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Project MyWay #6–Yellow Crepe de Chine Blouse

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I knew I had to have something yellow this spring, it seemed like the freshest color in all the magazines and on the runways. And, several of the sewists on the sewing blogs have been making cute yellow tops (check out, www.ericabunker.com/2008/04/ive-got-yellow-fever.html ) When I saw this beautiful silk Crepe de Chine in a sunflower yellow, I grabbed it!

For this design, I was inspired by the pleated blouses I’ve been seeing lately, like this one from Phillip Lim:

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I didn’t have any particular pleating arrangement in mind, so I chose a pattern with the shape I wanted and cut a piece of fabric long enough for the front piece and just started fooling around. I thought it would be easiest to pleat the fabric first and then cut the front pattern piece. I ended up with a 1″ pleat at the center front and 3, 1/2″ pleats on either side.

I used Simplicity 3874, view B, because I liked the neckline and the raglan sleeve. I cut if off to blouse length, folded out the front dart and omitted the empire elastic.

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Step 1, pleating the front piece:picture-090.jpg

I stitched-down the pleats to withing 6″ of the hem. This way the blouse will look good un-tucked or tucked-in.

Step 2, creating a new front pattern piece:picture-093.jpg

I took the original pattern piece and folded out the dart (that’s why the paper pattern looks so wrinkly. Don’t worry about that, just lay the pattern on the fabric and pin it as flat as possible). I put the center front of the pattern piece in the middle of my center pleat. I drew a new side seam line, following the original pattern, easing into the armhole. I drew the new bottom hem.

Step 3, completing the front pattern piece: picture-096.jpg

After drawing the left side, I folded the fabric on the center front and cut the right side, following the lines of the left side.

The back pattern piece only needed shortening, no other alterations.

Step 4, construction: I constructed the top according to the pattern directions, except for the sleeves and neckline.

The sleeve: I cut 4 sleeves and lined them, understitiching at the hem. This avoided narrow hemming the bottom of the sleeves which would have given them a fluttery look. The raglan sleeve has a curved seam in the middle. Next time, I’m going to fool around with the shape of that seam because I’ll bet that it can altered to pull the sleeve in more at the hem. It’s a nice sleeve the way it is, but I would prefer it to be a little more fitted at the hem.

The neckline: after the sleeves were finished, I tried it on and I re-cut the neckline into a broader, deeper boat shape.

The original neckline: picture-097.jpg

The outline of the new neckline: picture-098.jpg

Step 5, finishing: I struggled with this. I knew I didn’t want a neckline facing that would pop out and wouldn’t give the pleating any support, I decided on a foldover bias trim. My plan was to make a bias strip, fold it in half, lengthwise, press and then sew it to the wrong side of the neckline. This gives plenty of allowance for error and still make a nice even topstitched fold-over on the right side.

Problem was, I didn’t have enough fabric to cut the bias strip in one piece. So, I cut 2 pieces and proceeded to try to make the seams fall on each shoulder seam. Well, I don’t know if there is a computation for this, I tackled it by sewing one seam in the bias strip and pinning this seam, matching at the shoulder, then pinning the remainder of the neckband until I reached the other shoulder seam.

At this point, because the seam on the bias strip would be a diagonal seam, I didn’t know how to make the band exactly the right length. I did my best to guesstimate, then sewed the diagonal seam, but–oops! I sewed a chevron seam instead of a straight one. Of course, I’d cut off the excess, so now I had a band that was too short. I had to re-cut one side of the bias strip to create a straight seam and create a continuous band.

I knew the band would stretch a little as it was sewen to the neckline and I knew that pulling the neckline in a bit wouldn’t be a bad thing, because it would help keep the neckline from gapping at the collar bone. So I eased the neckline onto the band by going round and round with the pinning, until I had it very evenly eased and was hoping it wouldn’t pleat under the band. I sewed with the band side up to take advantage of the “creep” from the presser foot. At this point, I didn’t really care where the seams of the band hit the neckline, as long as they didn’t fall near the center front: picture-099.jpg

Voila! It worked! After sewing on the band, I trimmed the seam allowance very carefully to a consistent 1/8″, which gave me a stable, even edge on which to turn the band to the outside and topstitch carefully. Somehow, the band seams ended up symmetrically located–thank you god!

