Part two of my endless chain happened more quickly than expected. This Jalie cardigan was really quick to sew.

This piece started with a fabric that was thinner and drapier than I thought it would be. That seems to happen a lot with knits. However it was still very nice, and I went pattern hunting to find a cardigan that would work for this fabric and be a good base for other garments I might make in the future. The Jalie line got more attention because I liked their Rose top so much that it made me want to sew another of their patterns.

Hélène (Jalie 3677) probably would have won anyway, because there are a few features that I really liked. First, the fullness in the front results from a raised neck in the back, and hangs in nice vertical folds. I like these lines on me better than the cuts that cascade in diagonals down the front.  The raised neck helps actually keep one warm, too. Second, Hélène has a slightly flared lower back panel. The pattern description talks about how this gives the back a nice swing. I was more interested in how it gives me extra room.

It also has some cleverly constructed pockets on the front. I decided that my fabric didn’t have enough body to support the pockets, so I left them off. I also extended the neck and center front edge two inches for a little more drape, because my fabric was so thin. I cut one size up from Jalie’s recommendation. In future, I’ll cut the shoulder area at the correct size, and leave the rest as is.

Jalie 3677 AJalie 3677 B

This only took a couple of hours to sew, and most of the time was spent turning up the hem and figuring the best way to sew it. Steam-a-Seam came to my rescue. Don’t know how I would have gotten an acceptable result without it.

I’ve already worn the cardi styled like it is in the photo, with the tank top from my last post. I like it a lot and am pretty sure that I will use this pattern again next time I want a cardigan. With pockets next time.

The next item in the chain may not be sewn. I’m thinking I will go out and buy a nice pair of jeans. They will pair with the items I’ve sewn so far, and it is always good to have jeans that fit on hand.

start of an endless chain

There’s a conversation on PatternReview related to a no-contest-no-rules-no-deadline wardrobe sewalong. That is just about my speed. I want to move into some lighter colored neutrals and move away from the black but don’t want to come up with a big plan, so the endless chain approach seemed suitable. The idea is that each piece sewn goes with the previous one (at a minimum). That way, you never end up with orphans.

My first piece was going to be a pearl gray knit tunic that would go with some existing jackets. I used a piece of ITY because it is so light and fluid, and it should layer easily.

After stitching it up, I decided I didn’t like the tunic length, and cut it off so it is just a regular top. That’s the one on the left in the photo. The pattern is a morph between the body of an Ottobre tunic I made before, and the neck from Jalie’s Yoko top. I didn’t just use the Yoko because it has a rectangle for a body — no shoulder slope at all. The Otto pattern has more fitted shoulders and shaped sleeve caps. It’s still plenty loose.

endless chain 1

I might make the Yoko as intended sometime, if I ever have the right fabric….but I am starting to reconsider messing with knits, so that might never happen.

There was enough of the ITY left over to cut a little tank top. It was cut from an old Marcy Tilton Vogue pattern, V8559. I first made that tank ages ago, liked it, and have never felt the need to try another.

Neither of these ITY things will ever be worn without a jacket or cardigan. Without the camouflage of a print, the fabric is too revealing. They’ll only appear with something like one of my old Tabula Rasa jackets, like the photo on the right.

Next up, next link in the chain, is a cardi that could be worn with either of the two tops.

pants mysteries

Happy New Year!

I have been working at perfecting a pants pattern, even though I have one that magically fit with very few alterations. But I’ve been using that one pattern for over 10 years and wanted the educational experience of working through the fitting of a new one.

My old nearly perfect pants pattern was from a very old Burda Plus issue. In order to be able to compare, I chose another Burda pattern for my experiments. The new one is from the first issue of Burda Classics, and it is indeed a classic. Single pleat, with medium legs – not skinny, not too wide.

I got out my issue of Threads #195, the one with Sarah Veblen’s in depth article on fitting pants, and resolved to work through the process. I’ve always appreciated this article because she actually spells out how to use the grain line and balance lines to determine whether extra fabric or scooping is needed.

