New Look 6345: Sewing the Boho Look

IMG_3281Whenever I think of outdoor concerts, I think Boho, that loose, free-spirited look the cool seventies girls made famous. Think Ali McGraw, Stevie Nicks.

Ali (yes, we’re on a first name basis) had the perfect body for boho – -tall and lanky.

American actress Ali MacGraw, 8th March 1971. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
American actress Ali MacGraw, 8th March 1971. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

But Stevie DEFINED the look. Love the handkerchief hem here and those boots that made her look so tall.

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When I was invited to a concert in an outdoor venue, I looked to these girls for inspiration!

Of course, boho is one of those looks that doesn’t work for everyone. If you have curves, the flow-y dresses can make you look heavier than you are. And if you’re a short girl like me, well, most experts will tell you that loose, oversized clothes are a big no-no. They just swallow us up!

IMG_0512I guess there are worse ways to die though, right? Because I love a flow-y dress or top with a seventies vibe. Those loose clothes stand for independence! Free Spirits! Music festivals! Free love! Not to mention, the clothes are really, really comfortable.

When it came time to search for a pattern, I was surprised at how hard it was to find something with the vibe I was looking for. Finally, I found New Look 6345, a  dress/tunic with a handkerchief hem (very Stevie Nicks, don’t you think?).

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It’s a v-neck, fitted through the bust, with a loose skirt. That made it perfect for the concert, because, when I wasn’t dancing, I’d be sitting cross-legged on a lawn. I made the  length a bit shorter, because I knew I’d be wearing it over jeans.

The fabric I chose is a rayon print (blue and white, no surprise there) from Fabric Depot, with a repeating pattern that runs lengthwise. The rows in the pattern seemed like mini-border prints to me, so I couldn’t resist cutting some out to use as trim around the neck and along the bodice seam. Sounds like an easy modification, eh? Just sew a bit here and there….no problem!

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Truth be told, applying the trim to the neckline was WAY HARDER than it looked.

IMG_3215Because my fabric was a lightweight rayon, it had a freakish ability to stretch. And as I stitched my self-made trim to the neckline, I think I pulled it just enough to make the neckline gape.

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So frustrating. You can see that gape in this photo. There’s also a spider on that chair that is freaking me out, but I digress.

I probably could have prevented this problem by cutting the trim on the bias (?), but that wouldn’t have worked because the print pattern runs lengthwise. To fix the gape, I tightened the neckline by adjusting at the shoulder seams. It helped, although it still gapes when I stand in certain positions (as you can see above). The top is wearable, but maybe I should have put a stiffer bit of interfacing in the trim before adding it? Or maybe a hugely padded bra would fix the situation, but, you know, those cool seventy girls DO NOT WEAR BRAS.  Thoughts?

If I wear chunky shoes, and wear my jeans with this top, I do feel a bit like Stevie Nicks! Yes, it takes a bit of imagination, but you get my drift. Outdoor concert, here I come!IMG_3391

Happy Sewing! And thanks so much for stopping by!

McCalls 7187: A plaid transition dress for Fall

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Yes, this dress is plaid and plaid does scream back-to-school and winter skirts. But don’t let my dress fool you. I have not given up on Summer!! After all, it’s only August. Sure, in a few weeks, the kids will be back in school, the warm air will have a crisp edge and we’ll have to start heating our houses again. But summer hasn’t thrown in the towel yet.

Still, my sewing projects are starting to shift. I’m reaching into my stash for heavier fabrics (reluctantly) with darker colors. I’m easing into this, though. After all, why let go of summer before we have to?

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That’s why I decided to sew a transition dress. I won’t give up the hope that there are still warm days ahead, so the fabric is a light-weight cotton. But to make the dress fall-worthy, the colors of the plaid are dark; black, red, green and gold. And nothing shouts ‘fall’ quite as loudly as plaid. This one’s especially bold – a stand-up-and-get-noticed plaid.

The pattern I used is McCalls 7187, a new one that was included in the McCalls’ fall release.

