Thursday Tee: An every day top with a bit of an Attitude 

Thursday is tee-day, a day for celebrating the type of sewing project I love the most – – Tops and Tees. It seems as though one never has enough!! Besides that, they’re fun to create, fast to sew, and (usually) immediately gratifying.
For me, my five star tees work hard to earn that distinction. A good one has a bit of style, yet it can be worn so many ways; with cropped pants, skirts, jeans, even (sometimes?) alone. They can be layered under sweaters, jackets, even under another tee.
If only we as people could be as flexible/versatile as our favorite tees!
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The story behind this one: There once was a tee….  I loved/wore it to death, a jersey top purchased at Anthro several seasons ago. It was so comfortable, I wanted to wear it every day. In fact, I  must have come close to doing just that, because (finally), all the frequent washings did it in. I looked for another one online, but, (you know the story), the style had been discontinued. Gnashing of teeth! I loved that top.
Taking that as I sign from the sewing gods that I should try to copy it, I made a grand effort. I took the old top apart seam by horrid seam (Do not try this at home.) Then, I tried to draft a pattern from the poor, tattered pieces. More gnashing of teeth. Let’s just say, the outcome was hilarious, a screaming failure that could be on ‘what not to wear’, but will not be posted here :).
Then, I saw the NEW patterns for Spring! The Vogue release had a style that looked just like it, Vogue 9056, a ‘very easy’ pullover top with raised waist and a flounce. I rushed out and paid Full Price for the pattern because I had to have it NOW.
 DSC02735The tee goes to the Kitchen…
The results were worth it. This pattern has the look I was after. It’s a relaxed every day top with a bit of an attitude.
Even though the image on the pattern envelope (view B) showed the top in a striped fabric, I wasn’t sure I wanted my first effort to be so challenging. But a certain piece of striped Italian knit called to me from my stash (purchased at this Puyallup Sewing and Stitchery Expo, an awesome experience, check it out). So I jumped right in.
The pattern was easy to lay out, in spite of the inherent care that’s necessary when you are working with stripes. It was super fast and easy sew to sew too, as it has only four (!) pattern pieces. What’s not to like about that? The hem of the garment is machine stitched, as are the sleeve hems. The neck is finished similarly, so it’s an easy sew. Time from cut to finish was about three hours.Even though my knit had moderate stretch, it worked well for the pattern. It’s a lightweight fabric with a nice drape, which is important given the top’s bottom flounce.
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Instant Tee Love!!! This is an easy tee, a comfortable wardrobe staple worthy of frequent wearing. I’m already eyeing my (huge) fabric stash, planning my next project with this pattern, probably the sleeveless version (View A) with a v-neck, because we will (!)  have a hot summer in Oregon.
 I’d love to hear about your favorite tee pattern. Please share, and thanks for stopping by!

Me, Amal and Lace 

Blame it on Amal Clooney. I would not have attempted this dress if it wasn’t for her.  Not only is she a brilliant attorney with a enviable last name, look how well she wears Dolce and Gabbana.

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Here’s another great example. The lace detailing accentuates the shape of the dress and makes it pop. Yet, the dress doesn’t look too fussy or girly.

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Inspired, I decided to attempt a knock off.

I used New Look 6209, a sculpted sheath with contrasting side panels and yoke. When I saw the photo on the front of the pattern envelope, I wondered if you could  achieve the same sort of contrast with lace appliqué. I also liked the unusual sleeves, with the pleated sleeve caps.

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Part of the charm of the Dolce and Gabbana dress for me, was that the lace was appliquéd over tweed. So, I used a stable Ponte knit of light gray for the dress, thinly striped with black. (purchased at Fabric Depot.)

I cut the dress out of the Ponte first, then sewed the front to the side panels and the yoke (also cut from lace). Once the front was assembled, I measured the length of each side panel seam to determine how much lace I’d need for the contrast.

That’s when I realized just how complex this task would be! The lace had to be placed just so along the side panel’s seams, or it would draw attention, (maybe even exaggerate!!!) the parts of my body that just didn’t need it.

To avoid that, I had to figure out exactly where to stick that lace, if you get my drift.

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First, I tried to pin the lace on the front of the dress while I stood in front of a mirror.   Let’s just say, that was a Very Bad Idea and leave it at that.

After a bit of trial and error, I decided to pin the dress front to my dress form (seems so obvious now!) and adjust the lace placement until it was right. Then, I hand basted the lace to the fabric.

Now for the crafty bit.

I used my trusty Bernina to appliqué the lace on, tracing each of the curvy edges with stitches. At first, the patience required for this was a bit out of my wheel house. Not only that, but I realized a wrong move would mean that I’d have to rip out a lot of stitches (not my favorite way to spend an afternoon.) Panic!

