The Cottage Shirt

Cottage ShirtThe Sewing Workshop has been having sew-alongs (SAL) all summer long. (If you’re interested in participating, there’s a Facebook group.) I first was going to participate in the Zayn top sew-along. I made a muslin out of a knit (in a pattern designed for wovens—hmmm), but then the more I looked at the actual design of the pattern, the less I loved it, and just never moved forward. Then when the Cottage Shirt SAL happened, I knew I wanted to make that top.

Water HabitatI shopped around to all my favorite online fabric stores, ending up at Smuggler’s Daughter, where I found this Max Mara “Water Habitat” print. Isn’t that the coolest print?! It just struck me as unusual, and with the black background, I felt it would go with all of my black slacks and crops.

The fabric arrived when I returned from Bali, and I thought I would get it made up before my Japan tour. Alas. I did make a quick muslin from an old sheet for the body of the shirt, just so I could see where the hem fell and if I needed to cut a Medium or a Large. I wear Large in most patterns, both Big 4 and Indie designers. But with Sewing Workshop, I frequently feel like I’m swimming in the Large. The muslin was a Medium, and I felt that would work.

Let’s get to the review and then I tell you more about my feelings regarding this top:

Shirt as jacket, unbuttoned

Pattern Description: (From the website) Loose-fitting camp shirt with a modern twist has tailored collar and stand, back yoke, armhole bands and exaggerated hems with side vents. Six-button closure.

Pattern Sizing: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
After making a quick muslin, I cut a Medium. Should I have cut a Large? This pattern isn’t loose-fitting in the way something like Sewing Workshop’s Balboa is. My Balboa has been ¾-finished for about 18 months and just hanging in my basement until I figure out what to do with its massiveness. And yet its description on the website doesn’t even mention “loose-fitting.”

Shirt-jacket, unbuttoned[/caption]Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yeah, I guess.

Back view

Were the instructions easy to follow? Hmmm. I kept going back and forth between the instruction sheet and the SAL hints and tips. At points there seemed to be a disconnect between the instruction sheet and the SAL files. I had an especially difficult time with the collar and collar stand. Honestly, this is not my first rodeo, er, collar insertion! I never was able to get it done in a way that matched either document. Towards the end of my collar patience, I just kinda shoved it in and hand-sewed it shut.

I do a great yoke burrito, but the collar burrito — not so much. Honestly, I think I attached that collar three separate times. My seam ripper got a lot of exercise with this project.

I’ll be the first to admit that I need instant gratification, or at least in-the-near-future gratification. I got so frustrated with this make that I totally lost my mojo. The only thing that got me through this, at some point, was my refusal to relegate it to the UFO stack.

Side view, showing vents

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The deep hem is a fabric hog. I think a 2″ hem would probably be better than a 6″ or 7″ hem. And I’m sure part of my complaint is that 2 yards of a directional print did not give me enough fabric to lengthen the body.

My other complaint is the sleeve band. The instructions have you leaving the side seam open ⅝” below the armscye. I had a devil of a time getting that sleeve band set in without unintentional mini-tucks.

One more note—I interfaced both collar pieces, and I’m sorry I did. Use a lightweight interfacing and only do one side.

Fabric Used: Lightweight 100% cotton from the looms of Max Mara, purchased from Smuggler’s Daughter. I think a drapier lightweight fabric—maybe even silk—would have been better.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: None that were intentional. 😉

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I doubt I will sew it again, although I will sew the sister shirt, London. I’m thinking that will be better on my body. I will only recommend it to Advanced Intermediate sewers with slender bodies.

Conclusion: Great idea, great design. An unsuccessful sew—in my opinion and through my eyes. (Note to self: take your next pictures after supper, not after lunch! Midday skylight is not your friend.)

So how did I feel about this shirt? I wanted to love it. In my mind, it was going to be a wonderful shirt. I don’t love it, and I’m sad about not loving it. It may get offered around my group of girlfriends the next time we meet for dinner. And I might make it again with these changes: a lighter fabric with more drape, probably one of the silk charmeuse pieces that are in my stash; use just the collar stand instead of the full collar, maybe even making the stand a little taller; and lengthening the body 2″. It might even be wise to cut it in Large rather than Medium. I’ll let you know ….

If you make this shirt, I’d love to see your review and learn how it went for you. Good luck!

Here are links to the sew-along files on the Sewing Workshop blog. My advice is to read the instruction sheet, then the SAL instructions, then back and forth a couple of times until you’ve really gotten it into your brain. And I wish you the very best of luck. I think this shirt would be great on some bodies—just not mine.

