A Second New Top for Vacation

Butterick 5954Our flight to Mexico was scheduled to leave early on the morning of January 2; we would drive to Cleveland on the afternoon of New Year’s Day to stay in a hotel near the airport. I had packed on New Year’s Eve. Side viewThat meant I had the entire morning of New Year’s Day to sew one more top for Playa Maroma.

I dug into the stash and grabbed a poly knit I had picked up several years ago at Fabrix in San Francisco. It was not a “me” print, although I’m not sure the real “me” print exists. I’m ambivalent with prints. But it would easily slip on over a pair of black leggings and take me to one of the restaurants at the resort.

I had been wanting to make Butterick 5954 for myself for years. I had made it four years ago in a luscious purple velvet print for my younger grandchild. The pattern had sat in plain view ever since then, and everytime I got in the mood to make a new top for myself, I’d eye it and ask, “Now?” And “now” finally arrived.

Here’s my review:

Pattern Description: MISSES TUNIC: Close-fitting and flared, pullover tunic has front variations, shaped hemline and narrow hem. Wrong side shows on back hemline. C and D: collar.
Designed for lightweight Two-way Stretch Knits. I chose View A, with the short sleeves from View C. I’m normally not a short-sleeve gal, but I loved these sleeves and will use them again.

Pattern Sizing: Combinations: Y(XSmall-Small-Medium), ZZ(Large-XLarge-XXLarge) After adding 2″ to the length of the front and back, I cut a Large.

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

Were the instructions easy to follow? I hardly used them.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Liked everything. Disliked nothing!

Fabric Used: Some random poly print from Fabrix in San Francisco.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I always add 2″ to the length on Butterick patterns. I’m 5’8″ and have a long torso.

As I haven’t blogged a top like this in a while, I’ll remind you that I always use a tricot interfacing cut the depth of the hems. Fuse it to the fabric edge, then fold and press for a clean hemline. Sew the side and underarm seams, then double-needle stitch the hems with wooly nylon in the bobbin. Love this method, that I learned from Marcy Tilton. No sloppy hems in my closet!! ☺ And I always interface the back shoulder seam allowance with a ½” or ⅝” strip of tricot interfacing to stabilize that seam.

See Liz’s comment and my response below. I couldn’t make the hyperlinks work in the comment, so here are resources for fusible tricot interfacing:
Pam Erny’s shop (Just noticed Pam’s site says the tricot will be restocked mid-February 2018.)
Pam’s blog
NY Fashion Center Fabrics

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes and Yes.

Conclusion: Need a quick and easy make? This is it!!!

Tiny Treasures Tray

A few days before Christmas, I realized I needed a gift to put under the tree for the Jazzman. I buy him this and that throughout the year when I see something he needs or could use, so there was nothing I could think of to get him so he would have something to open at the family gathering.

I had seen this Tiny Treasures Basket & Tray pattern a year or so ago on the Noodlehead website. I knew I wanted to try it sometime. Now I had an opportunity, and I had two coordinating fabrics in my stash that were perfect for this gift. And the pattern was free!

When I met him, the Jazzman was learning to play guitar. It was something he had wanted to do for years, and he was taking action on that desire. And then he met me. I had been been playing piano since I was 3½ years old. And over the course of my life I had also learned to play accordion and organ and clarinet and oboe and guitar and even dabbled with vibraphone and banjo. Shall we say that, without even trying, I can be intimidating to beginner musicians. His guitar went on the shelf. And that was eight years ago. He loves music—old metal and blues—and still dreams of playing guitar. So this little tray would be perfect to sit on his chest of drawers and hold the contents of his pocket.

When Christmas morning arrived and he opened his gift, he loved it. And now, three weeks later, it’s sitting on the corner of his chest of drawers. Each night he unloads his pockets into it.

I posted the finished tray to my Facebook feed. When my elder son, who lives in the Dallas area, saw it, he asked if I’d make one for him. That’s never happened before. Of course I did, and the review below incorporates what I learned from both makes.

Tiny Treasures TrayPattern Description: Small fabric tray and basket with handles.

Pattern Sizing: Finished basket is 10″ x 10″ x 4¼ tall; finished tray is 8″ x 6″ x 2½” tall.

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, with the exception of the binding. It took me a while to figure out that I was going to open out the binding to sew it to the inside. Once I treated it like so many necklines I’ve bound, I was fine.

Tiny Treasures TrayWhat did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Heavy-weight interfacing on a concave surface is difficult to keep smooth in the finished product. And I needed a third hand to sew the binding around those curves!

Fabric Used: Quilting-weight cotton from Exclusively Quilters. It’s their “That Funky Jazz” collection. A scrap of ultrasuede from my stash for the tabs/handles.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:

The hardest thing was to sew the binding around the top edge. The instructions say to start the binding at one of the corner seams. NO! That was very difficult and unwieldy for me. When I made the second tray, I started the binding in the center of a side so it would be hidden by the tab/handle.

