A Study in Stretch

ReptileFrontThis pattern, Katherine Tilton’s Vogue 8817, ReptileFabrichas become a favorite TNT (Tried ‘n’ True) for me. I love both views—View A/B, the T-shirt with a back inset, and View C/D, the tunic. When I saw the delicious colors of this poly/lycra reptile print at Gorgeous Fabrics, I grabbed it. I actually grabbed enough so that DGD could also make a top for herself out of this. ReptileMeshAnd while I was at it, I grabbed some black mesh to use with the ssssnake print on this shirt.

Here are the two interesting lessons learned from this project:

  1. Mesh vs. Solid: I used the mesh in four places on this top: In the inset on the upper back; for a ½” embellishment in the underbust seam; in a band about 1″ from the bottom of each sleeve; and for the neck binding. ReptileDetail Click on the detail photo at the right to see a close-up of these embellishments. What I love the most is the neck binding. You notice—on all the photos—how it doesn’t scream *b*l*a*c*k* at you? The mesh in two layers over the base print just creates a subtle “here’s the edge of the neck” delineation. Subtle. Chic. Love it!
  2. Changing the amount of stretch: I cut two pieces crosswise—the lower front and the back inset. The stretch on this knit, as on most knits, is crosswise. ReptileBothReptileBackWhen you cut a pattern piece crosswise on a knit, you’re robbing yourself of the stretch around the body. So the lower front piece having less stretch meant that piece would hug my body more than the side pieces would. And this shirt would be snugger than a similar shirt with all pieces cut lengthwise on the fabric. Look at the two other shirts out of this pattern: Poster City and Love at First Sight. I don’t know the exact percentage of stretch in the other two knits, which are rayon rather than polyester. Ann Steeves at Gorgeous Fabrics lists this fabric as having 40% stretch. I didn’t take the time yesterday to dig back through my scraps and compare the other two. But I love how this shirt fits. I wore it for a quick Nordstrom-run to Cleveland yesterday, where three sales associates admired the shirt. (“Thank you. I just finished it this morning.”)

I’m normally loathe to buy polyester, but one hears so much about the new polyester knits now available on the market. I loved the print so much, I just had to try it. I’m so glad I did—as is DGD, who can’t wait to get started on her new ssssnake top.

A Top to Bring Fall Into the Picture

B5891FrontB5891Front2Most of Katherine Tilton’s patterns have appeared in Vogue Patterns until this past spring, when two new patterns were published in Vogue’s sister publication, Butterick Patterns. When I saw Katherine’s new top with vest and jacket views, Butterick 5891, I ordered the pattern immediately and started imagining how I could decrease my fabric stash with this pattern. First I made the jacket view in a hand-dyed silk shantung, but I’ll tell you about that another day. Today we’re going to talk about the vest.

Before deciding what to do with the pattern, I read the six reviews on PatternReview.com. Several people complained that the pattern had 15—count em, 15—pattern pieces. And while I agree that it is a pain to cut 15 pattern pieces for one little vest, the result was definitely worth the effort. I love this garment beyond words!

(Click on any photo to view larger version.)

Pattern Description: Loose-fitting top has collar variations, side pockets (left side A, B), and shaped hemline. A and B: raised neckline, mock neck/lower bands, front pleated peplum and narrow hem. C and D: folded, single layer collar, and stitched hems. Wrong side shows on hemlines and collar C, D.

Pattern Sizing: Misses 8-24. I believe I cut a 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? Pretty much – there were a couple of times I had to scratch my head and reread a couple of times, but for the most part, if you can apply logic and common sense to a problem, they were easy to follow.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The neckline. Wow – how flattering! The subtly asymmetrical hem is out-of-the-box without going too far for my rather conservative tastes. And the off-center back seam is unique and interesting.

I disliked the lack of finishing detail suggestions for the inside. I love creating garments that don’t have a raw edge showing on the inside, and that was challenging.

