every day, the things I make are pretty simple and basic. Those are just the styles I tend to like the most, and it also makes combining different garments and accessorizing easier. More things go together when they aren’t all statement pieces. That’s all to explain why I have made another plain top, and here it is: #1 from Ottobre Woman 5/2017. They called this style “Weekday”.


I am using this pattern for my new T-shirt block. It has a wide neckline (good for balancing hips) and a loose and easy fit. Otto sleeve heads are never the same front and back, so thumbs up for that. The neckline is supposed to be a topstitched facing, but I bound it instead, turning and handstitching the underside. I also shortened it a lot. Otto tops usually run long on me, sleeves too, and I am on the tall side. I used a banded hem and have included a step by step pictorial on that below, in case any reader has not done one before.

Changes I need to make to perfect the block: Otto tops generally fit me really well. The only thing I will do to this pattern is narrow the shoulders. After all, it is unfitted. There is just a hint of waist shaping.

The fabric is a beautiful wool jersey that I got from Michael’s AGES ago. It was one of those pieces that I was saving for something special. That makes even less sense now than it ever did. I ran it through the washer and dryer to see if it would felt up, but it came through feeling just like new. Good stuff! I’ll dry it flat from now on, but will feel confident about washing. Good thing, because I have two dogs that are champion shedders…I have to be able to wash everything.

The banded hem

This is a nice trick that gives a nice finish, especially for a plain solid fabric where every boo boo shows. The hem is nice and stretchy, and you don’t need a coverstitch machine. The examples were done with a piece of scrap fabric.




I keep the hem on the top because that means I will have the soft wooly nylon next to my skin. If you have regular thread in all your loopers, then I don’t think it matters which side is up.

I run the edge just beside the cutting blade, so that nothing is really cut. No worries if you do slice some fabric off, though, because the edge is serged.


Give it a little press, directing the seam allowance up.

Of course, you could cut an actual band strip and attach it with the serger if you wanted, either with self or contrasting fabric.

Back to the 5/2017 issue of Ottobre Woman. I thought it was a really good one. In addition to four knit tops, there is a knit cardigan, two short jackets, a coat, two blouses (one more shirt like than the other), jeans, two trousers, loose knit pants, and two dresses. There is a skirt, too. You could sew for a long time and make a whole wardrobe from this one issue. I made one of the blouses and will blog it later. I plan to make the second shirt/blouse, too.

It is approaching 15 degrees F as I type. Folks, I live in the sun belt and this is so unusual! A wool T shirt (it is soft enough to wear with bare skin) sounds really good.

Happy sewing, everyone!

1/18/18 update – here are a couple of closeups of the hem outside and inside, complete with the dog hair I mentioned.


Here’s to new beginnings

A very happy 2018 to all readers!

It’s a good day to begin again with this old blog. It has been a very long time since I have posted, and there are plenty of reasons for that. For one thing, since the last post we have moved twice. It seemed like the entire year was filled with downsizing (again and again), packing, and preparing three houses to move into or out of. It has taken me a long time to feel somewhat settled in what we intend to be our permanent home, even though I am very happy to be here.

Meantime, my old blog theme is no longer supported and there is no telling what this post will look like, but I really wanted to get back in touch with the sewing world out there. This is a first step in that direction.

So, enough with the background and excuses! I have some sewing projects to share. They are unimpressive, but show that my heart is in the right place.

The last two days of the old year I sewed two much needed tops. They are both loose pullover tunics in stable knits. The fabrics were purchased from back in the fall, both manufactured by Telio. I have much better luck with when I buy fabrics with brand names. It’s not fun to open the box and be disappointed with fabric quality.

go_to_aCutting Lines Designs fans might have heard of the “Go-To” top. This is not a printed pattern, but a set of instructions for changing up the top from the Anything But Ordinary pattern. Basically, the body is widened, the sleeves lengthened, and the details are omitted. A link to the directions is at the end of this post. I extended the bottom to tunic length, easy to do because it’s perfectly squared off and you just add as many inches as you want.


