Saturday, 24 November 2012

My poor wallet

The Americans are having sales because of their Thanksgiving holiday, and my wallet took a beating as a result. First off, Craftsy had a sale, and I took the opportunity to buy:

  1. The Couture Dress - "From creating a muslin to adjusting fit, matching plaids and hand-stitching perfect hems, Couturier Susan Khalje guides you step-by-step."
  2. Jean-ius - "Nothing can replace that magic pair of jeans. But would you believe that you can make your own perfect-fit copies? I'm going to show you how to clone that fantastic fit in my Craftsy class: Jean-ius! Reverse Engineer Your Favorite Fit."
  3. The Classic Tailored Shirt - "Roll up your sleeves and start sewing like a pro with the help of expert shirtmaker Pam Howard."
There's a pattern that comes with the dress class, and I also ordered the discounted shirt pattern for the shirt tailoring class, although I subsequently regretted it as I doubt I will use it -- it's a flat-fronted non-dart pattern, which, no. The jeans class will have to wait a while -- I know just the pair I want to knock off, but they only fit at the bottom end of my fluctuating weight range.

Then PR were also having a sale and I therefore splurged and bought the designer unlined jacket and another class for transferring regular clothes into patterns to remake -- I bought this before I bought the Craftsy one, and I wish I hadn't bought both but, oh well, too late now. I also, last week, bought the Jessica Stern t-shirt class (I already have the pattern) and the jacket muslin classes. So, I should be all set for my sewing education, just as soon as I get done with my ACTUAL education and finish my PhD. I'm excited for trying to sew some simpler jackets as well, especially as so many jacket patterns are princess seamed and I am SUPER IN FAVOUR of princess seams now.

I'm still pretty excited by my empire-waist top muslin I made earlier in the week.  My current plan is to make one in a nice rich red fabric that I have to wear for Christmas. However, two things are stopping me moving ahead with that for now. First, I desperately need to get on with the present I am making for my sister-in-law. It's now all cut out and I've started sewing it. It's got SO MANY pieces, though, it's going to take FOREVER, plus my fabric choice is introducing some challenges. For the time being, it's got to take precedence as otherwise it just won't get done. The second thing is that after months and months of medical stuff, my fluctuating weight seems finally to be steadily heading downward again (in part with the help of me going back to Weightwatchers). It's slow, so I am 90% certain the top at the current size will fit fine. However, it seems worth it to me to hang on a couple more weeks before I make it, just in case.

Monday, 19 November 2012

The Empire-Waisted Top Travails: Part #2

Style 3997: The Pattern That Solved Everything
The is part 2 of my attempt to make an empire-waisted top. We left our plucky heroine at the end of the last post shrieking EUREKA, and leaping to the Massive Stack Of Patterns to fish out Style 3997, a.k.a the Pattern That Solved Everything. Can I just say, helloooo to the 1970s for the styling on this envelope? The woman in the blue dress in view 4 looks like an escapee from Star Trek. I also freely admit I am NEVER EVER going to want to run piping or braid along the princess seams over my bust. Just. No. Not ever.

Trimmings aside, there aren't too many options in this pattern set: long or short dress, sleeves (long or short) or sleeveless, and a neckline variation. The only decision I had to make, really, was in the latter respect. The front bodice piece comes in two formats: scoop necked and sleeveless, or my-dress-is-trying-to-strangle-me high-necked with sleeves, each with matching, different, facings. Of course, I want the scoop neck with sleeves, just to be awkward, which complicates the facing situation significantly. At this point, though, I also wanted to look back at the Ottobre dress and the original, billowing muslin to decide if there was anything I liked in the pattern that I wanted to Franken-pattern onto the Style version.

Ottobre 2012-5-1 (from Ottobre blog)
Looking at the Ottobre dress for features:

1. The Style pattern has a curved bodice that is higher in the front that the back. The Ottobre bodice has a horizontal empire waist seam around the body. I wasn't sure how flattering the Ottobre shape was when I made the original size 46 muslin so I decided to make up the different seam shape and see which I prefered.

2. The Ottobre dress has two little pleats in the front. I liked these a lot for providing extra volume over the abdomen and some vertical lines.

3. Hard to see on this photo, but the Ottobre dress has an interesting little pleated ruffle cuff thing that I liked, but wasn't totally sure about.