But as we all know, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

I forced myself to persevere. Not only was it a Growth Moment, but I had way too much money invested in lace and fabric to give up the ship.

The appliqué stitching took a long, long time. Two old movies later though, it was done! The day brightened! I went on to finish that dress.

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Oh, one other thing. I added a bit of lace on the bottom of the sleeves too, a six inch swath of lace sewn on to the bottom of the sleeve as a cuff.

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The pattern was easy to assemble with very little adjusting. But when it was completed, I wasn’t sure I liked this dress, wasn’t sure lace was my thing. But after spending SO much time on it, I had to take it out for a spin. At a dressy evening event, it was kept up with the best of the LBD’s, so I’ll probably wear it again.

Have you tried to recreate a designer look? I’d love to hear about your ‘knock off’ efforts.

Not Your Mother’s Peplum

During one of my recent jaunts into the enticing, instantly gratifying world of ready-to-wear, I heard a discussion through a thin dressing room wall (which is not really eavesdropping, right?). “You absolutely cannot wear that,” one woman said to another. “It’s a peplum and they are a fashion NO!”

It was an interesting statement, one that begged for debate, or at least, extensive internet research. So, I perused the designer collections for Spring, and discovered that there could be a bit of truth to that. The old, more extreme peplum look does seem to be gone.
But now, there’s a new peplum in town. It’s less of a waist defining shape. It seems lower, a bit looser, and a little less (dare I say), prissy than the ones that came before.
Here’s one from Marni that I fell hard for.
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Another from Thakoon that could live in my closet if it wanted to.
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Cute shorts too.
After all that research, I had to make one of my own. The pattern I used is Vogue 8815, a fitted top with a raised wast, long front darts for shaping, and a narrow hem. I chose view C because it had an interesting, less traditional look.
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I used a lightweight cotton purchased from Fabric Depot that is a dusty denim blue (I hope to some day get over my denim obsession). Not only did I buy it because it’s Blue, but because it has a dot pattern imprinted on the fabric that I love. I used a similar solid cotton for the sleeves.
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The pattern was easy to put together. Although view C is a pullover, I added a zipper in the back, just because it felt more finished that way.  I cut the smallest size (8) and adjusted the side seams for fit, since I’m usually a 6 through the back.
The peplum fit onto the bodice perfectly. On view C, it doesn’t extend to the back which makes the whole process easy and fast. The neck is finished with seam binding, also easy and fast. The hemline is lower in the back than the front, which gives it a bit of an edge. Cool, but it’s something to keep in mind when you choose the fabric though, as the wrong side shows.
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 I think I like the look of a looser peplum as it feels fresh and different. This is an easy top to wear, so comfortable you could eat Thanksgiving dinner and still be able to breathe! I’ll probably have to make another, soon.
How do you feel about peplums? Has it been done to death, or do they still have a place in your heart?

Girly Print Meets Leather

When I shop for fabric during the Spring and Summer, I’m always drawn to the colorful prints. I have a hard time giving in to their allure though, because when I wear them, I feel too sweet.

But when I saw the Cotton and Steel prints this season at Fabric Depot, I had to indulge. To balance out the look, I decided to mix things up a bit, pairing the printed shirt with an edgier skirt with leather detailing and a zipper. Wearing a bit of leather and metal keeps me from feeling too…Girly. Obviously, I have issues!
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The shirt:
The fabric I picked is a cotton lawn print, designed by Rashida Coleman Hale, her Mochifloral Teal.The colors are very ‘me’ so I nabbed a couple of yards for Simplicity 1422, a shirt with tabbed roll-up sleeves.
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Simplicity 1422 is a great shirt pattern, with interesting variations in length and style. It was super-easy to put together, in spite of the fact that it has a collar, and tabs on the sleeves. You can sew it in an afternoon for a good dose of instant gratification. The cotton lawn is a dream to work with, easy to manipulate and press.
The skirt
To give the outfit a bit of contrast, I paired it with a brown, leather- trimmed zippered skirt made from Simplicity 1322.
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It’s a mock wrap slim skirt. The fabric is a stable Ponte knit, that I bought so long ago, I have no idea where :). I modified the waist band of the skirt, narrowing it a bit since I have the stubborn (but perhaps inaccurate?) notion that narrow waist bands are more flattering on me.
For the side slit, I trimmed the opening with leather (Fabric Depot), then added a full length zipper, rather than the short one pictured on the pattern envelope. I did this, well, just because!
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This skirt pattern is super easy with many variations. I’ll use it again and again. I’ll make the shirt again too, maybe in a longer length.
All in all, a fun project and both patterns are keepers!
What do you think about Spring prints? Too sweet or you can’t live without them?