CLD patterns are designed for woven fabrics, but this one worked up just fine in a stable knit. I even used the neck facing, topstitching both the edge and near the seam, rather than binding the edge. Looks OK to me.

Top number two is from Ottobre 2/2017. It’s style number 2, called All Day Long.


It has binding on the curved hem as well as the neckline, and is supposed to have ribbing for the cuffs. My fabric had a horizontal rib which made a nice little detail when vertical strips were used for the binding and to replace the ribbing.  (Heads up – if you want to do this, make your own pattern piece for the cuff. The one in the magazine is sized for genuine ribbing fabric and won’t work unless your fabric has significant vertical stretch.)

Pics of this top:



These were both really quick sewing, and both will work with black leggings. Nice comfy basics that I really need.

What’s ahead in 2018

No long list of sewing resolutions, but there are two things ahead that I will be working on and blogging about.

  1. New sewing blocks and basics. In the last few years, the projects where I adapted a basic block (already fitted to me) to copy an admired design have been my most fun and rewarding garments. Those old blocks don’t fit any more. Good news, it’s because I lost weight about two years ago. So a project I really need to get to work on is picking some new patterns to be my starting blocks, or re-fitting some old favorites.
  2. Downsizing means I need to say goodbye to most of my old sewing machines. I used to have the space to collect…and the spouse knew that whenever he needed a present, he could do well by going to a second-hand shop or antique mall and buy the weirdest-looking machine for me. My plan is to buy a new basic machine with a good automatic buttonhole, and let the other machines (except the Featherweight) go. They will either get traded in or go on something like Craigslist.

Thanks for visiting! I will be trying to get the blog refurbished, better organized and whatnot, so that the next post will look better.


directions for the “Go To” top can be found in the first post on this forum thread: artisanssquare

Browse or purchase the Ottobre Woman 2/2017 issue here: Ottobre



SWAP 2016 progress

This is the first year I’ve participated in SWAP for a long time. I do actually need clothes, and the rules suit me fine, so the timing was great this year.

Most of the sewing is done. There is a pair of black linen pants and another white top to make, and that’s all. Here’s the SWAP so far. Head is cropped off because I am having a bad face day. 🙂

Here we have a pair of narrowish pants in a gray twill with a lot of body. They are from a Burda plus issue that seems like it has no date on it. At least, I can’t find it. The pants have four narrow waistline darts in front, four regular darts in back, and a cute little ankle slit. The original pattern had a faced waist, but I added a waistband. The pants are paired with a Cutting Line Hearts a Flutter top that I changed up with a button front.

SWAP1Front and rear views. Of the things I’ve made so far for SWAP, I’m most critical of these two. I’m glad I added the waistband to the pants, because some elastic needs to be added in there to help them stay in place.  Maybe I will take in the side seams a just a little bit, too. However, I have worn these all day so they might be a bit bagged out. Maybe the best thing to do is wash and dry them a few more times to see if there’s some shrinkage still to come. A little shrinking might be just the thing in this case.

Critique on the top – here Photoshop has come in handy to show what it would look like if I shortened the top a bit more than an inch. Better proportion, I think, and totally worth doing. In fact, maybe it will get shortened even a little more. To be fair to the designer, I did lengthen the top when I made it up. Mistake!

SWAPproportion 1


Here are the same pants with the Hot Patterns Sunshine top. There was a thin knit in the stash that was way too sheer for a regular top. My reasoning was that the volume of the gathers would mitigate the sheerness. They do, but I will probably always wear a light jacket when leaving the house in it. The scooped neck of the Sunshine top is both deep and wide. I used a smaller size for the neckband and just gathered the rest of the top to fit.


What happened to my shoes?

The boxy jacket is from Burda, the 2/2009 issue, #134. The original had bust darts that I converted to shoulder princess seams so that I could flat fell them. Shouler darts in the back were also converted to vertical flat felled seams. I also eliminated the bottom band/peplum that was in the original pattern. What did I keep? The cute vented sleeves! Cooper must think that jacket = walk.


