Saturday, April 24, 2021

Silhouette Patterns #600 Classic Blouse

Like the Silhouette #195 Sweater Set that I reviewed
here, I was ambivalent about the Classic Blouse. I felt that maybe it was a little too classic for me, where classic meant that it looked like something my grandmother would have worn. In this case, I feel as though my grandmother may actually have owned one that looked just like the one on the envelope. 

The bad envelope photo and it's unfortunate association with my grandmother (who, for the record, passed in 1983; that's how classic this blouse is) is the reason for my hesitation, despite the urging of my wonderful Sewing Sisters. Additionally, it has a one piece collar (no separate collar stand) and the fastening on the long sleeve can only be described as funky. (I could describe it otherwise but that would be unkind.) These also contributed to my hesitancy. I finally capitulated because this pattern is the basis for every woven top numbered under 1000 in Silhouette's line of patterns. Knowing the changes I need to make to achieve a good fit on this pattern give me a head start on any of their other woven tops. 

But I digress. I started by cutting a size 2. This should have fit, but the center fronts could barely be pulled into position. I scratched my head over this literally for days and in the process, made all my Sisters feel my pain. In the end I determined that the fullness of the blouse didn't match up with the fullness of my bust. I tried lowering the dart and that helped, but it didn't entirely resolve the issue. 

So I made a bold decision. I threw out all my old bras and completely embraced my new bras. Not only did they give me an instant bust reduction of over an inch, but they also give me a more "youthful silhouette." In other words, they hoist the girls back into something approximating their original position. Armed with this knowledge, I cut a size 2* at the shoulders and a 2.5 at the side seams. In other words, I added half the difference between the size 2 and the size 3 to my side seams. I used a size 3 arm scye and sleeve (more about this in a post to follow). I made a 5/8" forward shoulder adjustment and a 3/4" swayback adjustment.

About that swayback center back seam is necessary. Simply make the adjustment, then place the top and bottom of the pattern piece on the fold. It's not necessary to add tissue to the pattern piece and you don't need to worry about the straight grain of the fabric. You've established a new grain line and that's okay; your finished garment won't be wonky. I haven't found the extra circumference this adds to be an issue at all in knits. In a woven garment, you could deepen the back darts, if available, or on a garment without darts, you could compensate at the side seams.

So with those changes to the pattern, I sewed it up fit! I had anticipated needing to lower the bust point, but it was fine right where it was. Hurray new bras!

I tried to hem it following the pattern instructions (serge the bottom edge, then fold it up 3/8" and top stitch, but I didn't like the results I got on the shirttail hem (I never do). So I purchased single-fold bias tape and used it to finish my hem. I stitch it on by machine, then fold it up and do the final stitching by hand. I love the finish I get doing it this way.

After trying on the finished blouse and consulting with my Sisters, I decided to deepen the darts in the back of the blouse. I did this by a little more than 1/8" (1/4" total for each dart; 1/2" overall). This gave me a much shaplier looking back and made it feel less like a Boho top and more like a fitted blouse.

I'm still not convinced 100% on the collar. It took a really good pressing to get it to hug my neck properly, but I was convinced enough to cut another in a beautiful 100% cotton poplin purchased at I had hoped to have enough fabric left after cutting to make my own bias binding for the hems, but, sadly, I did not; purchased bias tape it will be. I'll add photos of the second blouse after I finish.

Thanks for reading!


Photo taken prior to deepening the back darts.

*Silhouette patterns are sized by finished garment measurement, not by body measurements. The owner/designer, Peggy Sagers, says to choose your size based on a similar garment you already own that fits you well, or, if you don't own one, to try on clothes at a store until you find a well-fitting garment, then measure that one. Okay, so I guessed. To put you in the ball park, I'm going to give you my measurements so you can compare them to the garment measurements and look at the ease of the garment in my photos.

My measurements...
Bust: 36.5
Waist: 31.5
Hips: 38.5

Saturday, January 23, 2021

What Was I Thinking?

While I was tidying up the sewing space, I found a list of patterns-to-buy I had compiled a while back, I'm guessing early 2020. I each of them a second look and was surprised to find that most of them just weren't that interesting.

McCall's 7254

A perfectly nice pattern, but not sure if it's something I'd wear. However, I see that today it's on sale for $3.99, which might make it worth buying and holding onto while I decide.

McCall's 7575

A fine pattern, but I can't for the life of me figure out what it was about it that caught my eye over the hundreds of other blouse patterns that are available.

McCall's 7325

Maybe if I were looking to make a nightgown.

Butterick 6026

Again, nice, but I would never wear this. Never.

Butterick 6070

Another blouse. Have I mentioned that I can't recall the last time I wore a blouse?

Simplicity 8445

And yet another cute blouse that's not my actual style. Also, it's a blouse. Even if I wore blouses every day, how many actual blouse patterns would I need?