Fabric Used: A lightweight rusty brown linen that’s been in my stash for about 12 years. Because of the color, I believe I’ll be able to wear this into the fall with the black lightweight t-shirt underneath.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I am 5’8″ tall. I added 2″ to the length on every piece that had “shorten or lengthen here” lines. Next time, I’ll increase that by an inch or two.

I didn’t love the tucks in the peplum when I was almost done and tried it on, so just unsewed them. The peplum hangs down below the top, mirroring the lines of the top.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, I’ll probably sew it again. Yes, I’d recommend, but not to beginners.

Conclusion: An hour after finishing the top, I threw it on over my fave Eileen Fisher silk jersey crew neck long-sleeve top for a quick trip up to Lake Erie for an end-of-summer pot luck with friends. Once we got up there, the weather was warmer than expected, so I ducked inside the cottage and pulled off the t-shirt. I loved the look, whether as a sleeveless top or a vest. I felt chic and received compliments. I had no idea I would love this top the way I do.

I’m thinking another made of a sweater knit or a lightweight wool would be the perfect addition to my winter wardrobe.

Thanks, Katherine!!

B5891BackB5891asVestHere’s the back. My girlfriend told me to strike a pose before she clicked the shutter. If you like those slacks, here’s their story. Oh, I found recycled plastic buttons, Green Earth, a new line of product from La Mode.

And—oh, my gosh—look at that neckline. I just think it’s one of the most flattering necklines I’ve ever had frame my face. And doesn’t it look great with the t-shirt underneath?

Love at first wearing!

Teaching It Simple

BlanketTestBlanketTestWashedA music-friend of mine, Julie, is pregnant with her first baby. She’s having some health issues (her, not the baby), and posted on Facebook that she was looking for stress relief. I suggested she learn to knit, as it’s documented to relieve stress. She expressed an interest but also stated that she’s not the craftiest person around. So I decided a) I would teach her, and b) it needed to be simple, and c) it needed to be washable.

I spent the spare minutes of several days searching for a simple blanket. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that I needed a garter stitch blanket. I really love this blanket, which uses garter stitch. But the yarn shown in the pattern is a tad expensive (mid-teens for one hank times 4 hanks, and two hanks of the border yarn at the same mid-teens number), and I couldn’t figure out a yarn substitution.

I decided I would just do a garter stitch 36″-40″ square in an inexpensive, washable yarn. I walked through several local chain stores with yarn departments and, at Michael’s, found Bernat Baby Blanket yarn. I bought one skein and cast on 24 stitches with size 11 needles. What I got a was very loose knit, and I thought those holes might snag little newborn fingers, and that wouldn’t work. So I unknit the piece and cast on again with size 8s, just knitting the whole skein. I ended up with a 11″x20″ rectangle that is soft and squishy and washable.

AfterWashAfter binding off, taking the first picture above, and weaving in the ends, I threw the “travel blankie” into the wash along with a bath towel. Then I threw it into a permanent press dryer cycle for about 10 minutes, laying it flat on a table when I pulled it out. What I got was a very comfortable, snuggly blanket. The length drew up 2″ so that the finished dimensions are 11″x18″. I think that means I add one skein to the pattern to end up with a 36″-40″ square. I’ll purchase 8 skeins, cast on very loosely 80 stitches, and knit until the length equals about 3″-4″ longer than the width. Then when washed and laid out to dry, it should be just what the baby wants.

I chose the “Funny Prints” colorway, to me “gender-neutral.” (Yes, I know gender applies to grammar, not babies, but “sex-neutral” sounds kinda strange.) Tomorrow Julie and her husband will learn (hopefully) the sex of the baby. She can then choose the colorway she wants, and we’ll sit down and learn to knit!

What do you think?

The Next Sewing Generation

imageMy ten-year-old granddaughter has begun expressing an interest in becoming a fashion designer. To this end, I found the “Sew Zoey” books on Amazon and started her love affair with these books.

