Sew the Kimono Look – Simplicity 1318 

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If you’ve abandoned your sewing machine to visit the alluring aisle of your favorite retail haunt, you’ve probably seen a kimono or two on display. I first noticed this fun trend, when we visited San Diego this Spring. Kimonos were everywhere, worn over cut-offs, shorts, jeans, even over short dresses. The look seemed easy-to-wear and I liked the lightweight fabrics in prints and solids. In short, sign me up!
For inspiration, here’s one by Herve Leger.
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And another. Love the fabric combo here!
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I like how that one’s belted.
Maybe I’ll make a belt for mine.
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Pattern: I used Simplicity 1318, a very ‘easy-to-sew’ pattern with trim and hi-low hem options. From cut to finish, it took only two hours. Other great pattern options: Butterick 6176 or Vogue 9115. 
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Fabric: Simplicity suggests using lightweight woven fabrics with drape for this pattern. I used a cotton lawn with a border print that I found at Mill End. I think it would be great out of a silky fabric as well.
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Modifications: The pattern includes lots of sizes, ranging from  XXS – XXL. I cut a small which fit, but I did have to adjust for my narrow back. If I make another kimono, I will go a size down as the pattern is so loose-fitting. I’d like it to hang open a bit more in the front.
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Challenges: Because I used a border print, I had to figure out how to lay the pattern on the fabric to capture the border trim most effectively. This was tricky and at one point, I headed back to the fabric store to buy more. Lesson learned! Do not be cheap. Buy more! Tip: If you’re using a border print, buy an extra half yard (at least) to give yourself some wiggle room.
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Do I recommend this pattern?  Yes!!  It’s super easy and I love how you can fiddle around with it to create your own look with a fun fabric. Because it’s summer, I’m definitely into patterns that offer instant gratification and this one fits the bill.  There’s nothing tricky about the techniques required, and you can whip it up in an afternoon. I might try it again in a silkier fabric with contrast bands.
Stay cool! And thanks for stopping by.

This Thursday’s Top is Simplicity 1693; Black + White = Cool

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This week marks the sun’s Big Debut here in Portland. We’re expecting a weekend sizzler with temperatures over 100 degrees! Panic! We are wimps, so a forecast like that can cause a bit of freak out around here. We faint at the mere idea of a hot day, and if you throw humidity into the mix, trust me. The streets of our fair city will be deserted. Everyone will be holed up in their air- conditioned houses with fans humming.
I, on the other hand, will be feeling fresh as a daisy, dressed in summer’s perfect fabric – – linen!
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In anticipation of the heat, I crafted a new frock for my Thursday Top – – a three-hour wonder with an a-line shape that’s sure to please. I had great fun making this easy piece. I used three fabrics (3!!); two prints and a solid, making this project a Stash Busting Gem.
Pattern:  I used Simplicity 1693. It’s a  top with length, sleeve and waist variations. It was simple to sew and the instructions were clear.
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Style: 
If there was a Best Top for Any Figure competition, I’d have to nominate this one for the title. It’s simple, to be sure, an A-line that’s fitted at the yoke and slightly flared at the bottom. What’s not to like about that? This top accentuates the good parts of our figures, while forgiving the not-so-good parts.
Modifications:
Yoke: Because I wanted to use some remnants in my stash, I cut the one-piece bodice into two pieces –  a yoke and lower bodice. To do this, I made a cut across the bodice, eight inches from the neck, remembering to add 5/8 “ on both pieces for the seam allowances.
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Front stripe: To make the front stripe of fabric, I cut a 4″wide piece of  fabric  the length of the center front. I turned under the edges and edge stitched it before sewing it to the Center Front of the garment (An easy way to mark the stripe’s placement is to press in the center fold, and use that line as your guide when applying the stripe).
 Fabric: The bodice and sleeves are linen, purchased at Fabric Depot, the yoke and stripe are japanese cotton, purchased at the sewing expo. All of it breathes and is super comfortable to wear.
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So, bring it on, Mr. Sun! I am ready!
What’s your favorite style of pattern to sew with linen? What’s your favorite shape for your figure?
Happy sewing and thanks for stopping by!

