The Allay Shirt

So I need to ask myself again at the two year anniversary of my blog – have I sewn myself stylish yet? I have to say no, not completely. At times, I still feel frumpy or a lack of clothes. When the weather finally cooled down this fall, sometime in the middle of November, I really felt like I had no cool weather clothes. I say cool weather, not cold weather because I live in Southern California. I’m talking about everyday, nice, casual – something more interesting than a long sleeved, plain t-shirt. I thought this loose-fitting shirt was a great way to start filling this void in my wardrobe.

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The pattern I used is McCall’s 7018. I had this pattern for quite some time, bought on sale at JoAnn’s, probably 5 for $7. I made view E. I was attracted to it’s loose fit and versatility. We do have chilly mornings and evenings in the winter, so one feature I look for is a simple, narrow sleeve that will easily slide into a jacket or sweater.

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The fabric I used is Anna Maria Horner, Tangle Knit in Rust. I bought this knit online at Hawthorne Threads during their Black Friday Sale. I bought 1.75 yards for $9.70 per yard. I am always leery about buying knits online because the quality of the fabric and the printing can vary greatly. But, I have purchased Anna Maria Horner knits before and knew it was a sure bet. I was not disappointed, this is a perfect top weight cotton interlock with a nice print quality.

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I like the not-too-drastic high-low feature of the hem.

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This shirt washes beautifully. When I took these photographs, it had been worn and put through the washer and dryer.

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I slipped stitched the bottom of the collar down by hand before top stitching on the front side.

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Simple narrow double needle hem. No serging on the edges, just trimming close to the stitching.

 

LET’S BE HONEST:

1. I cut a straight size 12. The only adjustment I made was taking off 1″ in the length before cutting. This is standard practice for me as my widest part is my thighs and I never want to top to end at that spot. Since this top is “loose-fitting,” I did not have to grade wider at the hips were I am about a size 16. I am very pleased with the fit and like the look of the shaped hemline.

2. The pattern is labeled as “EASY.” Doing a collar with a button front is never easy for a beginner especially with a knit. I guess we should assume that EASY does not equal Beginner?

3. Before top stitching on the collar, I hand-based all around close to where I was going to top stitch to prevent the fabric from stretching/pulling under the machine foot when stitching.

I love this shirt. I’ve worn it 3 or 4 times already, and very time it makes me feel happy that I’m wearing it.

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What about you? Do you find the start of a new season upon you and suddenly feel like you have nothing to wear?

 

 

 

The Esme Tunic

I have felt a desire lately to put more craft and creativity into my Fresh Makes. I recently purchased the book “Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style.” Putting a spin on one of her patterns was a perfect way for me to the get back into touch with my artsy side.

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That is my dog, Spright, peeking under the fence.

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The book includes patterns for five basic garments. This is the Esme Tunic. The Esme includes two other versions, a hip length top and kaftan.

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The fabric I used is Alison Glass Knits in Indigo. I purchased it online at Harts Fabrics for $15.99 per yard. It is also available at several other online fabrics stores. I had already made two simple shirts with Alison Glass Knits, and thought this would be a perfect fabric for this simple tunic. I love this knit fabric! It is very stable, substantial weight jersey knit, that after a few washings, feels like flannel. (Beware: It shrinks a lot! I prewashed this the Indigo twice because my first two projects with this fabric shrunk more in the first wash after completing and wearing.)

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I added a reverse applique design at the neckline inspired by Alabama Chanin. When the Alabama Stitch Book came out in 2008, I was obsessed with the techniques and garments from the book. I made countless projects for a year or two. Then time marched on and I focused on other things. But recently I felt a yearning to do some handiwork, and thought this neckline would be perfect for some embellishment. (The stencils are of my own design, not from the book.) The paint I used is Jacquard Lumiere, Pearl Megenta.

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The underneath fabric which is also the facing, is Alison Glass Knit in Lime, leftover from my prior project.

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The lime colored facing was attached so the right-side of the fabric shows through when the blue fabric is cut away.

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I used a rounded zigzag stitch for the hem. I normally use a double needle straight stitch on knits, but I thought this would look better with the folksy style of the tunic. I leave the edges raw and cut closely to the stitching. That’s all you need to do!

