In Progress . . .

I have two sewing projects in advanced states of progress. My linen skirt (Simplicity 5941) is complete save for hemming and inserting a hook and eye. I am pleased with it, and have put some notes on a post-it in the envelope so that it is even better next time (when I hope to learn how to make a waistband for it).

My second muslin of my Sorbetto top is much, much better in terms of fit. I just finished applying the bias-tape around the neck (in order to practice what is to me a new technique. It feels great . . . though it doesn’t look nearly as good. I’ll need to practice making more consistent tape, get better at sewing around the tape in a smooth fashion (no squiggling!), and definitely use a thread that matches my real Sorbetto top’s fabric very closely. Now, I just have to make enough tape to bind the armholes so I can see whether the size is fine the way it is, or if I need to scoop them out a bit more.

I have to say, after my first muslin I did not expect the Sorbetto to even approach “flattering.” It’s just a really shapeless garment. However, adjusting the darts and going down by one size has helped a lot. The back still has a lot of extra fabric, but I don’t think I want to mess with that since the top still has to go over my head.

Plus, there is a such thing as overfitting. In my case, that would mean that I do muslins until I’m sick of a project, and thus never end up with anything wearable.

That’s why I threw together the linen skirt. I was starting to get frustrated by my “failures” and wanted a sure-fire success that was for me (so hubby’s pjs were out of the running).

I need to push forward and get a couple more things done, then I’ll do a photo-shoot and share the fruits of my very busy week of daily sewing.

Tops, Bottoms, and More

I’ve been a busy sewer and knitter over the past four days.

Empire-Waisted Top

Simplicity 3750

Over the weekend, I finished my (first) muslin for Simplicity 3750, the empire-waisted top with a tie at the waist. I traced a size 12 at the bust and tapered to a size 14 at the hips. Now that I’ve put the top together, I understand much better how it works and how I can make it more effectively in the future.

For example, somehow before I actually made the thing I didn’t realize that the front panel and the bottom front panel actually join each other, with the tie lying on top of the two joined pieces. Now that I know, I can taper without fear.

And taper I fear I must, because I think I need to go down a size, perhaps all over. It’s difficult to tell for sure, because the top fits reasonably well as it is. However, I had to take 1.5″ seam allowances in the center back and the top still has a lot of extra fabric when I fasten the tie. Also, the side seams, which hang in the proper place when the tie is unfastened, pull back and seam off once the tie is . . . tied.

Additionally, I think that the front top piece is a bit shallow. The band hits me above the underwires of my bra. I’m considering slashing the tissue and adding 1/4″ so that the pocket for my chest is just a bit deeper. Funny, since I’m very small busted, but I do think it’s necessary.

So the question is . . . do I simply adjust what I have? Or do I go back to the tracing-board and trace a size 10 at top, grading to a size 12 or 14 at the bottom? I don’t want to end up with a top that is too small either.

Once I get this pattern fitted and “production-ready,” I have a lovely turquoise and brown-paisley cotton with a speckled brown fabric for the contrast belt ready to cut and sew up.


Colette 0003: Sorbetto Top (Image from Colette’s site).

As I was thinking about how to adjust my empire-waisted top, I printed, taped together, and traced the Colette Sorbetto top. I wasn’t too pleased with my first attempt at making a woven t-shirt (Simplicity 8523). Thus, I thought going back to the drawing board and starting a new, baggage-free pattern was a good idea. I like the fact that the Sorbetto has good reviews, and many of them. I like the fact that it is free. And I like the fact that there are now user-drafted sleeves available for download.

For this top, I traced a size 2 at top grading into a size 6 at the hem. Easy-peasey, if it works. I’ll probably sew this up today, after my shopping excursion.

New Look 6859 (Awesome Hubby’s PJs, Again)

Awesome hubby has asked for two more pairs of PJs, and has underlined the necessity of me making them by putting a hole into the knee of his last pair of store-bought ones. He does insist on sitting cross-legged on his exercise ball while bracing his leg under the lip of his desk. That is really hard on clothes, and since he often works from home his comfy lounging pants see a lot of use.

The other day, I staked out several fabric stores in the garment district, and now I have two different fabrics in mind to make new PJs. I’ll pick them up today.

New Look 6227 (aka Extravagance)

But this is the real reason I have to go to the Garment District. When visiting my mom in Ithaca, I (of course) went to Joann (again) and picked up some (more) new patterns (I’ll post them later). This is one of them:

New Look 6227. Everyone needs a cape, right?

