Vogue 8952 and the Day and Night Dress Challenge

img_0890Hi all! It’s 20 degrees here in Portland, indoor photo weather of course, but also the perfect weather for sewing. There’s nothing like a cold day to drive you to your sewing room.

Sometimes, after the intensity of the holiday season, I find it challenging to re-focus my energies and to get my sew-jo going. But this year, The Day and Night Dress Challenge, hosted by Elizabeth Made This, has given my sewing a ‘jump-start’. The challenge is to sew two dresses; a day dress and a Little Black Dress for evening wear. There’s a blog tour, (I’ll be hosting here on Wednesday January 11), and a community challenge with prizes and cool sponsers.

This lace top is the first stage of my ‘night dress’ planning.

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My concept for my night dress is an a-line ‘swing’ dress of black velvet and lace, using this pattern as the base by lengthening it to dress length.

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Vogue 8952 is a fun easy sew, with ragan sleeves, my favorite. For this trial version, I used  white lacey knit from Joann’s. I think the shape will be fine for my dress, so I’ll lengthen the bodice by about eight inches before cutting my velvet, then I’ll use black lace for the sleeves and at the hem.

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My day dress will be more fitted, but casual, sewn out of cotton and ponte knit. img_0855I’m making McCalls 7464, using a large plaid for the body of the dress, accenting the sides and sleeves with solid knit.  Both dresses will be finished and posted on Wednesday (fingers crossed). I haven’t tried my ‘day dress’ pattern before, so I hope it will work! Nothing like living dangerously.

The Day and Night Dress Challenge is a great way to start the new year. The community challenge has prizes and cool sponsors too. Come join us! There’s a fun group of bloggers participating in the blog tour, so check them out. The fun starts on Saturday, January 8th and I’ll be posting Wednesday, January 11th, here. For more details on how you can participate, check out the Elizabeth’s fabulous blog, Elizabeth Made This. She’s the brains behind this fun event, and her makes are always a source of inspiration for me.

I hope your new year is off to a great start with lots of sewing time. Will you be making dresses with us this January? I’d love to hear your plans!

Happy sewing and thanks for stopping by!

DIY Cropped Pants and an Easy Top

img_7842Hi All! What are these? Cropped pants? Wide shorts? Culottes? Tell me, please. Whatever they are, they’re strangely reminscent of a poppy skirt I bought in junior high. Yes, it has been that long since I had anything in my wardrobe that was poppy! Can’t tell you why I’ve waited this long because the color is so fabulous. In fact, when you think of all the colors you can wear with it (black, navy, white, denim, maybe even army green?), you could almost call it a neutral.

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I’ve wanted a pair of wide shorts/cropped pants since I saw Mimi G rocking them on her website. Yes, I could have purchased one of her excellent patterns to make these, but I felt sure a shorts pattern I had in my stash would work just fine. But after I made them, I realized didn’t have quite the right top to go with them. You know how it goes. One thing leads to another….

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The cropped pants are a long version of Vogue 9008, a shorts pattern that is so versatile. You can make a flat front or pleated front version. I chose the pleats, but then I sewed them down to give the front a smooth finish. To get the full leg look I wanted, I lengthened the shorts by six inches, keeping the line of the shorts wide at the bottom. I love the effect. The shorts are snug at the top, but they flare out like a skirt at the bottom.

The pattern is pretty straightforward. It has a mock fly zipper, which is easy to insert, and you can add pockets if you want. The instructions were clear. It wasn’t hard, but with belt loops and a back yoke (which I love) this pattern is a bit time consuming.

I made them from poppy linen, purchased at Fabric Depot. It is midweight and I planned on lining the shorts with silk, but ended up taking the lining out because it made the legs too full and bunchy.  Yes, I wanted them to be full, but I did not want them to look like clown pants.

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The top is made from a cotton-linen blend that’s the color of denim. I love this fabric and wish I could remember where I got it because I’d love to have more. The pattern is Vogue, 8906.

It has front pleats that form the shape of the bodice, eliminating the need for darts. There’s a zipper in back. To make the sleeves a little more boxy, I added a sleeve band that is 5″ wide. It makes the sleeves look more ‘finished’ to me, and adds a bit of a retro vibe, I think. I also added a v-neck, and adjusted the facings accordingly. This pattern is super easy! I plan on making several more versions including one with buttons down the front. The fit was spot on for me. I didn’t even have to adjust for my narrow shoulders. Nice!

img_7846I’m not sure if Poppy is a fall color, but I’m going to be wearing this outfit now, because linen is so perfect at this time of year. I’m not sure if I’ll really wear this top with the shorts though. Together they might be too much flare for me. Maybe I should wear them with a top that fits snuggly, or maybe something tucked in? Opinions welcome!