LET’S BE HONEST:

1. I traced and cut a pure size medium without any alterations (except for the length). The flair was significant enough to accommodate my larger hip to smaller bust ratio.

2. I took off two inches from the length before cutting because I thought I would make it a just below hip length to wear with jeans. I tried it on and asked my 20 year old daughter for her opinion as to whether I should keep it long or make it shorter, and she said keep it long. So I did! If I knew I was going to do this, I might not have taken off the two inches. I feel perfectly comfortable in it, but, I’m old!

3. The Esme Tunic is a simple pattern that a beginner could sew. BUT not solely with the instructions provided in the book.

4. I bought this book out of curiousity and because it seems to be getting a lot of hipe on social media (or at least the stuff I follow). I have always liked Lotta Jansdotter’s asthestic and the fact that she’s Swedish. I’m part Swedish and have visitied Sweden many times. But I have to be completely honest, intially, I thumbed through it pretty quickly and thought it was a waste of money. The accessory projects are so easy, I definitely didn’t need a book to show me how to do them. But I realized I am not the target audience for this book, and it is comforting and inspiring for someone who is non-crafty to make projects from a curated book from lifestyle icon.

5. BUT, I thought, I spent money on the book, I need to make something from it. AND, I have to admit, I LOVE the cut and fit of the Esme Tunic. I might even make another one!

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Pack n Party Dress

A few months ago I flew out of state to attend my nephew’s wedding. I was flying one of those budget airlines where every amenity, even water, is an extra cost. I paid for one carry on bag for a four day trip, so I needed a wedding guest dress that could be rolled and stuffed into a small suitcase. A comfy, wrinkle-free polyester jersey knit dress fit the bill perfectly.

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The pattern I used is Simplicity 2580, which of course I bought the only way to buy big four patterns, on sale at JoAnn’s for about $1.00. I was attracted to the neckline of View C and the slightly A-lined silhouette. I traded out the short, petal sleeve for a straight, 3/4 length sleeve (from McCalls 6697).

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While JoAnn’s is my go to stop for patterns and notions, I rarely buy fabric there. But I was limited on my fabric shopping opportunities for the project, so I forced myself to make a selection at JoAnn’s, and I rather like this out-of-the-box choice for me. The colors are fun, and there’s plenty of pattern to hide bulges that can so easily show on a slinky knit.

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The front bodice is self-lined and is actually folded at the front neckline which creates a nice, smooth finish. I finished the back neckline with a double needle and trimmed the raw edge close to the stitching.

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I added clear elastic on the seam where the bodice is attached to the skirt. This is a technique I first learned making the Moneta Dress and have used it several times since.

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I am not a big fan of machine hems on dresses, but I think a double needle on a super stretchy knit is a safe bet.

LET’S BE HONEST:

1. I cut a straight size 14 for the bodice and the sleeve (from McCalls 6697). For the skirt, I graded to a size 16, and then additionally added a slight bit of flair which totalled 8″ of width at the bottom. I wanted to make sure the fabric draped nicely over my mid-section, hips, and thighs. I am very happy with the fit.

2. I have wrestled with skipped stitches for years using the double needle on slinky or thick knits. I finally bought a STRETCH double needle (had to order it online) and, oh my gosh, it has solved all my problems. Had I known what a difference it makes, I would have bought one 30 years ago!

3. I love the neckline on this dress! I think it is probably universally flattering on women of all bust sizes.

4. This pattern sews up easily for a seamstress experienced with sewing on knits.

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Here I am sitting with my dad and my son’s girlfriend, Ryley. Ryley is wearing a Alder Dress by Grainline Studio that I made for her!

 

 

 

The Factory Dress

It’s still blazing outside, and I’ll be starting my part-time teaching job in less than two weeks. Therefore I was very motivated to sew up some practical work wear that can take me from end-of-summer through fall. The Factory Dress by Merchant and Mills fits the bill perfectly.

