In Search of the Perfect Fit

ica1frontSo, we’ve been eating a little differently around here. The Jazzman is on the elliptical every day for 45 minutes or so, and he’s lost pounds—pounds, I tell you! I’ve lost ounces. But there have been enough ounces so far that I’ve had to buy new bras. The new measurement was 2″ smaller in circumference, but (of course!) a larger cup size.

renfrewLast October, my SIL-Equivalent in Columbus showed me a t-shirt she had made in a class at a local fabric store. The pattern is the Renfrew t-shirt from indie pattern designer Sewaholic. I loved Barb’s version. She chose a knit stripe in a nice mid-weight cotton. And she had done a fabulous job with the neckband on the pattern. It looked like she had been sewing this pattern for years, rather than it being her first time. I ordered the pattern and put it on my project list.

One of my goals for 2015 is to break the code on altering patterns to fit my sizable bust measurements. Why is this an issue? Because most sewing patterns are designed for B cups. I am now a Triple-D (or F, in European sizing—I don’t know why American companies switched to D, DD, DDD, and so on. Confusing.). Each cup size increase translates to a 1″ increase in full bust circumference. That means if I choose a pattern for my 36″ high bust measurement, I have to somehow add 4″ to the pattern to get it to fit around me. But in the front only, as my back is the perfect 36″!

iacuniformEver since I got the summer job at Interlochen, I’ve been obsessing about components for my uniform for the summer. See those cute campers in the picture? They’re in blue tucked-in polo shirts. And shorts. Neither of those items have a place in my standard wardrobe. I noticed last summer that faculty and staff tend to find a way to skirt (no pun intended) the requirement. So I’ve been searching for the right shade of blue in a fabric I would like and patterns that will cover my bum and let me feel comfortable while spending my day on a piano bench.

I found a nice blue cotton jersey at Mood and got enough for two t-shirts. I decided to start with Renfrew. I read everything in my personal library of sewing/fitting books on FBA. I googled FBA and Renfrew and found this blog post, which was somewhat helpful. But I felt there should be more hard and fast mathematical rules to it. I wanted it to be a science, not an art. And then I found a video on tissue fitting patterns by my teacher and friend, Marcy Tilton. Here’s the YouTube link.

ica1side2I spent about an hour fiddling with the pattern, tracing it, pinning it, taping it, and cutting it. I dug into my knit scraps and found enough to cut out a front and a back and sew them together. I fiddled with armscye bust darts and adding space and subtracting space. I ended up with a t-shirt body that seemed like it fit me. (Please ignore my cheek in the picture. This was dermatology week, and she froze some old-lady crap off.)

iac1sideThen I cut it out in my blue cotton jersey and set to constructing it. The lightweight cotton jersey had more give than the scraps I had “muslined” the pattern in. So where my muslin had fit me perfectly, the real deal felt rather large. It felt sloppy. I don’t want to look sloppy!! I experimented with making the side seams ½” larger, thus removing another 2″ from the circumference of the garment. I unsewed the darts and moved them up a couple of inches.

Where I thought I was going to be done by 9:00 a.m., it is now 4:00 p.m. Except for my lunch break, I’ve been going nonstop all day. And I have a shirt that fits. It looks almost nothing like the pattern picture, as I omitted the bottom band and the sleeve band and cut it 3″ longer to get the bum-covering length I wanted.

I don’t love it, sd this blue is not really my color. And yet, when I put it with the navy Eileen Fisher stretch crepe slim ankle pant, I do like it. And styled with my new Bernie Mev “Victoria” woven elastic sneakers, well, I’m a happy girl.

I will attempt the Renfrew again—probably more than once, but with a more substantial knit.

And I will continue refining the FBA.

Love Potion No. IX

IXLate last summer I saw a picture of a stunning geometric handknit scarf on Facebook. A few weeks later I realized I had to resign from the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus because of work conflicts. I wanted a special gift for our assistant director, a beautiful and very talented young woman named Lisa Wong. Lisa’s wardrobe is filled with black, which she accents deftly with grays and occasional pops of color. She is chic to the Nth degree. When I had first seen the scarf picture, I instantly thought of Lisa and how wonderful this scarf would look on her. On my last night at rehearsal, I showed her the picture and asked if she thought she’d prefer red or purple for the accent color. We agreed on purple and I ordered the yarn—Malabrigo Sock yarn, soft and cuddley.

Throughout a busy fall and winter (new job at the Bernina store; musical directing Sondheim’s “Company”; vacation in Florida; moving Mother into a nursing home and emptying her assisted living apartment; helping my son clean out his house after his ex moved out; and taking on a new opera gig), I did my best to make time to knit. The Jazzman likes to watch news shows when he gets home each evening after a long day on the railroad, so I used that time to sit with him and work on the scarf.