I think I’m still a long way away from being able to make a jacket or coat. Heck, I haven’t even gotten to sleeves yet. But I think I could manage a cape. I want something eye-catching, so I was hoping to find some nice, deep green coating. I browsed, and I found what I wanted at Paron.

Unfortunately, “what I wanted” cost a gut-wrenching $33/yard, and the pattern requires three yards plus a lining fabric!

I came home sad and empty-handed, because there is no way I could justify spending $100+ on fabric for a cape that I could possibly mess up. At the same time, I am certain that this pattern is so simple in design that it is best to let the fabric “sing” for itself. All other options paled next to this coating option.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story. I thought to look online for coupons, and it just so happens that Paron is running a Groupon: $100 of fabric for $40. You better believe I bought that up fast. Now, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that the deep green coating is still there, waiting for me. Three yards of it is all I need.


Oh yes, I knit, too. I’ve been stalled for a while on all three of my projects, though. About three weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to pick them up again–and discovered that (of course) I’d put each of them down for a reason. I was having trouble with them. One of the three, a comfy cardigan with cables in brown washable wool from Smiley’s, was fixable, though. I’ve made tons of progress on it while watching Bones marathons over the last couple weeks. I think it’s going to turn out OK, if a bit larger than I had intended. If not, this yarn is so nice to work with that I don’t think I’ll mind redoing the whole thing!

It feels good to be making progress. Again.


Muslin: Simplicity 3750

I was inspired to try sewing for 20 minutes today, and that quickly turned into several hours. Funny how that happens.

Anyway, I decided that I had nothing to lose (except a few pieces of muslin), so I dove into Simplicity 3750. What began as simply pressing the tissue turned into laying the pattern out, cutting, and then stitching up a few pieces. Before long, I had this:

Simplicity 3750: Muslin Front

Not bad.

This was my first time gathering, and it shows a bit (I need to make sure that when I make the actual garment I space out the gathers more evenly). I haven’t done the back yet, so I can only estimate how it will fit. It looks to me like the front yoke (the shoulder pieces) are going to be a mite too short for me. When I hold the front up to my body, I feel like the tie will ride too high unless I lengthen the yoke. However, the rest of the front seems to be dead on in terms of size. This surprised me, because I was certain it would be much too large.

We’ll see what happens when I piece the rest of this top together. Will it continue to fit, more or less?

I’m quite curious now.

By Jove! Saga of Simplicity 8523 (Part III)

Muslin #2.5: Swayback Alteration Accomplished!

I was going to give up. I really was going to.

I could not find a set of swayback alteration instructions that did not warp my pattern in unacceptable ways.

Then, luckysweetheart at Pattern Review sent me a link to a different method of doing swayback adjustments on a shirt or bodice.

This is the first explanation I found (even after searching online and flipping through all my sewing books) that  dealt with how to do the swayback adjustment on a top without distorting the rest of the pattern (skewing the center back line and pulling in the hip).

So, I did my first “slash and slide” style pattern adjustment. Since disaster did not strike, I cut out a new back, applied my seam ripper to the old muslin, pressed to my hearts content, and attached the new back.

Et voila!

That is a big change from this. And it still fits over my head!

As my friends on Pattern Review are pointing out, there is good in knowing when to stop fitting, too, and I think that this is that point. Maybe, maybe, I will try to add in that extra inch of length below the waistline so I can hem  to this height. But maybe that isn’t worth it. Perhaps, instead, I should experiment with doing a very narrow hem.

The bottom line is, thanks to the swayback tutorial and everyone’s advice and help, I have finally reached the point where–assuming the facings work–I could live with this shirt as it is currently fitted. I suspect there are better patterns for me out there (and believe you me, I’ll be looking for them: patterns that have center-back seams, patterns that have more curve and shaping).

I am sure that anyone who is reading this is getting sick of this pattern and this shirt. Never fear–the end is near. Just a little more muslin-ing, and I can move on to the real deal:

This drapey, soft cotton fabric is what I’ve been working towards.

Pretty, isn’t it? Cross your fingers . . .

The Saga of Simplicity 8523 (Part II)

"Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!"

“Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!”

This is a little too much for a basic, boxy top. I think this nice lady is mocking me.