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I have coveted the Merchant and Mills patterns since discovering them some time ago. When I calculated that it would cost me approximately $46 to purchase a pattern directly from the UK based company, I figured I would never own one. When I learned that I could purchase one domestically through Fancy Tiger Crafts, I took the plunge. I still paid $20 + $7.95 shipping, much more than I normally pay for patterns. I do splurge very once and a while to sample patterns outside the Big Four. The Factory Dress is “inspired by working women, with a dash of the Twenties.” I found the notion of elevating a working class uniform to something more sophicated intriging.

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The fabric I used is once again from The Fabric Store on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles. I hit their summer sale and scored this beautiful linen for $12 per yard. I purchased three yards, but could have done with a little less. Might I add, the sweet employees always measure the yardage very generously. I prewashed it in the machine “at my own risk” and also partially dried it in the dryer. I wanted to soften it a bit and give it a slight laundered linen look.

I accidently put the pocket on the wrong side. I think I make mistakes like this because I'm left-handed.

I accidently put the pocket on the wrong side. I think I make mistakes like this because I’m left-handed.

I top-stitched around the collar by hand.

I top-stitched around the collar by hand.

Inside peek - I serged all the seams. It has side seam pockets.

Inside peek – I serged all the seams and did a hand hem on the sleeves and bottom. It has side seam pockets.

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Gosh, that morning sun is bright.

LET’S BE HONEST:

1. The pattern ranges from size 8 to 18. I cut a straight size 10, even though, according to the chart my bust is a size 12 and my waist and hips are a size 14. I read other reviews, looks at images of the dress online, and also notice how loose fitting the dress is on the model on the pattern envelope. I “get” the loose fitting style aesthetic, but what also know to be true is that style only looks flattering on very slim people. I was aimming for comfortable wearing ease, and the size 10 turned out perfect. I made no adjustments.

2. This is a well drafted pattern. The paper the pieces are printed on is like a lightweight brown bag with a smooth, shiney backing. The directions, printed on heavyweight paper, are done in vintage graphics and hand illustrations.

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I must confess, I really only looked at the illustrations while sewing. I suspect that the written instructions are probably not quite adequate for a beginning seamstress. But I’m done nit picking pattern instructions, because I certainly wouldn’t want to write them and my hat’s off to anyone who does.

3. When wearing, there is a marked difference between the distance from the hem to the ground in the back and the front. It scoops up in the front and dips in the back. It could just be me, but I don’t completely think so. I did not engage my husband to mark the hem with my old fashion hem gauge, but I did a gradual trim before hemming, making the back 5/8″ shorter. I realize many people don’t notice or care when hems aren’t parallel to the floor, but it’s one of my pet peeves. I can thank my mother for that.

I really had no issues sewing up this dress. I can’t wait to wear it and honor those hard working women of the past!

What are your pattern buying habits? Are there patterns you have been eyeing, but cost is preventing you from buying? Do you have a price limit just on principle?

Thanks for reading my post! Cheers, Lori

The Mid-Summer Dress

I always sew for the season that we are actually in. I like the instant gratification of wearing my new make the next day. Here in inland So Cal, the weather will be warm until October, so I am still in the market for easy wearing summer dresses. I am sharing with you my new Fresh Make that will help get me through the dog days of summer.DSC_0187
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The pattern I used is Butterick 5456. I purchased this pattern at least a year ago at JoAnn’s during a pattern sale which means I paid less than $2 for it. The year on the envelope is 2010. I hope it’s still in print because I think it is a timeless, wearable pattern.

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The fabric I used was purchased online at Fabricworm originally for a Marianne Dress for Round Two of the Super Online Sewing Match. (I was eliminated after that round, but it but it was great fun while it lasted!) I ended up using some other fabric for the contest, so I still had this fabric on hand screaming at me to sew it up. The blue and white print is an organic cotton interlock knit by Charley Harper for Birch Fabrics. It was $13 per yard and 45″ wide. Honesty time: I don’t think I will purchase from this collection again. While the weight of the interlock was substantial and as expected, the blue ink stiffens the fabric and does not soften with a machine wash and dry. Also the ink application is a slightly uneven and blotchy in places. Fortunately, the green Birch Organic, Mod Basic Solid, is a completely different story. It is super soft and dreamy, and the touch of Lycra is genius for an interlock, a weave that can stretch out easily. It was $12.80 per yard and 60″ wide. This collection will definitely become a “go to” solid for me.

