Friday, October 17, 2014

New: Tabula Rasa Knit Tunics

Early in the summer I was a tester for this new knit pattern on behalf of my creative friend, Rae Cumbie, and her line of patterns, Fit for Art patterns (read Rae's blog for great tips and insights into her design process)  Back in July, when I changed sizing and went from a Medium to a Small with the darted front,  I made a comfy, stylish summer robe from the jacket pattern. Then in August she and her partner Carrie sent me the finalized version of the new knit tunic pattern.  Now, I will admit that I was very skeptical that the jacket pattern would translate well into a knit version but at that testing day my skepticism disappeared as I watched middle aged women of various shapes and sizes stitch up stylish and flattering knit topics, soooooo much better than the shapeless T shirts that so many others wear.  Once again, like the jacket, what is nice about the pattern is the choice of an undarted or darted front, a shoulder line that rests on your shoulder, not dropped, but a high square armhole that is a breeze to sew.  Since that swingy side panel is everywhere in RTW right now, I made all three of these with it.  I will try the standard straight side later when I want a closer fit knit top for layering.  Ok, enough prelude, here are my three versions:

Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic with Swing Sides

This is an ITY Fabric Mart border print knit and while I was happy, I wanted it slightly longer.

Double border fabric and how I cut out the pieces

Next up was my boho fabric version...a rayon burn-out knit and two different laces, all underlined with powder-dry, a thin, breathable knit.

This nude powder-dry is ages old....back from a Yahoo fabric buying group before we had easy on-line shopping.  I hand basted the front, back and sleeves, thinking that the burgundy lace would be floaty enough on the sides not to need underlining.  Wrong!!  I could see my fleshy mid section right through that lace.  I used an even lighter fabric, a very thin tricot and hand basted that to the side panel lace so that it would keep the lightweight drape but become opaque.  Saved....or rather I saved the public from muffin top views.

Tricot pinned to the side swing panels
No prying eyes here.
Last version is my favorite so far.  Last year Fabric Mart had rayon knits in coordinating colors and sizes of stripes.  I purchased two sets of color ways and this top is one of them.  It's a purple-y blue and black stripe.  I used the largest stripe for the body, the narrower stripe for the sleeves, the solid blue for the swing panel and made the neckline from the solid and wide cut on the bias.  
Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic and infinity scarf
A better picture with truer colors
Auditioning the proportion and placement of different fabrics
Double fabric neckline finish

I had about 10 inches left of the two stripe fabrics so I sewed them as an infinity scarf and I must say I love the cowl much so that I will probably add a cowl neckline to the pattern this fall or winter.  

Last photo is me wearing my first Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic in Quebec City where we got to watch the September "super moon" rise from the 10th floor deck of the airbnb apt. we rented.  More about the trip and souvenir fabric shopping to come later.  

Sew grateful you took the time to read and/or comment today.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sewing Retreats Past and Future

Wow, this summer I realized that I have three sewing retreats scheduled within six months.  How much fun can one girl stand?  Whenever I mention to non-sewing friends how exciting it is to attend a sewing retreat, they look at me with barely disguised horror.  "You pack up your sewing machine?" they ask as though it were an immovable object permanently installed in my sewing room.  "Do you all have to work on the same project?" they ask in fear that there's a stern taskmaster leading us in mindless factory-like procedures.  Ah, little do they know that a sewing retreat is an oasis of friendship and creativity, a break from your daily to do lists and a great excuse to be absent from the virtual world.  
In mid-August I attended the first of those three retreats and here's what I worked on while I was enjoying the company of my special friends.  In addition to sewing, I also got time to do some snoop shopping at the Leesburg, VA upscale outlet mall (oh those gorgeous seam edges on Ellie Tahari jackets and tops!) and a summer afternoon walk along the Washing and Old Dominion Rail Trail and then dine out each evening.  Perfection!!
The results, some utility sewing....a new outdoor fabric bag for a folding can imagine that yourself...and then two new garments from my "resource center" fabrics.  

