RTW vs. me-made

Now I can raise my arms without exposing my belly!

Quick and easy peasant blouse

I recently finished a quick and easy peasant blouse out of cotton lawn, No. 2 on my summer top sewing list.

View C.

The pattern promises “easy,” and it really was. I made View C.

I made a muslin (from an old sheet) primarily so I’d know where the bust point was (important for fitting) and to check the overall length. The only changes I ended up making were a full-bust adjustment with the new French darts I tried on the last project (still love them), and to lengthen the bodice and the sleeves an inch each.

The whole project, from muslin to final, took only two weeks, with the sewing of the fashion fabric taking only two days!

(I had high hopes of sewing up the fashion fabric in one day, but alas, I’m just not built for that level of concentration.)

New Look 6179 Front

New Look 6179. It’s difficult to tell here, but the sleeves have quarter-inch elastic in the hems.

The neckline is quarter-inch elastic in a casing, with skinny ties attached to the end of the elastic. The elastic comes nearly all the way to the keyhole front and the fabric ties are plenty long enough, so I think I’ll cut the elastic 4 inches shorter than the guide for the next go around.

New Look 6197 detail

In this closeup of New Look 6197, you can see the keyhole detail and the ties.

This blouse is actually a direct replacement for a very similar knit top that I have. But that originally OK-fitting top has shrunk and shrunk and shrunk in the wash so much that now it’s a crop top!

A HUGE benefit of sewing is making clothes that fit my full bust (without excess fabric at the waist or the hemline rising up in the front) and is long enough.

I’m so pleased with how this classic style turned out, that next up I’ll be making another one from ivory eyelet, bought during the same trip to Fabric Outlet in San Francisco as the cotton lawn.

And since the pattern is already fitted, I can make another in about the same amount of time it would take to find a ready-to-wear version that kind of fits.

Maybe I’ll be sick of the pattern after that, but I’d really like a third version in chambray blue with three-quarter sleeves.

For you sewing enthusiasts, how many times in a row can you make a pattern before you’re tired of it and want to make something different?

Sewing and the State Fair

I love going to the California State Fair, that annual celebration of the Golden State with an emphasis on its agricultural industry. I’m not sure how many people outside our state realize that warm beaches are but a fraction of what we have to offer. Agriculture is an important part of our economy. In fact, if you live in the United States, you’ve probably eaten some produce from our state.

The California State Fair and Exposition.

The California Exposition & State Fair.

I live in Sacramento County, where we’re lucky enough to have the State Fair in our backyard. I go chiefly to see the award-winning sewing projects from people of all ages, but there’s plenty of other things to do as well.

While the fair has a wide variety of attractions (concerts, carnival rides, weird stuff for sale), I prefer the old-fashioned features, such as the Counties Exhibit, which provides each county the opportunity to show its best attributes.

The agricultural abundance of the state was a theme in the county exhibits.

The agricultural abundance of the state is on view throughout the Counties Exhibits area.

Sacramento County in particularly brands itself as the Farm to Fork Capital. It's a legitimate claim. So much good food is grown in our region that frankly it's a delicious place to live.

Sacramento County in particular brands itself as America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital. So much good food is grown in our region that frankly it’s a delicious place to live. We have a year-round farmer’s market in my town that has wonderful produce even in winter.

The Old West (in the form of a display showcasing Bodie, a ghost town in Mono County) is on display.

Mono County chose to focus its exhibit on Bodie State Historic Park. I’ve never been to this gold-mining ghost town, but this display makes me want to visit.

On the way to the sewing exhibits, I came across some unusual characters that are another slice of life in California.

Other aspects of California culture are on display at the fair as well.

Random Chinese dragon sighting.

I'm not sure who these folks are or where they were heading, but they saw my camera and stopped to pose.

I’m not sure where these stilt walkers were heading, but they know to strike a pose when they see a camera.

The California Crafts exhibit is my main interest. It showcases the sewing goodness that I came to see:

Fantastic quilt. The red quilt stitches really enhance this beautiful quilt.

Such as this gorgeous quilt. The red quilt stitches really enhance this project. (I couldn’t get close enough to read the quilter’s name. They need to make those signs bigger! If you know it, please share so I can credit the work.)

I believe this is Grandmas' Endless Love by Gina Heon. I have always been fascinated by double wedding ring quilts. The geometry of the pieces is crazy.

The geometry of double wedding ring quilts fascinates me. I believe this is “Grandma’s Endless Love” by Gina Heon.

There weren’t nearly as many garments on display as in years past, but this one caught my eye:

These are some very long ties!

This upcycle fashion project is “Neck Ties All Around,” by Mary Boyer.

And the next generation of sewing enthusiasts was well represented:

These impressive garments are by Dustin Gerringer (10-12 age group, three-piece Western outfit) and Ashley Olson (16-18 age group, Wool Coat and Dress).

These impressive garments are by Dustin Geringer (10-12 age group, three-piece Western outfit) and Ashley Olson (16-18 age group, Wool Coat and Dress).

As part of showcasing the agriculture of California, the fair includes a three-acre farm area that this year also features drought-tolerant decorative plants and information on saving water.

