Thursday Tee: A season-flexible piece with swirls

This week’s tee is another stash buster, a project inspired by a remnant of mystery fabric I found in the (always seductive) remnant section at Fabric Depot. I bought it, not because I needed it (!), but because it’s embroidered with white flowers and swirls that look almost….french. Instant love! Of course, I indulged.

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Because there was only a yard of it, I had to find a piece of coordinating fabric that would look as though it was from the same dye lot, a tall order any day. But a serious case of fabric love had me in a frenzy. In the matter of a couple of hours, I drove from one end of the Portland to the other in search of the perfect, coordinating solid. (BTW, I am spoiled. We have a half a dozen fabric stores in Portland.)
 Luckily, the fabric fairy granted me my one wish, and on the very same day, I stumbled into a cool store in my neighborhood called Bolt. There, I found it, an off-white cotton knit that felt soft and yummy, and (magically) matched my mystery fabric perfectly.  Given my frenzied state, you’d probably  expect that I’d cut that fabric the very same day. But I didn’t. I parked both pieces on a shelf and stared at them. Sometimes, I love a fabric so much, I just have to think about for, well, months.
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Butterick 6134 is the pattern I (finally) used for this off-white tee/top. It’s a fitted top with a raised neckline (which is why I bought it), front princess seams (what’s not to love about those), and a narrow hem. The pattern is designed for lightweight woven and stable knits, perfect given my fabric choices. I made view A, but lengthened the sleeves (Yes, I know it’s Spring, but this is Oregon, after all). To give the top a more polished look, I added cuffs to the sleeves, cut from the same mystery fabric.
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This was an easy, fast sew because the sleeves are raglan style, so you don’t have to set them in. The raised neckline is easy too, as it’s cut as part of the bodice rather than constructed. All told, I made this top in an afternoon – Instant gratification.
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I’m in love with all shades of white these days, so this top will be worn alot. The long sleeves make it perfect, not only for Spring, but for Fall too. And I still love that fabric. But because I have no idea what it’s made of, I’ll have to resist the urge to toss it in the machine. Apparently, hand-washing is the downside of giving in to a mystery.
 Do you give into the lure of mystery fabric or have you been burned?

A gray jacket for…Spring? 

Yes, I know it’s the time of year for wearing bright colors like yellow and fuchsia and green. But gray? Not so much.

I ask…why not? Gray is a tried and true neutral, darn good company to just about any other color you can name. That’s why I decided to make a casual Spring jacket out of gray – -because it will go with every bright color you can conjure up.

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Of course, it is May, an odd time of year to think about jackets and coats at all. Soon, the weather will be so warm, coats will be obsolete. Why by the end of the week, we’re promised eighty degree weather, even in Oregon! Still, promises are made to be broken. I suspect I’ll need to have a coat by my side for quite some time to come.
The pattern I used for this wrap jacket is Vogue 9037, a loose fitting, unlined double-breasted jacket with front and back tucks.
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 It was the tucks that did it. When I saw them, I fell like a fool for this jacket. Not only that, but the collar on View A, made it a must have too. It’s wide, but not too wide, with an unusual cut. The shaped hemline looked interesting too.
Because the jacket is unlined, I decided to use a double faced fabric, a ponte knit that I’ve had in my stash for so long, I can’t remember where it came from :). You know how it is. Honestly though, I wish I could remember, because this fabric is the perfect weight for Spring and a dream to work with. I’d love to have it in black or navy too.
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The pattern looked pretty straightforward, but I was a taken back (freaked!) when I read the warning on the pattern envelope though…No provisions provided for above waist adjustment! Noooooooo. Very bad news for a short-torso person like me!
Of course, I didn’t notice that horrid warning until I’d already cut the fabric….(Hmmmm. Perhaps I should slow down once in awhile and read the pattern instructions carefully before diving right in, maybe even trying it out with muslin?)
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Fortunately, there isn’t a tragic end to this story. I lucked out!!! The jacket fit like a dream with no adjustments.  The tucks are positioned just right for the likes of me.
The jacket was easy to sew and, since it’s a wrap style, there aren’t any buttonholes to make. Nice, eh? The tucks are easy too, especially if you mark the fabric well. My only regret is that I didn’t have enough fabric to make the tie belt as long as I would have liked.
I’m happy with the result and plan to make this pattern again, probably in the fall. If you need an easy-to-wear, throw on jacket, I highly recommend this one.
What do you think? Am I kidding myself about gray? Should my wrap jacket be shut away until fall?