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The bodice is fully lined. It would have been optimal to use a thinner knit for the lining instead of the green interlock, but there was enough and I wanted to use what I had on hand. I used the method for a clean, machine armhole finish from the Moneta Dress by Colette.

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I think the keyhole back and tie add an interesting detail to a simple dress. And I really like that the opening is high enough that you can still wear a regular bra.

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I shirred the skirt with clear elastic, also a method from the Moneta Dress by Colette.

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After attaching the bottom band, I decided I didn’t like the way it hung as a single layer and futhermore did not want machine stitching at the bottom since there was no machine top stitching anywhere else. I went ahead and folded the band and “stitched-in-the-ditch.”

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LETS BE HONEST:

1. The pattern is labeled “Fast & Easy.” That it is. However, there is no differentiated instruction for knits which could cause frustration for someone who has not sewn on knits before. I basically glanced at the illustrations and used my own knit techniques as well as the two from the Moneta Dress mentioned above.

2. I cut out exactly between size 12 and 14, taking into consideration that knit ease should be less. I still misjudged and the bodice turned out a little big. The armholes are particularly large. Don’t get me wrong, I am still going to wear it! If I were to make it again, however, I would probably cut a size 10.

3. I like the double thickness of the bottom band, but proportionally I think the original width of the band looks better. So if I were to make the dress again I would cut a band of double width, fold and stitch-in-the-ditch again.

I really do like this dress. It was simple, no hassle sewing. And it is as comfortable as can be.

What about you? Do you sew a season ahead or squeeze in a few end-of-the-season makes?
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The Marianne, tie-dye and a Peter Pan collar

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Hey, it’s Round Two of the Super Online Sewing Match II! Again, I want to thank Sew Mama Sew for this opportunity. My enthusiasism went up a few more notches when I learned this challenge would be the Marianne Dress by Christine Haynes. I actually had purchased the printed version of this pattern a few months ago. So, yay, no PDF tiling for me! But that’s where any possible advantage stoppped, as I had not sewn it up or even purchased any fabric for it. It was just sitting in my pattern queue.

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When I first laid eyes on the Marianne Dress, I was drawn to View B, the one with the cuffed, 3/4 length sleeves. The youthful, retro inspired style of View A was not for me, a woman of 50+ years.

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HERE’S MY STORY OF ROUND TWO

Unlike the first challenge, I had the gift of time (a true summer vacation week), but no apparent inspiration. The reason this pattern was still sitting in the stack was the fact that I was having a hard time imagining fabric combinations that would create a fun yet age appropriate garment for me. But NOW I was forced to make some decisions. The same day that we received the challenge, I went ahead and took advantage of the fabric offer from Fabricworm, and placed an order after much deliberating. But I couldn’t stop there. I also placed an order for some white cotton knit jersey at Dharma Trading Co. I thought perhaps I would like to dye some fabric for this project.

Additionally, with the time I had on this first day, I ran to JoAnn’s to get some fabric to make a muslin. Now I know I bragged in Round One that I never make muslins. But I did have concerns about a flattering fit on this pattern, so I figured why not sew up a trial; I had the time. I cut a size 10, and added a little flair to make sure that circumference throughout the body of the dress comfortably cleared my pear shaped bulges. I also added about 6 inches of length beyond the size 10. Just above my knee cap is as far as I go these days.

By Sunday, I was done with my muslin. I was very pleased with it. I got a “bonus” dress out of the deal. Now I just had to wait for both my fabric orders to arrive. I was expecting the Fabricworm shipment on Wednesday, and possibly the Dharma Trading Co. on that day also. With this “extra” time, I started to feel antsy, and began to develop a case of FOMO (fear of missing out). Maybe I should go into Los Angeles tomorrow (Tuesday), maybe the perfect fabric for my Marianne dress is waiting for me there.