A Spring Coat like Betty’s

Betty Draper was my inspiration for this coat. Do you all remember the blue coat she wore in season one, when she was still in love with Don?
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A statement coat to be sure! And look at her hair, how it curls under so perfectly! No wonder Don had to have her.
I made my version of her coat from a Butterick pattern from my own extensive (!!) archives. It’s Butterick 5569, a coat pattern designed by The Cut Line that has princess seams and a big collar that gives the style a retro feel.
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The fabric is from Mill End, an incredible fabric store here in Portland that has a wool department that beats all. My coat is made from a thick, double-faced wool in black, dotted with flecks of white.
To sharpen the details, I trimmed the coat’s front lapel and collar with piping, then finished it with vintage buttons I found in Stars Antique Mall in Portland.
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Because the wool is double-faced, it’s very heavy, so I didn’t want to line the coat because I thought it would be too hot to wear. So, I finished the seams with binding so that they wouldn’t fray, giving the inside of the coat a finished look.
The coat’s comfortable and warm. I even braved the elements and wore it when I visited Anthropologie last week (okay, true confession. I do not make everything I wear, LOL), and I did not feel out of place in my me-made garment, which makes it a win, right?
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Soon, it will be so warm here in Portland, I won’t want to wear this coat (says the optimist).  But right now, Summer feels years away, so coats are a must.
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I love retro fashion, but prefer to sew from modern patterns with their fabulous fit. What about you? Have you used vintage patterns? Good experience or bad?

Shift dress: Then and Now

I must be watching too many Mad Men reruns, because this week, I found myself crafting my very own shift dress!

And I’m not the first person to want this look. Audrey did.AHepburn21_V_18Nov11_rex_b_426x639

Twiggy did.Twiggy-201x300

Jean Shrimpton did too.JShrimpton3_V_23jan12_pa_b_426x639

Pretty good company, if I had to say. It’s a timeless shape and the look is easily modified with a belt, or a bit of bling. The look became popular in the sixties when Audrey Hepburn wore a black one designed by Givenchy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

This week, I made my own shift dress out of a woven fabric, a chambray that looks like light-weight denim, purchased at Fabric Depot.

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I used Vogue 8840 as the base of my design, a pattern for a drop-shoulder tunic with sleeves. I lengthened the pattern, then embellished it with pockets with buttons, and cuffs on the sleeves.

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I self drafted the pockets by cutting seven-inch squares. I added flaps that by free cutting four triangles from the fabric, then faced them by sewing them together. I added the buttons after the fact because I thought the pockets looked boring without them.

The double top stitching came to me after shopping ready to wear. I tried on a similar dress and noticed how the stitching seemed to make the details stand out. Top stitching is mindless, but satisfying, don’t you think? And it’s a easy to do while you watch old movies, a huge plus as far as I’m concerned!

Shift dresses are so easy to wear. I also could belt this and wear it over leggings in the fall. DSC02457

After all, Audrey Hepburn belted hers! And who doesn’t want to be like her?

What about you? Do you like the shift dress look? Who do you think did it better? The girls in the sixties, or us?  Do you have a favorite shift dress pattern?

 

Spring Means Layers!

These days, the weather is so unpredictable! Some days, the sun will shine so bright you’ll reach for your sunglasses, only to rip them off a moment later because they sky is dark and it’s decided to rain.  In the morning, the temperature can be as low as forty; in the afternoon, close to seventy. Such changes make it impossible to decide what to wear in the morning. That’s why spring means layers!  I love a good layering piece.

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My new favorite is McCall’s 6991, a loose fitting bias top with a mock wrap. It’s a casual, roomy option that allows you to wear a tee or a tank underneath, making it a transition piece that will work as well for Spring as for Summer.

I chose view B and used a remnant of lightweight rayon that looks like denim (my favorite color for Spring) that I found at Fabric Depot. The pattern is easy with a self-lined yoke, a narrow machine-stitched hem and a mock wrap front. Because the cut is loose, this top required very little fitting and was completed in an afternoon.

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Tips:

  • Choosing a lightweight woven was key to the drape of the mock wrap. Also, because of the way the mock wrap is constructed, the wrong side of the fabric shows, so you need to use a fabric that looks the same on both sides.
  •  As you read the instructions, you need to know which is the right and wrong side of your fabric or it will not make sense. I found this difficult because my fabric looked the same on both sides. So, to keep confusion to a minimum, I marked the fabric’s right side with tailor’s chalk. It brushed right off when I was done with the project.

This top is fun to sew and I LOVE the instant gratification that comes with an easy, fast project. But now that I’ve completed something unstructured, I’m craving a challenge. For my next project, maybe I’ll try a more complicated pattern, something tailored like a cotton or linen shirt or a jacket. That’s the way it works for me. I sew something easy as a warm up for a more involved project. What about you?