Thursday tee: A sporty tee dress

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Even if you don’t consider yourself an athlete, who can resist dressing like one from time to time? My Thursday tee is a sporty dress, a nod to the trend that gives us a chance to look fit and relaxed, even when we aren’t at the gym.
Since the sporty trend is strong, there’s plenty of inspiration in ready-to-wear.
Proenza Schouler gives a nod to fitness with this look.
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I love the color blocking here (It appears as though I will never get over my obsession). Another plus – – you could actually wear this dress with sneakers, if you wanted to. What’s not to like about that?
And here’s a cool dress from Jonathan Simkhai.
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You probably wouldn’t hit the gym in this one, but at least you look as though you’d like to!
 To make my sporty dress, I used Vogue 8817, a close fitting pullover top with neck binding, seam detail, and contrast variations. It was designed by Katherine Tilton, well-known for her  love of mixing colors and prints in blocks. So, even the pattern envelope includes yardage measurements for a variety of blocking options which makes the mix and match thing pretty easy to do.
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I used a Ponte knit with moderate stretch for view C, an A-line shaped tunic. Although it’s designed to be a top, I lengthened the pattern to make it a dress, then added a hem band at the bottom for contrast.
This pattern was so easy, I finished it in an afternoon. Instant gratification!
And, the blocking variations make it the perfect pattern for (need I say it) stash busting. I was able to use a remnant of red knit from my stash for the contrasting bands and borders. Yahoo!
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This dress is so comfortable, I’m sure I’ll wear it a lot this summer. The knit is just the right weight to make it an easy travel dress too. What about you? Do you like the sporty, active wear look? Thanks for stopping by……

A shift dress that mixes it up

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How’s this for using up a bit of my stash?
As you all know, my stash reduction project is in full swing and this dress is the result of my new stash busting rule.
 During the summer, I can only buy a piece of fabric, if it replaces a piece of equal size. So, nothing comes in unless something goes out.
No doubt, keeping to my rule will be very, very hard.  Think of all of the summer clearance sales I’ll have to miss! But my stash will thank me. There are fabrics on my shelves that have lived there for over two years. They deserve a better life. They deserve to be worn.
That’s why this project made me feel a bit virtuous. To make this spring dress, I used almost two yards of fabric from my stash – – a yard and a half of floral cotton AND a half yard of a contrast cotton print for the sleeves and hem border. Two yards down!
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The pattern for this dress is McCall’s 6465, a loose fitting pullover dress with bust darts and short sleeves. The style is simple and basic, which makes this pattern a good template that’s easy to modify and embellish.
The neckline is what attracted me to this pattern initially. It’s wide enough to slip the dress over your head, but not really a scoop neck either. It’s almost a boat-neck, a shape I absolutely love. Other than shortening the bodice length a bit, I made no other adjustments to the pattern.
I love the crisp feeling of this cotton fabric, but there are alot of flowers on it (and you know how I feel about florals.) So, I decided to mix things up a bit by using a contrast print on the sleeves and hem border. It’s hard to see the details of the print in the photos, but it’s a black background that’s swirled with swooshes of gray. The sleeve hems are edged with solid black just to give it a bit of an edge.
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This was a super easy pattern that you can make in an afternoon and it doesn’t have a zipper. Since this is the perfect time of year to be outside, I spend less time sewing, choosing projects that are simple and instantly gratifying. This one was perfect. You can finish it in a few hours then head outside!
Do you have a stash busting rule of your own? What kinds of sewing projects work for you when the weather is warm? Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday tee: A froufrou floral…tamed!

Floral prints mean Spring to me. They always tune my mind into thinking, warm (!), a must after spending the long winter buried under sweaters and fleece. By the time May rules around, I have a hard time believing ‘warm’ exists at all!

I love the optimism of a good floral, but to me, wearing one is a bit tricky. The wrong floral can make me look like my grandmother (loved you granny, but…). And if the print is too pastel, it makes me feel fussy rather than fresh.  So, I tend to gravitate to florals that include bold colors or where the froufrou feeling is tamed by a bit of black.
When it comes to fashion, here’s the good news. This Spring, there are zillions to choose from! That makes it easy to give in to their Spring-y optimism because you can find one that matches your favorite color palate. I love the bold florals by Celine and how they paired them with black to balance out their sweetness.
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And the floral Antonio Marras used here is so fresh! It even has a cool seventies vibe.
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When I shop for fabric, I approach any floral with a bit of trepidation, which I toss aside willingly when said floral looks like it will go with my everyday staple– my favorite jeans. So, when I saw this floral tee-shirt knit, I just had to have it. It’s a print that includes my favorite bold colors; cobalt blue, black and fuchsia, with a back drop of gray. Instant love! A must have! (And of course, price is no object at a moment like this.)
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The pattern I used is Butterick 5890, a top with tucks to define the waist, and a number of sleeve variations. I used View C, a tee with a front center seam and two long tucks on either side. The pattern is designed for light weight wovens, but since my knit was stable, I decided it could pass as a woven in a pinch.
One great thing about this pattern – – It doesn’t require much fabric. Since I’m small/short person, it took less than a yard and a half to make this tee, a plus since I have many (many!!) pieces in my fabric stash that are about that size. Any project that contributes to my Stash Reduction Project gets bonus points from me.
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To balance out the floral’s intrinsic sweetness, I cut the sleeves from a contrast fabric, a black solid. I also used black binding at the neck, and at the hem to give the tee a bit more edge and shape.
The pattern went together quickly (an easy afternoon sew) and the tucks were easy once I had the fabric well marked. The trickiest part for me was raising the waist position, a must since I’m short waisted. Once I figured that out, it was a breeze. Oh, and because my fabric had a bit of stretch, I cut the pattern one size smaller to adjust for that.
It’s a comfy tee that goes well with dark pants, dark skirts, and (of course) my trusted jeans, which balances out the frofrou floral. But even with the black contrast, the tee still says Spring to me- – which is why this top belongs outside, swinging in the warm breeze….
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Are you wild about this season’s florals, or do you think they belong in the past?