All that decided, the next task was to make up a muslin. I knew I would have to do some kind of FBA, and I decided to use the Fit For Real People (FFRP) book for my adjustments. This is the order I did things in:

Side bodice alteration using FFRP
Step #1: Using the back bodice, side front and front bodice pieces only, I made up a completely unadjusted muslin. It was immediately apparent that the main problem was that the side front bodice piece was far too small. I opened up the seams, pinned in some fabric, and then adjusted the side front piece. This sounds easy but it took at least an hour and a half to get this right. The actual paper adjustment is easy. Figuring out by how much to adjust it was hard.

Front bodice piece alteration

Step #2: Sewed together an adjusted bodice: original front bodice piece, adjusted side pieces, original back bodice piece. I cut the bodice on my body down the centre front and then pinned an inverted V shaped wedge into the centre front to see how much I would need to add in order to get the princess seam in exactly the right place. The actual wedge in the adjustment is inside the pattern piece, but it has the same effect in the muslin.

Step #3: Sewed the new front bodice piece to side and back. At this point I wanted to fine tune the back. I actually ended up leaving the back exactly as is, except for leaving the back waist darts unsewn to allow for my larger waist. Everything else is fine. Bodice: done for now! \o/

Front and back skirt pattern pieces
Step #4: Adjusted the front skirt pattern piece for the extra width from the FBA. As I left the back bodice waist dart unsewn I also left the back skirt dart unsewn and found this to be a good fit. With the skirt sewn on, it all looks OK, but that extra little pleat of fabric in the front skirt Ottobre dress would come in useful. I added the pleat to the pattern exactly at the seam line for the princess seam, but decide not to cut it on for now -- if I dislike it when I make the non-muslin version, it's easy enough to recut to take it out. Adding the pleat also has the advantage (compared to just adding to the side seam) that it adds width exactly where I need it -- I carry weight front and centre on my abdomen more than at the sides of my body.

Adjusted sleeve pattern piece
Step #5: The armhole seemed very high throughout the fitting process, but I ignored it because it wasn't uncomfortable and I could deal with it when I got to the sleeve. The pattern only has a short-sleeve available due to the previous owner cutting off the long-sleeved version, but the short-sleeve was for for a tissue fit. It was clearly MUCH too small. FFRP to the rescue again: I traced the pattern, slashed it, and added 7cm to the width. I cut one out and attached it in a very half-assed manner. I am not worrying about sleeve cap wrinkles, just whether it goes round my arm and whether I can move. REVELATION: this is the BEST FITTING SLEEVE I have worn in a woven in FOREVER, in which I have totally comfortable full-range of movement. Intense joy. \o/

For the final version, I also made a new long-sleeve pattern from a combination of the Ottobre dress sleeve and the adjusted sleeve cap from the original pattern. For now I am leaving off the pleated rufflecuff as I am in still in two minds about it. Plus, I adapted the scoop neck facings to work with this sleeved version of the top.


The Sewing Novice: wearing a muslin.
And that is where I got to this weekend.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Empire-Waisted Top Travails: Part #1

Pepperberry top, £39
There's a certain type of top I really like: it's empire waisted, curves in below the bust to emphasize the waist, and then widens to a skirt over the abdomen and hips. I have several versions of this style of top -- some are classic shirt style, some are more tunic type as in this blue Pepperberry top. I really wanted to make one, and maybe find a dress pattern in a similar style.

This is the long, painful story of my attempt to make one. Or at least, part 1 of it. I almost feel like I should apologize for how incredibly long-winded I am, but I don't actually care. There are so many really accomplished seamstresses writing blogs. There are hardly any hapless beginners. I am filling a niche! Long-winded hapless beginner! I don't even care if nobody reads my blog. At least a chance met hapless beginner may one day stumble across me and take comfort.

Here, then, begins the story of the The Travails of the Empire Waisted Top.

My inspiration for this top is the Pepperberry top in the photo, but I wanted to start more simply. Dissecting the top for what I wanted to make I came up with this list:

The most important thing I wanted to replicate: the overall shape.
Too complicated for now, even if I like it: the pleating, the button detail on the centre front, the lace inset in the shoulder/upper back.
I don't like at all: the shaping via tie back, the sleeve length, the elasticated cuff.
Random observation: I like the colour. I happen to own 2.4m of glazed cotton in dark blue, which is the fabric now ear-marked for the final version of this top.

