Black and lime green: testing a theory

Between all the forum talk about outfits vs. uniforms, happy repeats during my Project 333 experiments,  and the takeaways from my recent Style Essence consultation, I’ve been developing a better idea of just what I want to sew and wear. And I think I found the right formula. A sleeveless dress and a coordinating collared cardigan. (I think the collar is important as it not only elevates the formality of the look, but also provides an opportunity to add color, like a built-in scarf.)

Composite - green dress

I made two sets: one in lime green, the other in black but with a contrasting collar and cuffs on the cardigan. All four pieces are from M6355, which by now is a TNT pattern for me. I used Sophia double knit for its ease of sewing, care, and wearing. No lining, no zippers. This is still a theory that needs to be tested, but if this really is THE formula for me, then future versions will likely be lined and possibly made in drapey wovens. And for cooler weather, the dresses might have sleeves. We’ll see.

Composite - black dress

Spring came early this year (or more like, winter never really got started here) so I expect to have a lot of opportunities to test my new uniform. In the pictures above, my absolute favorite combination is the green dress and black cardigan, so I think I will start with that and make a few more sets in the next few weeks, for more color options.

It’s funny, actually, because I expected to prefer the one with the green cardigan and black dress. Something about having a bright color on the bottom half of the body just didn’t seem right. But to my surprise, it looks good both in real life and in the pictures, so I’ll stick with it for now.

See you soon!

High-spirited classic romantic

Last year, I went through the exercises in the Triumph of Individual Style book and documented them here. I had learned quite a bit but there were things that I couldn’t quite put together. Kind of like puzzle pieces that don’t appear to fit anywhere until somebody shows you where and how.

So in January, I booked some time with John Kitchener of PSC. He offers what he calls a Style Essence consultation, which I figured would help me connect the dots. And it did.

According to John, my style essence is 30% high-spirited, 25% classic, and 25% romantic. These are my main three style drivers, and almost perfectly balanced. Together, they account for 80% of me, so we’re talking complete outfits that need to reflect this. The other 20% is equal parts dramatic and natural, but with such a small percentage, we’re looking at details rather than whole garments.

High-spirited in John’s system is the yang side of gamine, so playful and fun without getting into the cute and naive territory. I am currently expressing this by using bright color, like lime green, cherry red, or turquoise, worn in a large block (with black or gray). The more I incorporate bright colors into my daily wear, the happier I am. I plan to explore my high-spiritedness in choice of buttons and some details, like narrow trim at the edge. It is always visible in the form of my haircut (short pixie). I call this part of me cheerful.

Classic is smack-dab in the middle, a perfect balance of yin and yang. It is visible in the neutrals I choose, the smooth-faced luxurious fabrics, clean lines, and simple symmetrical shapes. Classic, elegant footwear is an expression of this side of me as well. I call it polished.

Romantic adds yin. For me, this means fabrics on the drapey side of the spectrum, waist definition, skirts and dresses rather than pants when possible, and soft, rounded details (shawl collar, waterfall neckline, etc). I call it feminine.

It is this last bit, the romantic/feminine, that I couldn’t quite place even though it was staring me right in the face. I could see in pictures that some things just worked but could not figure out why. Now I know. Funny how the real me came out in what I wore even though I wasn’t consciously aware of it.

Front view 1

The above picture shows the shape and proportions that I think are correct for the polished and feminine elements. The skirt is an old self-drafted TNT, the cardigan is new. It’s missing the cheerful element because I didn’t have the right color fabric, but it serves well as a wearable prototype. I have two more cardigans almost completed (need buttons and buttonholes) that bring in the cheerful bit. I will show you those next time.

See you soon!

Fabric rainbows

Hello again! I am back from a two-week stay with my family, refreshed and almost recovered from the cold my dad so generously spread all over. It’s always wonderful to see my parents, and then it’s also always great to come back home. This time it was even better than usual because there was a rainbow of fabric waiting for me when I returned.

Rainbow 1

Here’s how that happened: when I called Banksville Fabrics* to order the fabric needed to recut the fronts of a recent unfinished project, I asked for swatches of other bright solid-colored knits. The swatches got here in record time and the colors were of the spirit-lifting variety. See for yourself:

Rainbow 2

The short pieces are the ones I ordered. I keep a part of each swatch in a plastic baggie for matching purposes when shopping.

I promptly ordered a bunch of them, in 3-yard pieces, which should be enough for a sleeveless dress and a cardigan. Also, before the swatches arrived, I realized I was out of the black Sophia knit and when I went to order more, Vogue Fabrics* had other interesting colors like turquoise and lime green and pretty neutrals like winter white and burgundy. Of course, I ordered those too.