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Now, for the hem. I’ve had a wonderful top-of-the line Bernina for 15 years and I had never purchased a narrow hemming foot! The problem with narrow hemming the other way (turning and stitching, trimming and turning and stitching again) is that by the time you stitch around the hem twice on delicate fabric, it almost always starts to flutter.

I’ve been anxious to have a garment to on which to try out my new hemming foot. I also used a technique I saw on a very expensive designer silk skirt (Project MyWay #1). The skirt front was narrow hemmed, the skirt back was narrow hemmed, then the side seams were sewn. If you’re careful to have the side seams of the fronts and backs end at exactly the same place, this gets around the fact that the first half inch in of a hem using a narrow hemming foot looks horrible, as it’s hidden in the side seam.

The new foot was challenging! I went to the web to get some advice, the best I found was this article:

http://www.sleepingbaby.net/jan/Baby/hemming.html

from Jan Andrea, at Home on the Web.It has good pictures and clear instructions. Even with this great tutorial, I was still having trouble catching my stitching on the folded hem. Finally, I changed my single hole sole plate (which I always use on fine fabrics–keeps the fabric from getting shoved down into the throat plate) to the zig-zag throat plate and set my needle position to the right. This worked pretty well, though I still need some practice!:

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Conclusion, I love this top! I’m working on the jacket I featured in Spring Wardrobe ’08 Part 1…

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…it’s turning out very nicely. Of course I couldn’t find a bright print like the one here for a top, but the yellow blouse with black slacks will look great with this jacket!

Ta-ta for now!

Spring Wardrobe ’08 Part 4

Okay, so now the weather seems to be changing and before long I’m going to freak-out because I have nothing to wear! So much for my plan of sewing ahead and having everything hanging in my closet ready to go.

Today’s fashions don’t suit me. I’m too short and too old to wear clothes that are loose fitting (I did that during 3 pregnancies and that’s enough!). In some ways, it’s easier because I see so little that I like, I’m not tempted to over-do. I’ve been scouring the web and the fashion magazines and have come up with a couple of really wearable looks:

erin-fetherston.jpgI love this outfit from Erin Fetherston…the peach and “greige” palette looks spring-y and the drapey silhouette is flattering. (I just purchased some gorgeous peach silk crepe de chine–it will be perfect for this. Crepe de chine seems to be making a comeback which I’m delighted to see. It’s got a beautiful drape and one of my high priority fabric qualities, it presses like a dream.) 

 phillip-lim-rtw.jpgThis Phillip Lim outfit is great looking–classic but with an updated look. I’m usually not into colored pants, but I’m going to make some and see if they’re comfortable to wear. Rolling the cuffs makes them look unfussy. I can see wearing these pieces over and over again.

 Ta-ta for now!

Welcome to The Feed Dog!

I’m excited to come to a time in my life when I can make sewing a top priority. I’m an almost empty-nester (youngest of three kids is a senior in high school) and my honey is supportive emotionally and financially. My working life is very tolerable and I have a loving ear to which I can bounce ideas off of and crazy plans for becoming a famous blogger.

I want to use my stash, try new patterns and techniques, update my sewing room, organize my tomes of magazine and web pictures, find new fabric and notion resources and establish relationships with other sewing bloggers.

Where to begin? I need and outfit for an evening out on April 12th and I want to look good! It’s always easier for me to design an outfit when I have an occasion in mind and this is a good one. I look for opportunities to dress-up a little and we’ll be going into the city for dinner and a concert.  

I bought a great black silk skirt by TSE at Off Fifth (Saks Fifth Avenue outlet), marked down from $675 to $54. I can see why no one picked it up, it’s very long and lean, only a six foot 100 lb. string bean could wear it. This is one of my favorite advantages of sewing–I’m going to cut it off at the waist (to keep the pleats at the bottom) and shorten it to knee length. This will make the waist bigger (it is currently the hip area). I think it will work.

Then, I’m going use a fabric from my stash to copy a top by Nanette Lepore that I saw at Nieman Marcus.com. As soon as I figure out how to post pictures I’ll show you everything I’m planning on.

Then the piece de resistance–accessories. I bought a great pair of booties ($75) at the end of the season sale at Macy’s and I can’t wait to wear them. (Especially because I’m afraid they’ll look dated next winter.) And the fun stuff, because this outfit will cost less than $150 to pull together, I can splurge on some new earrings or other jewelry to top it off. (I love being able to sew!)

 Ta-ta for now!

Nanette Lepore at Neiman Marcus