So, three muslins later, I thought I had done a pretty good job in fitting and the rear hung  pretty darn straight, like trousers should, and it was time to make a real pair. Some cotton/poly twill was waiting and ready.

When the pants were done, I was pleased with the fit. I was even more pleased that I had gone through all the fitting and thought I finally understood something about the mysteries of fitting pants!

The only quibble I had was with the front thigh binding just a bit when I walked. That is something I’ve experienced before, but only with certain patterns, and didn’t seem to have anything to do with leg circumference or full front thighs or anything like that. Googling for answers, I kept reading references to “the fork”, but nowhere could I find a definition of what this fork was that I could understand.

So, the question was posted on PatternReview and several helpful members responded. Kayl suggested taking a tuck across the front to see if that helped, and what do you know, it did. But taking the tuck messed up my nice fit in the back.

Finally I got the bright idea to compare my new fitted pattern to the old TNT and here are the results. New pattern is on the bottom, old is on the top.

pants draft

What the hey? All that length I kept adding to make my horizontal balance lines actually horizontal…the humongous crotch extension I added…all so much more extreme than in my TNT.  Maybe I didn’t do such a good job with all the fitting after all. The comparison did make me try taking a tuck all around , about 3 inches above the crotch level. Even removing all that length, that I thought I needed, the pants seem to hang nicely.

The one encouraging thing is that the fitting yielded a crotch curve nearly identical to the TNT. The angle of the center back seam is the same, the scoop of the curve is the same, there is just more crotch extension. There is more difference in the front, where it looks like a little scoop is in order.

My twills are absolutely wearable, but now instead of cutting into the good fabric which is all ready to go, I need to go find some more test fabric.

Mystery…still not solved…

Jalie Rose

I’ve been on a mini sewing binge.

My last shirt got me pretty excited about the collar/stand directions Jalie gives with this pattern and made me want to make their actual design right away.

jalie rose_1

Lucky for me, Fabric Mart was having a timely sale on challis, so I ordered this fabric and made it up as soon as it arrived. It’s a very fine and floaty rayon, just right for swingy Rose.

I did some measuring and was happy to discover that I could cut a straight size and did not need to enlarge at the hemline. What that means for everyone else is that it has a very A-line shape. It also has the back pleated into the yoke, for even more hip room. Bust darts give it a bit of fit but overall it is very loose, very cool, very nice for hot weather.

jalie rose_2

The front button band is tiny – only about 5/8″ wide. If I understand the instructions, following their procedure would result in two layers of interfacing on both sides. That would have been too much for my lightweight fabric, so I cut and installed two really skinny strips. The little collar has a pretty shape. And then there were the collar stand instructions that I read very carefully to be sure I got it right this time. On the previous shirt, I mixed up an interfaced and uninterfaced layer. Still got a pretty darn good result. This time it was even nicer.

The yoke and neck fit me very well. No forward shoulder adjustment needed! The forward yoke seams actually lie forward of my shoulder. These last two shirts have sat exactly the way they are supposed to on my shoulders without shifting around. That’s gold.

The armholes are faced with narrow bias – which brings me to my one complaint about this pattern – the armholes are too low. Wait…one more whine…I still like 5/8″ seam allowances for most seams, and Jalie uses all 3/8″.

I won’t be making another one of these right away because autumn is coming, but will take the time to make a nice tracing (cut this one from the PDF printout) with an altered armhole to have ready to make again next year.

I think it looks great with jeans.

jalie rose_3

Style 1612 vintage shirt

This pattern was a find because it enabled me to scratch two itches at the same time: it’s a vintage pattern from 1976, and it has French darts – or at least darts that start low and angle up. These are both things I’ve wanted to dabble with.

Style 1612 pattern

Finding an older pattern that isn’t obviously vintage took a little searching. This shirt turned up in an Etsy shop, and the seller is in New Zealand. I never thought I would be making impulse buys from a place so far away! There it was though, in my size, at an impulse-buy kind of a price, and even the shipping wasn’t what I would have expected. It only took about a week to get it. What a world, what a world.

The pattern has a front band, collar on stand, back yoke, bust darts in front and vertical darts in back, sleeves with cuffs and plackets.