I’m having a blue moment…

Blue! Everything in my wardrobe is blue. Black used to be my go-to color, a drab, but safe option. But now, everything’s coming up blue.

Why am I obsessed with ‘blue’ this Spring? It could be because I’d like to see the gray of our Oregon sky replaced with a bit of blue!! Or maybe its because I need a trip to the tropics and a ‘hit’ of a warm ocean’s blue. Whatever the reason, I’m completely taken with any and all variations of blue this Spring; denim blue, sky blue, robin’s egg blue, sailor’s blue, powder blue, cobalt blue…need I continue? Perhaps, you’ve seen me. I’m the wild-eyed blonde that’s lurking in the the denim and chambray aisle of your favorite fabric store.
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I can’t tell you how many random pieces of blue fabric I’ve picked up over the last few months. My latest ‘hit’ of blue came when I spotted a gorgeous piece of linen at Fabric Depot. At first, my thoughts were reasoned. “You can’t have it,” I told myself. “Your stash is huge.” But my heart other ideas.
That’s when I remembered an important fact about linen. It breathes, which makes it the perfect choice for summer clothes! Since I’m planning a trip to the tip of Southern California in June, I’ll need tops that can handle cool coastal mornings as well as hot dry afternoons. That’s justification enough for me!
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The top I made with my lovely blue linen is Butterick 6097, a fitted shirt with a collar and peplum variations, princess seams and a front button band. I chose the pattern because it has some structure, which will make it a great companion for shorts, skirts, or jeans. Also, the has the style has a slight retro vibe, which I always, always love.
I made view B, a long sleeve version that I modified. My sleeves are closer to 3/4 and I skipped the cuff so that I could push the sleeves up if I got too warm. Also, that version had a pleated peplum, which was something I’d never tried before.
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Because the pattern is so fitted, I chose to go up a size in the waist (since I don’t really have one), then cut my usual size through the hips. I didn’t do a muslin (since I have zero patience), an approach that frequently has horrifying consequences. But this time, lucky for me, my adjustments worked! The pattern went together easily and it fit with just a bit of last minute seam adjustment at the sides.
The linen was a breeze to sew with, but it has absolutely no ‘give’, so I’m lucky my size adjustments worked!! I love any fabric that presses into a crisp, clean edge and this linen did not disappoint. However, as we all know, linen is notorious. Pressed today means wrinkles tomorrow, no matter what you do. But I love linen’s wrinkles – they’re classic and cool. The pleats were super easy to sew as long as you marked them well.
 I’ve worn the top once and it was really comfortable, even after eating a huge dessert, a ‘plus’ in my book. Now, if only my waist was as small as this woman’s…She’s a miniature version of a real woman, right?
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Do you like to sew with linen? What’s your favorite fabric to wear in summer?