I hope your sewing projects are going well. Fall is my favorite time to sew, because the new fabrics are so fabulous. Enjoy!

A blue tee with pops of white for Spring

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I always feel as though Spring begins the first day after Easter because that’s when my sewing mood begins to shift. I put away the wools and sweater knits as I dream of sunshine and linen and silk.

But it’s been so cold and rainy here, it feels as though the sun has deserted us. I’m getting desperate for a few warm rays. That’s why I was drawn to a caption in a recent ‘ready-to-wear’ catalog that promised a ‘Riveria’ mood when wearing “crisp colors with pops of white.” If clothing can put you in a resort frame of mind, count me in! Why not add a bit of white to my blue top to make me feel…sunnier? IMG_8560

After completing my denim shirt dress (a labor of love, yes, but there was  a lot of topstitching!!), I need an easy, fast sew to revive my sew-jo. So, for this top I used a pattern that’s an old favorite; Vogue 8710 (OOP, but still available on their website).

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I’ve made it before (here).There’s a reason this top is a good ‘palate cleansing project’. The pattern is a fast sew and it fits well. For me, this is not always the case with Katherine Tilton designs. Often, they’re too voluminous for me, since I’m short and small, but this one is a winner.  The fit is close on top, flaring gently to a loose a-line shape at the bottom. This is accomplished by two insets, and the placement of those pieces is strategic; they have a slimming effect.The style would be flattering to anyone’s shape, I think.

There are two things I love about this pattern; it’s simple to put together, only a few main pattern pieces so cutting time is minimal. Not only that, but you can make it in an afternoon!! I used the stretch stitch on my regular sewing machine, and it worked fine.

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I made the pattern as designed except for two modifications. I cut contrast fabric on the bias for the neck instead of just using bias tape as suggested. I also shortened the length of the bodice by two inches so that it wouldn’t feel like a tunic on me. Fabric: Both the white and the blue knit are cotton jersey with two way stretch from Fabric Depot.

I love my new top! The cut is so versatile, I’ll wear it with pants or skirts. And I love the blue/white combination. It puts me in the mood for Spring. In fact, I do have the FEVER. I’ve been cleaning my sewing room, even reorganizing my stash so that the cotton lawns and linens are front and center. I’m eyeing some new fabric purchases too, a few new cottons, maybe even a bright print or two ( that’s how crazy Spring makes me.) For inspiration, I’m stalking my favorite ready to wear stores (Anthropologie) and the Vogue runway collection as well as your blogs and Instagram posts. But I’m always looking for something fresh and new.Where do you go when you need inspiration?

Happy sewing, and thanks for stopping by!

 

Vogue 9166: A sleek and sporty basic

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When I saw the new Vogue patterns for Spring, I could hardly believe my luck. Those lovely designers read my mind!!  I’ve been looking for a dress pattern with two-piece sleeves since the sporty trend began last Spring. Even though no one has ever described me as athletic, I sure like to look like I am! Racer details, vertical stripes, anything that gives an outfit a sporty edge and I’m all in.

There’s nothing like a knit sleeve that’s color blocked to make you feel like you can get to the finish line fast. My favorite design element of this dress is definitely the sleeves.The good news is, they aren’t just sporty. They’re easy to sew too.

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This dress is a breeze to make. From cut to hem, it only took about three hours.Vogue 9166 includes a dress and a top version as well as pants. All are made from knits.

Not only are the sleeves and yoke details cool, but the high low hem is fun too.  Because my knit had moderate stretch, I used my overlock stitch on my Bernina to finish the seams and hemmed with a twin needle.

Here’s a close up of the knit. It’s sort of unusual, I think, a Ponte from my stash (Yay!) with a silver design printed on it.

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Black is so hard to photograph! The silvery design printed on the knit dresses it up a bit, don’t you think?

The construction of this dress is really simple and straightforward, so if you’re new to knits, give it a try. I made my usual size and made a slight adjustment for my narrow shoulders. To give the style a bit of structure, I’d recommend a medium weight knit, something that isn’t too flimsy, or the dress won’t hang well. The cut is simple so the dress is easy to wear. It’s the sort of dress that you can move around in, a ‘throw on and go’ dress, my favorite! I’m sure I’ll wear it a lot.IMG_8316

I like the pattern and can imagine making it again, maybe a top, or another dress with a two bright colored knits (blue, anyone?). It would be a good piece to include in a capsule wardrobe. I’m suggesting that, not because I’m planning one, but because I should. I also noticed there’s a capsule wardrobe contest this Spring hosted by Pattern Review that provides great motivation to plan one. Will I? Probably not (?!?) but I’m looking forward to seeing what others put together as I continue to mull over the concept. Anyway, it seems to me that this dress, with its timeless style and high degree of wearability would be perfect for such a wardrobe, don’t you think?