Back in September I started thinking about how I could use a dress pattern from the most recent edition of Ottobre Woman to make my top (and maybe, also, an actual dress). I said, and I quote:
Ottobre 5/2012-1 (Photo from Ottobre blog)

"It's rated as 2 dots by Ottobre (their helpful system is 1-3 dots, not explained anywhere in the entire magazine) but it doesn't LOOK that complicated. It only has a very few pattern pieces: bodice, skirt, facings... it sounds VERY easy."

Ahaha. HAHAHAHA. Oh god. /o\ How delusional was that?

Trying to use this pattern has resulted in me going through a tree worth of pattern tracing paper (luckily I just use ultra cheap tissue stuff), sewing through 3.5m of muslin and failing and failing and failing again for WEEKS. I got to the point where I was seriously considering never again even trying to make a woven top to fit. Even yesterday, when I was posting about my new knit top I made I was planning this terrible mopey post about how much I hate FBAs and how terrible my (sewing) life is, woe is me.

But then yesterday, I had an epiphany, and it's been all joy and happiness ever since. VICTORY. \o/

From FFRP. I call this the Tent Pole Effect.
My problem with the original dress was basically, as almost all my problems with sewing garments has been so far, my breasts. They're very large, which is always a problem, but most significantly for this dress, they're MUCH larger than the ribcage below them, which is also, as I don't have a waist, almost the narrowest point of my body. With loose fitting clothes, I suffer from the Tent Pole Effect, where loose fitting clothes hang straight down from my bust apex, leaving acres of empty air between my ribcage and the fabric. That's fine some of the time, but it does make me look fatter than I am. I do like to wear fitted clothes at least some of the time as a result, and my best look has always been empire line tops that curve in slightly below the bust. In RTW, the problem is finding anything that will go over my bust to start with, and where the empire line actually falls below the bust rather than right at the apex or even above it.

In theory, the Ottobre dress would have produced this. Could I personally achieve that with the Ottobre pattern? Oh, hell no.

The Ottobre dress is genuinely pretty straight forward. It has a front and back bodice, and a front and back skirt, plus facings, pockets, sleeves, etc. of course, but the important part of the dress is uncomplicated. The front bodice is shaped with two under-bust darts and there is some waist shaping in the side seams at the top of the skirt and bottom of the bodice. Easy, right? Well, no. Here is my list of attempts over a period of about 4 weeks:

1. Muslin in a size 46. It's better not to ask why I started with a size 46, which bears no relation to my actual measurements at all. There's plenty of ease in the pattern, so even though the 46 should not have been wide enough at the bust for me, it was. Of course, it was also billowing around my shoulders, back and the armhole was halfway to my knees. I concentrated, however, on attempting to manipulate the darts to get the fabric to curve in under the bust, and I did manage that. I was literally standing admiring the bust/waist shaping of the muslin in the mirror, congratulating myself smugly when I suddenly woke up to the fact that other than the bust, it actually didn't fit me. Cue weeping, cursing, and sulking.

2. After a pause while I sulked, I went back to the beginning and made four separate attempts to make a new bodice in a more sensible size, three on paper, one in fabric. My high bust measurement puts me exactly between a 42 and a 44, and with the ease I noticed in the 46, I went for the 42. I got a lot of practice making FFRP FBAs, including the revised Y-shaped FBA, which I will probably appreciate at some future stage, although not at present. However, manipulating the dart below the bust to get the shape to curve in? Not going to happen. To get enough width at the bust, I kept ending up with ACRES of fabric below the bust, which defied all shaping. I literally needed to dart out 20cm of fabric. I tried side darts (not enough room to improve anything). I tried draping the darts on my body (resulted in Madonna-style conical breasts). I could have gathered it, but that's not the look I wanted. Cue more weeping, cursing and sulking.

And then, EPIPHANY, brought to you by three things:

Pepperberry dress, £79
1. My actual wardrobe. My favourite ever, most flattering (and tragically too small for me at the moment) blouse is an empire waisted black pinstripe blouse from M&S. My dream is to sew many similar versions of it because (a) despite being my favourite it's actually too short; and (b) I just love it and it looks amazing on me and I want to wear a (longer) version of it every day. When it fits, it's the blouse I reach for the instant it's out of the wash. It even looks pretty good right now, and it's really not my size at the moment. It's empire line, which I already knew, but when I looked at it more closely yesterday to try to figure out the bust shaping, I realized it was done with an armhole princess.

