Category Archives: Lessons learned

Overconfidence will get you every time

This sewing project went together so quickly that I didn’t have time to post on it before I finished it!

Here’s the before:

The envelop says New Look 0134, but the pattern pieces say 6104. The instruction sheet lists both numbers.

The envelope says New Look 0134, but the pattern pieces say 6104. The instruction sheet lists both numbers.

After the success I had with my last project, I dove right into this one, confident that I knew all the adjustments I needed to make:

  • Lower the bust point 2 inches
  • Full bust adjustment
  • Add a half-inch in length to the bodice

I was so confident that I didn’t bother with a muslin.


Turns out, lowering the bust point 2 inches was 1 inch too much. I don’t know if this is because it’s a New Look pattern (which I’ve never used before) or because each individual pattern differs. I don’t think it would be as noticeable if the dart were horizontal instead of pointing up so sharply. Regardless, after I discovered the problem, I decided that it could have been avoided if only I had pinned my traced pattern pieces together before I cut the fabric. But I tested that hypothesis that after my garment was done, only to find that it was really difficult to tell exactly where to place the shoulder seam with only half a garment. So, I would not have known that I goofed up the bust point unless I had made a muslin.

Oh well, it really doesn’t affect how much I love the garment. Not at all. Outside of the bust point gone awry, the fit on this top is great, and it’s so easy to make.

I was dealing with an uneven plaid (asymmetrical both horizontally and vertically) and just wasn’t up for all that pattern matching. I only wanted to deal with matching the horizontal lines at the center front and at the sides below the dart.

Lining up the horizontal stripes.

Lining up the horizontal stripes.

So, I cheated and cut everything else on the bias. Only the band around the neckline was supposed to be cut on the bias. I knew the front band wouldn’t have bias stretch issues because it would be stabilized by the woven fusible interfacing I would be using, but I wasn’t sure about the set-in sleeves. I thought the insertion might be a little tricky. Turns out, the sleeves went in just fine. And I really like how the bias front band looks.

The after:

It's tight in the bust area on Gene the dressform because her girls are in the wrong place!

The plaid across the bodice looks like it is matching the sleeve. I assure you, that is entirely accidental.

One thing I really like about not being a newbie seamstress is that I know how to improve upon the sewing instructions. For both the neck band and front band, the instructions called for folding the band to the back and sewing it down from the front. Um, no. I’ve been down that messy road before. I hand sewed both those bands down on the inside, which made it very tidy, indeed. Also making the inside tidy are the rayon seam binding seam finishes. Now that I’ve done two garments with that technique, I don’t know that I can stop. It eats up thread like crazy but is so very pretty. I blame Laura Mae.

It's almost as nice on the inside as the outside. I LOVE that!

It’s almost as nice on the inside as the outside. I LOVE that!

Two other challenges:

That center band: My automatic buttonholer did NOT like it. First, I had to make the buttonholes upside down (sewn from bottom to top) so the little wheel on the left of the presser foot that measures out the length of the buttonhole would have fabric to grab. Then, the bulk of the seam allowances inside the band (even though I trimmed them in anticipation) threw the buttonholer off a bit. So they aren’t as perfectly uniform as they usually are, but they do work just fine. I’ll trim the seam allowances more next time. It’s either that or work the buttonholes by hand, and that ain’t happening for a little summer blouse.

Staystitching the neck edge: The instructions called for staystitching, but didn’t mention that it should be done at 1/4 inch instead of the usual 1/2 inch. It needs to be done at 1/4 inch because the neck band is sewn on with a 3/8 seam allowance. So my staystitching ended up OUTSIDE the seam allowance. Yikes! Seam ripper and steam iron to the rescue. The little holes are barely noticeable.

And here it is on me!

 If the plaid across the bodice looks like it is matching the sleeve, I assure you, that is entirely accidental. Photo by Maddie.

Photo by Maddie.

I love having a woven blouse that fits! I know I need one in white, and I found that I already had a perfect plain white cotton in my stash. I also have plenty of the buttons from the plaid version left over. This time around, I’ll put in the bodice tucks from View C and try the sleeves from View A. And NO pattern matching.

But first, I’ll be making a matching plaid skirt, which is in progress, no thanks to Sewing Assistant Teacup.