A print with an identity crisis

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I can’t decide what this print is; an artistic print or an animal skin print! Whatever you want to call it, the print is not for the faint of heart. The swaths of cobalt blue and black are bold and eye- catching. No blending in when you wear this… My husband will be able to find me, no matter how large the crowd!
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I chose this print because I’m obsessed with blue, and the cobalt in this print is to-die-for. But the print is a bit wild with animal print spots and wide, bold brush strokes of color.  At first, I wasn’t sure it would ever move from ‘stash’ to ‘wardrobe’.
But then, I saw the BCBG Spring collection. Inspiration!  Bold prints were everywhere. It helped me see that, yes, this fabric did have possibilities. I could actually wear it.
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The BCBG collection convinced me that, when it comes to prints, a simple style is best. So, the pattern I chose was McCall’s 7126, a sculpted peplum with neck and sleeve variations,  princess seams, and hem variations. The front is lined, and it’s finished with a narrow hem.
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The challenge was in the pattern layout. I didn’t want to make the horrid mistake of positioning the pattern on the print in a way that would bring attention to parts of my figure best left unnoticed (short waists, anyone?). Also, I didn’t want too much chaos at the neckline so that I could take advantage of the scoop and wear a bold necklace.
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After playing around with the pattern through two (2!!) episodes of Game Of Thrones, I decided I was overthinking things a bit (ya think?). So I (finally) just went for it!
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Thoughts on the pattern: I was a bit concerned about the lined bodice, since this is a knit. I thought maybe it would be hard to get a smooth finish, or that it would be uncomfortable to wear. But neither of those concerns were warranted.  The lining didn’t bunch, since I used tricot as the pattern suggested and it added a bit of body, balancing the stretchiness of the knit. And I do like the way the bodice feels when I wear it – – so, so comfy, not binding at all! Overall, it was easy to sew.
Adjustments made: The only adjustment I made to the pattern was my usual narrow shoulder/back adjustment. I cut a size six (my usual) and it fit well.
Finished product? The fit of the pattern is good, and the design is super comfortable. Although the print is bold, it’s fun and sort of…energizing. It looks okay with a dark, solid pant/skirt, so I think I’ll wear it a lot.
Conclusion! This was a worthwhile project! And, I’m burning through my stash and feeling the lightness that comes with having less fabric :).
Are you a fan of bold prints, or do you find them challenging to sew with?
Thanks for stopping by 🙂

Kimono sleeves or bell sleeves? That is the question!

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For months, I was sure the sleeves on this top were called ‘kimono sleeves’ until I was corrected by a clerk in a local fabric store. “No,” she insisted. “Those are NOT kimono sleeves. Kimono sleeves are cut as part of the bodice. Those are definitely bell sleeves.”

Really? I was doubtful. But, well, yes. According to the Craftsy website, she was 100% correct. Bell sleeves are are always narrow at the shoulder, wide at the bottom and they are never cut as part of the bodice. Live and learn.
For me, the Bell sleeves are the major attraction of this otherwise simple top.
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I fell in love with those fun sleeves all over again this Spring, when I noticed them in the Chanel resort collection.
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And this is by Oscar de la Renta….
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 I’ve been a bit obsessed ever since for reasons I can’t explain. Perhaps, it’s because they’re a bit retro?
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Or is because they’re so comfortable? Who knows?
I used Butterick 6175 for my bell sleeved top, a semi fitted pullover top with sleeve variations.
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Since the top has a very simple design, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to use a not-so-simple fabric. So, I chose a Japanese border print I had in my stash. It has a large floral design as the main motif, with a contrasting (but subtle) checkered print as the border. I cut  the bodice from the flowered motif and the sleeves from the checkered border.
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The tricky part was laying the pattern out in a way that captured the directional focus of the floral print. Because the pattern’s ‘repeat’ is widely spaced, it was a bit tricky, since I’d purchased a (very) scant yard and a quarter (when will I learn to buy a little extra to be on the safe side?). I also wanted some pattern at the neck for interest.
After struggling for well over an hour to get it right, I decided, I’d had enough torture for one day. So, I simplified things and made the liberating decision to cut the sleeves from the contrasting border print, which didn’t have a pattern repeat to contend with.
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 I made one slight variation to the pattern. I skipped the back neck line slit, as I am not a fan of that look and used a short zipper in the back instead.
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The construction of the top was easy. But do I like the finished product? Hmmmm.  I’m not altogether sure. In hindsight, a boxy, cropped top probably isn’t the best choice for a short-waisted girl like me.  But I do like the fabric, so I’ll probably wear this top, anyway. I guess I could always add a couple of eyelash darts to the back to give it a bit more shape (?). Regardless, the project was worth the effort as I learned a lot from the challenges posed by choosing a fabric that has a one way print with a repeating pattern. Next time (if there is a next time) I vow to buy way more fabric than I think I need!!  And, I do love those sleeves!
How do you modify patterns to make them less boxy? Or do you just skip the look? Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday tee: A gauzy top keeps its cool