Thursday Tee: Color Block Love

Today’s tee is color blocked. The truth is, I love a good color blocked garment and probably will until I’m pushing up daisies. As trends go, it has a lot to offer, as well-placed blocks of color can shape your figure so that it looks like you wish it did!  Subtle combos look classic. More dramatic ones can attract attention.
But for those of us who sew, color blocking has an even deeper purpose. It gives you an opportunity to use all of those random pieces of fabric in your stash that are too boring to use alone! You know the ones -those small remnants of solids in safe colors like black and taupe and gray (sigh). I have so many, I could swear they’re reproducing.
Since I’m a bit color-block-obsessed,  I was thrilled to see the trend featured in a few designer collections this Spring. Some used big swaths of bold, bright color. I love these pieces by Roksanda Ilincic. The color combinations are unexpected, but really cool.
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 She is the queen of color blocking, no?
Top Shop played with the trend here; sporty and effective.
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Even J. Crew paired colors in interesting ways.  image
Okay. After looking at these exciting, edgy pieces, my color blocking moment looks a bit dull in comparison (LOL)  But, hey, it’s a start, right?
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When I experiment with color blocking, I like to keep it simple by applying some loose rules. I pick three colors, and often keep them in the same color family. (But after seeing the color blocking examples I posted here, I doubt I’ll stick to this rule in the future. Bravery has its rewards. Am I right?) When it comes to design, I choose simple patterns so that the color combination is what the eye sees.
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The pattern I used for this tee is McCalls’ 7093, a top/tunic that’s semi-fitted with front seam detail that makes it ideal for color blocking. I chose version B, a short sleeved tee with low pockets in the front.
Keeping with my cautious design aesthetic (in other words, I’m a chicken), I used three colors; black, brown and white for accent. The black and brown fabric is woven rayon, purchased at Fabric Depot but the white is the last piece of linen knit I bought in Capri a little over a year ago (wish I’d bought more!).
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The pattern was fun and easy to sew, but the best part was that buzz you get when you play around with fabric combinations, using up a bit of your unwieldy stash in the process! I sewed the pattern as designed with a few slight modifications:
  •  I cut the sleeves a bit longer by adding a inch in the length.
  • I added a 1” sleeve band to the sleeve for finish.
This was a fun project and I will likely make this pattern again. Next time though, I’ll make it a little shorter. And I swear, my color blocked version will be a bit more adventuresome too. No more ‘safe’ choices for me!(?)
What about you? Do you like to experiment with color blocking? What patterns/colors have you tried?
Thanks for stopping by!

Dress or tunic? That is the question!

My latest sewing project is having a bit of an identity crisis. It’s a bit too short to be called a dress, but a bit too long to be called a top. In spite of this, I have to call it something to blog about it. So, I’m going to call it a dress. In fact, to be specific, it’s a Little White Dress (LWD), my second one, a trend in my sewing that’s bit surprising since white is definitely not my color.

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I blame this garment’s identity crises on the fact that it was made from unrelated pieces of linen, found in my large, unwieldy fabric stash.
I don’t know about you, but my stash’s girth issues are a direct consequence of my frequent visits to the irresistible remnant selection of my local fabric store. There are so many gorgeous pieces there, all priced to sell, usually at about 50% of  retail. How can one resist?
 But here’s the problem with that. The down side of these ‘economical’ purchases is that, inevitably, finding ways to use the remnants is a challenge. These pieces of gorgeous fabric may be cheap, but they’re often less than a yard. But as my mind registers this fact, my heart says, “It’s not too small!! Go ahead. Buy it. There’s enough fabric here to make…..something!!”
Remnants are such teases.
My latest LWD is made from those remnants; a half yard of graphic print linen and 3/4 yard of white linen. Alone, neither was enough to cover much of…anything! But together, they became a dress.
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 I used one of my favorite basic patterns, Vogue 8840, (see it also here, and here) a tunic top with dropped shoulders, a round neckline, and a front and back center seam. This pattern is a favorite because it’s so easy to modify. With its center back and front seams, it’s also easy to adjust to fit my narrow shoulders.
I used the pattern as designed with one modification. I added a long but narrow eyelash dart to both sides of the back. This was necessary to give the pattern a bit of taper at the waist, a must because this particular piece of white linen was a bit stiff.
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After cutting the main tunic from the white fabric, I cut a ten inch border from my print, making it the same width as the tunic and sewed it to the bottom of the tunic, converting it into a dress (?). Of course,  I could have made it a bit longer if I’d had a little more fabric, (and who’s fault is that?). I did the same thing to add a border to the sleeves, which gave them a bit more body and finish. I also top stitched both sides of the front and back center seams for interest.
I love this pattern. Because the sleeves are cut as part of the dress, it’s easy and fast to sew. The neck is finished with seam binding, also super fast and easy.
But, even though this pattern is simple, the project wasn’t boring at all. I enjoy simple patterns because they give you room to add something. This time, adding the border was the fun part of the project. Also, because the top is so basic, I had fun shaping it with my own well placed darts.
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Here’s my finished remnant creation! Even as I look at it now, I’m not sure what it is, though. A dress, a tunic…who knows? But that’s what happens when you do the remnant shuffle right? Maybe, it’ll be a long top until Summer, when the hot temperatures will make it the perfect dress. And yes, it’s wrinkled and always will be. But that’s okay! I give wrinkles a free pass when they’re on wonderful, beautiful linen!!
What about you? Do you find the remnant section enticing? What do you do with those lovely, but strangely sized pieces?