2. Every single Pepperberry (the shop that makes clothes for large-busted women) top, blouse or dress that I have on my wish-list? Armhole princess. They do other styles, of course, but the shape I wanted, with the bust shaping that curves in to the ribcage? Armhole princess.

So, hey, maybe an armhole princess bodice is the way forward, do you think?

Style 3997, 1970s dress pattern
3. And here was the doozy of an epiphany. I already own the perfect armhole princess dress pattern to use to make a version of the Ottobre dress. It came in a job lot of 9 vintage patterns I bought on eBay, which I wanted for three of the other patterns in the package. I paid the equivalent of 93p per pattern with p&p. It's Style 3997 (Style being a now defunct pattern company) and it dates from the 1970s (per the copyright, no earlier than 1972). There were two problems: (a) It's missing one pattern piece (the long sleeve; the previous owner/seamstress cut it off to make the short-sleeved version), although it's otherwise intact. (b) It is a half-size (size 16.5, bust 39") which is intended for petite women of height of up to 5'3". I'm closer to 5'9". I had previously picked up a half size pattern, read up on it, and realized un-petite-ing it was needlessly complicated. When my bundle arrived I just kind of ignored this pattern.


In the next post in this series: Franken-patterning a top from Ottobre 2012-5-1 and Style 3997, including How I Did A Successful FBA On An Armhole Princess Pattern, Go Team Me \o/

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Knits that Fit #6: Reviewed: "Nora" Top (Ottobre 2010-5-1)

Finished top: Ottobre 2010-5-1 ("Nora") top in blue floral jersey

This was such an easy and quick project. I actually timed how long it took me to make, not including tracing the pattern, and it was 1 hour and 26 minutes in total. :D

Here's my pattern review (also here on PR), plus some extra notes at the end:

Side view of Ottobre 2010-5-1
Pattern Description: Knit top with yoke, cuff variation and rose embellishment (for cuff variation see Ottobre 05-2010-04, which is the same pattern but with the sleeve gathered into a long cuff).

Pattern Sizing: Ottobre sizes 34-52. I should have made a size 44 to actually fit me, but made a size 48 because I wanted a very relaxed fit as I intended to use this as a top layer around the house. I should probably have only sized up 1 size instead of 2.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, although I omitted the rose embellishment.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, extremely easy. Ottobre instructions are terse but effective. In this case the instructions recommend sewing in the sleeves on the flat, which I very much appreciated!

Yoke detail
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I was attracted to this pattern by the yoke detail. On this particular top I made it yoke and body of the same fabric, but I'd really like to make this top with a contrast yoke for a bit of interest. This was incredibly quick to make as well. Apart from tracing the pattern (which didn't take long either) I spent less than 1.5 hours making this top, and I am a slow beginner.

Fabric Used: A cotton jersey with a blue floral print. To be honest, I wouldn't be seen dead in public in this print as it's not at all to my taste. However, this was intended as a wearable muslin/lounging around the house top and I thought it was a good use of the fabric.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I did not interface the yoke or facing as suggested. This fabric is actually a fairly hefty cotton jersey and I didn't think it needed additional interfacing. As it turned out, I was totally right as the two layers of the yoke are quite substantial enough. I used stay tape rather than interfacing to stabilize the shoulder seams and stay stitched the neckline and yoke pieces. I lengthened the top by 6cm and the sleeves by 3cm to accommodate my height. This is my usual length adjustment, but I actually failed to measure the sleeves before I adjusted them and probably didn't need the 3cm adjustment. I also left off the little rose embellishment.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I will definitely sew this one again, although probably in my actual size next time. If you have this magazine already and want a quick project, I highly recommend it.

Conclusion: Simple knit top with yoke detail for a bit of interest, super fast and easy to make.


Extra Notes:

Cost: This one is cheap and cheerful. I used 1.5m of this blue floral jersey at £2.50/m including p&p. That, plus about 10% overheads for thread etc means this comes in at around £4 for the top in total. I was left with a 50cm piece of the blue floral, not enough for a top but more than enough for e.g. constrast short sleeves and neckband on another tee.