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When it comes to the summer tops in my closet, not all are equal or flattering, which means there’s always a reason to try another. And another. And another.  Perhaps that’s why I never stop wanting to sew another top!
The most beloved tops in my wardrobe are the ones that are comfortable, but not shapeless, with a bit of classic styling. And if a top has a design element that’s a bit unique, that’s even better.
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Of course, it’s always easy to find a new pattern to try. The problem is finding one that you can love forever. Sometimes, I’ll think a top is perfect, only to find after wearing it a few times, its shine dims. Maybe the print is too busy or the color feels too dated. Or maybe it clings too much.
 I guess that’s why I own more than a few. And I don’t even want to count the number of patterns I’ve purchased in my quest for perfection!! Don’t make me! It would be down right embarrassing.
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So, when I thought about purchasing Simplicity 1461, I groaned as I quarreled with myself. Really? Another tunic top pattern? Will you even make this one? But I’m glad I succumbed to temptation because this pattern is a keeper.
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It’s a tunic top that has a bit of a boho look to it. It has princess seams (always flattering!), a number of neckline and sleeve variations, and trim variations. I chose to combine views, going with a short sleeve version.
The good news about the pattern for those with a narrow back, is that there’s a center back seam which makes adjustments easy. I cut the smallest size so that the fit wouldn’t be too loose. I used some textured lightweight cotton (so cool!) in cream and white from my stash. Constructing the top was super easy and fast. The challenge was in the neckline trim.
Since I’m drawn to brown and cream, I found some brown lace at my local fabric store, then played around with it a bit ( a craft project!!). I twisted the lace around, squaring it off at the bottom to create my neck trim, and discovered that the lace, when placed side by side, made sort of a zigzag pattern, an unexpected but fun detail. I used a lot of pins to hold it in place, then stitched it to the top with matching thread.
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Not a difficult top to sew at all. It’s easy to wear too and the open neck makes it cool and comfortable.  I’ll probably make this pattern again with long sleeves, maybe out of a gauze or a silk. And I’ll  play around with a new trim at the neck.  I do love a good craft project!
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Do you have tops that you’ll love forever? Or are you as fickle as I am?
Happy summer and thanks for stopping by!

It’s summer, and the sewing is easy!

It’s a scorcher out there, my friends! And, there’s only one thing to wear at a time like this. A summer dress.  A person can’t have too many summer dresses, right? They’re so easy to throw on.
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Personally, when it’s hot, I live by the rule, less is more. I do not want heavy fabrics. I do not want my clothes to touch me. In fact, if naked was an option, I’d (probably?) go with that.  My less-is-more attitude extends to pattern choices as well. I want a pattern that has style without structure. (Yes, that’s asking a lot.) And if it’s ‘fast and easy’, that’s even better! Who wants to be inside, bent over a sewing machine, when it’s beautiful outside?
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This summer shift dress meets my very loose requirements. It’s a basic a-line with some soft tucks at the waist to give it a slight fit n’ flare shape. It’s made from a simple light-weight cotton, (purchased at Fabric Depot). I love this fabric because I can tell it will get softer with every wash. And it’s cotton. Sewing with cotton is always a breeze. I am such a fan…
For this dress, I used one of my ‘tried and true’ patterns, Butterick 5890, a top with tuck variations, sleeve variations and collar variations.
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I lengthened the tunic (view D), to make it a dress by adding 8″ to the length.
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Then, to add a bit of interest, I decided to try a v-neck version. This modification was made by drawing a straight line from the edge of the inside shoulder seam to the center front seam (view D has one, which makes this pretty straightforward). Then, I added a 5/8 seam allowance so that I could add a facing to that edge. Using my straight edge, I cut a matching front facing with seams allowances as well.
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For the sleeves, I used view A,  an option with armhole bands that are squared off. The arm bands are one of the reasons I love this pattern. They’re easy to sew, and they give the dress a bit of a vintage vibe.
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To be honest, this dress was so easy to sew, I almost feel guilty about not challenging myself. My excuse? It’s summer! Challenges are for when it’s dark and dreary outside, right? All told, this dress took only about 3 hours from start to finish. When Butterick says, Fast and Easy, they aren’t kidding. Gotta love that! I chose a print for this dress, but I think a solid would work too (maybe some yummy linen or silk).
Do you prefer ‘fast and easy’ patterns in the summer? Or does the sunshine elevate your mood, giving you the energy for a challenge?

