Misdirection

I put heavy expectations on this one cut of fabric that’d been in my stash for too long.  You know the one: it’s pretty and special and you want the perfect thing for it and the longer you look at it the higher the stakes become.

I wanted something businessy enough for the office, casual enough I would wear it everywhere else. I was sorely tempted to hack Peppermint Magazine’s Peplum Top into a dress, but it would be too casual, too balloony, too sleeveless.

What followed was a long, indecisive story full of false leads, boring twists, humdrum turns. Highlights include an ill-advised pattern purchase which I don’t want to talk about because there’s nothing wrong with the design, it just wasn’t me and I don’t know what I was thinking. I stuck with it long enough to make an ugly muslin of said pattern out of terrible, cheap fake satin from Big Box Store.

Overwhelmed by my lack of ability to make a decision that wasn’t horribly misguided I finally did a thing just to get this fabric made into something and out of my head.

I made the Peppermint Magazine’s Peplum Top into a dress.

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Pattern: Peplum Top by Peppermint Magazine
Mod: cut a longer square to turn the ruffle into a skirt
Size: C? Maybe D? I’ll try to remember to check my pattern pieces.
Fabric: unavailable voile from La Mercerie

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I could be 9 months pregnant in this thing and you wouldn’t know it.

It’s just what I wanted.

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Even though I can’t wear it to work without covering up more.

I think it’s what the fabric wanted, too.

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Even if it’s a little stiff.

And it turns out I wouldn’t have had enough fabric for sleeves, anyways. I could have saved myself a lot of waffling if I’d considered that first.

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Mid-Century Modern

Sometimes you don’t even know that a fabric is perfect in color and scale until the thing you’re making is finished and you put it on and it’s the somehow the most YOU thing you’ve made possibly ever.

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Pattern: Matcha Top by Sew Liberated
Fabric: Aerial Lawn in Pacific by Carolyn Friedlander, purchased at Sarah’s Fabrics

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I’ve made Matcha twice before. I get the most use out of my sleeved version and had had in mind to make another like it, but didn’t check yardage requirements and there was just no way.

Mods-wise, I skipped the shoulder detail and sewed the center front to halfway between the lower and upper neckline notches. Construction-wise, I flat-felled the center front seam, french seamed the shoulders and sides, and hand-sewed the inside of the collar down. It’s easier to find satisfaction in fine finishing if you’re pretty sure your project is going to work out.

 

The woman who helped me at Sarah’s Fabrics was so kind and persistently lovely that she wore down my antisocial attitude and got me to confess to all kinds of indie pattern makes and intentions. She also told me she’d used this fabric to back a baby quilt for friends who live in a Mid-Century Modern home. I live in a 1908 hulking box of a cube of a battleship of a house. but I like to fantasize about having  Mid-Century house, or maybe about being the kind of person who can live in one fabulously, minimally, uncluttered surfaces gleaming. I don’t, and I’m not, but I have a pretty blouse that’s a call out to that fantasy.

Wearable Schwearable

I’ve lied to myself over and over telling myself I was making a “wearable muslin” when in fact I was too lazy or uninterested or intimidated to make the adjustments that are implied by the term “making a muslin.” I wasn’t testing the pattern – I was making it as drafted in a hail-Mary pass and living with the consequences. Sometimes it was fine. Sometimes it wasn’t exactly fine but I wore the garment anyways. Sometimes a garment was unwearable. I mean, if you make a “muslin” and it’s wearable it qualifies as a garment, right? So what does “wearable muslin” even mean? That you got lucky?

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I’m on a mission to make some loose, easy fitting summer dresses. Enter my “wearable muslin” of the Willow tank from Grainline Studio. True to habit, I made it up as drafted. Also true to habit, I used french seams. And finally, true to habit, I was shocked – shocked! – when it didn’t fit.

I unpicked those french seams, swore to myself I would use my serger to finish seams on untested garments in the future, and moved the bust darts up an inch. This was the result. Wearable? Yes! Improvable? Yes!

 

Pattern: Willow Tank by Grainline Studio
Size: 6
Fabric: Cotton something from Jo-Ann
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I’m just sure the neighbor’s crew is coming over to drum tonight.

It looks OK, but the neckline gapes a bit. Not a big deal by itself, but when I use it as a layering piece it bunches a lot. I thought about tearing out the bias tape finish and putting in a small gather or pleat at the center bust, but, true to form, I forgot.

The opportunity of a simple pattern is that I get to try different adjustments to see what works best. I can try, for example, a square shoulder adjustment and see if that does the job, and/or a small bust adjustment, and/or a gaping neck adjustment. If I were a more organized person I might try each of these to see what the results are. Hold that thought, Mom gave me yards and yards of white-on-white quilting fabric she wasn’t going to use and I’m suddenly thinking it would be a terrific idea to try each of these ideas in turn. Some things I have to learn by doing and this may be one of those times.