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It’s a fit and flare style with some interesting options. You can cut the dress with a relatively simple, straight skirt, or you can add pleats or gathers to the side panels. The pattern envelope showed the dress in a plaid, a perfect option for my bold fabric.  I chose the straighter style, only because I didn’t have quite enough fabric for the gathered, fuller option and I wasn’t sure how the plaid would look on the gathered skirt.

The pattern went together like a dream. I always cut one size larger when I’m making a McCall’s pattern, since, on me, they seem to run small (at least that’s what I tell myself). This was the case with this pattern too. The fabric was so easy to work with and fabulous to sew! It’s a woven cotton that I purchased at Mill End Fabrics. It drapes nicely, which I’m guessing is a must for this dress.

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I cut the front inset on the bias as indicated, a fun option that makes the plaid pop. The inset looks tricky, since it has curved seams, which I expected to be absolute torture to get right. But the inset went in perfectly the first time. How about that?!  A shout-out to the pattern designer! Thank-you!

Other than the inset, the dress is was pretty straightforward. The pattern instructions made everything quite clear. All in all,  Actual Sewing Time on this plaid frock was about three hours (three episodes of Game of Thrones, LOL).

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My only regret is that the dress isn’t lined, so my fabric tends to cling a bit to my legs from time to time. (Also, it was a bit windy when I shot the photos for this post which made the skirt go wonky.) I suppose you could line this dress though? But maybe the skirt would make that tricky? Not sure about that….

Are you sewing transition clothes? Or are you still focussed on summer?

Happy Sewing! And thanks for stopping by.

Crazed by gingham!!

If you stare at gingham for too long, do you go crazy? That’s what I asked myself as I completed yet another gingham top. My cat seems crazed if he stares at a fly for too long. His eyes gloss over and he starts to twitch. I’m sure I  had that same vacant look in my eyes as I stitched down the home stretch on this top!

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“Another gingham top?” you ask. “Why?”

The answer is simple. Blame it on Anthropologie. I took a quick spin down their aisles recently, and noticed that gingham was ‘having a moment’. After trying a few garments on, I became convinced I would die if I didn’t add some gingham to my wardrobe, because, honestly, those little checks just make me feel good! Gingham is a cheery fabric, don’t you think? Who can frown, when they’re dressed in gingham?

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When I found this lovely blue (!!) and white cotton at Fabric Depot, it seemed fated!  More gingham for me!

The pattern for this tunic/shirt is McCalls’ 6125, a princess seamed shirt pattern that I’ve used more than a time or two. I love princess seams. They’re flattering and, they make me look taller (…ummm, right?).

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I made View C as drafted with one exception. I added a sewn-in tie at the waist. Since my shirt is tunic length, adding a built-in tie seemed like a fun way to make this shirt stand out from the crowd of shirts that lives in my closet. Also, rather than have everything line up, I cut the side panels and the front placket on the bias to make them stand out.

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The ties were simple pieces to add. I just cut two (2) eight inch wide rectangles, each sixteen inches long. After finishing the edges of each tie, I inserted the ends into the side seams, lining the edges up with the bodice’s seam allowances, then closed up the seams. The tie as I drafted it is fairly wide. This makes it easy to cinch at the waist, or you can drop it a bit for a looser look. I love having the tie built into the shirt. That way, you can’t lose it!

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This McCall’s shirt pattern is one of my favorites. It has a front band, princess seams, hem slit openings, and collar variations. The instructions are very straightforward and easy to follow. It’s a nice basic pattern, that fits me well without any tricky modifications.

Believe it or not, it was over a hundred degrees today here in Portland Oregon. Yet I was comfortable in my light cotton shirt! This is a very good sign. Perhaps, this gingham top will become one of my ‘regulars’. After all, even Elizabeth Taylor wore gingham!

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As I finished this blog post, I did notice one ‘oops’ about my shirt. The buttons don’t line up perfectly. Not sure if this means the button holes are too big, or the buttons aren’t placed correctly on the placket or what? I struggled to mark this fabric accurately as it moved around a bit. Perhaps that’s where I went wrong? Thoughts?