Hey, can't you see I'm trying to match a plaid here?

Teacup! Can’t you see I’m trying to match a plaid here?

The Paris muslin is finished

It turns out that the Crazy Paris Dress made as a wearable muslin for Butterick 5846 is not the worst dress ever made. I even plan to wear it in public.

I don't think this looks all that bad, but maybe I've been looking at it too long.

I don’t think this looks all that bad, but maybe I’ve been looking at it too long. And would you look at that? I forgot to button two of the buttons when I put it on my dressform. 

The back.

The belt was made with a vintage slide buckle and some waistband interfacing. It stays closed with a snap I sewed on.

Although a contrast collar is one of the views on the pattern, this white one was done out of necessity. I didn’t have enough fabric because I cut out all the bodice pieces first rather than follow the pattern cutting layout, so I used some poly-cotton batiste I had in the stash. I really like the white collar, which inspired the white buttons and belt. I think all the white tones down the “novelty print” fabric.

You can get a better look at the red topstitching below. This is the best convertible collar I have ever done. The pattern calls for a hook and eye at the top of the bodice just below the collar itself, but I don’t intend to wear it that way so I didn’t bother. I also didn’t bother to interface anything because the quilting fabric seemed substantial enough and because this is a wearable muslin.

An up-close look at the topstitching. I used regular thread, not topstitching thread.

A closeup look at the topstitching. I used regular thread, not topstitching thread, which is thicker.

Here it is on yours truly:

As promised to Melissa, here I am in the dress. Photo by Maddie.

As promised to Melissa, here I am in the dress. Photo by Maddie.

By making the whole dress, I found out a few things that will come in handy when I make it out of the lovely teal and navy lawn I’ve got waiting.

  • I added too much length and width during my pattern alteration. I can take out half of the 4 inches I added across the front and half of the inch I added to the overall length of the bodice.
  • When you add length to the bodice, you must add length to the front facing. I remembered that little rule one scissor cut too late. Oops. There may be a little seam in the facing near the hem. Shhh.
  • I can’t imagine ever using the pockets on this dress. They just don’t seem like a very secure place to put anything more than a handkerchief. Since the pockets just complicate finishing the side seams, out they go for the real dress.
  • The length is too short by at least 3 inches. I’ll cut out the longer version next time around and figure out the best length when it’s time to hem. Thank goodness they still had the fabric at JoAnn’s. I bought an additional 2 yards to be safe.

All in all, I really like this pattern. Since it’s a basic shirtdress, it has many possibilities for variation. I could even make it into a shirt by extending the bodice and the tucks.

Now that I’ve got the fitting really dialed, I’m excited to see how it looks in a nice soft cotton lawn as compared with a quilting cotton. I hope to be re-altering the pattern tomorrow.

WARNING: Butterick 5846 has a mistake. The collar is marked to be clipped at the wrong spot. It should be clipped where the front facing ends. It’s an easy enough fix. KimP explains the problem and the solution well on her blog, which I found when I encountered the error and Googled the pattern to see which of us was crazy, me or the Butterick 5846. Turns out it’s the pattern. This time.


The wearable muslin that may never be worn

What a disappointment!

Last night, after finishing the bodice on Simplicity 2151, a princess seamed blouse, I was feelin’ the love for sewing. It fit like a glove. I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was going to be to have two winning projects in a row. I was practically smug.

Well, what a difference a day makes. After setting in the sleeves today, I tried it on. Hmmm. Something was not quite right about it.

Here’s the finished blouse. I can’t quite put my finger on what’s not working.

“Maybe it will be better if I put on the matching skirt,” I thought to myself. So I did. And that’s when I realized what’s wrong with this blouse:

Oh no! This looks like something Laura Ingalls’ schoolmarm would wear! NOT the look I was going for.

I know I used a quilting cotton, but good heavens, it might as well have been a true calico. I knew the fabric was heavy for a blouse, so it almost feels like a lightweight jacket. But that is clearly not the main problem here.

The main problem is the fabric pattern and color. Dreary, dreary, dreary.

I had thought so when I finished the skirt. But I’ve worn that several times with a sweater, and it was OK.