+ Another big confidence boost for using the overlocker and making something quickly and easily. I can see why people get hooked on making knits since my woven projects aren't nearly as successful (more about that tomorrow!).

+ First time using stay taping and it worked brilliantly. Also, glad I stay stitched the neckline.

- I wish I had made it one size smaller as it's very big. I know what I was thinking when I made it, but it still wasn't very bright of me.

- I needed to swap out my needle on my sewing machine before I sewed the back facing. I was using a heavier needle to top-stitch through the various layers of the yoke and just went on to sew the back facing down, resulting in skipped stitches. A tiny but annoying error!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Plans and ideas

When it comes down to it, I'm really kind of a "make it up as you go along" sewing person. I have patterns. I have fabric. Sometimes I figure out which patterns match up with which fabrics and then I know what to make. However, I do need to do some forward planning, or sometimes I find things that are Meant To Be. Here is one Meant To Be idea and two forward planning requirements that I am thinking about at the moment.

1. Meant To Be: A summer maxi skirt

Sari fabric
This fabric actually arrived today after I stalked it on eBay, keeping my fingers crossed, for the full 7 days it was listed. I don't know why it made such an impression on me, but I was the only bidder and was thrilled to get it for very little money. It's printed with a thing that says that it is a sari fabric, from India, which is interesting but also annoying because it's printed right on the fabric in the middle! At any rate, it's a border print (along the selvedge) 5.5m in length (which I gather from Googling it is a standard length to buy sari fabric) and about 110cm wide.

Lorena Buck Maxi Skirt Pattern
The fabric is a little bit greener than that photo suggests, more turquoise than blue. It's very thin, and it has a very faint geometric pattern.

If it were a 150cm wide fabric, I'd make a maxi dress of it, but with it being 110cm and me being as tall as I am, I think the best bet is to make a maxi skirt for summer. When I went looking for long, lined maxi skirt patterns that would work for border prints I came across this free lined maxi skirt pattern/tutorial by Lorena Buck which I think would be perfect. The fabric/pattern combo is very very summer-y/holiday-ish, so I will save the pattern and the fabric for at least the summer (not that we get much summer here!) or for my next warm trip abroad. It's not worth making it now because my ever fluctuating weight means I have no idea what size I will be by the time I experience some warm weather.

2. Forward planning for a wedding outfit

Vintage Simplicity 7386
I just got a Save The Date a few days ago for two friends of mine who are getting married in June 2013 and a group of us who will be going have been talking wedding outfits ever since. I have two possibilities in mind right now, but I reserve the right to change my mind 92435234 times between now and sewing anything at all, of course.
My first thought was a dress with a little jacket thing (June in England? Still a high probability of cool/rainy weather!) and thought about a vintage Simplicity dress pattern I picked up a while ago now, Simplicity 7386. I sort of thought to do a print and a solid for the dress and jacket, though which way round I don't know. I found one review/make of the pattern online which looks actually pretty great. I'm normally not into the vintage look AT ALL, which is why even though I always want to like the sort of Colette/Gertie/whatever pattern aesthetic, I actually really can't imagine making any of them. However, I don't think this is too crazily vintage at all. I don't love the high neckline and I actively dislike the centre front seam, but those are both things I could deal with, I think. The bigger problem is that I've not successfully made a dress yet. Or a woven FBA. Or anything else that might be useful. But it's not needed until June, and I could only start sewing in like, May (see above re. weight) so maybe I would by then!

Tailcoat Top front
Tailcoat Top back
Plan B is separates, for the simple reason that I like them and they might be more re-usable. The whole outfit would be built around this amazing free pattern from Your Style Rocks for a Tailcoat Top. This, plus a slim pencil skirt, plus some kind of blouse because otherwise that is WAY TOO MUCH SKIN for a wedding (or, frankly, any other time). I was thinking of maybe just a plain little short-sleeved, collarless woven top - either a shell or maybe with buttons up the back. The pencil skirt I'd pick between three different patterns I've identified in Burda magazines -- they all have little seam details to make it a little more interesting. The problem? The instructions for the Tailcoat Top are of the "and then drape the pleats" variety, and it's (for a newbie like me) a pretty complicated pattern even before you deal with those kind of instructions. Fabric wise, though, I already have things in mind, in some combination of blue and silver. One other problem: I don't know what I'd wear over that outfit for the getting-to-the-venue-and-back part of the wedding experience.