Happy sewing! Thanks for stopping by!

Color-blocking a wild print into submission

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When it comes to fabric, I am not a big fan of prints. Yes, I love the way they look on others (the wilder, the better!) but on me? Not so much. Yet, my wardrobe needs a few prints to make it more interesting. After all, one cannot live on a diet of solid fabrics alone!

But for a shrimp like me, finding the right print can be challenging. I’m often attracted to prints that overwhelm my smallish frame. The fabric I used on this dress is a perfect example of my exuberance when it comes to color and pattern. When I saw this blue printed linen at Fabric Depot, I could not take my eyes off it. Yes, I’m a blue fanatic, and this was the most lovely shade imaginable.  Of course, the fabric jumped right into my shopping cart and made its way home with me.

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But when I draped the printed linen on my mannequin, I could not believe how bold and busy it looked. A serious case of buyer’s remorse! The blue was so bright! And those floral designs seemed to be swimming all over the place! I couldn’t imagine the fabric would ever work on  me.

But, I couldn’t bear to  part with it either. So, color blocking…to the rescue!

I’ve always been fond of wearing black with blue, so I draped black linen over the blue print, and, hallelujah, to my eye, it tamed that wild fabric down.  So, I went for it.

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The pattern I used is a Tried and True, Vogue 8840 (also seen here). I lengthened the tunic version by 6” to make it dress length. (The tunic itself is already pretty long on me, so it doesn’t take much to make it a dress.)  I cut the short sleeved version.

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Color blocking modifications:

Cutting: For the color blocked pieces in the front, I cut one piece of white linen that was six inches wide and the length of the center seam of the dress. I also cut two black strips, the same length as the white piece, but only  3” wide.

Application: After sewing the center front seam on the dress, I pinned on the color block strips, using the center front seam as my guide. The white strip was centered on that seam, and the black pieces were edge stitched to each side of the white strip. After I did that, I added a bit of trim that I had in my stash on the seams of the color blocked pieces to make them pop a bit. I also added a black linen band to the bottom of both of the sleeves to pull the color theme together.

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Once the color blocked strips were sewn on, I finished the tunic according to the standard instructions.

The linen was a dream to sew on, and it breathes even when the air is hot and thick. And the pattern? There is a reason it’s one of my tried and trues. It’s so easy to modify and it fits well. My color blocked dress is still pretty bright for me, but at least its wearable. And I had so much fun playing around with the fabric on this one!

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Happy summer, happy sewing, and thanks for stopping by!

McCalls 6883 morphs into a top!

It’s a little late in July for red, white, and blue. Never-the-less, this Cotton and Steel print begged to be worn.

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I was first attracted to this fabric because of the crazy mish-mash of red, white and blue checks sprinkled on a back drop of cream. But, when I touched the fabric, I had to possess it. The weave of this rayon is so fine, you imagine you’re wearing silk.

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That’s what motivated me to make this fabric into something really wearable, a wardrobe essential I’d have reason to wear again and again. For me, that means a go-to top that can be worn with jeans, or dressed up with a skirt or some nice pants. I wanted something that looked casual, yet structured. So,to challenge myself a bit, I decided to make the top by using two patterns combined; the bodice of a fitted dress and a peplum from another pattern. I couldn’t tell you what inspired me to put these two patterns together (no, there was not wine involved, I swear). But, once the idea grabbed hold, I had to give it a try.

The neckline of the dress (McCall’s 6883) is what made me buy this pattern. It’s a wide neckband with a bit of a vintage vibe.

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To shift the dress into a top, I cut it off at the natural waistline, then attached a loose peplum, adapted from Vogue 8815.

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This is what happens when I go crazy for a neckline, but not so much for the rest of the pattern!