But I cannot currently conceive of under what circumstance I could wear this blouse in public.

What I do like:

  • The fit. It’s very, very good (better on me than on the dress form). As I mentioned previously, this is a Simplicity Amazing Fit pattern. The only adjustments I made were to choose the D cup front pattern pieces and lower the bust projection 2 inches. I thought the ease would be way too much (according to the pattern 4½ inches at the bust), but it seems just fine. Oh, and I lengthened the sleeve 2 inches. I made a similar sleeve years ago and found I couldn’t bend my arms without unbuttoning the cuff. Two extra inches were perfect on this.
  • The neckline. I LOVE the neckline.
  • The length. The blouse is an excellent length for tucking in. Usually I have to lengthen blouses, but not this one.

What else I don’t like (besides the dreary fabric)

  • The shoulders are too wide. I don’t usually have that problem, but I’ve already adjusted the pattern for the next go around.
  • The sleeve ease. It seemed a teensy bit too much. According to my measurement, narrowing the shoulder width just by redrawing the armhole seam front and back seems to have lengthened that seam, so that problem may be resolved.
  • The cuff being one pattern piece that folds in half. It was supposed to be fully interfaced, but I didn’t have enough for that, so I only interfaced half. That was plenty. I’d like the cuff to be two pattern pieces so I could cut the facing a little smaller.
  • The sleeve style. It’s pretty in the sketch, but I’m not sure it works on me. It could just be the weight of the fabric, though.

I’ve tried to figure out what would make this blouse less Little House on the Prairie, but I’m at a loss. Maybe it would look better with pants, untucked. My daughter (just shy of 14) suggested that if I were someone else I could wear it with skinny jeans. Um, no.

Maybe I could wear it to a Living History re-enactment:

I found the perfect accessory, the apron I made in serger class several years ago.

If I’m going to go through all the trouble of making a wearable muslin, I should put more effort into making it wearable. Which means casual low-cost apparel fabric, but quilting fabric is so much easier to find. My coral polka dot top is quilting fabric, and I like that a lot better. Regardless, I’m going to stay out of that section for a while. It works for cute skirts, but I think that’s it.

So now, I need to decide on the next project. Do I make the skirt up in the nice poly-wool crepe I found? Do I remake this blouse in a pretty white or ivory blouse-weight fabric? Or do I move on to try to perfect another garment for my Vintage Separates Project? I have the Sense & Sensibility Patterns romantic blouse on order. Katrina at Edelweiss Patterns made it up as a gorgeous 1940s style blouse and really liked the pattern, so I’m inspired to try it.

Meanwhile, if anyone has any ideas on how I could leave the house in this blouse, please let me know!

Gemini note (because it’s not all about the sewing): Buying a new bike for my 8-year-old son has inspired me to get back into bike riding. My daughter has been using my abandoned one for the past year or so, but my husband got her a new bike. So, I took back possession, only to remember why I stopped riding it. The seat (saddle in bike-speak) is quite uncomfortable! A new one with rave reviews on Amazon is on the way. Bike riding, it’s good exercise, it’s vintage. What’s not to love?

Sencha silk: All dressed up and nowhere to go

I finally finished the navy blue silk Sencha blouse that I started lo these many weeks ago. My first silk garment. With a pattern I altered quite a bit. And bust darts I created.

The good news is I made my way through a veritable minefield of potential sewing mishaps and came out with a wearable blouse (though truth be told, it feels a little tight at the sleeve holes, not sure why).

The bad news is I can’t wear it!

Colette Patterns' Sencha in navy silk

Isn’t it pretty? I wish I could wear it. By the way, it fits me better than the dress form. You’ll just have to trust me for now.

Navy is THE staple color of my wardrobe (which doesn’t work out that well with a beige cat), and yet …

I have no navy skirts. Well, not any that still fit. (Why are they still in the closet?)

I have two pairs of navy pants that I wear regularly, and the Sencha silk blouse looks horrible with both. This is not Sencha’s fault. This is my fault. These pants are just not flattering with a top that must be tucked in. I always wear them with sweaters or knit tops outside that fall to mid hip, if not below. Neither pair is a great fit overall.