The pattern was complex and moderately difficult. Some of the techniques were new to me. The instructions were—to this technical writer—imperfect. As I worked through the pattern, I found little boo-boos that were too far back for me to be willing to fix. I have my limits!

purpleWhen I was about three-quarters of the way through the scarf, I realized I had made a major error: two adjacent striped squares were parallel rather than perpendicular. And then on one of the purple squares I realized I had slipped a stitch, creating a hole. Argh! I left a note to Lisa on Facebook telling her the scarf was going to come to her next fall—just as the cold weather is beginning again—rather than at the supposed end of this long and bitter winter. This one would be for me to wear with a purple Eileen Fisher sweater that was a gift from my DIL-Equivalent.

So here’s today’s premier wearing, just an hour after finishing. Tonight the Jazzman and I went to a fundraiser for my neighbor’s non-profit, and several people noticed and admired the scarf. Isn’t that always the best way to end a project?!

Knitting geekery. If you’re not a knitter, you can skip this paragraph!
For anyone working on this pattern, here are my clarifications to the less-than-perfect instructions:

  1. Section 6, striped square – this is not really an error, but just a lack of clarification. If you don’t count carefully but rather just read, you might think, as I did, that the final row of this section is CC2. But because the block contains an odd number of rows, the final row is CC1 (black), not CC2 (natural). Big Oops #1. And nothing is said about binding off.
  2. Section 7, solid square – Okay, if you don’t bind off, where does the next row begin? My notes say to stop the previous block at the intersection of blocks 2, 3 and 8. “Leaving the existing stitchs on the right needle, use MC to work 37 garter ridges, K2T at the end of every ridge.” That means this block is perpendicular to the previous striped block and to the solid color block in the first block row. If this is correct, then there needed to be a bind off row, which doesn’t exist. Maybe this block needed to be parallel to the solid color row in the first block row. But it would have to be attached to the first block row by K2T at the end of each row. Another Argh!
  3. Section 8, striped square. Again note the odd number of rows, necessitating CC1 as the final row.
  4. Everything was fine until the top edging. The way the author sometimes tells you what to do before telling you to do it is confusing. This is one of those instances. The top edging says, “Using CC1 pu and k 234 sts. Then, Row 1-3: K to end. 2 garter ridges. What she should has specified is that R1 is WS. That pick-up row and #2 are RS, then 1 and 3 are WS, making 4, the BO row, RS.

Honestly, I’m happy this first version is finished. I will keep both the instructions and version #1 next to me while working on version #2.

And the bottom line? I love it! The yarn is just lovely. This will be worn each time I wear the purple EF sweater.

Rewriting History

tj19892014In 1988, when John and I were newly a couple, his daughter Tamara met a lovely man (Jeff, who has now been her husband for over 25 years). During their first summer of dating, Jeff met Scott and Tyler and learned that Tyler was an avid musician. Having spent several summers at what was then National Music Camp (NMC, now Interlochen Arts Camp, IAC), Jeff graciously ordered information to be sent to Tyler. The seed was planted, Tyler learned more and more about percussion during the school year, and he applied to spend the summer of 1989 as a percussionist at NMC.

Tyler, age 14, went into camp with a swagger, “I’m gonna be a drummer in a rock band when I grow up.” Within two weeks of starting the eight-week program, playing tympani and other percussion instruments in two orchestras, he had fallen totally and deeply in love with classical music. He was completely immersed in music for hours of every day, associating with kids who were as passionate about music as he was. One of his cabinmates was to become his best friend for all time. It was a magical experience.

As I watched Tyler grow and develop through that summer, I bemoaned the fact that I hadn’t had similar opportunities. Sure, I went to a one-week music camp for one or two summers, but it was absolutely not the same thing. I never found myself the way Tyler was able to find himself at Interlochen.

I frequently thought how different my life would have been, “If only my parents had known about Interlochen and sent me there” (or some equivalent place). But my mother was a devout Seventh-day Adventist, and she would have have sent me to a secular institution or any place that didn’t observe the seventh-day sabbath.

I visited IAC again last summer on family vacation with Tyler and my grandchildren. Twenty years had passed since my last visit. I was thrilled to be there. Tyler’s life partner, who was working as a choreographer in the theatre department, said to me, “Why don’t you apply for a collaborative pianist position. They can never find enough accompanists.” Her words started the whirlwind in my head.

By jove, if I can’t have had the childhood I wanted, I’m going to rewrite my history. I’m going to have the childhood I wanted, now!