Digging Out

To quickly reprise: in this post I will discuss the alterations I made to attempt to salvage a long-ignored ill-fitting top I found stuffed in a drawer:

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Before…

Emboldened by my recent forays into fit I analyzed the problems here. Clearly this pattern is drafted to someone with a larger cup size than I have. Fabric that would be crossing and cascading from my ample bosoms instead puddles and pools around my waist and belly.

I’ll spare you the exhaustive detail and cut to the chase. Blathering on about trying to get clothes to fit my body is entertaining for me, but I don’t expect it to be entertaining for anybody else. One thing led to another and this was what I ended up with:

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…After

Oh, no, too tight. Perhaps I over-compensated for my under-endowment. Not uncomfortable, but not pretty. Especially across the back:

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That’s a lot of yuck across the yoke.

It’s impossible to know if I’ll reach for this when the weather is warmer than this mornings 3-degree windchill… but I think not. I can’t get over how terrible the back looks. I still like the idea of this pattern and might try it again with proper sizing and adjustment. After ignoring it for another spell. I’ve had enough of Ella for now. I say this even as I’m contemplating inserting gores under the arm add fabric back in around the bust and back. Hmmm.

The series of ambivalent events follow if you want them.

When you do a small bust adjustment you cut width and length. Ideally I would have sliced and diced from the front of this shirt (where my boobs are) and not from the back (where my boobs are not). I also ideally would have cut at the bust and graded to the hip which actually fit well. I didn’t trust myself to grade symmetrically on both sides so I took the lazy route used my rotary cutter to cut a full inch off each side and hoped for the best. I sewed over the existing bust darts to extend them, serged the sides together, and tried it on. Now it was too narrow at the hem (picture me shaking my fist at my past-self. I knew that would happen!). I couldn’t undo that serger seam so I folded the top in half length-wise and ad-libbed a scooped hem to release the side seams without shortening the front or back. My hem is wonky and homemade looking: I barely turned it up at the side seams, but it’s turned up an inch at the front and back. This is probably Wrong, but it accommodated the curve while shortening the top so whatevs.

Musing about the shoulders and if there was any possible way to shorten them after the fact made me realize how much better the back fell when I lifted it up. Since I couldn’t shorten the back from the shoulder I got to wondering if I could shorten it at the back yoke. I hated to lose the piping trim detail, but I decided the best way to shorten the back without increasing bulk was to fold at that seam and serge it together, cutting off the the piping in the process. I topstitched my new seam down, finished the armholes, and called it done. It seems I traded a shirt that bagged in the back with one that is stretched thin across.

The more I talk about it the more I think maybe I’ll experiment with gores and get back to you. I’ll stuff this in the drawer again until then.

Digging In

Look what I found stuffed in a drawer!

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I am thrilled.

It’s an unfinished and long-forgotten Ella Top by Liola Patterns! I started this sometime last year. The fabric is a double gauze that frays like crazy and I had french-seamed everything like I like to do. French seams would normally be a prudent choice for a frays-like-crazy fabric, but in this case their use backfired. There was no possible way to tear the seam without tearing my fabric. I couldn’t even discern the seam from the fabric’s warp and weft. When I tried this on and it looked awful I just didn’t know what I could possibly do to try to salvage it.

If I hadn’t had an attachment to the fabric I may have chucked it. But this is the same print that I selected when I was inspired to make a tiny baby baby jumper from 1 Yard Wonders for my first baby years and years ago in a sewing-as-nesting jag that didn’t take hold.

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Exhibits 1 and 2

I don’t think I ever put her in it. I was intimated by buttonholes. I used to be embarrassed to admit that buttonholes intimidate me, but having recently used my mother’s borrowed Bernina with a programmable buttonhole function to finish Hubs’ shirt I challenge any of you to use a nearly-40-year-old machine to make manual buttonholes and tell me it isn’t intimidating. The gigantic snaps I sewed in (badly) as a substitute were bulky and awkward and it turns out that jumpers are simply not my go-to garment when it comes to dressing an infant.

You can also see that I made some curtains with that print. I made those for my last baby.

And it was a gift! I would hate to not use a gift. It makes sense that I would choose the same print myself, but in this case my mother-in-law chose it for me! Thus this print has turned into a bit of a theme just as dandelions have become a personal metaphor for accepting life’s small frustrations. I think that’s not typically the way people read meaning into dandelions, but I am my father’s daughter. His lawn preservation battle rages on.

