Monday, April 16, 2012

Peacock Green Top

Because of its tendency to pill, I've been saying no to most rayon jersey. Three of the tops I made last summer from rayon have pilled so badly they're no longer wearable in public. I admit, I did put them in the dryer. But still... it seems fabric that costs $15 a yard should last longer than 10 to 15 wash and dry cycles. I've put them to good use as tops to wear in the studio, where leaning against my cutting table as I reach for items eventually wears holes at the waistline. So all is not lost.

The rayon jersey I really love is knit from yarns spun from longer fibers. This gives the jersey an almost crepe texture, and a very dry hand. It is truly beautiful fabric, but harder to come by, as the shorter staple rayons are more popular in the marketplace. It's those shorter fibers that fluff out and become pills. The way to tell a short fiber rayon jersey? Does it feel soft and cottony? If so, my experience has shown it's likely to pill.

So, no more short fiber rayon jersey for me, I said. And I really meant to stick with this conviction - until I saw this lovely color of rayon/lycra jersey on Marcy Tilton's site. One look, and all promises were forgotten.

This rich jewel tone green is a great color for me, and hard to come by. I requested a swatch and found it was a soft, drapey, short-fiber rayon. Yes, it's likely to pill. But the color just hooked me. I swore to take very gentle care of it - short cycle in the washer, and hang to dry. It's too early to tell how it will hold up, but I hope it does, because I really love this top.

I've been wanting to make Katherine Tilton's Vogue 8710 for some time. This fabric told me that's what it wanted to be, and that it wanted to be painted. So, I jumped right in. (Call me crazy, but fabric does speak to me, if I listen carefully. It's all part of the wonderfully mysterious creative process.)
Since this top hadn't been designing itself in my mind for long, I began by looking at paint colors to see what enhanced the color of the fabric. All three are Lumiere. Then I pulled out all of my silk screens to find a nice combination. A Japanese theme came to the forefront.

I still have a lot of practicing to do to get the silk screening process refined. Sometimes I push too much paint through the screen, and sometimes not enough. Several parts of the screen used on the right edge of the back didn't come through well, so I touched them up with a fine brush. It's a tedious procedure, but I'm glad I had a way to save this top, as the pieces had been cut out before I painted them.

In addition to the top right of the front and back pieces, I also painted the lower left sleeve. Painting in three areas seemed to achieve a sort of balance.

As for the pattern, I can't say enough good about it. It is cut very well for my figure. Wanting to wear this in warmer weather, I cut the neckline a couple of inches lower. In hindsight, I could have left it as drafted. I shortened the sleeves to 7/8 length. They could have been tapered more, but I don't mind their width as they will be cooler.

The real bonus of this design is the side front insert. I'm always looking for an opportunity to add some bust shaping, and this piece provides one. I had sewn both of them in and inserted the sleeves before realizing the top could use more shaping in the bust area. So, I figured out how much of a "dart" to take out of the armscye, and pinned the insert that much farther into the front piece.

That's the front piece sticking out above the side insert piece. Here's a view from the other side, showing how much I was able to remove from the front - a good inch.

This adjustment made for a really pleasing fit at the side bust and armscye.

The only sewing change I made was to hand sew the neck band on the inside. The pattern calls for stitching in the ditch from the outside, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't stay in the ditch. I think it had something to do with the relative bulk of the band and the size of the presser feet I tested. I ended up turning the inner edge under and hand sewing it, only to discover that diagonal wrinkles had formed, mostly on the front. In an effort to save enough fabric for another garment, I had cut the band on the cross grain, rather than on the bias, as recommended by Katherine. Apparently the jersey needed to be lined up perfectly on grain in order to lie flat. So, I removed my stitches and started again. I inserted a pin at the sewn edge, followed the grain and inserted another pin at the raw edge. This told me which two points had to meet in order for the band to lie flat. I pinned a couple of inches, hand stitched it, pinned a couple more inches, and proceeded around the band. It turned out nicely, so I don't mind having put the effort in.

Little did I know at the time, but after a washing I discovered the hems behaved just like the neckline. Fortunately the wrinkles pressed out okay, so I'm not going to resew the hems. They are machine stitched, and would be a pain to remove and redo.

The swing fit of the lower front and back are great for a round, full figured gal like me.

Thinner women have mentioned on PR that they don't care for the extra fabric. For me, it means not having to add width at the side seams. If you have a protruding midriff and belly, like I do, this top may just be for you! I will definitely be making it again, as I love the "dart" I can hide in the side front seam.

Thanks to Katherine for another winning pattern!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pretty Plum Pink Ponte Pullover!