*no affiliation, just a happy customer

Fast forward to yesterday. I came home to two large boxes of fabric. As I opened the one from Banksville Fabrics, this was on top:

Rainbow 3

I put it aside right then because I wanted to see and touch my fabrics first. When I stacked them all on the cutting table, I just wanted to hug them. They looked like a rainbow. So happy and bright. Much like the Bright Winter color fan.

When I opened the envelope, out came another rainbow:

Rainbow 4

They have my number, don’t they?

How cool is that? Fabric rainbows everywhere!

Shawl-collared cardigan

Here’s the project that helped me out of the funk. It’s a shawl-collared cardigan, the idea for which crystallized after a recent consultation with John Kitchener (more on that in another post).

Malachite green cardigan

This is how I plan to wear it – with a belt

The fabric is a malachite-colored wool jersey that’s been in my fabric stash since 2006, waiting patiently for the right project to come along. It’s an absolute pleasure to sew and press, just like every other wool jersey I’ve ever tried, and comfy to wear. I really need more of this fabric, in all kinds of bright colors.

Front view unbelted

Unbelted view

I used my knit top TNT McCall’s 6355 and added a shawl collar. I had originally drafted a separate collar into a slightly curved neckline and a cut-on facing, but I didn’t like how the finished collar looked where it met the front edge. So I went back to the drafting table and added a regular shawl collar onto the front (this requires a separate facing).

Pattern comparison

In the picture above, you can see the original TNT front under the new shawl-collared front – the only changes are at the neckline and front edge. I used Armstrong’s directions except for moving the neck point (sheer laziness as I already had the back piece cut out and didn’t feel like tracing and cutting a new copy) and made the collar wider, per previously established preference. For the facing, I took into account the turn of the cloth, adding to the collar and subtracting from the front edge.

While the cardigan was still on the dressform, I played with some trim to get ideas for the next iteration. Like this:

WIP - idea

I like the look of this narrow trim

Although I can see a lined version in the future, I didn’t line this one. I wanted it to feel sweater-like. Also, because I didn’t have matching thread and over here thread costs twice as much as stateside, I only bought one small spool for the stitching that would show. All the serging inside is in lime green.

Inside

None of the lime green shows when I wear it but it makes me feel good to know it’s there. There will, of course, be a lime green version coming soon. I know you knew that.

See you soon!

From funk to project

I’ve been meaning to sit down and write a nice post but I couldn’t. Because I’ve been in a bit of a funk that descended on me when I made this one wadder. Not because it was a wadder; everybody makes one every so often. And it’s not even a wadder, really, it just needs the fronts recut. And therein lies the problem. I’m out of that fabric. Yes, I can order more of it (and have, too) but it will take about two weeks to arrive. Because we’re stationed in Germany. I usually do a pretty good job of happily ignoring that little factoid (in ostrich-like fashion), but having to wait two weeks or more for fabric brings it home in a way that defies denial.

Anyway, the fabric is not here yet but I have made it past the funk by making that pattern in a different fabric (and there are many yards of pretty fabrics coming my way in the next few weeks, hehe). Yay! Here’s a sneak peek:

WIP

It still needs buttons and buttonholes. That’s my work for tomorrow. Then I’ll be back with more pictures.

See you soon!

M6355 one more time and gray pants

I went back to the green double knit to test the fit of the altered M6355. It looked great in the soft gray sweater knit but as Kathryn pointed out on Stitcher’s Guild, the real test would be going back to the same fabric. So I did. And it’s good. Or better anyway. Look:

Green top and gray pants

What I realized as I tried it on in front of the mirror, is that this fabric clings to my bra. It wasn’t apparent with the dress because I wore a slip under it. Now, this is a seamless T-shirt bra made of some smooth material that has never attracted any clinging. But this fabric, I tell you… It wrinkles and clings and shows every little bump. Good thing I don’t have any more of it.

Green top neckline

At any rate, I am happy with the alterations and ready to make more tops with this pattern. For this green top, I used the scoop neckline. On future versions, I plan to add a loose turtleneck or cowl collar.

The pants are a total frankenmix of my old TNT (from an old Burda WOF) and Butterick 5941. I wanted the comfortable waist-to-hip fit of the Burda and the narrower legs of the Butterick. I think they turned out reasonably well. The look good in the front and from the side. I see something on the back view that I’m not sure what it is but I’m not planning to make any changes until I’ve made this pattern again in another fabric.

The fabric is a lovely wool/cashmere blend from Banksville Fabrics. I was going to use a simple grosgrain ribbon finish at the waist but when I basted it in and tried on the pants, the waist was just a little too big. So I had three choices: I could take in the side seams to make it just right, I could leave it alone and not worry about it, or I could try some elastic. Generally, I reserve elastic waist for pajamas but here I thought I had a good fit everywhere and just needed a little taken in at the waist. And then I would also want more room as soon as I ate lunch. The elastic would provide both.