Modifications to McCalls 6883:

  • I cut the dress as designed, but shortened the bodice to the natural waist. I was able to get this modified pattern from a scant yard of fabric.
  • The lower bodice of my top is the peplum from Vogue 8815. To make sure it would fit on the modified bodice of my dress, I measured the bottom of the bodice,  as well as the waist of the peplum. I discovered there was an inch discrepancy between the two, so, in order to make them fit together, I had to widen the peplum waist by 1”. When attaching the peplum to the dress, I used a 5/8” seam, which placed the peplum slightly above my waist, which is where I wanted it. Yes, I was sweating this a bit, but miraculously, the bodice and peplum went together with very little pain and suffering.

Fabric: Cotton and Steel Rayon purchased at Fabric Depot

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Lately it seems, I’m modifying my existing sewing patterns rather than buying new ones. This is probably a good thing, since my pattern stash is HUGE.  It’s also a good way  to get the style I want, while using a pattern I know will fit me.  The risk though, is that the new version of my old favorite will be so wonky, it looks like a big mistake! Still, even though risky, I enjoyed this process of combining patterns. It used a part of my sewing brain that needs to be stretched from time to time, so I’ll probably do it again.

I hope your summer is fabulous and fun, and that you’re getting a chance to wear all of your favorite makes! Thanks for stopping by!

A DIY peplum tee with handkerchief hem

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Summer clothes must be effortless. Right? We’re too busy soaking up the sun to spend time fussing with our frocks!  My daily uniform consists of a tee shirt and a pair of shorts, maybe a skirt or two. Nothing could be easier to throw on in the morning.
One of my favorite easy-to-wear tees of all time, was a peplum top with a handkerchief hem that I bought during an Anthropologie spending spree a couple of years ago. After many, many wearings and washings, it is finally time to send it to tee-shirt heaven. But of course, I want another to replace it. But as is often the case in the land of ‘ready-to-wear’, that ship has sailed. The only way to get a replacement tee is to make one of my own.
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So, I decided to replicate the look by modifying my favorite basic tee pattern, Vogue 8536, a tried and true. It has several sleeve and neck variations, and my copy of the pattern has been used so many times, it’s practically in shreds! The fabric I chose is cotton with moderate stretch, purchased at Fabric Depot.
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To make this tee top, I cut view A, a version with short sleeves and a crew neck. Then, in order to accommodate the addition of a skirt, I shortened the tee to the natural waist line. I wanted the skirt/peplum to attach right above the natural waist so by cutting it there, after the addition of a 5/8” seam, the skirt would attach at the perfect spot. Then, I drafted the peplum/skirt portion.
First I cut a rectangle, 28″ by 18″.IMG_0082
Then I measured the bottom of the tee. On the center of the rectangle’s long side, I marked that width.
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Then, for the draped handkerchief look, I marked 12″ from the bottom of my rectangle for the ‘drop’. From this 12″ mark, I drew a line to the edge of the tee shirt hem mark. On the diagram here, that’s where the ruler is placed.
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Then, I cut of the triangles created by these lines. This creates the side seams for the angled peplum.
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The finished peplum looks like this.
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You cut two of these peplums, then sew them together at the angled side seams, and attach them to the tee shirt bottom (see the marked area above.) I used a one inch hem on the bottom.
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Clear as mud? I wouldn’t be surprised! If I’ve left out anything, please let me know, and I’ll try to clarify.  There’s probably a prepared pattern somewhere that is similar to my self drafted top. But after sorting and filing my patterns this weekend, I can easily say, I Do Not need to buy another pattern. Really.  I am on a self imposed pattern purchasing hiatus. (My stash could fill a storage locker).
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I hope your summer sewing is easy and fun. Thanks for stopping by!!

