Friday, October 28, 2011

Tee Times Three

Good-fitting tees are at the top of my must-have list.  They're definitely the most basic elements of my wardrobe, so I like to have an assortment available for any season or occasion.  I went in search of the perfect tee pattern for me, and found it in Butterick 5215, a Connie Crawford design.  I used it back in June, and again recently.

I was attracted to the pattern because the sizing goes up to size 6X, and it's basic styling can serve as a good starting point for my own design details.  There are three "cuts" to the pattern - close fit, natural fit, and loose fit. I used the natural fit, and I cut on the 3X lines.  The front and back shoulder widths and the sleeve widths of that size fit me very well.  It was really strange for me to not trace out the largest size of the pattern, and add more width at the side seams.  What a pleasure, to use a pattern that didn't require lots of adjustment!  I don't recall if I lengthened the pattern or not, but I do recall the pattern is cut quite long.  

My first version of this top was sewn in a cotton/lycra jersey from Sawyer Brook.  I'm hesitant to wear prints, but this one has a lot of movement, and good all-over patterning, so I went for it.
An aside:  I love cotton/lycra knits.  They don't pill, and they're comfortable to wear.  This photo was taken today, after about 10 washings, and the fabric still looks very good:

I like the sophistication of this print.  It's black and white, with small touches of blue (upper left) and taupe (lower right).  I'm really glad I used it for this top.  It was fun to wear with white capris in the summer, and carried well into early autumn with black pants.
Rather than make the top closer-fitting at the hip, I chose to leave the A-line shape.  It's a very comfortable cut, and the swingy fit makes it fun. 

The pattern description defines the neckline as a scoop, but it's really a crew neck.  I lowered it several inches for warm weather wear.  The instructions call for cutting the neckband on the bias.  I didn't understand why, as I never do this with knits, but once I tried to apply the band to the neckline, I got the picture.
This fabric does not have good stretch recovery, and the neckband sagged.  If I stretched the shirt enough to make the band lay flat, the shirt ended up gathered.  I could have recut a bias band, but I chose to create a vee neck instead.  It's a flattering style for me, and I really like the result.

(Sorry for the difference in skin tones in these photos.  They were taken on different days, in different settings, with different cameras!)

One disappointment with this pattern is the lack of bust darts.  I prefer to dart my tees, to avoid those unseemly horizontal folds that appear between the bust point and the armscye.  I added two small darts in the armhole seams on my draft of the pattern. 
This is my second version, a rayon/lycra jersey from Sawyer Brook:After washing this top a few times, I vowed I'd never buy soft rayon again.  The fabric is now so pilled I don't want to wear it out of the house!  This is one of those soft, cottony feeling rayons.  The short fibers that make a rayon jersey soft also make it pill like crazy!  Rayon jersey that has a dry hand and crepe-y feel doesn't pill nearly as much. 

On this top, I lowered the neckline and used Marcy Tilton's twisted neckband:
This was my first attempt at this technique, and I found it to be fairly easy to execute. My topstitching isn't perfect (but then, neither am I!).

My fall version is made from a lightweight organic cotton jersey from Marcy:
Since I'll be wearing it in cooler weather, I cut the neckline of the pink top a couple of inches higher (but still lower than the pattern is cut). The peony jersey curls a lot at the edges, so I decided to use this as a design element. I left the edges of the neckband raw, and let them curl.  (Once again, apologies for photos taken under different circumstances!  The color above is closest to actual.)

To sew this neckband seam, I carefully overlapped the band on the neckedge, pinned it securely, and stitched it 1/2" from the edge. The raw edge of the band curls over the stitching, echoing the other curled raw edge. To keep the seam allowance of the top flat, I pressed it toward the top and stitched 1/8" away from the edge.  I like this look, and wish I had used it on the sleeve hems, as it would have given the top more interest. The sleeve hems are simply turned under and stitched, as is the hem.  But I was tired of fussing with this top, and wanted to move on!

I'm not totally happy with the sleeve on this top.  The pattern instructions say to ease the sleeve cap before setting it into the armhole.  I didn't think this needed to be done in a knit, and I really didn't want to have to set them in.  I didn't think I needed the extra fabric in the top of the sleeve, so I lowered the sleeve head by about 1/2" to eliminate the need to ease it.  Then I sewed the sleeves into the armscyes before stitching the side seams.  Now that I see my upper arm in the photo, I realize I did need that extra fabric in the sleeve cap area.  That little bit of extra fabric would prevent the wrinkling of the sleeve above my elbow.  I hate to set in sleeves, especially in a knit, so I'll have to contemplate how to deal with this issue in future versions of this tee.

I'm not crazy about how this thinner jersey drapes around my belly.  The print jersey is heavier.  The royal blue jersey is droopier, so the drape lines fall more smoothly.  If I run into this problem again, I'll look into taking the top in at the sides.

I like the fit of this top, and I expect to continue to use it as my basic tee pattern.  Since it's a simple style, I'll probably play with other design elements - and paint! - at some point.  Even though it's plain, it beats wearing store-bought tops anytime!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Brief Sewing and Blogging Hiatus

Just a note to say I'm away from home and my studio for a while, visiting my parents.  My mother is having a tough time regaining strength following surgery for cancer, and we siblings have been taking turns caring for her.  I have a couple of posts in draft form, but need to get more photos taken before publishing them.  Here's Mom in her favorite place in the house, the sunroom:

She made this table back in the 70's.  It is a cedar root she found along Cayuga lake, filled with cinders from the nearby railroad bed and totally grayed by water flowing over it for decades.  It took 3 men to load it in a pickup truck to haul it home.  She thought she'd be able to sandblast it, to remove the dead, gray outer wood, but that didn't work, so she spent most of a winter scraping and sanding to bring it to the naturally colored wood.  After leveling it, she traced a pattern for the oval plexiglass and had a pice cut.  That one shattered, so she later had a thicker one cut.  Glass would be ideal, but probably quite expensive.  This is my favorite object in the house, for sure.