And today I received the email telling me I had been accepted for a collaborative pianist position in the theatre department. I will go to Northern Michigan in late June and return in early August. Six weeks surrounded by creative people—music, visual arts, sculpture, photography, creative writing, dance. Six weeks walking among the white pines in Interlochen State Park; six weeks hearing young musicians’ dulcet tones emanate from every practice room; six weeks of gratitude for the gift of music with which I was born.

Lucky. Lucky. Lucky. Lucky. Lucky.

I’m going to create beautiful music with talented young people in one of the top arts organizations in the entire world.

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood!

Will It or Won’t It?

Punk(Fit, that is.) About a month before the beginning of my ill-fated “career” at the Bernina store in Boardman, OH, I visited the second store Joyce owns, located in Twinsburg, OH. She had told me of picking up some fashion fabrics at the recent quilt market from the back of a truck in the parking lot and I had to see what she had bought. One piece caught my eye. It was several shades of gray, along with black and white, and was covered with words. It appeared to be a polyester, which I tend to shun, but had a very nice hand to it.

I seem to have been smitten by fabric with words lately. I got one piece from Emma One Sock for a Katherine Tilton t-shirt. The other came from a department store fabric department in Frankfurt, Germany. Another Katherine Tilton top.

So when I saw this piece in the Twinsburg store, I didn’t look at the words at all, didn’t attempt to decipher or translate. I just grabbed it. The longer it sat in my sewing room, percolating, the more I wondered what the words were/meant. Would I wear it and some kid point at me and snicker? But after a little digging yesterday, I now think it’s a tip of the fashion design hat to Stephen Sprouse. I guess I can say I’m in my punk phase when I wear this top.

Here’s the review:

StyleArc RosiePattern Description: (From the pattern envelope:) This is a great top for all occasions. The slight cap sleeve is very flattering and the back inverted pleat give this top a point of difference.

Pattern Sizing: 4-30. Note that hardcopy StyleArc patterns are one size per envelope. I looked at their size chart and ordered a 14 in several patterns. The first one I made was way too small. (My high bust is 38″, but I’m a DD cup, so think I should have bought 18.) This pattern is designed for wovens, so I made it in a knit to get around the sizing problems. Success!
(StyleArc now has an Etsy shop where most of their patterns are available in PDF. Three sizes are included in the PDF – yea!!! And there’s no shipping-from-Australia fee – double yea!!)

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

Were the instructions easy to follow? StyleArc’s instructions are summary, not detailed! And the illustrations are minimal. So you’ve got to know what you’re doing or have a sewing friend you can call upon for help. Or hope for a review in PR! :)

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
Like: The design lines on the front are interesting. Additionally, the peplum skirt is nice in that it’s not all flippy and twirly for this non-girly-girl. I like to cover my hips, not accentuate them.

Rosie illustration1) The markings on the back inverted pleat aren’t clear enough with the five notches. You must bring both the outside notches to the center. Notches #2 and #4 just indicate where the fold will be. The illustration on the front clearly shows this. However, the illustration on the back led me to believe I was to bring #1 to #2, and #5 to #4, just using #3 to align to the center back seam. I searched PR and looked at everyone’s photos, but still didn’t have a clear image of what I was supposed to do.

2) Step #5: “Join the centre back seams together. If opting for a back opening stitch up to the notch attaching the loop onto the left side.”
(Please forgive me. I’m a technical writer and editor. This was totally unclear to me!) There’s a comma missing after “notch”. The loop should be attached at the top of the back left side, about 1/2″ down from the top. Baste in place, then catch in the center back opening when you attach the facing.

3) The armhole finish was a little awkward. You finish the shoulder seams, then turn the edge under 3/8″ and topstitch. But to where? And then how do you finish the side seams when you’ve already finished the armhole? As I was doing the side seams (next to the last step!), I unsewed an inch on the front and back of each armhole, stitched the side seams, then turned the armhole under again and redid the topstitching on the 2″. I like my insides to look as nice as my outsides, but this finish doesn’t allow that.

Fabric Used: The inset is a polyester picked up from a jobber. I ordered a yard of black ponte from Emma One Sock for the body of the top. (4-way stretch rayon blend ponte – black) The ponte is not heavy, but this pattern really wants something lighter.

Hem finishPattern alterations or any design changes you made: I am 5’8″ and have recently figured out that most patterns are drafted for 5’6″. I normally add 2-3″ to the torso, but didn’t do that here. It was too short so I cut a 4″ band of the poly, attached it to the bottom cut edge, turned up the regular 5/8″ hem and topstitched, then turned up the poly bottom 1/2″ and topstitched. (This is a technique borrowed from Katherine Tilton in B6101 (My blog post on B6101)). (Click on photo to enlarge.)