The other issue for me was working with the heavy-weight interfacing (Pellon 71F) on the inside. This is a concave surface. Once it’s curved, the “darts” sewn, and finished, it’s almost impossible to try to press out those puckers and bubbles. (I was working with a quilting-weight cotton. Using a heavier textile might make a difference.) The next time I make this tray, I will use the heavy-weight on the outside, a convex surface.

This was my first time using rivets. Yea for new skills. Love the finished look.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, already did. And will do so again! I would not advise a beginner to start with this. It would be better to make a couple of simple bags first so you’re used to working with the interfacing. The pattern is better for an advanced beginner, IMO.

Conclusion: Great little gift for your friends who already have enough of your zippered bags. There are a hundred uses each for the tray and the basket.

If you’re wanting a copy of this free pattern, here’s the link to the pattern.

Courtney Top for Mexico

Courtney frontVacation plans always make me want to sew. Surely I have some nice piece of fabric in my stash that will make me feel chic on vacation. And this trip was no exception.

We’re on a week’s snow escape vacation, and judging by all the weather reports from NE OH, we timed it perfectly!

Courtney backTwo nights before we were to fly out, I dipped into my stash and found a silky rayon I purchased several years ago at Fabrix in San Francisco on a shopping trip with Shams. Then I dug into my StyleArc pattern stash and Courtney called out to me.

Here’s my review:

Pattern Description: An everyday top with interesting design lines

Pattern Sizing: Sizes 4-30. I cut a 16, but think I could have cut 14 as I was using all knit. In the future, I will save 16 for the linen versions.

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

StyleArc CourtneyWere the instructions easy to follow? Typical minimalist instructions. I had one moment of confusion when sewing the sleeve band on. I thought maybe I wanted the seam allowance to be on the outside, if I was going to fold the band up and tack, as it would be invisible and the finished edge might be smoother on the inside against my arm. After reading Jean’s review on her blog, it made sense to sew the band on so the seam allowance went to the inside. I tacked the band into the folded position, as it’s very soft and I knew I wanted to wear it folded up.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Quick sew. Cute, versatile top.

Fabric Used: Rayon knit from Fabrix in SF.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I added 2” to length. I might have added two more for the coverup, but it’s fine to wear to lunch at the resort if I slip shorts on under it.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I will be sewing it again and I highly recommend this pattern.

Conclusion: Easy sew. Easy wear. Great swimsuit coverup for vacation.

Returning from the Piano Bench

Yes, it’s true that I haven’t posted in a very long time. I’ll tell you another time what all I’ve been up to.

One thing I’ve done is take Joan Hawley’s “Zip It Up: Easy Techniques for Zippered Bags” class on Craftsy. If you’re just getting interested in crafting cool bags for yourself, friends, and craft shows, I highly recommend this class.

The fabric is hand dyed using Shibori techniques by my friend, MaryLou Alexander. You can see the beautiful art quilts she makes with her hand-dyed fabrics on her website. Aren’t I lucky that she calls me when she’s overloaded with scraps? This bag is one of the results.

The bag will be a holiday gift to my travel pal, Marilyn, when we go to dinner with MaryLou and our guys tonight.

Happiest of Holidays to you and yours, whatever you celebrate. May you make wonderful memories.

And thanks for reading.

A T-shirt Fit for a Gala

While we in the opera program at YSU’s Dana School of Music were preparing for our spring opera weekend, the program director, my boss Dr. Yun, asked if I would accompany the trio from Mozart’s “The Impresario” for an upcoming gala. The event was sponsored by YSU’s College of Creative Arts & Communication, of which Dana School of Music is a part. I put it on my calendar and promptly forgot about it.

The three weeks leading up to opera weekend are the busiest of the year for me. I don’t see my guy except when he’s sleeping and for five minutes in the morning before he leaves for work; I don’t do anything but make music and drive my high school carpool. I certainly don’t have time to sew. I asked Dr. Yun what we should wear for the gala performance, and her response scared me: “As fancy as possible.” Hmmm. I’m the epitome of simple—at least in my mind. I own a few dresses, street length, that I’ve worn before to a gala and to weddings, but I think I was five pounds lighter at each of those wearings. I couldn’t picture wearing them and being comfortable sitting on a piano bench. And I certainly didn’t have time to either shop or make anything.

What to do? What to do?

And I remembered a sequined piece of stretch lace that I bought at Fabrix in San Francisco while on a shopping jaunt with my fiberfriend, Shams, who blogs at “Communing with Fabric.” That trip was in September of 2014, and this fabric has been languishing in my stash ever since, calling “Make me, make me” everytime I opened its resting place. When Dr. Yun said “fancy,” I immediately thought of those sequins.

My TnT (Tried-and-True) t-shirt pattern has been getting a lot of attention from me lately. I could just grab that, cut, sew, and be done without taking too much time away from the piano.

Round 1 for this pattern happened several years ago in a poly medium-weight jersey also from the 2014 trip to Fabrix. I made this and promptly forgot about it, never showing it on this blog. It’s very comfortable, but I prefer looser fitting tunics, as I’m in an unhappy-about-my-weight period. I try to disguise my belly as much as possible. I know what you’re saying: “Get over yourself!” During this weather-crazy spring, I’ve come to love this tee with black ponte elastic-waist EF slacks and a black Talbot’s no-close cardigan.