Cottage Sew Along Part One
Cottage Sew Along Part Two
Cottage Sew Along Part Three
Cottage Sew Along Part Four
Cottage Sew Along Part Five
Cottage Sew Along Part Six
Cottage Sew Along – Print Matching

Forgotten Work

Vogue topFabric swatchBack in March, when I was getting ready for a trip with my sister to California that never happened, and simultaneously trying to get everything ready for three weeks in Singapore and Bali, I made a new tunic. I love this rayon knit that I picked up from Crinklelove [.com] when they carried more knit fabrics. Now they seem to be more about quilts, and I only can find one instance of this fabric anymore. (If you’re interested in grabbing a piece of this fabric in the inverse colorway, here’s the Etsy link.)

I used Marcy Tilton’s Vogue 9272. I had originally thought maybe I would take it along to Bali for cool evenings in restaurants. Alas, the more I looked at the weather forecast as the trip drew closer, and after an email from the tour leader who said, “Jan? Are you kidding?”, I nixed that idea. I wore the tunic once before I left for Bali, and I don’t think I’ve worn it since. That’s almost six months of a new garment just languishing in the closet.

Poor forgotten beautiful tunic. ☹️

Garment backIn Northeast Ohio, we have now—as of August 24—had two nights of 50-something degree temperatures. I’m loving it, and I’m loving the associated cool mornings. So for today’s 10:00 a.m. pedicure appointment, I slipped on this tunic with black lightweight cropped leggings. I didn’t love the blue and white with the black. It was okay, but I didn’t love it. And while I was sitting in the pedi chair with the lovely Amanda working her magic on my feet, I realized I had never blogged this top.

Garment frontBlog posts need photos, you know. When I got home, I switched out the black cropped leggings for their twin white pair, and now I love the look. And the sandals they’re styled with are Teva’s Ysidro leather sandals that are my new favorite travel shoes. They’re super comfortable, actually some of the most comfortable sandals I think I’ve ever worn, and have this brilliant strap in the back that prevents me from getting blisters on my heels. Score!! I was all alone at home and the camera wasn’t working, so I kept leaning my phone against an open window to get these pictures. You take what you can get!!

Here, at long last, is the review:

Pattern Description: Fitted, pullover tunic has neck band and godets at side hem. A: Contrast neck band, godets. For moderate stretch knits only. (From the pattern envelope)

Pattern Sizing: XS-S-M-L-XL-XXL. I routinely take a 16 or a Large in Marcy’s patterns. If this fabric had more stretch, I might have had to downsize. It’s about a 50% stretch and the Large worked fine.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I’m not much for the sides of the dress hanging down like this (not sure what that design style is called …) but I really love this pattern and how the finished top looks on me.

The godets were pretty full and I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted.

Otherwise I loved the lines of the pattern.

Fabric Used: 95% Rayon, 5% Lycra. Very nice feel to the fabric, very comfortable.

GodetPattern alterations or any design changes you made: As I said above, I wasn’t sure I wanted the godet as full as designed. Then when I realized I didn’t have enough fabric to make them as designed, that solved my problem. As I recall, the godet as designed is greater than a 90° angle—I’d have to go to the basement and dig out the pattern to check. But I think it’s much fuller than mine, as shown here. I’m very happy with this. What I’m saying is, don’t be afraid to play with the fullness of the godet.

Oh, the neckline. If you look at the pattern sketch above, you’ll see there are some funky pleats in the “collar.” I was a) in a hurry, and b) unsure what to do about those pleats. I read a few reviews and several people said they had omitted the pleats. So that’s what I did. I LOVE the face-framing nature of this neckline without the pleats. So happy I did it that way and will continue to do so with each subsequent make!

Most Big Four patterns are designed for a 5’6″ frame. I’m 5’8″ and normally add 2-3″ to Marcy’s and Katherine’s patterns. I think because of the godet I didn’t add anything to the length. I wish I had 1″ more. So when I make it again, if I already added 2″, I’ll change it to 3″. If I added nothing, I’ll add at least 1″.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Absolutely.

Conclusion: A flattering top, perfect over skinny pants or leggings. I went outside my comfort level in making this top and am so glad I did.

And to add a little sweetness to your day, we’ve got a late-season pregnancy going on in the dogwood tree outside our 2nd floor family room window. 😉 (Okay, humor me. I know it’s not a “pregnancy.” I just liked the sound of that.) Can’t wait to see what comes of this effort.