This is my latest Tabula Rasa jacket.Fit for Art Tabula Rasa Jacket  (previous post with my alteration and sizing remarks Jane's Tabula Rasa jacket re-do)  The fabrics are a burnout black silk velvet from Fabric Mart, the black, white and pink paisley bordered rayon challis from Peggy Sagers many moons ago, a scrap of black lace from when Fabric Mart was selling those short cuts of designer samples and a pale pink burnout silk velvet that is barely visible as the front panel piping and as the under layer to the back black lace.
Tabula Rasa jacket with swing side panel

I lengthened the standard jacket pieces by an inch and used the side swing panel, also lengthened one inch.  I used the larger wider sleeve version but ended up narrowing it by 1 1/2 inches.  I don't have construction pics to show since I did this at the retreat and was forcing myself "off the grid" that weekend.  

But I will share that my sewing friends were the ones who came up with the suggestion to put the pale pink burnout silk under the black lace.  I initially chose a gorgeous four ply deep almost fuchsia pink for the under layer but it was too bold and just wrong. 

Burnout silk velvet inside the jacket back
Black lace overlay
Thanks to their great advice I love, love, love this new jacket.  Again, I think it is boho enough to be fun without making me look like I am wearing a colorful circus tent.  My only regret is that I cut the flat piping on the cross grain and I wish I had cut it on the bias.  it is only 1/4" in the finished seam but it slightly annoys me that it wants to stand up at my neck curve.  And yes, I have YARDS of it left so it wasn't like it was a necessity.  

No biggie, just a note for next time.  And there will be plenty of next times for this pattern.  Fall and winter are approaching and this is the casual kind of jacket that I love using for layering when it gets chilly and down right cold.
The second successful retreat garment is this new TNT T shirt pattern, Vogue 8699, 

Vogue 8699
Vogue 8699 is one of the Easy Vogue patterns but one that does have different bust sizing.  I made the turtleneck/cowl version as is last winter but never liked the collar.  It was a little of this and a little of that and couldn't make a commitment.  I removed the collar and surprise, I really like the depth of the remaining scoop neck.  

I had used size 14 with the D cup front for the neck and shoulders and bust line, although I did remove some excess fabric above and below my bust line then transitioned to a size 16+ by the tummy and hip area.  This version is from Fabric Mart, a very lightweight buttermilk type of poly.  It is clammy in humid weather but it works well to test the pattern as a very wearable mock up.  I decided to finish it with a thin woven binding cut from a scrap of brown textured silk kimono fabric, source unremembered.  

This is now my TNT T shirt pattern.  The shoulder princess seam allows for nice fit tweaking.  I plan to use it as the base pattern for a number of those clever Marcy and Katherine Tilton patterns.  I don't want to refit a new knit top when I have one that I have refined already.  Necklines and hemlines and side panels can be changed a lot more quickly than I can re-fit a new knit pattern.  So I was thrilled at the retreat, not so much for the looks of this one but because I could see so many good things happening this fall and winter when I use it as a good base.

One last photo and many thanks for your kind remarks about Lucky's new volunteer job and my return to blogging.  I have lots of blogs to catch up with and look forward to seeing more details about your latest projects.  Happy sewing to all.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Three's a Charm

It is a warm, sunny last day of September and I am sitting on my deck with the laptop, a cup of coffee and so many things to say.  I had gotten out of the blogging habit this summer but thankfully not the sewing habit.  Since that's what most of you come here for, let's start with one of my new favorite patterns, New Look 6110.  Back in July I wanted to continue on my summer boho theme.  Turns out that I have two RTW blouses already in my closet with these exact same lines so perhaps this pattern would work out for me.  I am thrilled with the results and have a few more ideas to make this one well loved TNT pattern.  Here are my three recent versions and the adjustments that I made:

New Look 6110
This first version is from a silk georgette, long aging in my resource center.  I think it came from the Jomar store in Lansdale, PA.  I did make a mock up of this pattern  and discovered (to no one's surprise) that I needed a slight FBA, a center back seam and 1 inch added to the sleeve length...not the 2 inches that I anticipated and I narrowed the sleeve band by 1 inch.  I never regret making a mock up....but I have regretted not making one.  