Do you plan your wardrobe around the capsule concept, or are you a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ person like me? Happy sewing and thanks for stopping by!

 

Vogue 8346: A coat just in time for Spring

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It’s sunny and warm in Portland today. Yet, I’m posting about a heavy winter coat! Yes, timing is everything, and mine isn’t impeccable, but here goes. I started this coat before Christmas, and just finished it because I worked on it in sporadically. So, here I am, wearing a wool coat when it’s sixty degrees outside. Of course, the weather here is a fickle friend, so it might be ‘bundle up’ weather tomorrow (is it evil to wish it would get cold again?). In any event, after all this work, this coat will be worn, no matter how hot it makes me!IMG_7948 (1)

This wool was purchased last year, and I loved it so much (and spent so much on it, LOL) I dithered a bit (actually a lot) before getting the nerve to cut it. I got all angsty over the choice of pattern, how to line it, whether I really needed to underline..(blah, blah, blah). Basically I was procrastinating. I do this whenever I contemplate a big project. Honestly, I drive myself crazy. Anyway, the weave of this wool was so beautiful, I couldn’t resist buying it from the Mill End Store when wool was on sale. I felt a little guilty as I splurged so I scrimped a bit on yardage, and wouldn’t you know? Now I wish I’d bought more. Once I started sewing it, I knew just how special it was. The weight, the weave, even the smell of this wool is heavenly (yes, I am weird). A long coat from it would have been so nice. Do overs, please?

The pattern I used for this coat is Vogue 8346, a classic style, with a bit of a flare.

Because my height almost qualifies me for petite status (only 5′ 4″ on a good day), I avoid styles with a lot of volume. Still, I loved the style of this coat but worried I’d look as though I was drowning in fabric.

So, I made a test coat from corduroy. This was a good move, as I realized after sewing only a few seams that the amount of flare on the design was too much for me. So I ripped it apart, recut the bodice pieces, tapering the flare a bit more, then tried again. That did the trick. Here’s my modified flare:

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I learned a valuable lesson from this process. The corduroy test version of my coat was great, but when I started working with the wool, I realized the drape of the two fabrics was very different. The thick wool made that little bit of flare seem quite exaggerated compared to the corduroy. So, I had to modify a bit more. All in all though, making the test coat was worth doing, as I learned a lot about the fit of the coat. The shoulders were in the right place and not too narrow, (no adjustment needed, yay), the waist was too long for me (raised it a half inch), and the sleeves were too full for me. Nothing too traumatic, but good to know.

The details: I underlined each piece to give the coat’s structure the support it needed to look crisp. This is not hard, but is time consuming, but well worth the effort. (For tips on underlining, take a look at House of Pinhero’s Peacoat Sew Along. In fact, just have fun looking around at all of her posts!) I used a polka dot silk for the lining, which feels like a dream. I highly recommend finding something luscious for the lining…you deserve it after working so hard on a coat, am I right?

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I added very thin shoulder pads to support the sleeve cap and an extra row of buttons because I love the ‘military’ look they add.

And, that’s about it!

IMG_7892The truth is, sewing a coat isn’t that hard, so who knows why I dithered around so much about this one? The challenge was the fit, I guess. Also, a coat with lining and underlining is a serious commitment of time and energy. But why not just jump in? Next time, I will. Sewing a coat is time well spent. I know I’ll wear this one again and again.

Do you dither around before starting a coat like I do? And what have you experienced when making a toile, (test garment) out of a fabric with a different drape? Thumbs up or down?

Happy sewing and thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

Thursday Top: Vogue 8815

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Well, here we are in February, the month that straddles the seasons.  The fabric stores are flaunting new lightweight cottons and linens. Yet, I’m still working through my stash of sweater knits.

At this point, it’s probably ridiculous to state the obvious – I am a fan of sweater knits. As I’ve confessed before, it’s not just because they’re cozy and comfortable. It’s because I can’t knit. Really. My brain gets ahead of my fingers and, well, chaos ensues. Sweater knits are the easy way out.

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And they are so comfortable! However, as you can see in the photo above, I’m discovering yet another cat hair on me. Knits do seem to attract fur of any sort, but doesn’t everything? Still, this particular sweater knit is wonderful, a thick cotton/lycra blend that’s textured and double faced. The result is a lush, thick fabric with a moderate amount of give that is so great to wear.