Plans A and B will no doubt have been replaced by Plans C through R by the time I actually sew anything, of course, but the planning is half the fun.

3. Something silly and fun for a party

I'm going to an event in late March (I have to travel 3000 miles to get there, if you're wondering how I can possibly be so certain of my plans at such temporal distance) that requires some kind of ultra fun outfit. The thing I'm going to includes extremely informal evening event -- people will be there in everything from jeans to fancy dresses. It's also, to be frank, kind of trashy/fun/silly. Last time I went to this event I wore a wiggle skirt and a blouse (that REALLY didn't suit me) in shiny black satin. I have literally NO IDEA what I could wear this time. I keep thinking maybe the answer is to get a really silly/fun print and make up a dress with a twirly skirt -- not necessarily full on 50s style, but a full skirt with a close-fit bodice. I'm really not much for prints, but this is one occasion where a ridiculous print would probably work for me. That's as far as I've got with this one! I do have a free 1950s dress pattern from Sew magazine, but it has dozens of pattern pages to stick together D:. However, there are also patterns in Ottobre and I have one more twirly skirted dress pattern among my envelope patterns as well.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Knits that Fit #5: Made: Kirsten Kimono Tee variation

(Sorry for two posts in one day -- the wretched family stuff meant I had a build up of things to post!)

One of my favourite jersey tops that I own is a little green polka dotty number from Next. I bought it in July in the the end of season sale for £6 and I have worn it loads - often enough that I deeply regret that it only came in mint green, which I bought, and lemon and pale pink, which I did not buy as I do not like those colours. Next still sell the same style top in multiple different fabrics, but there are enough things that I would change about it that I didn't fancy buying more, and definitely not at full price. Sewing to the rescue!

Original green spotty top from Next
The details I really like on the original green top are are the non-stretchy yoke and the cuffs on the sleeves. The basic shape of the top is just a simple dolman style. However, I don't like the banded hem, so I wanted to leave that off and also make the top slightly longer overall (I tend to need tops from the Tall range at Next, and this is from the regular range).

My new finished t-shirt

Starting point pattern

Since this top is fundamentally a really basic design, I was spoiled for choice on how to make it. My choices boiled down really to: 1) Find and use a similar pattern; or 2) Modify an existing pattern to include the yoke.

In case you're interested in making a similar top, here are my conclusions for each of the two options:

Burda 2012-7-140
1. Similar patterns: I thought about buying & downloading In-House 3008 (PR link, also available on the In House site). That has an insert built into the pattern and is slightly gathered at the shoulder seam, probably because In House use a D-cup block.  There's also a somewhat similar plus sized (size 44-52) colour-blocked top in Burda July 2012 (2012-7-140) (I have the relevant magazine, although it's also available to buy as a download on I like both of these options, but I didn't really want to buy the InHouse one (It's about US$9) and the Burda version is not quite right.

3 Hours Past: Blank Canvas Tee
Burda 2012-5-110
2. Planning to use a basic dolman top and modify the pattern gave me even more options. There was a similar basic top in Burda Style in May 2012 (also available to buy as a download) but with a slightly draped neckline. There's also the the Blank Canvas Tee pattern that can be downloaded for free from the blogger at 3 Hours Past, which has the advantage of a size range from 30" to 55" at the bust (and isn't really fitted the way this image suggests -- it's just a rectangle like the Burda tech drawing is. You're supposed to fit it to yourself). I was quite tempted by the Burda version: I already have the magazine and I liked how the draped neck My Image top I made last month turned out. However, I wasn't sure how the neck and the yoke pieces would work, so I abandoned that idea for the time being.

Kirsten Kimono Tee pattern
The third option in option 2 was to use the free Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono Tee, which I had already downloaded, printed, sellotaped and made up once, so that was the pattern I actually decided to use.
For the first attempt at this, I had a small strangely shaped remnant of white cotton jersey fabric left over from making PJ tops. I didn't have enough to make a straightforward t-shirt using the pattern: it was too misshapen a piece to get the full length of the top out for both front and back. However, I thought there would be just about enough for a top with the extra fabric provided by the contrast yoke. I needed about 30cm of fabric for the yoke and sleeve cuffs. I chose to cut into a piece of turquoise and silver cotton fabric that has been lurking in my stash for months and months. I bought it to make a blouse, but it turned out to be too narrow for the pattern and less drapey than expected. I think it might be quilting cotton, actually.