When I cut out the georgette, I placed newspaper on my cutting table and then pinned the fabric and the pattern pieces to the newspaper before cutting out the georgette.  I just needed a little more stability to keep everything steady and on grain.  
Newspaper, then fashion fabirc, then pattern pieces
I sewed the vertical sleeve and body seams with french seams.  First pass, wrong sides together,  I used my 1/4" foot which also has just a single hole for the needle, making it precise all along those seams.  I trimmed the seam allowance with my sharp Ginger craft scissors and used the presser foot to hold the fabric taut for closing trimming:
The presser foot is just holding the fabric in place so I can trim the seam neatly with scissors.
Press and then stitch right sides together for a wonderful seam that is strong but totally finished inside.  Around the raglan armholes I did use my serger instead to finish that curved armscye seam.
Since I needed a FBA on the front, I transferred the side dart into more gathers along the top edge.  But that meant I had to be extra careful about making those gathers relatively even at the neckline.  I hand basted the neckline pieces onto the entire garment.  Yes, it's a bit tedious but it ensures that I don't sew and rip when I make mistakes at the machine.  Sewing my mockup taught me that I could easily get lumps and bumps along that area when I just used my machine:
Whoops, front neckline on the mockup would not be satisfactory in finished garment
Using silk thread means that it will be easy to remove.  I also used my stiletto when sewing in that area to keep those gathers even and spaced:
Basted gathers
Stiletto used at the machine
Finished neckline and shoulder gathers
I did not make functional buttonholes since this top nicely slips on over my head.  But I like the button closure so I used my handy spacing tool to decide how many buttons to add and where to sew them.  Do you have one of these tools?

Once I get a pattern to fit, then it's time to do some customizing.  My next version was from a Fabric Mart fabric.  I initially remembered it as a cotton voile but instead it was a very lightweight polished cotton.  Hmmmm, I knew it would not drape as nicely as that silk georgette so I made a change to the hemline by modifying it into a shirt hem, using a template from Louise Cutting's Perfect Shirt pattern (which I have never sewn but of course I own!)  It's a little deeper than I would have liked but still wearable.  I looked too much "mutton dressed as lamb" in this version so I needed to give it a glam it up to take it to a more designer version.  I had just merged my two bead collections from our Baltimore and former Florida home so I pulled out a variety of beads with colors from the fabric and hand beaded it like crazy.  Just random all over the neckline edge to give it a subtle but heavy bling factor.  I am thrilled with the result.  I'll be able to wash it on delicate and any beads that don't make it over time can easily be replaced since there's no special design to it.  
Beading in process....plain neckline on the left, beads started on the right.
Full beading front to back 
New look 6110, version #2
So one of these in July, one in August and I decided to do one more for the slightly cooler but still warm late summer/early fall days.  This version is from a fabulous silk cotton blend from Fabric Mart.  When I felt it, I just had to buy it.  I avoid grey but I loved the gold tone in this fabric which I think means I get to enjoy it with my blonde hair.  The drape on this one is right between the two.  Thin enough to be lightweight and yet with some body so that it doesn't cling to my no longer 1970's body.  
New Look 6110 with gold in the fabric and goldfinch feeder in the background
Auditioning the buttons for version #3
Last picture for this long overdue post will show you version #2 in action....and give you a clue as to what else I have been doing this summer.  Lucky the rescue dog and I are now certified as Pets on Wheels visitors.  We've started making visits to a nearby assisted facility and a local library branch where young readers can sign up to "read to a dog" for practice.  He's a friendly, frisky guy and puts a smile on every one's face.  Next post, some more new garments and more late (not late-breaking) news about summer at our place.  
We both passed!  Lucky and I are Pets on Wheels visitors.
Waiting for someone to read this book to me.
Here to bring some cheer....