One more note on knit vs. woven: I made the facing, using the poly to make it lighter. However, if you’re using a knit rather than a woven, consider sewing the back seam to the top, omitting the opening with the loop and button. The neckline is large enough to fit easily over your head. Then use a strip of your knit to bind the neckline and armhole – either letting it show on the outside if you want to make a statement, or turning it to the inside and topstitching. I think you’ll be much happier with this finish.

rosieside2rosiesideAnd one more note on fit: When I first put the top on, I thought the right armhole gapped in the back. Turn to the right, turn to the left. Gap; no gap. I thought there was no way to fix it and didn’t know what I was going to do. But once it was completed, I don’t notice the gap so much. So my word to the wise on this one is to not jump to conclusions. (And what is Rudi looking at?!)

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I will probably make it again, in a knit, and cut the skirt/peplum 3″ longer to begin with. Yes, I would recommend to others—just read all the reviews first!

Conclusion: A cute top. Make it in two coordinating fabrics to accentuate the bodice front design lines. Or insert a bias strip of coordinating fabric in those front seams (ooh, how about a mesh?) if using only one fabric.

The ice on the inside of my bedroom window when I was changing into sandals to show you this top!

The ice on the inside of my window when I was changing into sandals to show you this top!

Styling has so much to do with how a garment feels to you. I was wearing my Eileen Fisher skirted leggings (which I love-love-love) when I finished this top. It was 0° outside and I had just returned from a business lunch. I pulled off my sweater, slipped the top on, stood in front of the mirror, and stuck my tongue out. Frumpy-dumpy! Pulled off boots, pulled off tights, pulled off skirted leggings, pulled off t-shirt, put on Eileen Fisher stretch crepe slim ankle pants and fave Naot sandals with the new top. Took picture of icy window and snow outside to let you know the sacrifice I was making. Looked in the mirror and LOVED the outfit. (BTW, we’re getting eight more inches of snow today. Ugh. But at least I’m not in Boston or New England! Sending lots of moral support to those people!!)

And regarding the title of this post. The entire time I was cutting and assembling to the point where I could try it on, I kept saying, “This is not going to fit.” I thought I would have to send it to my DIL-Equivalent, the lithe and lovely Leslie, who is the same height as I but one size smaller. I agonized over this, as I loved the poly wordy fabric. But then I basted the side seams and put it on and cheered!

Now I’m going to be looking at all those StyleArc patterns I bought in the wrong size to see which are designed for wovens and can be made in knits to save them.

And Leslie’s loss? Well, I’m making her a pair of yoga capris and sending a dress for her 4yo Miss C. Saved again!!

A Tank That Won’t See the Light of Day

Frustrated sewist!

Frustrated sewist!

I bought a kit from Craftsy with Meg McElwee’s “Tank + Maxi” pattern and enough Robert Kauffman cotton jersey to make a tank and a maxi. I thought it would be nice to have a maxi tank dress to take with me to Mexico next week.

It was a PDF pattern, so I printed and taped and traced, then cut and sewed. Size Large, true to the pattern with the exception of adding 2″ to the length. Easy. Nice. Professional finishes. Not right!!!

No! No!

No! No!

If you’re busty, you know that ripples across your bustline are a no-no. So, the first place I’m going to have to start to make this pattern become a TNT is to master the FBA.



I really don’t like having passersby knowing what color bra I’m wearing. This gaposis offers way too much information.

<Tutorial On>
Click on the “TMI” image to see the great binding finish. The bindings are sewn with a ⅜” seam. Press the binding away from the top and wrap around to the back so that it covers the seam on the inside. Pin in place, then topstitch with a double needle so that one needle is on either side of the seam. (Rather than stitch-in-the-ditch, you’re going to stitch-over-the-ditch.) (To make it a little clearer, if your shoulder seam on the front pattern piece is 2″, your finished measurement of the shoulder strap will be 2″, because the bindings are just opened out, then wrapped around the back without taking anything away from the front.) Easy and gorgeous!
<Tutorial Off>

"You'd be so easy to love ..."

“You’d be so easy to love …”

But really. Look at this neckline. It’s just the right tease of décolleté without making me uncomfortable. This is a neckline I love. This is a tank and maxi dress I could love!

Now to master the details!!

Here’s the kit – and such a great deal. You couldn’t buy the fabric for that little anywhere else, much less the fabric and the pattern!

Oh, and just to be clear, I will wear this tank under sweaters all winter. I just won’t wear it by itself. Not until I master the details.