A visit to the farm area is at least good for some shade.

The farm area has some nice shady spots.

There's a small farm at Cal Expo, which is where the fair is held. California has a variety of grape growing regions.

California’s grape-growing industry is represented.

Apparently, kiwis are grown here as well. I didn't know that.

Apparently, kiwifruit are grown here as well. I had no idea.


But the "Old West" is not extinct. There's always a blacksmith at the fair, showing off his craft. Here are sample horseshoes. This, too, is California.

There’s always a booth at the farm where a blacksmith shows off his craft. Here are sample horseshoes. The Old West is not quite extinct.

Baby animals are always a big draw at the fair. There has been controversy about having pregnant animals give birth at the fair (in the middle of a crowd is not the most comfortable place to deliver), but the fair has worked to improve conditions.

It wouldn’t be a state fair without animals. There has been controversy about having pregnant animals give birth at the fair (in the middle of a crowd is not the most comfortable place to deliver), but the fair has addresses some of the concerns and improved conditions.

And you can’t go to the fair without eating fair food. And “fair food” really means fried food. There are healthful options, but really? You can eat a salad any day, but how often can you eat funnel cake?

Fried fair food, main course. #CaliforniaStateFair

A photo posted by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga (@jmsewingstudio) on


Fried fair food, dessert course. #CaliforniaStateFair

A photo posted by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga (@jmsewingstudio) on

I have to admit that as I head toward my 50s, my fried food game is not what it once was. I couldn’t eat even half of that funnel cake.

Maybe next year.


California State Fair

The California State Fair showcases much more of the state than can be shown here. There’s still time to attend. The 2015 fair runs through Sunday, July 26. More information is available at www.castatefair.org.


A quick new polka dot top

Even an “easy-to-sew” top can benefit from the making of a muslin first.

In this case, the east-to-sew top was Simplicity 2594:


I made View C but in the longer View A length.

By making the muslin (from an old sheet), I discovered:

  • How much of a full-bust adjustment I needed to make.
  • Construction changes I wanted to make.
  • That the pleats I was thinking of replacing with gathers looked really sharp.
  • That the center front of the neckline was a half-inch too low.
  • That the length was sufficient.

Of course an FBA complicates any pattern, especially when trying a new dart position. FBAs create darts, and I usually make them horizontal or at a slight upward angle. In this case, I made them from about an inch above the waist, up to the bust. These are often called French darts.

Experimenting with a new dart position has resulted in one wicked-looking dart. #SewingLife

A photo posted by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga (@jmsewingstudio) on

I trimmed the dart after construction and finished the raw edges with my new favorite stitch: the three-step zig-zag. (My vintage Singer can’t do that.) I’m very happy with the dart placement:


Gene the Dress Form has a higher bustline than I do.

I like it a lot better than the other darts I’ve done, so it’s my new go-to.

As for the construction, I decided to sew the yoke, yoke facing, and front facing to the bodice differently than instructed. The technique for the front facing was hard to execute without catching fabric that shouldn’t be in the seam.

The yoke instructions called for the bodice to be machine-sewn to the yoke facing, then the yoke to be top-stitched down. I didn’t want to use topstitching for construction, and I didn’t like the resulting uneven neckline where the bodice front meets the yoke:

Muslin of #Simplicity2594 is looking good. #SewingLife

A photo posted by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga (@jmsewingstudio) on

I changed the way the pieces were sewn together and did some hand-sewing.

The yoke facing is hand-sewn. The instructions called for the bodice to be machine sewn to the yoke facing, then the yoke to be top-stitched down.

A view of the inside: The yoke facing is hand-sewn.

I’ve never regretted the times I’ve opted to hand-sew rather than machine-sew. Without a presser foot in the way and with the ability to pick the precise location of each individual stitch, you have so much more control. I have a notion to construct a whole garment by hand some day. Not a complicated garment, mind you.

The fabric requirements allot for the tie belt, but the fabric was 54 or so inches wide (I didn’t pay that much attention), so there was plenty left over to make a matching scarf. My head is too flat in the back to wear a scarf as a headband, so it will end be tied around one of my hats.

Here’s the finished top on Gene:


I’m not sure if I’ll wear it with or without the tie belt most of the time. Gene has an hourglass figure, but I don’t.

The back is gathered into the yoke, rather than pleated like the fton.

The back is gathered into the yoke, rather than pleated like the front.

I wear capris all summer, and this will go well with either my navy blue or white pair. Too bad I couldn’t get this done in time for the Fourth of July.

This was a fun, quick, and satisfying top to make. Even with the muslin, it was done in less than two weeks. And now that this basic top pattern is altered, I can whip up new versions pretty quickly. But I have some other easy top patterns that are waiting their turn.

This red polka dot fabric is a lightweight cotton from Fabric Outlet, purchased during a recent trip to San Francisco. I came home with four different fabrics that are destined to be tops, and this was the first. Here’s the next one:

Next project, using more fabric from @fabricoutlet

A photo posted by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga (@jmsewingstudio) on

I’ve already washed it, and it’s time to get started on the muslin.


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