Linen, You’re Cool!

StyleArc PetaAfter so much travel, I’ve finally gotten my sewing mojo back. Before my travel to hot and steamy destinations, I picked up two pieces of linen at Jo-Ann. I normally do not utilize Jo-Ann’s convenient location for fabric, but I didn’t think I could go wrong with 100% linen. And, you know, coupons.

I wanted a couple of pair of lightweight, cool pants for my summer travels. Digging through my pattern stash, I chose the StyleArc Peta Pants. (StyleArc is an Australian company that turns out some wonderful designs of simple, classic clothes.) I first made a Peta muslin in an old piece of a high quality lightweight linen that had been in the fabric stash for about 20 years. I cut them above-knee length or, actually, as much as I could get out of the remnant I had. The fit was fine, so I moved forward. The bronze pair I cut sort of crop-length. They were finished before I went to Japan, and went along for the ride. And I made the tan pair full length, as shown in the pattern, but without the drawstring. They were cut out before Japan, but didn’t get sewn until I got back. I was able to finish them before I headed to Interlochen to take the grandbabes up for camp. And that muslin, which was a namby-pamby light pastel—and that’s NOT redundant—blue-violet? I’ll be dyeing that pair with Procion MX Indigo and will have a bonus pair of shorts, now that it’s starting to feel like fall. Oh, well, they’ll be ready for next summer.

My newly 17-year-old granddaughter came over today to help me do some sorting and organizing with my stash, so the first task I gave her was take photos for me in the pants. That was much easier and faster than trying to do it myself.

Here’s the review:

StyleArc Peta PantPattern Description: “Great pull on pant with beautiful leg shape.” (Quoting the StyleArc website.) Really, if you fold the hem up to the knee, in a size 16 it’s about 1¾ to 2″ shy of being straight leg, i.e. it tapers in 1¾ to 2″ from the knee to the hem.

Pattern Sizing: 4-30. Pattern available in both printed and PDF. I cut a 16. I wear 14 in RTW.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Typical minimalist instructions. The only problem was the pockets.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Oh, the pockets. The pocket pattern piece is rectangular. The picture of the pocket pattern piece in the instructions is a typical in-seam pocket that you’re used to seeing, if this is not your first pattern with in-seam pockets. On my muslin, I didn’t bother with the pockets, so was unaware of the discrepancy between the printed pattern piece and the instructions. When I got to the bronze pair—the crops—I put the right pocket in using the pocket pattern piece that’s provided, then I said to hell with the left seam and just sewed it as if it were intended to be pocketless.

For the tan pair, I spent time digging through my stash of patterns from the Big Four (Butterick, Vogue, McCall’s, and Simplicity) to find a pair of pants with in-seam pockets from which I could borrow the pattern piece. Finally found what I wanted, redrew to match the shape of the side seam, lengthened the top so it would come up to the waistline fold and be fully enclosed in the waist casing. I followed the directions from the pattern instructions of the borrowed-from pants, and am very happy with how it ended up.

Fabric Used: 100% linen from Jo-Ann’s, light- to mid-weight.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
Here’s a picture of the pockets—click on the photo to enlarge, then use your device touch screen to zoom to see the detail. (Oops, when I shot the picture just now, I realized I only edgestitched the right pocket, not the left.) My side seams and inseams are double-stitched about ¼” apart, as I would do with knits. And then the seam allowance is trimmed close to the outer stitching and zigzagged to prevent fraying. And look at that casing for the waist elastic. I’m in love! It’s an incredibly comfortable finish, and quite pretty, if I do say so myself.

StyleArc Peta hemsI cut 1¼” strips of fusible tricot interfacing, fused them to the hem allowances, zigzagged the raw linen/interfacing edges, then folded on the inner cut edge of the interfacing and pressed. This gives me a lovely crisp hem. The picture looks like it’s double-needle stitched, but it’s just a single needle run once around (I hand-baste from the inside along the cut edge of the hem so can get a very straight seam line.), then I moved the needle closer to the hem by about an ⅛” and followed the previous seam line around.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I actually prefer a narrower leg in my pants, but Peta definitely has a place in my wardrobe. For a straighter-leg pant, she’ll now be my go-to pattern. Yes, I will sew it again.