Making the pattern: 

The first task was to fix the pattern pieces. I didn't want to cut my downloaded pattern pieces, so I just folded them and then traced the new piece from my originals.

The original pattern has only three pieces: front, back and a neck binding. My new pattern has an extra two pieces: a yoke and sleeve cuffs. The yoke on the original green spotty top extends about 10cm down the back piece and is seamed horizontally at about shoulder blade level. On the front, the yoke runs 5cm down the front piece on a angle to match the original shoulder seam. It's one continuous piece, so there is no top shoulder seam.

Once I had the lines figured out, I added 1 cm seam allowances (as I was overlocking the top) and folded the pattern piece to cut out the white jersey body. Because of fabric limitations, on this occasion I only lengthened the body of the top by 3cm compared to the 6cm I added in my original version of the top. I prefer the longer length, but I don't hate the shorter version and it was only done that way because of my fabric issue.

Then I created a new pattern piece for the yoke: I folded out the seam allowances at the shoulder seams and butted the front and back pattern pieces up against each other, then traced the new yoke piece. I also cut out two 40cm long, 7cm wide strips to use for the sleeve cuffs.


Contrast yoke and sleeve cuffs

My construction order was:

1. Sew the back body to the back of the yoke.
2. Sew the front body to the front of the yoke.
3. Sew side seams.
4. Attach cuffs and tack down.
5. Sew binding.
6. Hem.

However, I should have stay-stitched the jersey portion of the front neckline, armholes and back seam where it connects to the yoke before I did any of that. Almost all of my subsequent construction problems originate from missing out that step.

I used fusible hemming web for the hem for the first time ever and wow, OK, that's my new favourite product EVER. Combined with the twin needle it made a GREAT hem. The stuff I have is maybe 2cm wide, so I cut it in half lengthwise to get a narrow width for the hem. I have like 30m, but no point in wasting it!

Problems with the revised pattern:

1. I didn't quite get the knack of sewing the woven cotton to the jersey, so I had to unpick the very first seam I made a couple of times. I ended up with a couple of little puckers in that seam which is annoying, but I can live with them. Next time, I will make sure to stay-stitch EVERYWHERE that the jersey and the woven are sewn together.

2. Similarly: attaching the cuffs was more difficult than I expected because you go from sewing woven to woven to sewing jersey to woven, and this also caused a little pucker, which is fortunately hidden under the cuff.

3. The binding. I think this is actually a flaw in the original pattern, as the binding is just not stretched enough to work at the original length. I sewed it once and it was TERRIBLE, it stretched out horribly and ended up like an ocean wave all along the front neck line of the top. I ended up cutting out the worst of the stretched out section for a lower and more scooped neck (which fortunately I like better than the original anyway) and re-attaching the binding to the longer neckline. I also forgot to stay stitch though, so I do bear a lot of blame for the error. Next time, I need either a deeper neckline or a shorter binding (or both).

4. Fit. I hadn't realized how much I relied on the stretch in the original purple version across my upper back. In non-stretchy cotton, it's not nearly as comfortable. Also, the cuffs are tight over my upper arms. However, the fit isn't bad for a first attempt and it definitely falls in the "wearable muslin" category as a result.


This was always intended as a wearable muslin so I kept the costs as low as possible. The piece I had left over of the white jersey was about £1.75 worth of the total cost. I used 30cm of blue and silver fabric which cost me £3.43/m, so that's about £1 for the piece I used. Including overheads, this top therefore cost around £3.


Binding and hem

+ REALLY pleased with the final binding on this one, which was a big problem on the previous version and was still a mess this time. It's not perfect, but just slowing down, pinning it more carefully, and thinking about my stitch length and position more really helped. The finished result is way better than I have any right to expect given the amount of faffing about, unpicking and recutting I had to do at the neckline. The hem is pretty amazingly great too. :D

+ So much fun altering this pattern even a little bit! I see how people get hooked on this.

- I am disappointed by the fit failure, since the whole point of this is Knits That Fit!