Dad has stepped up to the plate admirably for an 85 year old.  He's learned to wash dishes, run the vacuum, and make beds, which is quiet comical to witness, since he's never done these tasks in his life.  (He went from living with his mother to living with my mother, so he never needed to learn.)  But Mom needs supernutrition, and while Dad does his best, he's not quite capable of handling this on his own for more than a day or two.

While here in Ithaca, I've been able to get out to the yarn and fabric shops.  I made a nice fabric purchase yesterday that will undoubtedly show up on these pages in the coming months.  I brought along several knitting and hand sewing projects, so I can work at them as time allows.  It's too cold to knit on the porch, but the rockers are still there, and the sun is shining today (for the first time in days!), so I might get out there for a bit.

The pond and the treehouse, photographed on this glorious fall day:

I hope to get back to Massachusetts by mid-week, and I'm looking forward to sewing and writing about it here.  Happy sewing to all! 

Edited on 10.28, to add photos.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nuevo Yukata Shirt

A few years ago at a sewing expo, I purchased several vintage Japanese fabric pieces from June Colburn.  These were salesman's samples of traditional blue and white printed cottons for yukata, the casual summer kimono.  The pieces are quite small - about 18" in width, and 24"' or so in length.  For this shirt, I chose two fabrics to pair with white linen from Sawyer Brook.  When I started working on this project back in August, I took some photos of the fabrics together, before I cut them up.  I'm sure they were stunning photos, but we'll never know, because the computer gnomes stole ran off with them.  (Seems they wanted to ditch their frumpy gnomewear for some stylish yukata.)  So, you'll have to use your imagination to envision the small amount of fabric I had to work with.  By the time the garment was finished, I had used almost every square inch of it.

I merged two patterns to create this shirt.  The base pattern is an out-of-print Vogue by Sandra Betzina (sorry, I can't find the number online and my copy is at my studio).  It's a classic shirt style, with a traditional front placket, shirt collar and cuffs.  I'm finding her patterns fit me fairly well, and are a good starting point from which I can arrive at a garment that fits me well.  I made a few basic alterations to tweak the fit.

The design elements in this shirt are from ReVisions Nuevo Shirt pattern.  I'm drawn to Diane Ericson's design aesthetic, and the features of this shirt pattern have long interested me.  It's arty without being wacky or looking like a craft project. 

Diane's shirt has a very loose fit, with dropped shoulders.  That style is not becoming to me, which is why I used the Vogue pattern for the basic shape.  I eliminated the front placket from the Vogue pattern, as well as the collar.  I don't care for a close-fitting neckline, so I lowered the front by about an inch.  I drafted the mandarin collar - a favorite collar style for me, as my neck is short.  I duplicated the shirt tail hemline of the Nuevo shirt.

One of the design features of the Nuevo shirt is the inset and pocket on the right front.  This is the perfect showcase for the yukata fabrics.  One - the pocket fabric - is printed on both sides, giving me three prints to combine.

Construction of this element is not complicated, but a good result depends on very careful seaming.  Interfacing is fused to the shirt, then the center of the "box" is cut out, and the inset is sewn in one edge at a time.  Getting sharp, square corners can be a bit tricky.  I edgestitched both the pocket and the inset.

This inset is the perfect opportunity for surface embellishment, which I'd like to do on a future shirt.  There is also a back yoke which can be embellished, but I eliminated it this time around because my print fabrics were in such limited supply.  Instead, I inserted a strip of yukata fabric down the center back. 

This visually breaks up a large expanse of white on the back of the shirt, and ties the back to the front, design-wise.

The Nuevo shirt sleeve is seamed down the center, as well as at the underarm.  I split the Vogue sleeve pattern in two, and drafted Diane's sleeve design at the bottom.  I really like the Nuevo "half cuff" feature.  It gives opportunity to add more of the printed fabric, to balance the design features.  I love asymmetry, so using a different fabric on each cuff adds to my visual pleasure.


I was pleased with the white and blue look, but felt a need to add blue to other areas of the shirt, to pull it all together. I topstitched the shoulders, outer sleeve seams, front openings, and collar with blue topstitching thread.  It made a huge difference in the overall continuity of the garment.

I shopped around for buttons and didn't have success until I found some at my local yarn shop.  The blue color was very hard to match, and these blue and white ones are just perfect.  (I'll try to get a close up photo next time I'm shooting photos.)  There were only 6 available, and I bought all of them.  I regret not using all 6, as the shirt gapes a bit when I wear it.  I'm not sure how to resolve this situation, since the buttonholes are cut.  I could add a placket, covering the existing holes, but I don't think I'd like a placket with the styling of this shirt. 

Plus, that would be a lot of work, and I'm pretty much done with this shirt, energy wise. Between searching for buttons and taking in the side seams a couple of times, the shirt was hanging around my studio way too long. I finally got the side seams right on Wednesday, and wore it to work Thursday. It will probably be put away until Spring, unless these Indian summer days continue. 

This was a really fun sewing project.  I'm still not sure I'm comfortable wearing shirts, as I prefer the drape of knit fabrics over the stiffness of wovens, but, who knows?  Maybe I'll get used to it!
The end.  :)