IMG_7739 I took a close up of the fabric so that you could see the texture. The pattern I used for this Thursday top is one of my TNT (tried and true) patterns, Vogue 8815.

I made it before Here. The pattern is designed for wovens, but when I found this knit, I could see it only one way – – as this top. Generally, when I decide to use a knit instead of a woven, I take the pattern down a full size. But I’ve discovered that each knit is so different, it’s hard to predict how they will behave.

This time, I tried a new method to allow for the stretch in the knit. I adjusted the seam allowances from 5/8″ to 6/8″. Because the stretch on this knit was so moderate, I didn’t want to cut out a smaller size, only to discover the knit wasn’t stretchy enough to warrant that large of an adjustment.

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In the end, I was glad I made the adjustment this way. The knit didn’t stretch enough across the shoulders to warrant any adjustment at all. Because I basted in the seams, it was easy to just let the back seam out where I needed to. Yahoo! So glad I didn’t screw up this great fabric 🙂

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Because the knit had moderate stretch, I used my Bernina’s overlock stitch rather than serging the seams. Here are my pattern modifications:

  • Because I used a knit, I didn’t insert a zipper. The neck slips over my head easily.
  • I added a solid band of knit at the neck (very stretchy so that it wouldn’t bind) in contrasting black.
  • I also added a solid black band of knit at the waist. To do this, I shortened the front and back bodice by two inches. Then I cut 2, two inch wide bands of solid knit fabric the same width as the bodice pieces.  I sewed the solid knit pieces to the shortened bodice pieces before sewing on the back and front peplum pieces.

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Done! One winter project down, and a few more to go. I’m getting antsy for Spring, though. I’ve been longing to work with linen again. I think my first spring project will be a shirt dress of some sort. Have you started sewing for Spring, or are you still working through winter projects?

Happy sewing and thanks for stopping by!

Vogue 8831: A sweater knit top with zippers

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Since I don’t knit, I’ve become a huge fan of sweater knits. With only a few yards of the cozy stuff, you can cut and sew almost any style sweater you want. Here, in rainy Oregon, a person can NEVER have too many sweaters.

For this top, I used two coordinating sweater knits from my fabric stash (yay); a striped textured knit for the bodice, and a solid sweater knit for the arms and cowl. For fun, I also added a couple of pockets to the bodice, sewn from a untextured knit of solid black.

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I used the same fabric to add sleeve bands, and, because I’d fallen in love with a RTW top with zipper detail at the hem (it didn’t fit, rats), I added two seven inch zippers to the princess seams at the hem.

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The pattern I used is Vogue 8831,  a top with princess seams and a cowl neck. I’ve made it before here, and will likely do so again as I love the cowl neck and the princess seams in the bodice.

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Because this sweater knit was so loosely woven, I added stabilizer to the seams before stitching in the zippers. This gave the fabric enough body to support the weight of the zipper and also helped protect the seam from unraveling. I also finished all the seams with an overlock stitch. I love sweater knit, but when it’s loosely woven, it can be a bit….touchy.   I was really glad I chose a pattern that I knew well, because the stitches seemed to just disappear into the fabric. If I’d had to unpick any of those seams, it would have been a night mare!

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I learned a bit more about sweater knits as I worked on this project. The things I want to remember for my next project include:

  1. Always use the right needle. On this project, a jersey needle worked best.
  2. Finish the raw edges to keep the weave together.
  3. Stabilize seams and hems (especially if they have to carry the weight of a zipper ).
  4. Try not to pull the knit as you sew. It does stretch and can lose its shape (My hem isn’t as perfect as I’d like because I stretched it out when I put the zippers in.)
  5. Keep your cat out of the sewing room especially if he’s orange and his name is Dustin.IMG_7077

Putting in the zippers required a bit of thought and added some extra steps, but I’m glad I did. I like the look of the zippers and they make the top a bit unusual. To change up the look, I can wear it with the zippers open or closed. And if I eat too much, hey, all I have to do to get a bit of room is to unzip. Ha! Too bad I didn’t have this top to wear over the holidays!

I still have quite a bit of winter sewing to do, but the linens and cottons in my stash are calling me. Pretty soon, I’ll just have to give in and shift my focus. My spring plans are to make a couple of light weight dresses and tops that will travel well. And pants! I have to find a pants pattern that I love. Recommendations are appreciated!

I’d love to hear about your sweater knit experiences and if you’ve found any secrets to success. Happy sewing and thanks for stopping by…

 

 

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……

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.
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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!

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?