Sunday, September 25, 2011

Do You Have a Shirt that You Really Love?

One that you feel so groovy in? 
You don't even mind if it starts to fade
That only makes it nicer still   (Donovan)

I'm not a 'shirt' kind of girl.  You know - the classic, woven fabric, button-down-the-front, collared, type of shirt.  This is probably because shirts don't fit my short-necked, rounded back, apple shaped figure well at all.  And they often need ironing to look their best.
Knit tops are just more flattering and comfortable, and I wear them 99% of the time.  This is my current favorite:

I made this in March, but wore it only a couple of times before the warm weather forced me to put it away for a few months.  Wearing it on a cool day last week reminded me of how good it makes me feel.  It's made from a double knit cotton from Marcy Tilton, and a cotton jersey from Sawyer Brook, both of which are very comfortable.  The double knit is dotted on one side, and striped on the other, offering many design options.  I purchased this in the summer of 2010, and will jump at the chance to buy other colorations, should Marcy ever find them.  She offered a warm-toned green (I believe) one this summer - not a good color for me, but a fabulous fabric!

The design concept for this top was born during the winter, when I was working on my SanMarDia jacket.  This plum fabric was on my design table near the trim I had painted for the jacket, and I noticed the burgundy Jacquard Lumiere paint was an exact color match.  I knew then I would be making a top using the paint on black knit, combining it with the double sided plum knit.  What a wonderful affirmation of letting fabric "age" in my collection!  I love to let a fabric rest in my view while I'm working on other projects.  It encourages percolation of design ideas.  Sometimes it gets put away for a later viewing, and other times a great idea such as this emerges.

I started with Marcy's Vogue 8497, view B, extending the front curve into a corner, and widening the neckline.  I painted it using the Plum Blossom silk screen from Marcy's Japanese Tea Garden set, and foiled it with dragonflies from her Angelic Insects silk screen.  I embellished the fabric pieces after I cut them out, in hopes of achieving good design placement.  In hindsight, I should have done the foiling after the garment was sewn, to avoid placing the dragonfly on the bust point.  (Must have been my inner stripper diva strutting her stuff!)

The plum stripe/dot fabric lent itself very well to this pattern, creating a "third fabric" for the neckband.  I used raw edges, but fused black superfine Design Plus Bias Fusible Tape to the raw edge, to prevent major stretching.
I can't say enough good things about this tape.  It has held well through several washings, and it has continued to stabilize the band edges around the neck and down the front and back of the garment.
This great pattern is an excellent candidate for embellishment and design options.  I love the ability to use two fabrics and achieve successful balance.  I made another version of this top, using the curved front piece and leaving the neck as it was drafted on the pattern. (I'll blog about it when I can get DH to take some pictures.) If I make this sharp corner version again, I'll place the corner higher and bring the neck in a bit, to expose less of my chest. I don't mind it for warmer weather, but I prefer a more closed neckline in cooler temperatures.
The overlay down the back is really stylish, too.
The hemline of one side is shorter than the other, creating a cool design feature both front and back:
The pattern is also fairly easy to grade up several sizes, thanks to the dolman sleeve design.  I simply figured how much more width I needed at the sides, then echoed the same underarm and overarm curves when I redrafted the pattern.  I might add a small bust dart next time, but the crosswise wrinkle at the bust doesn't bother me much on a dolman style.  Actual construction at the sewing machine is very easy.

I love my shirt, I love my shirt,
My shirt is so comfortable lovely
I love my shirt, I love my shirt,
My shirt is so comfortable lovely

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sewing (and Shopping!) With a Plan

Those of you who sew a lot are undoubtedly familiar with the acronym that's become popular on sewing websites, SWAP - Sewing With A Plan.  After reorganizing my fabric collection (a.k.a. "stash") last week, I decided I need to start Shopping With A Plan.  How can one person accumulate over 20 pieces of purple fabric and find only a few pairings that work?  SWOAP - Sewing WithOut A Plan - that's how!  Buying fabric because it's beautiful, it's a natural fiber, it's comfortable, and, most of all, because it's :) PURPLE :).  Now, purple might not be your color, but I bet there's one that gets you every time you shop.  A color that calls your name, begs you to take it home, even though you already own fabric and garments in every other possible shade of it.