Another grouping, and the Birkenstocks are back. The top is Cutting Line’s Plain & Simple shell, modified to mimic a Style Arc pattern I like . It’s made up in double sided double gauze, with the reverse used for the shoulder yoke. I picked apart the layers at the seams for the yoke, so that the seam allowances could be hidden between them without cutting two yokes. There are some gathers at the yoke in center back, too.

The Tabula Rasa jacket pattern was selected because I wanted something kimono-ish for that indigo chrysanthemum print. The fabric is fairly heavy, and I underlined it, which gave me another boxy jacket.

Pants – another Burda style. I have been calling them “carrot” pants, but maybe it would be better just to call them pleated pants that are narrow at the ankle. I like them a lot. They are from the 09/2011 issue, style #120.


I don’t know if this top actually fits the rules, because it’s a recycled piece from my last 6-pac. I cut it down to make the little Ottobre dolman T, #17 from the 02/2015 issue. This is a quick and easy top to make, but there are a few things not apparent from the drawings and photos – the neckline is not as scooped and wide as the drawing, and the shoulder and sleeve fit is really snug. I will probably make another one of these.

Parts of the SWAP not shown in this post are the Miss Fisher trench coat from last year (rules allow a previously made item) and purchased blue jeans.

Two more pieces to go, and that should do it.

comparing curves

The mysteries of the crotch curve. After all these years, I still don’t have a firm understanding of this critical concept. I’ve been in another round of pants fitting (lost significant weight and it was time) and had an aha! moment about what I need in a curve and how it should be placed. Coupled with that, there’s been an interesting discussion going on at Stitcher’s Guild regarding this shape. These things motivated me to do a little tracing and comparing.

This would have been a better example if I had basic trouser patterns in all the pattern companies represented, but my Knipmode sources are limited to two magazines. Knip was critical because that is the curve that I really wanted to compare. So I selected the knip style that I had and then went on to find similar styles in the other companies – as close as I could.

Sizes – I used a 42 inch hip measurement – very close to the 106 cm measurement used by Knipmode and Burda. This meant that McCall and Vogue were size 18, Burda was a 44, and Knipmode was a 42.

Deciding how to align them for the overlay was a puzzle. I decided to align them based on the deepest part of the curve, with the grainlines parallel. For Knip and Burda, I positioned them so that the points were vertically aligned. I did the same for Vogue and McCall, too, but then backed them away a bit because they are designed to come together at the center of the body. The European cuts come together more towards the front. Maybe there is a better way to align for comparison?

So here is the picture. My lines are a little wobbly, but it’s easy to see that there is a clear difference in the four curves.

back curves



McCall and burda have almost the same angle of slant, but the McCall is much more L shaped.

Knipmode is the only one that has an actual hook. The lowest point of the curve is not at the point.

That Vogue curve is very shallow. When I look at it, I know why people need to scoop to alter some patterns.

Burda has a curve that I can imagine conforming to my contours. But look how the Burda seems to allow for a thicker waist than Knipmode.

There is more to fitting than crotch curves, of course, and that’s one of the reasons it is such a challenge for someone like me to understand. Side seams and the angle of the waistline relative to the center back and sides are also parts of the equation.

But what I understand from comparing these curves is that, depending on a person’s own anatomy, one of them would be a better starting point than the others. And you wouldn’t be able to just make the same kind of alteration across the board to get them to fit. One might need a scoop, another might need a wedge either added or taken out, and so on. In the most recent pair of pants I fitted (Burda), I tried tweaking in all the usual ways to get a better fit with no luck. Finally, I put them on inside out and pinned the center back to conform to my body. Turned out the curve needed to start higher.

I’d like to develop TNTs for a few more pant styles, so there are more muslins in the future. Here’s an exercise to add to your yoga practice…starting in mountain pose, twist to one side until you can pin the center back seam of your pants. This pose is called “the seamstress”.