I did some measuring and felt good about cutting out as-is, except for adding width at the hips and lowering the darts a smidge. The only other real change I made was modifying the super large and pointy collar to something more classic.

The sewing experience was a mixed bag. I was looking forward to vintage directions that I might prefer to the methods I usually use. That did not happen. When I scanned the instruction sheets, I thought I would like the method they used for the front band. Nope, not going to do that again.

But I did like the single-size pattern. There was heaps of information on the tissue, including directional sewing, lots and lots of match points, and of course, seam lines with all the intersections clearly marked.

I also used a couple of outside helps. This pattern finally gave me a chance to use the sleeve placket template I bought from Lunagrafix. My plackets turned out very nicely.

And while I was working on this shirt, I read some reviews and The Sewing Lawyer’s blog post on Jalie’s Rose shirt. Several people mentioned the great directions for the collar stand. One PDF download later, I was able to use those directions. I misread them and made a mistake, but still got a better than average stand.

Those are the two most tedious parts of making a shirt and now I have better ways of doing them!


And the vintage pattern gave really nice results. This is a trim-fitting shirt. It’s been so long since I’ve worn something like that, I’m a little shocked. The shoulders are not too wide. I didn’t need a forward shoulder adjustment. The collar doesn’t pull to the back. It’s much more close fitting than I’m used to, but there is plenty of range of motion.

I think I will like having a TNT fitted shirt to wear with the wider pants that we keep hearing are coming. Here is a rare bathroom mirror selfie to show how nicely it fits.

Style 1612 modeled

Conclusion: This is so different from the loose and boxy shirts that are current that it seems kind of formal. Even though I like it, I’m not going to make a pile of these until I see how much I wear this one.

Vogue 7854

This project seemed to take forever. It’s not particularly difficult, but there is lots of topstitching. Since I decided to topstitch with a double thread, there was plenty of times when the machine needed to be rethreaded. Whenever that happened, I tended to get up and walk away for a couple of weeks.

Pattern Art:

7854 pattern art

My version:


The fabric is a stout cotton, crosswoven with aqua and violet. The overall effect is blue. I love crosswoven fabrics, and ordered this one lickety-split when it turned up on Fabric.com a few years ago. I should have inspected it right away, but didn’t…and later found that they had not only sent my yardage in three pieces, but that it had flaws like snags. I notified them, but never heard back. Since it had been a very long time since the purchase, I just let it go. Until now, when I just had to share the story. 😛

I wondered if the fabric was too heavy for this pattern, but I saw that Margy had made it in denim – her blog post is here.  It took a little experimenting, but I was able to cut out the long length (it’s about knee length on me) with all the snags on the inside so they don’t show.

Now I want to rant about another supplier. For a while, it seemed like JoAnn’s was stepping up their button game. But the last time I went to my local store, all the fashion buttons were gone. Way in the back, they had some crafting-type buttons and there weren’t even many of those. I would patronize brick and mortar stores if they carried things I need, but it gets harder and harder to find stores that stock what I want.

Except groceries and wine. I can still get those. And the wine was important when making this tunic. My new sewing machine did not come with a spindle for a second spool of thread, and I wanted to use double thread for the topstitching. I will order the spindle, but in the meantime, this was my makeshift solution:


I cut down a wine cork to fit the slot where the spindle was supposed to go, stuck in a couple of toothpicks, and used them to support a bobbin wound with my thread. A real spool would have been too heavy, but this arrangement worked just fine with the little plastic bobbin. Should have cleaned up the little wad of threads before snapping this picture.

That’s the “making of” story. I can wear this as a tunic with leggings, or open as a long jacket.

Pattern notes: To get a larger size at hip level, I added to the princess seams only, and kept the side seams nice and hanging straight, like an asian garment should. Next time, shorten the sleeves about 5/8 inch. I meant to do this, but forgot, and when I did remember I did not want to pick out all the top stitching. Also next time, I’ll make a little modesty panel to go behind the buttons. I put them close together to prevent gaps, but a little extra coverage would be good insurance.


Detail: pretty cross woven colors, button, topstitching.



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.