Just as I was conjuring up this plan, my husband came to me and told me he thought something was wrong with our beloved dog, Pixel. She seem to have suddenly lost her sense of balance. She was leaning to one side and kind of staggering around. Tuesday morning it was clear we needed to bring her to the vet. This situation cured me of my fabric shopping desires. I needed to be there help my husband with the dog. We had to do a drop-off, since the vet had no same day appointments. They would examine her when they could. By mid-morning, we were back home sans dog, and my fabric from Dharma Trading Co. had arrived! Whether I used the fabric or not for this project, I decided to dye the it right then, as a way to stay busy and keep my mind off the dog. I did two dye baths, gold and then blue. I tied and re-tied two smaller pieces, resulting in a multicolored pattern. The piece that I intended for the body of the dress, I kept solid.

The vet was unable to diagnose the dog, and sent her home with some meds. It would be a waiting game. So Wednesday morning I decide to go ahead and cut out my hand-dyed fabric. I just wanted to keep busy, rather than wait for my Fabricworm shipment. As I laid out my pattern pieces to cut View B, I realized I hadn’t dyed enough solid fabric for the sleeves. And I really wanted my sleeves to be solid. I decided I would leave them off.  EXCEPT, my dress would then be too SIMPLE. In the spirit of the competition, I took a big gulp, and cut out the Peter Pan collar that I was 100% certain I would never use. And this is how my dress came to be. My Fabricworm fabric came later that day. I liked it, by this time I was all in with my tie-dyed fabric and my Peter Pan collar.DSC_0160

To my surprise, I LIKED my Peter Pan collar. The collar was an interesting element in an otherwise simple dress, and the tie-dyed fabric took away the “sweetness” I was concerned about.

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This was my first time sewing up a pattern by Christine Haynes.  I found her instructions clear and easy to follow. She offers techniques for both conventional machines and sergers. For those new to sewing on knits, you would need to find some additional resources detailing the hemming of knits as the instructions say to “Hem using the stitch of your choice.”

I have to admit I was leary of the ribbing/collar combination at the neckline. I had never seen that before. But because this was competition, I felt it was important to stay true the this unique feature and not “do my own thing.” When I first attached the ribbing, I wasn’t happy. I thought it looked awkward, and I had an “Oh no!” moment. Still, I felt I shouldn’t do away with the ribbing. I decided to narrow it by 1/8″. I found this little adjustment made enough difference for me to live with it and even LIKE it.

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I have a three thread serger from the 80’s. (It still works great, by the way.) I don’t sew seams with it. I just use it for finishing.

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I did not include the clear elastic on the shoulder seam because this was a low stretch knit. I didn’t think that extra reinforcement was necessary, and the elastic would only add more bulk. I did use the elastic in my muslin which was a very stretchy knit, and found it to be a great feature.

I used a zig zag stitch for the hem on the sleeve cap. I thought the look integrated better than a straight double needle stitch with the tie dye pattern.

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For the bottom hem, I used a machine blind hem stitch. I prefer a bit of width on my dress and skirt hems. After serging the edge, I turned it up 1 1/8″. With some carefully steam ironing, I was able to reduce the additional bottom circumference so it all laid nice and flat. (After making the muslin, I determined I only needed to add 3″ to the length instead of 6″.)

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During Round Two of the Super Online Sewing Match, I have: sewn up a pattern that was sitting in my stack for a while, made a nice wearable muslin, included a style of collar that I never would have chosen, and used creative practice as therapy.

You can see what the other talented competitors have made and keep up to date with the contest at Sew Mama Sew.

Her name is Pixel because she has dots on her snout. We are giving her the gift of time and hoping for the very best.

Her name is Pixel because she has dots on her snout. We are giving her the gift of time and hoping for the very best.

The Sutton and my new white jeans

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Guess what?! I’m a contestant on the Super Online Sewing Match II! I want to thank Beth and Kristin of Sew Mama Sew for selecting me as one of the ten contestants. It is truly an honor and a big surprise. So, here in this post, I present Challenge #1, the Sutton Blouse by True Bias.

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As soon as the Sutton Blouse was revealed as the challenge pattern, I knew my inspiration would be my new pair of white jeans. These jeans are a big deal for me. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. I have never had a pair of white jeans nor did I think I ever would buy some. I didn’t think my white pants wearing would go beyond the ones I made for my Good Life Shirt. But then my children’s third grade teacher, and now Facebook friend, extolled the virtues of white pants to me and insisted I should have them as a summer staple. I opened my mind to this idea, and found a great fitting pair at Talbots.