Round 2 went to a lightweight cotton knit with little stretch, made before my Interlochen summer of 2015. This version, without the hem and sleeve bands, has disappeared from my closet. I must have given it to someone who liked it more than I, or to a charity bin. I believe this pattern needs good stretch to look good on a body. This fabric wasn’t the answer.

My attempt to hack this tee pattern began when I fell in love with two Garnet Hill tees I ordered for my aborted trip to Bali. I fell in love with everything about these tees. The fit was me. Folding my new tee at the center front, I laid it on the cutting table and laid the body front Renfrow pattern piece on top of it. I figured out that if I put the center front neckline point on the tee center front neckline, then pivoted the bottom side seam about to match the side seam of the tee, my bottom center front point was 1″ from the foldline of the tee. So that would be my hack. Pin the neck to the folded fabric, then pivot an inch out at the bottom, determine how long I wanted it to be and add that many inches all along the bottom and extending the side seam down that number of inches.

I had bought a pair of LulaRoe leggings from a friend who was in that biz and wanted a top to go with them for our winter Mexico vacation. I bought a piece of rayon/spandex slub jersey knit in peach from Hart’s Fabric and started the experiment. I decided to add 8″, which would include about a 1½” hem, so 5½” more than the Renfrew front pattern piece.

[Note: The Renfrew has a bottom band on the body and on the sleeves. So the length of the front piece I was using is not the actual length of the shirt. It’s the length less seam allowances less the band. If you’re attempting this hack, measure that pattern piece and compare it to your body or your favorite tee. How much longer do you want it be? How deep a hem do you want? Add the total of those two numbers to the bottom of the pattern piece when cutting. And also remember than your hem will not be a straight line perpendicular to the center front point. Let’s say you’re adding 8″, as I did. You’re going to lay your ruler along the side seam and continue that angled line down 8″. Then every couple of inches from that point across to the center front, you’re going to lay your ruler with the 8″ mark on the pattern bottom and make a mark. Once you’ve marked all the way along the bottom, you’ll cut along those marks from center front to side seam. That will give you a gently curved line which will result in a straight hem once the garment is on your body.]

While cutting out the top, I started thinking about how to wear it. Lace is seethrough and I’d need either a lining or something underneath it. I thought of lining the body, but not the sleeves, with a lightweight silk and cotton knit that I had just enough of. But if two fabrics don’t have exactly the same amount of stretch in them, the garment is never going to lie flat and smooth. So I turned to the email group I’m a part of; these sewists are all alumnae of the “Design Outside the Lines” retreats that Diane Ericson (formerly along with Marcy Tilton) leads. We’ve all studied with the same teachers and are all fearless when it comes to trying out techniques and learning as much as we can about fiber and fabrics. When I asked these women how they might approach this problem, several said I should make two separate garments—the sequined lace tee and an identical sleeveless tee from the black silk/cotton jersey to wear underneath. Grateful for their advice, I forged ahead with the lace, ignoring the lining need for the moment.

Sneaking fifteen minutes here and thirty minutes there, by Thursday afternoon of gala day, I had the long sleeves sewn to the armhole but hadn’t sewn the body and sleeve side seams or hemmed either. I threw the half-finished garment into my music bag and took it along to Dr. Yun’s 4:00 seminar, where I had to accompany my singer Olivia in her performance. I pulled the unfinished tee out of the bag and showed it to the two sopranos who would be performing that night. I felt it was way too bright and sparkly and would overshadow the singers—something one never wants to do. But they both said I should go for it. And then I showed it to Dr. Yun. She said I should finish it and let her wear it! So still skeptical, I raced home after seminar and finished the top at 6:00. I had to be at the hall where the gala was being held at 7:30. I had just enough time to wolf down some supper, changes clothes, add some make-up, and drive downtown.

I own numerous black tanks, many in a silk knit, that I wear under sweaters all winter long. Sorting through several of these, I picked one that was about the same length as the lace tee, and slipped an above-knee EF knit skirt under it, along with black sheer stockings and microfiber peep-toe slingbacks. For jewelry, I wore a pair of rhinestone drops that I bought along with a matching bracelet at a yard sale five years ago for $2.00.

From the moment I walked through the performers’ entrance to the hall, I started receiving compliments. And always I replied, “Thank you. I made it.” One of the servers said she’d like one. When I got home and told that to the Jazzman, he said I should offer to make her one for $275.

I’m writing this post on Sunday morning after the Thursday evening event, and I still smile every time I look at that picture.

I took a chance. I went wayyyyyyy outside my comfort zone. And I felt stunningly beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that feeling before in my life.

Yea, me. And yea, Shams, for encouraging me to buy the fabric. And yea, Francesca, Becca, and Dr. Yun, for encouraging me to wear it even when every fiber of my being was saying, “Don’t you dare outshine the soprani.”