12 tops in 12 months in 2012 - that's what I committed to on Stitcher's Guild. I wear tops nearly every day, so I certainly can use 12 new ones. I'm actually aiming for making 18 tops, as my wardrobe can use several for each season. My work environment at Sawyer Brook is very casual, as is my social life, so I don't have need for skirts, dresses, or blouses. Occasionally I'll wear a shirt, but most days it's a top with jeans or pants.

There are times when I long for the suits and dresses I wore in the 90's - totally different career - but for the most part, I'm content in dressing casually. You all know I have easy access to wonderful fabrics perfect for a business career. But that's not my life right now, so I'm sewing for the life I'm living.

Making top after top after top gets a bit dull, so I do need to switch it up a bit now and then. You'll be seeing some different types of garments here soon. I'm just finishing up an outerwear jacket, and I have a linen/rayon shirt to make for spring. For now, though, it's tops!

This is top #3, sewn from a light-to-midweight ponte from Marcy Tilton.
I've had this fabric in my stash for well over a year, and I love the color. One day in my studio, while pondering what to sew next, this fabric told me it wanted to be made into that Marcy Tilton top with the off-center front seam. Message heard, I jumped right in and finished it in a weekend.

I started with my current TNT top pattern, Vogue1261, tracing fresh copies of the back and front. From there, tracing the neckline, shaped front seam and shaped hemline from Marcy's V8671 onto them was easy. These photos don't show it well, but the front seam and hemline are slightly curved. These curves are flattering, and give the top more interest and flow. FYI, I added several inches to the length, as I prefer a longer top.

All of the edges are left raw. To help stabilize them and prevent them from stretching out, Marcy has you cut strips of ponte and lay them under the hems and neckline. Then you topstitch, slightly stretching the strips, and trim the excess away. I think I stretched the strips a bit too much, as the hems appear a bit puckered. However, I think it's a neat technique, and I'm sure I'll use it again.

For the topstitching, I chose a variegated topstitching thread from Sulky. It was thick enough that I couldn't use a double needle; the thread kept breaking. So, I switched to a topstitching needle, and topstitched each edge twice.
The pink tones in the thread match the fabric perfectly, while the navy and gray add an extra dimension. The top has small side slits. I chose to lengthen them a bit.
(Please pardon the wrinkles. The top had been living in a bag for a couple of days before I took this shot, and I didn't have time to press it.)

I tried to insert bust darts from both the side seams and the armscyes, but I couldn't get them to look good. I think the weight of the fabric prevented them from lying nicely. I don't like the horizontal wrinkles under my arms, but they don't look as bad as the darts did!

This fabric has a nice feel on the skin, but I think it was just a tad too heavy for this top. It would have made a nice unconstructed cardigan or jacket. The drape of the knit would have been perfect for that. Marcy's pattern calls for a lightweight double knit, but I don't think this fabric is quite light enough. I am happy with the top, though, as it's very comfortable to wear.

What would I have made this spring without all of these Tilton patters and fabrics?! I've been having lots of fun sewing their styles. I have two more Tilton inspired garments almost ready to show you, then I think I'll try a Lynn Mizono. But you can be sure I'll be back to Tilton. I just love what those wonder women create! 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Grande Mesh Vest

I'm still catching up on blogging about garments I made in February and March. Photoshoots are the holdup for me. My husband works long hours, and I spend most of Saturday and Sunday at my studio, so there are only a couple of opportunities each week for posed photos. I'll have to look into getting a tripod, to give myself more flexibility.

A tripod, and a dress form. I want to get a really good one, so I'm saving my pennies for it. If anyone can recommend a good plus size form, I'd love to hear about it!

So, back in February, which seems like ages ago, I decided to make a vest using this new pattern from Katherine Tilton:
Vogue 8777
From the moment I saw it, I knew I had to make it, and probably more than once. I love its great lines and how easy it is to wear. The seaming in the back makes it unique, and I really like how the vest can add a layer to my look without making me too warm.

For this version I chose a black open mesh fabric I purchased from Marcy Tilton a year or two ago. I had originally intended the mesh to become an overlay for a top, but this vest pattern proved to be the perfect garment for it. (It also allowed enough leftovers for other projects, including my Back Words top. I still have some scraps, so you haven't seen the last of it yet!)

This was a very easy and rewarding sewing project. Katherine gives several options for finishing the seams. I chose to fold mine under and stich them in place. That's also how I finished the edges. It worked so well it's hard to tell which side they're turned to.

The top goes with many garments in my wardrobe, including the red violet top, the bright pink top from last fall, the Back Words collage top, and this:
This has been lots of fun to wear, and I'm definitely going to be making it again. And again!