I instantly decided I wanted my soon-to-made Sutton and my new jeans to create a fresh, new summer outfit.

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HERE IS MY STORY OF ROUND ONE

I received this first challenge on Wednesday morning during my busiest “work” week of the summer. I was co-director of a morning puppet camp and director of an afternoon sewing camp for kids. The project was due the following Tuesday. If I had not been tied down, I would have high tailed it into Los Angeles, 60 miles from my home, to buy fabric. So, appreciatively, I took advantage of the offer from Harts Fabric online store. Harts’ customer service was fantastic. After placing my order, they called me up the next morning, while I was at my camp, to deliver the unfortunate news that they only had one yard left of the fabric I had ordered. I quickly made a second choice so the fabric would still ship Thursday afternoon with an arrival date of Saturday. I did have some concerns about drape, as I switched from a rayon to a cotton voile. But I thought the print would be suitable for the center front seam on the pattern. I ordered a contrasting solid voile for the yoke.

Saturday arrives, and so does my fabric. I am free all weekend to sew. No muslin for me. I’m diving right in. I never make muslins. Only on my wedding dress, my daughter’s prom dress, and my cousin’s daughter’s Irish dance dress.

Come Sunday morning, after about my fourth try-on, when all was finished but the hem, I had to finally confront the fact that the line that was created by the contrasting solid yoke fabric, in combination with stiffness of the voile, made me look like a linebacker. The sleeves stuck out straight. I stopped and took the dog for a walk.

While I was on my walk, I made the decision that I must start over. I couldn’t submit something I didn’t feel good about. Afterall, this was my time to shine!

OK, there’s something I haven’t told you, but now is the time. Back to Thursday evening – while my fabric from Harts was in transit, I was looking through my closet for trims to use at my sewing camp. In a bag, I stumbled upon two pieces of mystery silk, meaning I had no recollection of how they came into my possession or that I even had them. I assume they came from my mom, because she will often accept sewing stuff from her friends who are cleaning out their closets, thinking I might be interested in them. Each piece was about two yards. This vintage silk was kind of retro hip and grandma-ish at the same time. I immediately thought, wow, combining these fabrics together would make a unique Sutton. But my Harts fabric was on the way, and I felt obligated to use it. So I suppressed any more thoughts about the silk.

Let’s return to Sunday morning. What I really decided was, not only was I starting over, I was going to use the mystery silk!  Call it fate or some sort of a Devine intervention I found that silk when I did. It was meant for my Sutton!

I knew sewing on silk would be a challenge, but it would give me the drape for the fit I desired. I sewed slowly, and did a lot of hand basting.

Since this was a contest, I followed the instructions exactly including all of the seam finishes. This is something I don’t normally do. Just like you, I have my own way of doing things. I am happy to say, I found these instructions easy to follow, the clearest of any indie pattern I have tried so far. Thank you, True Bias! The only thing I changed was the hem. I did this by hand because the the silk did not lend itself well to machine hemming. After carefully hand basting the sleeve hem, I did the 1/4″ machine hem, and it ruffled the fabric. I actually ended up turning it in one more time and doing a hand hem. Having done this, I knew I would hand hem the bottom, also.

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Front inside peek.

The neck has a bias tape finish that is done before sewing the front seam together. The front center seam and yoke seams are constructed as french seams.

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Back inside peek.

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Side seams

The side seams are finished by serging the edge, ironing under, and stitching. Then the seam is stitched at 3/8″. A french seam cannot be done here as the seam allowances must be kept separate for the slit at the bottom and for ease of construction at the underarm.

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There is a high-low hem with a slit.

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I cut a straight size 6. The only alteration I made was shortening the length on the pattern pieces by 3/4″. I am very pleased with the fit.

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During Round One of the Super Online Sewing Match, I have: tried a pattern that I never would have otherwise, sewed up some silk that probably would have yellowed in it’s bag, made a perfect top for my new white jeans, and connected with some super gals in the online sewing community.

Harts Fabrics, you are awesome. And the fabrics you sent me were awesome too, just not right for my Sutton. I definitely will visit your store the next time I’m in Santa Cruz, which I hope will be soon!

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