Sunday, February 17, 2013

Candy Stripe Knit Shirts: FAIL

As you may have noticed, I have a thing for knit fabric. You'd think by now I'd know how to sew with it.

The asymmetrical neckline drew me to McCall's 4517 (discontinued), on the left. I made this in 2005. This pattern introduced me to my one true love, clear elastic. That's what makes the lovely gather at the bottom of the v-neck. Go ahead, click the picture so you can see the details. Isn't that neckline awesome? Less so are my visible bra straps, which keep me from wearing this shirt with anything but my knit purple suit. (Versus my woven purple suit. Yes, I have two. Don't you?) The front also features some fitting on the fly. This fit like a tent before I hacked away some of the front. Another thing I didn't notice until the end was that the pattern cheaped out and called for unfinished hems. So this shirt is shorter than I intended.


On the right is Simplicity 1916, a runner-up for Pattern Review's 2012 Pattern of the Year. I followed the advice of some of the reviewers to build up the neckline so I could wear it without a camisole. I added a half inch, which also took care of any potential bra strap issues. I was still congratulating myself for being so on top of it when I noticed I didn't have to stretch the neckline facing as I sewed it on. Now, the word "STRETCH" is printed right on the pattern piece, so you know it's important. But instead of stopping to think, or to check out advice from sewers extraordinaire like Lladybird, I pressed on ahead. Turns out stretching the facing is what keeps your wrap shirt from flopping out all over the place. But instead of picking out the facing and fixing the actual problem, I futzed around with the side seams, taking them in to create a tighter v-neck. In doing so I ruined the front gathers, which are the key design detail. Instead of gracefully ruching to the hip, the fabric droops right over my belly. HOTT.


In case you're thinking, "WTF, those shirts are fine," allow me to show you the back.

I've got some back fitting issues. I suspect what oonaballoona calls "posture du dancer" and my physical therapist calls an inflexible mid-back without the normal spine curvature is at play. (I like oona's description better!) So I've always got extra fabric flopping around my upper back. On the left I added tucks with moderate success.  The bottom of the shirt is also not great, but not terrible. 

However, like a Detroit coney dog, the shirt on the right is one hot mess. Instead of tucks (or cutting a scoop neck, which would have meant picking out my neckline facing), I tried taking in the center back seam. I pinned the excess at the top, then graded the seam down to nothing at the waist. It might have worked if I hadn't already pulled the side seams out of place with my front adjustments. There is also something funky going on with the sleeves.

I wanted to give the Simplicity another go. But, once again, I made things more difficult by cutting the pattern out and then leaving it on the floor for Roomba to crunch up. It was the first time in years I've cut a pattern instead of tracing it. And probably my last!


With some reconstructive ironing and taping, I think my pattern pieces are ready for attempt number two. Let's hope I can keep these lessons in mind and get a better result!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Flower Print Tunic: PASS

My favorite boss of all time's mantra was, "Done is good." I love this phrase. I can spend waaaay to much time on projects to get them just right. Sometimes the extra effort doesn't lead to a noticeably better result.

Here's "done is good" in action. Yeah, it's not my best piece of work. But sometimes it's good to bang out a project from fabric you've been hoarding for years so you can look at it on you instead of on your shelf. I whipped this up in 2010 from a pattern in DowntownDIY Sewing. Despite the fitting flaws (like the fabric pulling to my left hip and the tight fit around the bust), it's been a perennial favorite. I wear this over jeans in the summer and under jackets, sweaters, and sweatshirts the rest of the year.

I love the groovy tulip print, which if Michael Miller and Amy Sedaris have any say-so, will be making a comeback this spring. So I guess that's one sewing project already checked off my list for the new season. Done is good, indeed.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Patchwork Jumper Dress: PASS

When I was pregnant with my son, I was convinced he was a girl. My husband and I picked out a pretty name and I started perusing sewing blogs to see all the adorable skirts and dresses I'd soon be making. Why was I certain? I have no idea. Maybe because girl names are easier to choose than boy names and dresses are easier to sew than pants. At our ultrasound, I had to ask the technician to repeat herself.

In the years since, I've sewn up lots of clothing for my boy. Some items were made from patterns, most from a combination of tutorials and improvising. This fall, my son requested a dress. He provided me with design specs (a drawing of a sleeveless dress labeled "patchwork" on the bodice and "red flowy" on the skirt) and selections from my fabric stash. "A dress?" I thought, "This will be easy."

When will I learn NEVER to say that?

I knew from rainbow birthday shirt experience I'd need to create patchwork fabric for the bodice. After cutting and piecing dozens of 2.5 by 5.5 inch rectangles, I began serging them together. My respect for my mom and mother-in-law, both avid quilters, grew exponentially during this stage. I'm sure they have methods for sewing the pieces together in an orderly fashion, instead of making seams and then ripping them out in order to fit in the next piece. They are also smart enough not to use the most ravel-prone fabric in their stash. (Curse you, shocking pink polyester!)

Next was the question of how to correctly measure and assemble the dress. I used tutorials from Made and Crafting in my Closet! for inspiration and then went on to screw it up in three major ways:

  1. I cut the bodice piece on the wrong side of my ruler, shortening it by two inches. I had to add an extension between the bodice and skirt, or risk the dress being outgrown in less time than I took to make it.
  2. I went to the trouble of making a fully-lined bodice for a clean finish, only to have it twist endlessly like a Mobius strip when I tried to turn it right side out.
  3. I didn't make the bodice large enough to insert a closure (and refused to piece together more patchwork fabric).
I walked out on the dress for a couple weeks. I couldn't handle all this foolishness.

After a break, things went much better. I cut out a v-shaped jersey insert for the back bodice. This gave enough room to pull on the dress over the head without a zipper or buttons. I reached into my stash for a lovely purple lining for the "red flowy." Giving the lining a rolled hem was simple thanks to my new machine with its rolled hem foot (hand-me-downs from Mom, yay!). And I even found another use for that cursed pink polyester.

Here's the inside of the dress..

The end result is a hit. My son loves the way wearing a dress over pants gives him secret pockets. And the skirt is perfect for twirling!