Inspired by Zoey, DGD decided she wants to make her back-to-school wardrobe–at least the outfit she wears on the first day of fifth grade and maybe one more outfit.

imageThrilled for the opportunity to pass on my love of fiber, I began looking for an available time for a sewing playdate, and started to think about fabrics and patterns. While visiting the Gorgeous Fabrics site, I found a darling pink and red knit of acetate, poly, and lycra that I thought would appeal to this lover-of-all-things-pink. I dug into my pattern stash and pulled out a simple TNT, Textile Studio’s Basic Top. The cap sleeve version–only three pattern pieces!–was just what the budding designer needed.

DGD spent the night with me last night, and our first order of business was to talk about laying out the pattern and cutting. I pinned one piece, she pinned the other. I cut one, she cut the other. When it was all ready for sewing, we called it a night.

This morning after breakfast we headed back to the basement sewing room. I showed her how to pin and sew the right shoulder seam; she pinned and sewed the left shoulder seam. And so on.

imageIn retrospect, I could have chosen an easier fabric for her first project. The bubbly texture and 70% stretch of this fabric made it a little hard to control, but she hung in there. I took over at the topstitching of the hems. And I decided to add a binding strip to the neck opening rather than folding and topstitching, and did the sewing on that application.

To see the joy on her face when she slipped on the completed top–her joy mirrored the joy I feel each time I wear a garment I have made and garner compliments for my work. It’s thrilling for me, and I watched as she experienced that same feeling.

She decided she wanted a scarf she could use as a belt to cinch the waist, so I cut a 4″ x ~45″ strip. She did the sewing all on her own, and I taught her how to use the Fasturn tool to turn the tube right side out.

When we were done and she slipped on the top and positioned the scarf around her waist, she said, “I’m going to wear this the rest of the day.”


What’s next? A skirt, she tells me.

Who Needs NYDJ?

DenimPantsSideWhen you’ve got an incredible pair of skinny jeans that fit like they were made for you (oh, wait …), why would you lay out $120 for a pair of pull-your-tummy-in jeans that include so much architecture that you have to wear a loose top to look good?

These are my new stretch denim jeans that will be perfect for all but the hottest two weeks of summer. The pattern is Marcy Tilton’s Vogue 8859. This is my third take on this pattern (Take 1; Take 2). If you only knew how many pairs of pants I have made over the years in a futile attempt to get something I liked, you would understand how thrilled I am with this pattern. I think Marcy was looking at a photo of me when she designed these pants!

DenimPantsFabricAnd the fabric. Oh my gosh, the fabric! Ann Steves of Gorgeous Fabrics hit the ball out of the park when she found this lightweight stretch denim. (I’m very sad to tell you this fabric is sold out, but the description to the right is a very similar fabric. Go to GorgeousFabrics.com and search on “stretch denim” to see if she has more. If the description says “5 oz.”, you’re in luck!)DenimPantsLabel

DenimPantsBackWhat do I love about these pants? Several things:

  1. Easy and well-placed back patch pockets. They are placed and sized such that they don’t call attention to one’s rear end. (“Do these pockets make my butt look big?” No, they don’t!)
  2. The knee ease in the front pattern piece. March has strategically placed some pleats that give you room to move. I have to admit to having arthritic knees, and these pants do not make me feel hampered at all. I have room to bend the knees and no constriction on my movement.
  3. The elastic application at the waist. Brilliant! You know how tacky elastic-waist pants normally look? Old lady, right? Not these. Marcy designed the waist such that the front is flat, even though it’s elastic. The majority of the give is in the back waist and the front could—by the look—very easily be a waistband application. No tacky old lady pants, these!
  4. The fit. Already described – wonderful!

I’m pretty sure you haven’t seen the last of this pattern on these pages. I’m hooked on the comfort and style.

And they didn’t cost me $120!!