Vogue 1050

Those of you who know me (I'm looking at you, Sewing Sisters) are probably laughing your heads off. You would have known right off the bat that I would never, ever in a million-bazillion years wear these pants.

So out of this list, there's one that I might buy simply because it's on sale and another I could possible use to make a nightgown. Other than that...well, who knows what I was thinking. From now on I'm going to employ a cooling off period before I buy new patterns. Either that or get more comfortable with my own aesthetic, rather than thinking I should wear this or that.

Butterick 6026

Butterick 6070

McCall's 7254

McCall's 7325

McCall's 7575

Vogue 1050

Simplicity 8445

Friday, January 22, 2021

A Slightly Upgraded Sewing Space

 We have two homes and I divide my time between them, requiring that I have a sewing area in each. At our home in Grand Coulee, Washington, I have an entire room to myself. At our home in Snohomish, Washington, I'm afraid I'm not quite as lucky.

Here I have a corner of what we call "the dog room." Yes, that tells you everything you need to know about the room. It's dominated by two 48" L x 31" W x 32" H dog crates. I get a corner. Not being a naturally neat person, my corner was - how can I say this nicely - an abysmal mess. There was so much piled on the floor that I couldn't even sit at the desk serving as my sewing table. And the small bit of fabric storage that I have there was completely inaccessible. This is why there are no "before" photos; they would have been too embarrassing to post.

So off to Costco I went and came back with a 6' folding table, which I placed at right angles to the desk. The table is an inch or two higher than the desk, so I don't get an uninterrupted work surface, but it's something I can work with. I'm using the desk top only for storage, so it's not an issue.

Getting back to those dog crates...I have a plan to cover the top of one with plywood and use it as a cutting table. I'm short with short legs, so at 32", it's just about the right height, and certainly better at my age that cutting on the floor.

Here's something funny that happened while I was sorting through my mess. I found this scrap of paper. Thankfully I remembered that this was the correct angle for the center front seam on a v-neck t-shirt I made using Silhouette Patterns #195, Sweater Set, as a base, but what the heck does "BLUE" mean?

Monday, September 28, 2020

I Can't Believe I Made This

Photo Credit: Embroidery Library

It broke three needles and it almost broke me, but I persevered and was victorious. 

Do you know those thousands of emails you get from fabric vendors, peddlers of embroidery designs and, of course, Wawak? The ones that you mostly delete before opening unless you have a pile of cash on hand begging to be spent. Yeah, those.

I happened to open one the other day from Embroidery Library (my favorite online retailer of machine embroidery designs) and saw a project that seemed so far-fetched, so out of the realm of what was possible on a home sewing machine that I knew I would have to try it: embroidered rope baskets.

I'm not going give detailed instructions on the process here, because I am linking to them instead because Embroidery Library's instructions are excellent and the photos they have included are far better than what I could hope to provide with my cell phone and no tripod. Rather, I'll outline the issues I faced and some tips for you to use when you try this. Because you will try it.

I followed EL's instructions exactly, except that I didn't have spray adhesive on hand. This is used to adhere the flat coil of the bottom of the basket to the stabilizer before you hand stitch the coil to the stabilizer. I skipped this step and proceeded directly to stitching the coil to the stabilizer. This may have led to the only real issue I faced while stitching out the embroidery...needle breakage.

I'm not sure if it was due to the lack of adhesive or the design being too dense or what, but the bottom of my basket, which was perfectly flat when I started, "bubbled" up in unstitched sections. Then, when the embroidery moved into the bubbled areas, the needle would break. And break And break.

I finally figured out that I needed to take the frame off the machine as the bottom distorted and press the bubbled sections flat before proceeding. After the first few colors, I did this at every color change. I'm not sure if the adhesive would be strong enough to prevent this. I'll try it on my next basket and see what happens.

I'm also not 100% satisfied with my color choices. I'll chalk that up to being an inexperienced embroiderer. If I had used all the information available to me on the screen, I could have made better color choices. Specifically, I'm referring to the small box highlighted here that shows what part of the design, exactly, will be stitched with the current color. It was only after I had stitched several colors that I noticed this and realized just how useful the information was.

I also need to work on my basket making skills. When I first started building up the sides, it seemed as though the basket would be very, very shallow. I overcompensated and ended up with the top of my basket being a little too tight. And, sadly, when you hold the basket up to the light, you can see daylight in some places coming through between the layers of the rope coil. Just a little, but still.