Eyelet: A fabric with a higher purpose

Eyelet fabric – – Not only does it look great but when summer reaches its boiling point, eyelet has a higher purpose. Its lovely holes keep you cool!
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 A classic fabric, with a ladylike vibe, eyelet has gone through a major upgrade this season, with fresh colors and textures that give it a stylish pop! It’s the new perfect hot weather fabric, a must in Oregon, where you can never be sure your destination will be air-conditioned. So, if you don’t want to SUFFER, you wear only crisp cottons, lightweight linens, or, even, a breezy colorful eyelet.
Since it’s been hot and muggy in my neck of the woods, I’ve discovered that my wardrobe is a bit skimpy when it comes to summery tops. So, when I spotted a piece of blue (!!) eyelet in my stash, I knew immediately what I wanted to make from it: a sleeveless top.
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The fabric: This eyelet has been in my stash for awhile, so I’m not sure where it came from. The fabric is a great shade of blue, that’s not really a navy or cobalt, but somewhere between those two colors. Love!! When I first saw this fabric, I thought I’d need to underline it, but the holes are really small, so I chose not to because I wanted the top to be super light and comfortable. I don’t mind a bit of skin showing through.
Pattern: I decided to modify one of my tried and true patterns, Vogue 8815,Unknown  images-1
a top with a raised waist and sleeve variations. My favorite version is view C because the raised waist has a unique curve to it.
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It’s an easy pattern that I’ve made before (see it here). View C is supposed to be a pullover, but I added a back zipper just like view A and B. The instructions are well drafted, so this pattern would work for a beginner.
Modifications:  I made the pattern as is, but added a tie at the natural waist line to give it a different look and a bit more shape.
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To make the tie a part of the top’s design, I marked the natural waist on the pattern, then sewed the tie into the side seams at that place. This way, when the tie is pulled to the front, it adds some shape at the waist and makes the peplum fall in easy gathers.
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I think I’m going to wear this top a lot since our summer is starting off with a bang. It can be dressed up with jewelry or worn with jeans.
Last but not least, I must give a shout out to you all. Usually, I don’t sew that much in the summer, but I’ve been so inspired by the summer creations posted on my favorite blogs (visit the blogs on my list to the right to see what I’m talking about here), I’m sewing like crazy! Thanks to all of you, and Happy Summer!!

Thursday Top: A Little White Shirt (Simplicity 1694)

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By now, we’ve all heard of the LWD (Little White Dress), this Spring’s alternative to the Little Black Dress. But after a recent review of my wardrobe, I realized I needed a LWS, (Little White Shirt) in the worst way. Scary fact – – I have a million tees and more than a million dresses in my closet, but hardly any shirts. Why? Because I sew without a plan.
My sewing is inspired by many things: cool fabric, impulse buys, a great project I saw on someone else’s blog, an Ready-To-Wear item that I’m determined to ’sew for less’. But need? Never, a fact that has consequences. My wardrobe is a bit of a mash up. What to do? Sew!
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Given the fact that the temperatures are well above 90 degrees, I decided to use some very lightweight embroidered cotton in my stash to make a summer-friendly, white shirt that would work with a pair of shorts I never wear because they’re separates without a match.
I chose an embroidered, lightweight cotton from my stash that I found at Fabric Depot. As usual, when I found this fabric, I made an Impulse-Buy. So, I didn’t have quite enough to make what I really wanted, a shirt with rolled-up sleeves and tabs. Also, the fabric’s cool embroidery detail is on the fabric’s border, so laying out the pattern was a bit tricky (similar to the issue I had with my kimono), and I used more than I meant to. So, I was forced to use a different fabric for the yoke and pockets.
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I had a bit of white textured cotton, a remnant left over from another project, so I used that. In hindsight, having too little fabric might have been a good problem to have,  because the textured cotton makes the pockets stand out a bit more.
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The pattern: Simplicity 1694, a loose-fitting button down shirt with sleeve variations, collar variations and length variations. It was pretty easy to sew and the instructions were very clear.
The fabric: Lightweight cotton with a very wide embroidered border. I used vintage buttons I had in my stash.
Modifications: None! For once, it fit without any adjustments or changes. The sleeves are 3/4 length, but I rolled them up for the photos because it’s so hot outside.
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I think this pattern will become a Tried and True. I’d like to make it again, a longer version that can be tucked in, maybe in chambray with long sleeves.
Do you sew to fill a need in your wardrobe, or are you a bit random about the whole thing?
Stay Cool! 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!