Pants waist closeup

I had to rig it because I hadn’t really seen anything like it before. It’s basically a grosgrain ribbon on the inside to form the casing, elastic enclosed in it and sewn to the ends of the ribbon. Then I tried them on and while I liked the effect, I was worried that there might be too much tension on the zipper. So I rigged the button and loop closure. Both are sewn through the ribbon and the elastic, but not the shell fabric so they’re invisible from the outside.

The next night I bought the Taunton e-book Easy Guide to Sewing that shows a really nice invisibly elasticized waistband finish. I’m going to try that next.

See you soon!

How do you cut and mark your fabric?

Cutting fabric used to be my least favorite part of the sewing process. But then mid-last year I bought this absolutely fabulous bright daylight lamp (the kind professional photographers use) which gives off so much light that it literally looks like sunshine, even in the middle of the night. That light made all the difference – no longer a dreaded chore, cutting has become fun. So much so, that I want to show you how I do it. You know, in case you like some of my ideas, or have some good ones of your own to share.

I use pattern weights to hold the pattern in place. I occasionally dream about getting those large ones professional patternmakers use but, ugh – shipping and storage and moving… I’ll stick with the little guys for now. I use a rotary cutter to cut the fabric. On a quick and easy project, I just cut right around the pattern piece. On more involved projects with odd layouts, I trace around the pattern pieces with chalk, then cut.

Cutting 1

My patterns have notches for matching seams and holes for marking inside the pattern piece, such as for darts. Because the paper is so thin, I reinforce the area with clear tape, both front and back. I consider this an integral step of pattern preparation, right before cutting it. Then I notch the notches and punch the holes.

Cutting 2

My cool tools

Once the outline of the piece is cut in fabric, it’s time to mark it. The notches get a simple snip with sharp scissors, the holes get filled in with chalk. Like this:

Cutting 3

When the paper comes off, I connect the dart dots with a thin line of chalk (I like the pen-style Chaco liners) using a straight and/or curved ruler. For double-ended darts, I also mark the center line so that I have a straight line to follow when folding out the dart.

Cutting 4

If a piece is cut on fold, I flip it over and mark it in the same way. Now, I only do this with stable fabrics. Anything shifty gets cut single-layer. Once I have the chalk lines in place, I pin the darts so they’re ready to sew. Then, and only then, does the cut piece move from the cutting table to the sewing table.

Cutting 5

Back when I first started sewing, I considered sewing the darts part of cutting out. I didn’t think it was “real sewing”, you know. Now I know better :-)

So, please talk to me: how do you cut and mark your fabrics? Are you partial to rotary cutters or do you prefer shears? How do you transfer dart and other important markings from pattern to fabric?

McCall’s 6355 twice

This last week I have had to seriously curtail my computer time because of the muscle spasms so I’m only now catching up on all my favorite blogs. But I’ve been sewing, both in my head and in real life.

OK, so I told you I needed a new TNT knit top pattern because my good old KS3003 had issues I couldn’t fix. (Looking back, I probably could have fixed them but didn’t really know how right then.) Enter McCall’s 6355. I first tested it as a dress with long sleeves:

Green dress

Not bad, just a few wrinkles.

I started with size 12 and made some flat pattern adjustments based on a Lands’ End T-shirt I wear for sleeping. It measures 14″ from shoulder point to shoulder point and I like where the seams fall. It measures 19.5″ across at the underarm and 17″ at the waist. I wanted a similar fit. I then used the length proportions from the KS3003 because I thought those would be a good start.

  • shortened the back by 1″ just below the armhole, redrew dart;
  • re-angled the back armhole from the notch up to get 7″ measurement from center back to the shoulder point;
  • shortened the front ½” just below the armhole;
  • deepened the bust dart by ½” (side seams are now even);
  • redrew the front armhole from the dot up to get 7″ from center front to shoulder point;
  • copied the neckline from the gray shimmer dress;
  • lowered sleeve cap by ¼”, blending at notches;
  • lengthened sleeve to wrist length.
Closeup comparison

Wrinkles on the left, smooth on the right.

I thought the dress looked pretty good but there were some wrinkles I didn’t like. They seemed to be pointing to the bust but pinning a deeper dart didn’t seem to help. It took me a while to figure out what the deal was but when I realized I was pulling up my shoulders as if to shrug, to make the wrinkles disappear, it was clear the shoulder slope was too straight. (It’s not the pattern’s fault; it happened when I re-angled the back armhole.) I have square shoulders so never in a million years would I have thought I’d be making a sloped shoulder adjustment. I made it just ¼” on both front and back, and tested it out in a gray sweater knit.