Tips and Observations
  • It is extremely difficult to stitch the coil when it's less than about 2-1/2" in diameter. Go slowly and keep the "line" between the coil and the free end of the rope lined up with the center of your presser foot. 
  • I found that I needed to add a second row of zigzag stitching perpendicular to the first line stitched across the initial coil to begin the basket.
  • I used a 4 mm wide zigzag to stitch the coil. The instructions call for 1/8", which converts to about 3 mm. I'll do this on my next basket, now that I'm more confident with the process. 4mm is fine, but probably more visible than you really want.
  • If the bottom coil of your basket becomes "bubbled as the embroidery stitches out, remove the frame from the machine and press the bottom flat. I a pressing cloth and steam.
  • To avoid being able to see daylight through the sides of your basket, hold the free end of the rope very snugly against the coil as you're stitching. This is easier to do when stitching the flat coil than when building up the sides of the basket.
  • It's also quite difficult to stitch the first few rounds as you begin to build up the sides of the basket. The instructions tell you to "Place your and under the base and tilt it up. Be careful but keep your hand as close as possible to the foot of the machine." I found that the basket pushed my hand away from the foot. I think I may have been trying to place my hand too close to the foot.
And here is my finished product. It measures 9" across, 3" tall, and used approximately 79 feet of cotton clothesline. The embroidery design is Lavender Blooms Hummingbird from Embroidery Library. The entire project was stitched with my new-to-me Brother Dream Machine.

I'm embarrassed to say I didn't really keep track of how long it took me to make this, but I think it was somewhere under five hours. The design itself required an hour of stitching time, not counting thread changes and taking the hoop in and out for pressing, so I would say the lion's share of the time was taken up with the embroidery.

Overall, I'm extremely pleased with my results, even though my basket is a little lumpy and you can see some daylight through the sides. I'm calling it a "wearable muslin" and it's sitting on a side table in my living room as I type this. This project is well within reach of even beginning sewers and machine embroiderers, so what do you think? Does this look like something you'll "have" to try?

Monday, March 4, 2019

Another T-Shirt

So, hey, now that I have a TNT t-shirt pattern, I can just whip one out whenever I want, like the fast sewists do.

I got the idea for this off of one of Peggy Sagers' YouTube videos. (Peggy's videos should be designated as a national treasure. Subscribe to her channel. Seriously. Do it right now.) I'm not a huge fan of cut-ion sleeves, so I opted to make mine with set-in sleeves, but I still think it turned out really cute.

Peggy says in the video that this is "quick." It may have been quick for her, but it took me the greater part of an afternoon (four hours) to get my pattern ready. So keep that in mind.

To be honest, the top reminds me a little bit of the Frank Gorshin Star Trek character. Are you old enough - or enough of a Trekkie - to know what I'm talking about? If you are, leave a comment below. If you aren't, there's a clue at the end of the post.

Making this top required some slicing and dicing of the basic #195 pattern and, as I said above, that took me most of the afternoon and well into the evening. Because I'm spatially challenged, I carefully held each pattern piece up to my body to make sure that, when cut, each piece would be cut of the correct fabric for so that I'd end up with the proper effect. This led to notes on each piece, like, "Left back...cut one with this side up" and "Right front...cut one with this side up."

Because the sleeve pattern didn't require any modifications, I made notes on both sides: "This side up for left sleeve" and "This side up for right sleeve." I held the pattern piece up to my body on both sides to make sure I was getting it right. Way to be thorough! Go me!

Unfortunately, I still got the sleeves wrong. Fortunately, the sleeves for this pattern seem to be completely symmetrical so I just turned them around and it worked out. I'm still wondering, though, what's a spatially challenged person to do? How can I ever aspire to doing these sorts of things right the first time?

Existential questions aside, once the I had the pattern pieces ready, the t-shirt sewed up quickly. I finished the neckline, sleeves, and hem with black foldover elastic. I like it around the neck. but I'm going to cut it off the sleeves and hem and coverstitch them instead. I just feel like the elastic on sleeves and hem gives a little too much of an activewear vibe.

I did cut the body pieces a little larger than I did for the teal t-shirt. This is because both fabrics for this shirt are lycra blends; the teal tee is cotton/rayon interlock. I was wary of the lycra fabrics being too clingy, so I wanted more ease.

The only other thing I have to say about this is that the fabrics are a little mismatched. The houndstooth check print has a little more body, and the black is slightly thinner, and decidedly softer and more drapey than the print. But they joined together without any puckering and seem to be getting along rather well so...I'm happy.

Frank Gorshin as Bele, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Silhouette Patterns Fitting Trifecta Tour, Part 2

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Seattle event of the Fitting Trifecta Tour with Peggy Sagers of Silhouette Patterns on January 25 and 26th, 2019 in Seatac, Washington. Peggy travels the country, teaching women how to make the clothes they sew fit properly on their bodies, with as little fuss as possible.

My notes from the workshop follow. I didn't take notes at the workshop; these are written from memory so there may be a few gaps.

Saturday Morning
During the Saturday morning workshop, we fitted Silhouette #3400, Three-Piece Yoga Pant. For this session, I was lucky enough to be Peggy's fitting model. What a bonus to be fitted by the expert!