So, the lovely Sencha silk has exposed a giant hole in my wardrobe: No flattering pants in navy, and no wearable navy skirts at all.

A-line skirts are flattering, and I can make those in a hurry. I only have to fit them at the waist. The next item on the sewing agenda is a wearable muslin for new skirt pattern with a contour waistband. I also have the contour waistband pattern I created for the coral polka dot skirt. Either way, I’ll be able to make a navy skirt that looks good in no time.

But pants? Oh, that’s a whole other story. In preparation for making pants some day, I bought Pati Palmer’s Pants for Real People. What was going to be a sewing project down the road has become somewhat of an emergency. I may just have to wear skirts for a while.

Until then, no shot of me in Sencha silk. My dress form will have to do.

Meanwhile, here’s what went right and wrong with the Sencha silk blouse project:

What went right

  • The silk sewed beautifully — No snags (thanks to a brand new supply of silk pins and my policy of using a new needle for every project), and handsewing the sleeve facings with the catchstitch worked great. Nothing shows from the right side. I LOVE this stitch. And if feels so much more sturdy than a slip stitch.
  • My pattern alterations actually worked — The bust dart and other changes I made helped the pattern fit beautifully. I wanted to interface the buttonhole area, so I merged the separate neck facing pattern with the center back self-facing and interfaced it all together. That worked as well. I’m not sure why the pattern isn’t set up that way, except maybe to save fabric on the pattern layout for larger sizes.
  • Pinking is awesome — Because of the on-seam construction of the sleeves, which have self facings, I couldn’t use French seams anywhere. I chose pinking and straight stitching instead. Love the vintage look of pinking, although my pinking shears (gift from a friend’s mother, say, 25 years ago. Thanks, Mrs. Mailes!) need sharpening.
  • I have found the perfect use for Clover Wonder Clips — They do a great job of holding a small double-fold hem in place before sewing. I only have 10 clips, which isn’t enough to do an entire hem all at once, so I will be buying more.

What went not-quite-right

  • The hand of the silk is a little stiff for my taste — even after machine washing and drying. I bought the yardage online. Oh, what I wouldn’t do for a decent garment fabric store nearby so I could feel before I buy.
  • My automatic buttonholer failed me — The Fancy Damn Machine makes beautiful buttonholes but, sadly, not on silk. It just couldn’t move the fabric the way it needed to. I realized later that I probably could have done them on my Brother PE 700ii embroidery machine. Because the fabric is moved by a hoop, not feed dogs and a wheel, it has no choice but to move correctly. Thankfully, I followed my usual procedure and started with the buttonhole at the bottom (the one that would tuck in). When the first one didn’t work (twice!) I decided to sew on snaps. I was IN LOVE with the contrast buttons I picked out, so I sewed them on after the snaps, just offset enough that I could get the needle through, but the snap stitching doesn’t show. No one will know the difference.
Sencha in navy silk, back view

I was so happy with the way the slightly iridescent gray plastic buttons I picked out matched the gray design on the navy silk that I just had to use them. Even without buttonholes.

Failed buttonhole

If you look closely on the left, not only can you see the failed buttonhole, but also a rough patch in the silk where I ripped out some stitches. I decided the rest of the stitches would just have to stay where they were.

  • It’s not just your thread spools that you need to protect from dust — Sencha silk lived on my dress form in its half-sewn state for WEEKS. By the time I got back to it, a fine layer of dust had formed on top of the shoulders. I dusted that off, then proceeded to sew, only to discover that a fine layer of dust had accumulated on my sewing machine flatbed extension as well. Curses! I have never noticed this with any other fabric. I guess dust just doesn’t show up as well on cotton. Apparently, everything needs to be protected with a dust cover. I got all the dust off the silk, but I’ve learned my lesson. Now I need to sew a dust cover that fits the machine AND the flatbed extension. (Alternatively, I could dust occasionally, but let’s not get ridiculous.)

I don’t even remember when I finished this project. It was sometime after Girl Scout Cookie season ended (I oversaw cookie sales for 93 troops) but before I left town for my company’s annual convention. I’m still catching up with life, but I can’t wait to do my next sewing project.

Next up: A wearable muslin for a four-gore A-line skirt with a contour waistband. I’m going to want to add some pockets.

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