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!

Fabrics from India

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I had two days in India before my surgery to power shop for fabric. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting around too well at that point. We hired a car and driver to cut down on the walking, but it was a bit difficult to communicate with the driver. He took us to places he knew about and I found what I could, though I had hoped to find much more.

I’m an A#1 procrastinator. I freely admit this and I’m always vowing to change. I have gotten a little better as my kids have gotten older and I have more time to myself. E. is unbelievably the polar opposite–he thinks of something that needs doing and he does it. Boom, done, off of his mind.

Usually he leaves me to my demons and doesn’t comment too much about how long it takes me to do things. Packing for travel is another thing. He gets his suitcase out a week ahead of departure and throws things in it as he thinks of them. I’m always thinking about what to take, but fail to make a list or start packing early like he does. He doesn’t like this, I always assure him it’ll be okay.

When we went to Ireland on a cycling vacation, I was at Banana Republic the morning of the flight grabbing clothes to take. This was before we were married and I left my bedroom in a cyclone mess of clothes, shoving things in my suitcase to get to his house by the time the cab to the airport arrived. The outcome: I forgot to pack my cycling shorts. Anyone who rides a road bike knows, you gotta have padded shorts. So, on our first day in Ireland, we were searching for a place to buy cycling shorts instead of cycling. E. took this pretty well. (But, like I said, this was before we were married!)

Our next big vacation was to France for our honeymoon. This time I sewed most of the clothes I took and was pretty smart and packed them as I finished them. This didn’t stop me from running out the morning of the flight to buy an adapter and exchange some dollars for euros. The outcome: the cab was waiting and I couldn’t find the euros (the bedroom was kind of a mess), E. found them at the bottom of a pile of discarded scarves. The cabbie was perturbed because he had to wait while this played out, E. was a little edgy on the way to the airport, but by the time we were flying over the Atlantic Ocean, he was over it.

For India I was perfect! I started putting things in the suitcase a week before departure. I made arrangements for the kitties and the mail, I tied up all my loose ends at work and shut down my computer. I was ready for the cab early! Here’s the glitch, I had surfed the web for fabric stores in Chennai and made a list of names and addresses, which I forgot to print out and bring with me.

So, we were at the driver’s mercy; he was a very nice and patient man.

First he took us to a very fancy store where the merchant laid out his wares, one at a time. We have a large Indian community in Chicago and Devon street is an authentic Indian experience, without the cows mingling around. There are multiple shops that offer sari fabrics and some yard goods, mostly silks. This merchant in Chennai had more or less the same things. Less expensive, to be sure, but still pretty pricey and mostly silks. For example, he had some beautiful printed silk Crepe de Chines for about $16/meter. (Of which I purchased three pieces, pictured above.)

I was hoping to find cottons. The silks are beautiful, but my lifestyle calls for more casual clothes and I’m always disappointed with the cottons I find at the fabric stores here. I know there are cottons in Chennai, it was formerly known a Madras and we know what fabric carries that moniker. I was hoping to find cottons with Ikat prints and large florals and maybe some embellished cottons.

So, the first shop was lovely, and I did purchase the three pieces of silk print and a beautiful scarf for my daughter. But I had a feeling because it was such an elegant store that it might be overpriced, so (I’m still kicking myself for this one), I passed up beautiful pashmina shawls in every color of the rainbow that turned out to be a very fair price. (I never did pick-up any pashmina shawls.)

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We asked the driver to take us to a bazaar of street sellers, hoping for more cottons and better prices. I did find some beautiful cotton fabrics that are used to make the Salwar Kameez (pictured above). Some are very sheer, like a batiste, and have 4 yards or so of usable fabric with lots of border print. Some are lovely fine cotton, like a soft pima cotton, with a border print piece of about 2 yards and another plainer piece for pants that’s about 2 yards and a border print scarf. The sheer cottons will have plenty of yardage for dresses, the heavier cottons, probably only enough for a skirt (about 44″ wide). At $12-$20 for each bundle, they were a steal. At one shop I finally found some madras plaid by the meter and purchased 4 meters at a very reasonable price:

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For the madras, I have in mind a “farmer’s shirt” for E. (I copied a favorite summer shirt for him a few years ago in a yellow seersucker check and I’ve always teased him and said that all he needs is a pair of white pants and white patented leather shoes and he’d fit right into the farming community where he was raised.) And a pair of Bermuda shorts for me.