Peggy started off by talking about LCD and how it relates to pants. She discussed what she thinks is a point of confusion: What is normally called "crotch depth" is actually a length measurement, and what is commonly called "crotch length" is a depth measurement.

Fitting the Pants


Do you like where the crotch is hitting you? If not, pull the pants up or down until you do. NO SCOOPING or otherwise changing the crotch curve. What a revelation! We've been conditioned to think that waist seam of the pattern is sacrosanct and must be left unaltered at all costs. Instead, we go through muslin after muslin, fiddling with the crotch curve to the point where it probably would have been easier to draft the pattern ourselves. There was literally no one in the room for whom the crotch couldn't be made right simply by moving the pants up or down, and there were 30 to 40 women of all different shapes and sizes.


Do you feel comfortable in the pants? Are they too tight or too loose? Small adjustments to the circumference of the waist and hips are taken at the side seams. If there is a lot to take in or let out, consider starting with a different size.

The circumference of the legs is taken only from the side seams above the knee, then equally from the side seam and inseam below the knee.


I needed all three corrections.
Also, this back view is horrifying.
Start on the back of the pants. Is there droopiness under the tush? We nicknamed this problem "cowl back." This is addressed with a horizontal dart taken at the fullest part of the seat, starting in the middle and tapering to nothing at the side seams. This must be addressed before anything else.

Someone asked if this would have the effect of making the crotch too tight. Peggy responded with a visual that included a ruler and a tape measure. I didn't take photos (of course) so I'll try to explain it.

Imagine, if you will, a ruler. The top of the rule is the waist. An arbitrary point halfway down the ruler is the crotch line. The tape measure is held in place at the waist and crotch line, with enough slack between the two points to curve out and approximate the shape of someone's bottom. Peggy then demonstrated how she could fold a tuck into the slack of the tape measure without moving the crotch line. Question answered.

After taking the dart at the hipline, there may still be horizontal drag lines below the seat. These are addressed at the crotch line by taking a dart that starts at the inseam and tapers to nothing at the side seam. A corresponding dart needs to be taken on the front of the leg.

Corresponding darts on front leg at
crotch and knee. Cat whiskers
 pinned out at center front.
There may be still more drag lines lower down on the leg. These are generally caused because the pants are hanging up on the calves. To eliminate these, a dart is taken just above the knee, starting at the side seam and tapering to nothing at the inseam. Again, a corresponding dart must be taken on the front of the leg.

Then we looked at the front of the pants. Horizontal wrinkles or cat whiskers are pinned out in a dart that starts at the center front seam and tapers to nothing at the side seam.

The alterations made on the muslin can be transferred to your flat pattern, or you can use the muslin as your pattern.

After everyone was fitted, she spent some time talking about how hard it can be to let go of old ideas about fitting (she specifically mentioned scooping the crotch curve) and reiterated that it really is as simple as her method makes it seem.

I'll be making a pair of altered yoga pants soon and will have a post here. I'm still unconvinced that knit pants are going to be a good look for me; I felt naked and exposed with them on, but I will, at least, be able to wear them around the house. I may be able to wear them in public if made in a very heavy ponte knit.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A New TNT Pattern!

I put the fitting know-how I learned here to work and made a t-shirt using Silhouette Patterns #195, Sweater Set.

I used a 60/40 Cotton/Rayon blend purchased a Joann. Based on my experience at the workshop, I again cut a size two, then made two adjustments to my flat pattern. I took a deeper dart at the shoulder seam, removing 5/16" at the shoulder point and tapering to nothing at the neck edge. I also made a swayback adjustment by means of a fisheye dart just above my waist. I slashed my pattern tissue from center back to side seam (not the cutting line!), then overlapped the cut edges at the center back by 3/4", tapering to nothing at the side seam.

And rather than making a shell, I added 3/4 length sleeves.

I am really pleased with the results, but there are two changes I want to make before sewing this again. First, I want to shorten the darts by, maybe, 3/8". They do end within the bust circle, but I would prefer it if they didn't come up quite so far. Second, I'll length the top by about 2". It's wearable, but I'll be more comfortable with the additional length.

The pattern instructions have you finish the neck edge by folding the seam allowance under and topstitching. Instead, I added a neck binding, following the instructions in this excellent video by Sarah Veblen.

This top represents some milestone moments for me. First, it's the first knit garment I have made for myself. Second...I USED MY SERGER. Okay, I basted it together on my sewing machine first, but still. And I used the cover stitch feature of my serger around the neck edge and for hemming.

Before I attended the fitting workshop, I was skeptical about adding darts to a t-shirt, but let me tell you...I AM A BELIEVER. The fit is amazing, and if you made the tee up in a print, no one would ever see the darts. I'm super excited to have a TNT t-shirt pattern. Finding one has been on my sewing to-do list and I'm happy to be able to check it off.