Conclusion: The only reason I classify this pattern as Intermediate skill rather than Beginner is the challenge with the pocket pattern piece. If you’re a beginner, make a different pair of pants or a skirt with in-seam pockets first, then make a copy of that pocket pattern piece and the instructions and store them with your Peta. Or just skip the pocket altogether. No harm done.

Let’s be honest. I was hesitant to post the backside photo of the bronze pair. But really—aren’t I better off knowing what I look like from the backside in these pants? For a 68-year-old carrying a couple dozen extra pounds, it’s okay. It could be much worse. And now I’m motivated to step up my daily walks. (Besides, DGD said it looked okay. And she’s 17. She wouldn’t post a picture of her grandma if she was embarrassed by the way I looked in the photo. Would she???)

Pants styled with an Eileen Fisher cotton ballet-neck t-shirt and an Eileen Fisher silk knit tank. Mephisto platform mules from about fifteen years ago, and Vionic flat slides from last summer. Pictures taken on the front steps of my 90-year-old home.

An Artistic Blast from the Past

I haven’t really sewn since April, so I’ve had nothing to write about. All my energy has been going into my Travel section, documenting three major trips I’ve taken since the end of April.

Today, while looking for something else, I came across a blog post on my old blog. This was written on May 24, 2010, when my grandbabes were aged almost nine and five days short of seven. They loved spending time with Grandma. They loved our Friday night sleepovers, as did I. Precious memories.

I’ve copied it here to share with you. I’ve changed the names to indicate the identities they now have. Gender doesn’t matter. Love of art does.

Weekend Activities

We are a family filled with a passion for the arts, both performing and visual, and with myriad artistic interests. We play musical instruments, sing, write, take pictures, and make things with our hands—all sorts of things in all kinds of mediums. We are artists. We create.

These passions have extended to the third generation. Cody can hardly sit still without having a drawing pad and colored pencil in his hand. In their house and mine, he knows right where to go to find all the art supplies. And Celeste is very interested in my fabric and buttons and thread.

I had the babes overnight on Friday, which became sewing and dyeing time. Celeste has been wanting me to make her a snake that is hollow inside so she can feed it things. Friday night we ran to Jo-Ann’s after supper at Panera and picked out some fleece and some silky lining. Once home, she decided the shape of the snake’s head, and we cut and sewed. She had told me the snake would have a zippered mouth and a red tongue that rolled up into the mouth when you wanted to zip the zipper.

Two or three times on Friday night, I threaded my Bernina 1630 and each time said, “Over this, around that, up the right, down the left . . .” On Saturday morning while I was fixing breakfast, she decided she wanted a different color thread, so sat down and successfully threaded the machine. By herself. At eight-and-a-half years of age. With no help from me.

Anyone who sews will tell you that threading the machine is difficult. You must make sure you pass the thread through each of the eight or so nooks and crannies or the machine just won’t sew. Well, she got all the nooks, crannies, and the tiny little eye in the needle. I was astonished!

Cody spent time looking at all my bottles of fiber reactive dye, and chose “antique gold” (although he kept calling it an-tee-cue) and “lilac”. Then we dug a silk scarf out of my stash and gave it a base bath of gold, then folded and clamped and finished our mini-shibori experiment with lilac. He said, “It’s going to be cold today. I think I’ll wear it to my soccer game to stay warm.” I had to explain that a silk scarf is something you wear for dress-up, not for warmth.

I love that my grandkids think that I, with a needle and thread, can do everything there is to do. And I especially love that they want to learn to do everything I do.

I said to Cody, “Do you know how you are like Grandma? Because we both have lots of interests and not enough time.” He smiled.

Epilogue: This week is their third week at Interlochen Arts Camp. They’re both in high school now, and are both majoring in visual arts at Interlochen this summer.

The three of us frequently talk about how we have so many interests and have a hard time focusing on any one art form.

Some things never change.

Bali Batik Going Back Home

Kaye Tunic FrontI’m leaving for Bali in eight days. Two years ago this week, I was scheduled to leave for Bali on Thursday. The Jazzman and I had just returned from Easter dinner in Columbus with his brothers and their families. I was carrying our bags out of the car when I caught my toe on the sidewalk. I realized I was going down and was determined not to break my wrist again, so consciously threw my body into a turn to protect my wrists. In doing so, I fell on my back on the lawn in such a way that the muscles in my back were severely bruised. After a trip to the ER for X-rays, I was in so much pain that I knew I could not live through the thirty hours of travel required to get from Youngstown to Denpasar. My Bali Fiber Tour was cancelled. ☹