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vogue 8953 Surprise

There are simply some patterns that I skip right over in the pattern books.  Most of the time it's because the style is too bare/youthful for me Vogue 1342 too kitschy/vintage Vogue 8789 or too what the heck why would I want to wear that in public Vogue 1372
Vogue 8953 fell into that last category.  I actually like some of the new boho looks with the more current skinny jeans and pants in my wardrobe but this tunic looked like the old shapeless sack with a belt when I saw the line drawing.  I zoomed right past that page when it came out in the catalog. Vogue 8953  But surprise.....not really a sack after all.
Vogue 8953, version #1

Vogue 8953 with flared bottom peplum, not the sack like drawing

This is where sewing friends are the bestest!!  I was at the June meeting of my "neighborhood" ASG sewing group (my "neighborhood group is about 50+ miles away in Northern VA but what's distance between friends) and one of the group had sewn this pattern for her daughter.  She didn't love the directions but I loved the look of it for one significant reason.  Turns out that the bottom section is actually two separate pattern pieces in a lovely flattering circle skirt design so it drapes nicely as a peplum rather than merely being bunched up fabric below the belt.  She let me try on her daughter's top and it fit almost perfectly....or at least enough for me to know that it was worth pursuing on my own.  I bought it at the next Vogue sale and worked on my mock up by the end of June.  The mock up showed me that I still needed a few adjustments. I was hoping against hope but no, I still needed a FBA even in this full a top because the front was pulling forward to I added a 3/4 inch FBA and moved it to the top pleats.  
FBA moved to the top gathers
I also had to do my usual swayback and added a center back seam so I could take out 1" in length in the back above the waist.  I lengthened the sleeves 1 1/2 inches.  I made some small changes to the front and back neckline.  I lowered the front neckline by 1" and raised the back neckline by 1" tapering to nothing by the shoulder seams.  That meant that I had to make three separate facing patterns to create the interior band.  
Three facing top band pattern pieces

I also liked the neckline ruffle to be a little wider since I frames the face nicely.  I stitched the top seam at 3/8" not 5/8 and also moved the gathering stitching lines right down to the edge so my ruffle is about 1/2 " wider" than the pattern calls for. 
Finished ruffle width is wider than Vogue designed it.
My friend had a valid complaint that the Vogue patterns presume you don't have a serger so there's a lot of fussing with turning 1/4" and stitching in order to finish raw edges.  Grrrrr, I wish they would make the opposite assumption....."serge those edges or you don't have a serger, finish them like this...."
Serged on the inside ...and a view of my zig zag understitching
The boho look is not my most flattering look and I have to be careful of treading too close to the "mutton dressed as lamb" ledge.  But I have been wanting some very lightweight woven tops for our humid summer days and this is one of the patterns that fits the bill.  I have a medium blue denim pencil skirt that I think will be cool and comfortable with this first version sewn up in Fabric Mart voile that has been aging for a few years. 

Another instruction change is that I used the famous Steam a Seam to "seal" the seam allowances inside the seams where the drawstrings are attached.  That way no matter what tool you use (I use a safety pin) the drawstring won't get caught as you try to ease it through the casing.
1/4 " Steam a Seam applied to edge of seam allowance for the width of the casing seam
Ironed and sealed in place so that it will let the safety pin glide over it inside the casing.
Next time I used the Steam a Seam 2 Lite version....just as strong but less stiff
I liked that gathered neckline of this Vogue pattern so much that I went right ahead and tried out a straight tunic for version #2, merely lengthening the top pattern pieces from the bust area for about 14 more inches.  Here it is in a very wrinkly cotton cheap voile.  Very wearable for this summer but I think I'll add an inch or so of side seam ease before I make it up in a lightweight silk or rayon.  
Vogue 8953 Version #2 straight tunic
A little longer with more ease back there next time...Lucky agrees.