Gray sweater top

Nice and smooth, and perfectly shaped. I love how the back darts show off my lower back curve.

After the dress was sewn, I took in the side seams ½” on each side at the waist, tapering up to the bust dart and down to the hip. This helped give it a nicer shape so it can be worn without a belt. The side seam shaping worked well in the gray top, too. For future dress versions, I’ve added 1.5″ to the length so that the hem will come to the top of my knee.

For the gray sweater, I used a 2″ strip on the cross grain, folded in half, to finish the neckline. This closed it up a little and made it look more like a crew neckline than the originally intended scoop neck. I usually wear scarves when the weather is cool so it makes little difference here but I wanted to try the technique and add it to my repertoire.

Gray sweater top styled

This is how I’ll wear it most often – with a scarf.

The sleeves look a bit wide from the elbow down and I might taper them a little in the next version. The suggested fabrics for this pattern are both knits and wovens and I am looking forward to trying it out in a wool crepe soon.

That’s all I have right now. Or rather, I’d keep typing, only I have to keep my neck muscles happy so it’s time to go. See you soon!

Happy New Year!

I hope you all have had lovely holidays and started off the new year with some serious sewing!

We had family visiting for a few weeks, plus a nasty cold (do you know how many dirty tissues five sick people generate in a day?), followed by an awful muscle spasm in my neck that required a trip to the ER. What fun, right? But all family members are now safely back in their homes, noses dry, and the muscle spasm is finally ignorable enough that I could spend some time in the sewing room.

McCall’s 6355

I’m working on McCall’s 6355, a Palmer/Pletsch pattern for a semi-fitted tank top, T-shirt, and dress. (My KS3003 has lost its TNT status because I found a couple of issues with it that I couldn’t fix.) Having read the mostly glowing reviews on PatternReview, and remembering Diana’s multiple versions, I thought I might give it a try. And then I saw Erica’s striped dress and it was a done deal. You see, I’ve been thinking spring lately. I know, I know, winter has just barely started, but my head is firmly in sunny, warm, spring/summer.

I have the pattern all altered and cut, now I just need to cut the fabric and test it. That will be tomorrow’s work. I’m already looking forward to it.

Happy sewing to all of you!

Fall sewing – shimmer gray dress

I’ve been meaning to make some adjustments to my T-shirt dress frankenpattern. I’ve used it to make the short-sleeved and the long-sleeved version earlier this year, both of which I liked, but there was room for improvement. After a bit of pinning and transferring changes to the paper pattern, it was time to test the new version.

Front 2

Pattern details
I started with the same pattern as the long-sleeved black dress, which is a combination of KwikSew 3003 on the top and McCall’s 6355 on the bottom, and made the following adjustments:

  1. shortened the back ½” all the way across, below the dart ends;
  2. increased bust dart take-up by the same ½” in the front;
  3. added ⅜” at the back underarm point, tapering to the waist;
  4. took out ⅜” at mid-armhole in the front, tapering to nothing at the neckline (this made the front shoulder seam more sloped);
  5. copied scoop neckline from Pamela’s Patterns Perfect T-shirt for the front, and added ¼” to CB.

You can see in this comparison picture how much difference that ½” made in the back. The two black dresses have a baggy-bumpy silhouette while the gray dress is nice and smooth.

Side view comparison

I am quite pleased with the neckline. My first attempt was just a stab in the dark, which I thought turned out reasonably well, even if the sides looked a bit too angled. The second attempt had nicer scoopy sides, but was a little too straight at CF and maybe a tad too wide. This third time is the charm, I think. It’s a pretty shape and just perfect under a cardigan.

Neckline comparison

Fabric and construction notes
I used a mystery sweater knit from Fabric Mart. It was marked as “shimmer gray sweater knit”. I didn’t do a burn test to see what’s in it, but when I washed it, it got really heavy the way cotton usually does. So maybe a cotton blend of some sort, with a thin shimmery silver yarn to add sparkle.

Fabric

The fabric feels smooth and soft to touch. It’s also fairly thin (thinner than the Sophia knit of the other two dresses) and somewhat more sheer than what I’m used to wearing so a slip will definitely be required.

I had planned to use a double needle for the hems but there wasn’t quite enough matching thread left for that, so instead I just used a 2×2 zig-zag stitch. The neckline is stabilized with bias stay tape and folded over. Pretty easy.

Front 1

Conclusion
I think this dress will be a great basic for my wardrobe. It’s simple and free of ornamentation so it should pair easily with cardigans and scarves. Also, this is now a TNT knit top pattern. Yay! I’m going to put it to good use in the upcoming year of RTW fast.

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