Reviewed: New Look 6321 (Knit PJ tops)

Pattern envelope for New Look 6321
For various reasons, the last week or so has been pretty wretched. In addition to a whole bunch of personal stuff, I really felt like my sewing mojo was dented by that dress disaster. I decided that I needed a project that would restore some confidence, produce something useful and that was actually properly easy. I therefore went right back to the beginning of my garment sewing experiments and pulled out New Look 6321, which is a unisex PJ pattern set. Look, it even has EASY printed on the outside!

One of my two NEW identical PJ tops.
In the normal run of things, my PJs consist of a variety of PJ shorts or trousers, plus totally unmatching ancient grotty t-shirts, many of which are at least a decade old, interspersed with a few marginally nicer PJ sets I've received as gifts. I always tend to have a few large, loose t-shirts in my wardrobe for days when I just want to laze around in comfy clothes, and in the past I've just moved them over time from "wear in public" to "wear on days when I am not leaving the house" to "wear them to sleep in" as they get older and more stained/faded. At present my collection of "wear them to sleep in" tops are REALLY horrid and old and seem to have more holes in them than fabric. However, my recycling chain in my wardrobe has, for some reason, broken down so I've had to keep on wearing them. This week I got fed up with the holes and decided to throw several of them away. I am SO CHEAP though, I really had to talk myself into making actual brand new tops to wear in bed, and only decided to in the end because I could get two new tops out of some fabric I had that I wasn't sure how else to use.

Here's my pattern review (also available at PR) with some minor additional notes at the end:

Pattern Description: Easy sleepwear separates (PJ trousers, shorts, knit t-shirt, long-sleeved t-shirt and ladies nightdress). I have previously made and reviewed the PJ shorts. This review is for the raglan short-sleeved t-shirt.

Pattern Sizing:XS to XL. I made a Large, which produced a VERY LARGE t-shirt (which is what I wanted, I like my sleepwear baggy.) If I wanted it to fit me more sensibly, I probably should have used a Medium or even a Small.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, just like it.

Were the instructions easy to follow? They are very clear and well-illustrated and I am sure they would work if you used them, but I didn't. I don't think the method described is the easiest way to put together a raglan t-shirt -- I prefer the construction method from Sew U: Home Stretch, so that is what I followed.

White body, blue and white floral sleeves.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? It's very fast and easy. It took me longer to trace out the pattern than to cut out and sew the first top.

Fabric Used: White cotton jersey for the body with a blue floral print cotton jersey for contrast sleeves and binding.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Nothing of significance. Rather than twin needle stitch the hems I decided to just overlock the edges.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, I actually already made a second, identical top. If you're in the market for a simple raglan sleeved top, this is a very useful, easy pattern. It has a good size range too, although if you are petite or you want a close fitting top then a shorter version of the nightshirt, which is the same raglan sleeved pattern but runs much smaller, might suit you better.

Conclusion: Simple raglan sleeved top, great for beginners and with a good size range. 

 Extra notes:

Cost: As usual my fabric was all bought from eBay. I made two completely identical tops. The white jersey is actually a really nice quality knit, as it's quite heavy and has good recovery. I got a misshapen remnant of the white jersey that cost about £3.15/m, and I used 1.8m for two tops = £6.25. The blue floral knit cost £2.50/m inc p&p and I used exactly 1m for the two tops = £2.50. My total material costs were therefore probably around £5 per top when you take thread and overheads into account.

It's hard to make any useful comparison to RTW prices because I don't think I have ever bought anything specifically to be a PJ top. However, a knit PJ top with similar quality fabric is for sale for £9.50 from M&S or about £6 for slightly less nice fabric at Matalan, or I could have bought B-grade low quality fabric Fruit of the Loom t-shirts from eBay for £1.50 each with free p&p. There's pretty much no way for the home sewer to make cost savings on this type of cheaply mass-produced top, I don't think, although at least I suspect the tops I made will have better longevity than the Fruit of the Loom factory seconds.
Neckline binding! So much better than previous attempts!


+ So much confidence restored by these tops! I did all my construction on my overlocker except for finishing up the binding, and it worked out really well. :D Such a relief after the mess I made of the MyImage dress.

+ I did a much better job on the neckline binding that I did on the Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono Tee.

-/+ I'm still not getting my stitch tension exactly right on my overlocking, but I am doing better.