I was able to eke out two sleeveless tops from the two yards of coordinating fabric she gave me. A Ruby top came together well enough:

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I’m not sure about that sagging in the front, but I don’t care enough to do anything about it, either. Is it a bust fit issue or did my fabric stretch? Dunno. Don’t care.

This Ella one, though. Nope. Not working. Tune in again to see if my hacking and fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants alterations helped.

Shouty, not Dowdy

When we last spoke about York I had decided I should grade between sizes to get those shoulder seams up onto my shoulders. I was surprised to pull out the pattern and discover that there was only a negligible difference in the shoulder measurement between sizes. I took a half inch off the shoulder using a narrow shoulder adjustment and this is what I got:

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A quick photo shoot in the gathering light
Pattern: York, by Seamwork
Size: 6
Adjustments: Small bust, narrow shoulder, forward shoulder
Fabric: Gertie Collection Cotton Sateen from Jo-Ann

I’ll take it!

I used to consider myself a dexterous person, but quarter-inch bias tape has upended that assessment of phalangeal adroitness. I was glad to kiss quarter-inch bias tape good-bye when I finished those bottle aprons and dismayed to read that York called for quarter-inch bias tape to finish the neckline. Maybe I misunderstand what is meant by quarter-inch bias tape, I thought. Nope. It just seems my fingers turn into sausages when working with it. After washing this top this happened:

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I am afraid that the tie has frayed

I cut the ties off and sewed in a hook and eye. You might also note that I turned the bias tape entirely to the inside of the garment and used it as single fold instead of double fold because I just can’t with that stuff.

The hat is Beau Cloche that I made, golly, 3 years ago already. I love hot pink, but any pink makes me feel dowdy, even when it’s so bright it’s practically glowing. I combat this feeling with a more-is-more strategy. Making a dowdy pink hat? Put a gigantic dowdy bow on it! Making a dowdy pink shirt? Pair it with a dowdy pink hat with a gigantic dowdy pink bow! Post title is a quote from Hubs. It’s meant as reassurance. I think.

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My best dowdy expression and posture.

 

Ending at the Beginning

One of my goals this year was to get a handle on fit. Up until now I’d steered clear of patterns that needed fitting or else steamed ahead hoping for the best. If I made a garment that didn’t fit well enough I chalked it up to the learning curve. Hone your sewing skills, first, I told myself. Maybe the fitting skills will follow. Turns out they won’t. Not without intent.

I’ve avoided fit because I don’t understand it. I wonder if I even know what a good fit means. I read about alterations and wonder which apply to me. Body measurements should be fact, right? But I find I have a fundamental misunderstanding of what my body looks like and I have created a lot of fiction about my body. The numbers seem to lie and change. The distinct dimensions of my body become indistinct amorphous ideas in my mind.

My logical mind insists fit should be as easy as measuring and matching. My emotional mind subverts this strategy. Fitting a garment is not only adjusting a pattern, but finally trying to understand what the actual proportions of my body are and not what they should be or what I want them to be.

I quit hemming and hawing and wondering where I should start by deciding to just finally START already. I dove in with York, a simple garment that would require a good fit to showcase a fabulous fabric. I cut a size 6 with a half-inch forward shoulder that I naively hoped would be the answer to all my fit problems like it was for that one lady I heard on that podcast that one time. In defense of hubris, sometimes the idea that something will be simple or easy is the only way we convince ourselves to undertake the thing that turns out to be neither.

Baggy, baggy, baggy. Imagine a copious quantity of fabric across my chest because I don’t have a photo to show you. After pinning, musing, donning, contemplating, and sleep, ideas that had been rattling around in my head finally coalesced and I made a small bust adjustment (why do full bust adjustments get all the attention?!). I was so confident that THIS was the ANSWER (even as I was quite unsure that I was doing it right) that instead of pin-fitting I went ahead and sewed the entire top together sleeves and all This was the result:

Hey! No copious bagging across my chest. But what was that weird pulling behind my arms?

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Oh dear. Here I am pointing to where the shoulder seams fell. You might notice they are NOT ON MY SHOULDERS. The armscye wasn’t sitting on my shoulder and that weird pulling was the shirt back stretching when I moved my arms forward. Also note the bagging across my bicep because the sleeve isn’t where it’s supposed to be.

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In the end I made my mistake in the beginning when was choosing my size. I need to grade between sizes like whoa. Which in retrospect is fairly obvious, but it gets back to my confusion and wishful thinking about how my proportions relate to one another and how to transfer those proportions to pattern schematics. It’s no surprise I would experience a false start or three or more when I’m so unsure of where the starting line is in the first place.

I tore out the sleeves and side seams and will try again, pin-fitting this time before sewing.