Duffel bag made for travel to Bali

Fast-forward two years. I took advantage of another opportunity and signed up for another Bali Fiber Tour with Barb Alexander. The best part of the tour this time is that nine of the ten women on the tour are alums of the Design Outside the Lines workshops that Diane Ericson (previously co-taught with Marcy Tilton) hosts several times a year in various creative locales. The women on this tour understand my passion for fabric and textiles. I’ve partnered with Tina Daily, a Portlander whom I met and instantly clicked with at the Design Outside the Lines session in Taos last June. We’ve been in touch weekly since we decided to take this journey together, and even had a sew-a-long making duffel bags out of canvas that Tina ice-dyed as our carry-on luggage. And now we’re one week away from departure.

Once I washed the three meters of fabric and hung it up to dry, I realized the ginkgo leaves were sparsley printed on one meter of the fabric, but the other two meters were densely printed. Cool! A great opportunity for playing with mix-and-match. Searching my pattern stash, I realized the StyleArc Kaye Tunic was perfect for this fabric. The sleeves and the pocket were the place for the sparsely printed section, while everything else would be cut from the densely printed section. In the photo at the top of this paragraph, you can see my shoulder, with the sparsely printed sleeve and the densely printed body. (All photos are clickable for enlargement.) Love this pattern play.

Here’s the review:

StyleArcPattern Description: A long line tunic top with a unique symmetrical hemline that creates a flattering draped effect

Kaye tunic side viewPattern Sizing: 4-30. I ordered the paper pattern in a size 16.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow? StyleArc’s instructions are succinct. See my comments in the changes section.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love the bias-cut pocket. The neckline is very flattering. Dislike – nothing.

Fabric Used: Rayon batik created during one of Barb Alexander’s Bali Fiber Tours two years ago. At the last minute, I cancelled because of a fall; Barb completed my batik project and shipped the fabric to me after the tour.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I’m 5’8″ and usually add up to 3″ to the torso of a tunic. I added nothing to this and it was fine. If you’re vertically-challenged, you might need to shorten the body some—or you may need to skip the Kaye tunic. (Maybe make it without the pocket, but the pockets are one of the best features of this tunic.) The only (IMO) glitch in the instructions was in the insertion of the sleeve. I undid the side seams ⅜” at the armscye. Sew the sleeve down to the ⅜” opening. Then pin and sew the bottom of the sleeve to the top of the side/pocket panel across from side seam to side seam. Leaving that seam open the ⅜” makes inserting the sleeve much easier. (Otherwise, you’re going to have to carefully pivot at the ⅜” point on that top of the side panel seam. Tricky.)

Kaye tunicIn the comments on a previous review, a reader asked about the hems on the pockets. Here’s how I handled it: The first step is attaching the pockets to the side panels. At this point, I fused a ⅜” strip of fusible tricot to the hem, turned it up and pressed, then top-stitched just inside the hem allowance. The tricot is soft enough to not stiffen the soft drape of the pocket, but firm enough to give me a crisp fold on the hem. When I attached the pocket/side panel to the back and front, I left ⅜” of the front and back pieces extending below the bottom of the pocket. Then I fused a ⅜” strip of tricot interfacing to the front and back hems, folded, pressed, and top-stitched. The edges of the front and back hems meet the hems of the side panels as if it was all seamed together—but it’s much simpler! (Again, IMO.)

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I will absolutely sew this again. I’d like to try it in a firm knit, maybe a light ponte. I do recommend. Just take your time on the side panel and the sleeve and think it through.

Conclusion: Beautiful, drapey, flattering tunic to wear with leggings. Can’t wait to wear to dinner in Bali.


Here’s another look at the fabric that made these bags. To see more of Tina’s beautiful work, here’s a link to her Etsy shop.

We took a Craftsy class to make the bags. The class is Betz White’s “Sew Better Bags: The Weekend Duffel. The bag is not an easy make, but we’re happy with the finished bags and will be carrying them onto the plane with us for the long trip. I leave from Cleveland; Tina leaves from Portland. We meet in San Francisco; thirteen-and-a-half hours later, we’ll land in Taipei. After a four-hour layover, we’ll fly to Singapore. We leave SFO at 12:45am on Tuesday and arrive in SIN twenty-two hours and forty minutes later, at noon on Wednesday. We’ll hang out with Tina’s niece in Singapore for a couple of days, then take a five-hour flight from Singapore to Bali, when our two weeks of creativity begin.

Did I say I can’t wait? I can’t wait!!