The Salwar Kameez fabrics will work themselves into my sewing endeavors. I’m seeing sheer tunics and sundresses and hippy-chic skirts.

As I was unpacking, Willy decided he’s the Maharajah! picture-012.jpg

The kicker is, as we were driving to the Fisherman’s Cove resort after my surgery, we passed a very modern looking two story store called The Cotton House. I drooled as I saw hundreds of rolls of fabric in the windows. I was on crutches and just a few days post surgery and so we couldn’t stop. Maybe on my next visit to India, let’s hope it’s not for another new hip!

Ta-ta for now!

Project MyWay #4–Garnet Silk Crepe de Chine Blouse

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I saw a blouse like this at Nordstrom, it was around $200-$250 and I didn’t like the colors it came in, royal blue or kelly green. I couldn’t find a pattern to use to copy it, so I made my own.

I started with Butterick 4658, I’ve used this pattern as the beginning of many blouses.

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First, on the front pattern piece, I drew on a v-neckline. I  measured how low I wanted the new neckline to be and drew a a straight line from the shoulder to the center front. Then I gave the v-neck a nice curve.

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I had to shorten the back shoulder seam to match the new front shoulder seam and scoop out the back neckline too.

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Then I cut 2″ front and back facings off of the front and back pattern pieces. I added seam allowances to the facings and the front and back neckline.

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I slashed the front and added about 4″ of ease (1″ between each cut). See photo above of front pattern piece. I drew 2 parallel lines 1″ apart and 1″ from center front and slashed and spread the pattern here. I wanted to keep the shirring close to the center front.

I folded out the dart because I had plenty of ease with the new width I was adding. Then I arranged the slashed front pattern piece, with the spacing between the slashes and placed a piece of pattern material over it and traced the new front.garnet-top-front-pattern-piece-2.jpg

I shortened the sleeve 5 1/2″ to just below the elbow. I added a 2″ wide cuff, measuring my arm for the finished length.

The construction went smoothly. As always (see my post on sewing with silks in “Tutorials”) I covered my cutting table with a sheet and pinned the pattern pieces to the fabric and the sheet. This keeps slippery fabric under control. I finished the seams with pinking shears. I have a serger, but the thread showed through to the right side when I pressed the seams. The best way to finish the seams would’ve been with french seams. I marvel at and appreciate all of you who finish you garments so beautifully on the inside. But I’d never get anything finished if I were that perfect. If I’m the only one who is going to see the inside, I finish in the fastest way possible. When I’m sewing for others I make it look good inside.

I constructed the facings, understitched the neck edge and top stitched it. Then I sewed the fully constructed facing unit to the front and back, sewing with all of the raw edges together then pressing toward the garment. Turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself. In this picture you can see my pinked seam allowance at the back neckline.

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I love this hem–I first saw it at Donna Karan and the Derek Lam skirt in my Spring ’08 Wardrobe Part 1 post (in Design Inspiration) uses it too. It’s basically a cuff added to the bottom of the blouse. It eliminated the problem of narrow hemming the slippery silk fabric and it adds a little weight to the blouse and makes it hang nicely.

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I cut 2 front and back band pieces,with a finished width of 4″. I sewed the side seams and sewed them together at the bottom edge. I underdstitched and pressed the band. I sewed the band on to the bottom of the garment, sewing all the raw edges together. Then I finished the seam and pressed it toward the top. (This time I finished the seam with a zig-zag stitch–don’t ask me why!)

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The blouse looks great over skinny jeans or black slacks. And it’s great for those “fat” days!

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!