So, sorting and organizing my fabric stash proved to be a very useful exercise.  I now know what I own, what can be worn with what, and which colors and types of fabrics I need to purchase to turn my stash into clothing that I will wear (and love).  I also learned which colors and types of fabrics I should never, never buy again for my personal wardrobe.  Warm tones, no.  Muted or muddy tones, no.  Dressy fabrics, no.

Which leads me to Sewing With A Plan.  I've never been one to plan and sew a capsule wardrobe, where everything goes with everything else.  But after pruning and organizing my stash,  I'm going to work with the SWAP concept a little this season.  I pulled together several fabrics that look great together:

Now, don't worry.  Not all of the garments made with these fabrics will be interchangable.  No red with teal (Christmas, anyone?).  Here's my plan:

  • The middle fabric is a heathered brown/black stretch twill (lightweight denim-like). It will become pants, which I'll wear with all of the other fabrics shown.

  • The rippled brown is a drapey linen/silk blend that I'm using for an unstructured cardigan-jacket. 

  • The brown and natural leaf print will become a top to wear with pants and cardigan.

    • The shibori-like jersey in browns and pale blue-gray will be another top to wear with pants and cardigan. 

    • Crancherry red double knit, cotton on one side, rayon on the other. The rayon is slightly darker, so I will design a cardigan that incorporates both sides. 
    • Solid brown rayon jersey, for a top to wear with the red cardigan.

    • Teal jersey, another top, to be worn with the brown ripple cardigan.  It's the same fabric shown in my current blog header. 

    • The striped knit in the header is a vest I am knitting.  Cascade front, vertical stripiing.  It doesn't follow my rule of "no warm colors", but I love the combination and it contains enough clear tones that think I can get away with it.  I'll wear it with the teal top and jeans.
    If these colors look good on me, I'll be on the lookout for a dark brown knit for pants, and a heavier fabric for another solid brown cardigan or jacket.  I have a teal linen that would make a great funky vest to wear with the solid brown jersey top, if I have time to sew it before winter.  But first comes an autumn/spring weight coat out of a wonderful crinkled brown woven from Marcy Tilton.  It will be a big project, so I'll need to get these other garments completed soon. 
    So, will I feel good in these colors?  They should be a good fit, as my hair is cool brown, and these cool dark brown fabrics are very close in color to my hair.  My skin is quite pink, and my eyes are warm brown/gold/green.  I'm a color consultant's nightmare, not easily categorized.  When the Color Me Beautiful concept came out in the 70's, I was told I was an autumn.  After revamping my wardrobe and looking drab in muted fall colors, another consultant diagnosed me as a summer.  So I changed to cool tones - much better for my skin - but pale and muted made me look washed out.  A few years ago some pals on an internet color forum helped me come to see that I am a soft winter, or clear, strong summer.  Jewel tones look great on me.  Black looks horrible next to my face.  It's just too much contrast.  I've grown to love my "winter" wardrobe, but since I don't wear black next to my face with much success, I've wanted to find another neutral.  Navy is good, but hard to find shades that match.  So that's why I'm trying cool brown.  I've got the fabrics, so I might as well give it a whirl!
    I started working with the ripple linen/silk this weekend, making Marcy Tilton's Vogue 8088.  I'm adapting the pattern a bit, and loving the drape of this fabric.  You'll see the completed jacket here, if it's a success.  Stay tuned!

    P.S.  Why all of this fuss about colors?  Because I simply don't feel good wearing colors that are not harmonious with my coloring.  It's that simple!