Thursday Tee: My world is blue…

My fondness (obsession?) with the summertime blues continues. You’d think I’d hit the reset button at some point and vary my wardrobe pallet a bit, wouldn’t you? Hey, I hear you, but the fact is, I just can’t help myself!
My thursday tee shows off my obsession. It includes several shades of blue; cobalt, navy, royal. Three blues in one top!  Could I be happier? You wouldn’t think so, but guess what? This tee is color blocked as well…Nirvana!
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This pattern is Vogue 8817, a top designed by Katherine Tilton.
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I’ve used this pattern before.  The Tilton sisters love to mix things up, so this pattern offers the opportunity to use several fabrics of contrasting colors or prints, and the back of the envelope includes yardage requirements for a variety of mix and match options, making life easier.The contrast pieces require as little as 3/8 a yard of fabric, which makes this pattern a stash buster. You can use up those tiny remnants in your stash that you couldn’t bear to toss out! Gotta love that….
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I used cotton jersey for the bodice of the tunic, a mesh knit for the yoke, and jersey for the sleeve bands and yoke band. I’d tell you where I purchased the fabric if I could remember, but, hey, it’s all from my stash.
 For me, the best part of this ‘sew’ was mixing and matching  to create the contrasts that make this design unique. I used royal blue, navy blue and black on the sleeves, and black for the yoke band. Yes, I am burning through my stash and it feels so good!!
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 Although the Tilton sisters (Marci and Katherine) design loose fitting patterns that an amazon could wear (they’re both tall and skinny, wouldn’t you know?), I’ve found that, with a few minor adjustments, their designs can work for a shrimp (5′ 3”) like me.  For this top, I adjusted the pattern as follows:
  • I reduced the width of the back by 5/8”. (My frame is small and my back is narrow.)
  • I reduced the bodice side seam dimensions by 5/8” (The patterns are usually designed for a loose fit, so there’s a bit too much in the bodice for my smallish frame).
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Once I made those adjustments, the pattern was super easy to put together – no zipper is required since it’s a pullover and the neck is stretchy. The yoke is fitted, which makes the shape of the top reminiscent of the fit and flare trend. It’s a nice look on anyone’s shape.
This pattern is becoming a favorite. It’s a basic tee that’s easy to embellish, so you can put your own unique spin on it. What are your favorite stash-busting patterns? What do you do with your remnants? I’d love some ideas, as well, I have (ahem) a few in my stash.
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Thanks for stopping by!

A Lisette cutout frock for sunny California

I have been sewing like crazy because I’m going to Southern California in a couple of weeks, the land of sun and fun!  The weather will be outstanding – – guaranteed. What better excuse to sew with linen, right?

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When I saw the newest Lisette dress/tunic pattern from Butterick this Spring, I immediately said, California here I come!
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It had an unusual cross-over bodice with tucks, two design elements I couldn’t wait to try. Not only that, but a couple of yards of Cotton and Steel linen was calling to me from my stash (Call me a group if you must, but I’m addicted to Cotton and Steel fabric).
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Butterick 6168 is a pattern designed by Liesl Gibson, of ‘Oliver +S’ fame. (check out the Liesl and Co. website for lots of inspiration!) At first glance, the pattern looks ‘easy’, and, in some ways, it is. There are no button holes, or collar points that require precision or patience. In other words, you don’t have to perform dangerous sewing feats to make this pattern.
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But need I say? Looks can be deceiving! For a short bodice girl like me,  the challenge was in the fit.  The very things that attracted me to the pattern (criss-cross bodice and tucks) made it essential that I Go the Extra-Mile to create a trial bodice out of throw-away fabric.
Even though I cut the smallest size, the dress stuck out in the chest as though it expected Marilyn Monroe’s breasts to live there. Hilarious! So, I increased the depth of the tucks a bit, and the wrap worked fine. No gaps or embarrassing pointy areas. But, when I applied the same adjustments to my lust-worthy linen, I didn’t get the same results. I freaked. When I calmed down, though I had an epiphany. It was all about drape!!! My linen was stiffer than my ‘throw-away’ cotton, so the front stuck out again, begging that I bring more to the table than my ‘A’ cup breasts. Not going to happen.  So, I had to do a ‘tear down’ of my cleverly built bodice to adjust those tucks again. The good news – the problem was fixable.  It just took a bit of patience.
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 My advice? If you’re a bit ’non-standard’ in the chest/bodice area, Knock Out that Bodice in a remnant of throw-away cotton (that piece you wish you’d never purchased in the first place) with the same drape as your chosen fabric. That way, you won’t have a depressing mess on your hands.
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After I adjusted the bodice, the dress went together nicely. If I was in the mood to be critical though, I’d say the pattern was designed with too many gathers in the skirt. When you stand to the side, you do look pregnant. I suppose, if you’re in a ‘family’ way, that’s cool. I am not. Of course, if you use a lightweight fabric, this problem might be less of an issue. Also, I did make it sleeveless in anticipation of Southern California heat.
All in all, it was a fun project that I learned a lot from. I’m sure I’ll wear this top again and again.  If you’re interested in making the dress yourself, there’s a Lisette Sew Along on their website.
Have you had issues with fabric drape before? What about chest/cup size adjustments? Any tips?