All the time I’ve been in Virginia, I’ve been looking forward to getting home to NYC and getting back to Muslin #2 of my Simplicty V-Neck (8523 – View F: Blogged about here and here). In the first post, I showed off my inner-draftswoman by tracing the pattern that I’d already cut (ill-considered on my part) on the smallest line, in order that I might add to the hips, lower the waist, then lift the hem below the new waistline without losing my beautiful, new, hip-accommodating hemline. All I had to do–so I thought–was to put in a nice sway-back adjustment to take care of the extra fabric pooling at my back, and I’d be smooth-sailing towards an (admittedly baggy for my tastes) first top.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been so eager to return to this project. First, I’ll show you the fruits of my initial labor (dropping the waistline and then raising the hem after tapering from a size 8 at the waist to a size 12 at the hemline). It was promising:

Muslin #2: Front

Muslin #2: Side

Muslin #2: Back

Unfortunately, there was still an excess of fabric in the back (though much improved from the first version). I’ve tried pinning in a swayback adjustments several ways. At first, I took out larger pinches of fabric because the top is just so saggy. Then I read that swayback adjustments should be more than 1/4″ pinches, so I tried that:

1″ tuck taken 1″ above waistline.

1″ tuck taken 1.5″ above waistline.

1/4″ tuck 1 1/2″ above waistline.

Yes, pinning this fabric out smooths the back noticably–even when it’s just a 1/2″ pinned out. But when I try to put these adjustments onto the pattern piece, it distorts the grading I did to a achieve a larger hip size.The new hem actually becomes concave.

Concave. After all the work I put into making the hip wider.

At this point, I’m wondering whether this isn’t just a terrible, terrible pattern for me. Either that, or there is an undiagnosed fitting problem other thank my long waist and swayback that is making this muslin look so awful.

I’m tempted to call this whole project (and pattern) a wadder. The hard thing about being a beginner is not knowing what is a “user error” and what is just a misfire.

Any thoughts? Am I missing a simple fitting issue, or is this just a terrible pattern for me?

The Saga of Simplicity 8523 (Part I)

Simplicity 8523


Such a lovely word. And–coincidentally–the brand-name for my first two successful sewing projects, both skirts. Now that I feel more comfortable with my very basic sewing skills, I felt ready to try sewing a very simple top. I’d picked up Simplicity 8523 at Daytona Trimming, which has a dusty selection of 80s and 90s patterns, 5 for $10. When I got home and checked the reviews for this pattern, I was pleased to see that it is generally well-liked as a simple “wardrobe-builder.”

I have a list of styles from head to toe that flatter me, and among those styles are square and v-necks. Therefore, I picked View F, the sleeveless, zipperless top. I figured that sewing a top with facings in the neckline and around the arms was enough in terms of adding new skills.

Besides, hubby and I are saving money by not using the air conditioning for as long as possible, so it is hot in our apartment. In such temperatures, sleeveless is ideal.

This top goes together easily. However, it has proven more difficult than expected to fit. The pattern has darts in front, but from there it drops straight down to the hemline. Because of my triangle-shape and the fact that the top had 11″ of ease at the 28″ waist (and my hips are 38″ right now), I cut out a size 8, figuring I’d just hem the top so that it hit me above the widest part of my hips.

Bad idea. Here is a what I ended up with for my first muslin:

Muslin 1: Front

Muslin 1: Back

Muslin 1: Side

Now we can say it in unison: “Ugh!”

Lots of discussion ensued on Pattern Review’s forums, which included compliments for the neckline and arm-scythes and more suggestions than I could possibly follow for how to fix the bags and lumps.

From those comments, I learned the following things:

  • Despite the 11″ of ease, I really did need to grade out from the size 8 around the bust to the size 12 around the hemline (using a french curve to draw a gentle concave line).
  • I have a long torso and will probably have to adjust that by adding tissue on every pattern. Then, I’ll have to fold the pattern up below the waistline to take out some of that extra length.
  • I also have a swayback, and pinning that extra fabric out of the center back (even pinning, and without fixing the above problems) makes a big difference in how the muslin looks:

Back: Swayback Adjustment Pinned

Side: Swayback Adjustment Pinned

These images convinced me of three things:

  • It’s time to start swimming again–look at those rounded shoulders!
  • I should never, ever cut pattern tissue. I’ll be tracing from now on, especially if I have any doubt about whether I might need to grade to a larger size somewhere.
  • I don’t like shirts with a lot of ease, even if they are simple to make.

The posters on Pattern Review convinced me of a few things, too:

  • That this isn’t nearly as dreadful as I thought. I shouldn’t be such a perfectionist! (ie. there is a such thing as “good enough.”)
  • I can learn a lot from making something very basic.
  • Sharing my experiences with others can help everyone learn.

Since making this muslin, I’ve spent hours tracing the original pattern, using another, uncut pattern piece to add the wider, size 12 hip and curving it into the size 8 waistline. I’ll detail the process of Muslin #2 in an upcoming post.

Sometimes even the most simple projects aren’t simple after all.