Second Verse, Better Than the First

brownslacksHot off the sewing machine today is another pair of Marcy Tilton’s Vogue 8859. My first attempt occurred last week.

Today’s version proves one can improve upon success. I wore the gray slacks two or three times last week to test them out. Each time, I found myself pulling and tugging at the waist and hiking the pants up. The more I thought about it, the more I realized they were too big.

I purchased another piece of fabric from, this time a cotton/poly/lycra blend from Theory. Marcy calls it Cocoa Canyon Stretch Woven. This has a sateen finish on the right side and is nice to touch and nice to wear. I cut it out last night and spent about three hours on it today. And now I have a great new pair of pants.

brownslacks1The lycra in this fabric is what really makes these pants. They’re skinny, yet very comfortable.

They don’t have a pocket, as it would destroy the line. But they’re going on vacation with me, so I really want a pocket. I snagged the pocket from Diane Ericson’s Panel Skirt and Vest (NLA). See that little external pocket on the skirt on the left in the picture? I sewed that up from a scrap of the pant fabric. There was no waistband or seam to sew it into, so I made a little “rod pocket” along the top (think of your curtains). panelI’ll make a little strip to go through that rod pocket with a buttonhole on each end. Then I’ll sew two flat buttons over the waist elastic, and I’ll have a nice pocket to tuck my spare Euros into.

The top I’m wearing? Marcy Tilton’s Vogue 8582. I didn’t like the drapey extension, as the wrong side of this fabric is white and it just didn’t look good peeking out of this soft brown/taupe print. I cut the drapey extension off and left a vent in one side, sewing the other side closed. The cowl neck collar is stolen from StyleArc’s Amy Knit Top. The fabric is a soft rayon knit that came from Waechter’s Fine Fabrics in Asheville. (Every time I have to drive ten hours to Asheville to visit my mother, I reward myself with a quick side trip into Waechter’s.)

I made this top to wear to Italy last year, and it’s one of my favorites. Now that’s especially true with these great pants underneath.

On the Spectrum from Like to Love

ToteCarryToteFinalWhen I was in Barnes & Noble last week, I picked up a copy of Modern Patchwork magazine from the newsstand. As I flipped through it, I noticed a number of cool projects that would make great gifts.

After focusing solely on garment construction for the past month, I wanted to take a break and try a new project from this magazine. I had picked up some Paris fabric a couple of months ago in celebration of my impending vacation, and decided to use that for a tote bag. I chose the Reversible Quilted Tote by Tia Curtis. The Paris piece I had purchased was only enough for the main body of the tote, with a little left over. I started digging through my stash to see what else I could use.

ToteLiningThe first big find was a piece of mauve cotton that I painted 10 years ago while living in Tucson. After painting it, I laid the wet fabric out on the stones in my yard to set. One of the unique properties of fabric paint is that it rises to the highest point while drying. So everywhere the fabric was resting on the rugged edge of a rock, a dark spot appears on the fabric. I love this unique finish! This piece would be the inside of the bag. (Yes, the pattern says reversible, but I intend to use it always with the Paris side out.)

For the inside pocket, I found a piece of quilting cotton in a butterscotch shade that I thought would blend well. I constructed the pocket piece. (Sandwich the fabric with batting, stitch around the edges, turn inside out and press.) To bring out more of the mauve/rust/copper shades from the Paris print, TotePocketI pulled out one of my Marcy Tilton silkscreens. This one is multiple expressions of praise, gratitude, love and compassion. Digging through my stash of paints (yes, I have multiple stashes of arts/crafts supplies!), I found a bottle of Jacquard Lumiere Super Copper. I angled the silkscreen almost 45° and made two passes across the finished pocket piece, one on the left and one on the right. I hung it in the basement near the dehumidifier to dry for several hours and washed the silkscreen, setting it upright to dry. Later in the afternoon, I ironed the first passes I had done to heatset them, then taped waxed paper over them. I angled the silkscreen 45° in the opposite direction and drew the paint over the unpainted portions of the pocket. When I pulled off the taped waxed paper, I realized I had left some areas with no paint—obvious (to me) “white space.” I grabbed a very dull pencil sitting nearby, and started tapping it onto the paint residue inside the bottle lid and then randomly touching it onto the pocket.

Y’know, I have spent years and years trying to learn these techniques from Marcy Tilton and Diane Ericson, but suddenly silkscreening and fabric painting have fallen into place for me. I totally and completely love this pocket!

ToteSide1ToteSide2My friend and fellow singer Amanda had pinned a French Braid quilt block on Pinterest. I thought this block would be great for the side panels and found a piece of cotton hand-dye in complementary colors in my stash. All of the different shades in the French braid on the pictures are cut from one piece of fabric. Pretty good, huh?

Once the side panels were completed, I stitched along the piecing seams, and like how it looks. (Before quilting on the left; After quilting on the right.)

The construction of the bag is fairly straightforward: fold the nylon belting and topstitch to make the handles; sew the outside of the bag and the side panels and quilt; make the outside and inside pockets, and then sew everything together. Attach an elastic strip for button loop, sew on a vintage black button, and I’m done.

ToteFaceToteFrontPocketBut I don’t love it. I finished the work at about 10:45 and raced upstairs, where the Jazzman was ¾ asleep in bed. He opened his eyes and looked at me and I said, “I don’t like it.” Waaah. He wisely replied, “Someone will,” and closed his eyes again.

Let me tell you first the things I don’t like about this pattern. First and most importantly, the seam allowance is not stated. Should I sew ¼”, ½”, some other random fraction? The “Sewing Basics” section of the magazine says to use ¼” seams when piecing, but that’s piecing, not construction. Next, the inside pocket is constructed exactly the same width as the body. ToteInsideAnd the side and body are topstitched together—including the edge of the pocket!!! That means that for the side seam on the back, one is forced to stitch over (four layers for fabric plus batting—wrong sides together over a piece of batting and then turned right side out so fabric/fabric/seam allowance/seam allowance/batting—times three—back/pocket/side). That’s a whole damned lot of fabric and batting to be stitching over. Fifteen layers!!! Trying to make that side piece fit in place correctly is a job for supersewer, or is a pattern begging to be redesigned!! And because of the way one is setting that side panel into place, the stitching must stop at the proper point, ¼” or ⅜” or ½”, whatever you decided your seam allowance should be. I studied all the math in the pattern and decided that side inset seam allowance must be ⅜”. I should have marked the ⅜” point on the side piece, but I didn’t. It didn’t fit in perfectly, and I’m a big fan of perfection. Argh.

One more thing the pattern didn’t allow for was a directional fabric. By that, I mean that there’s a definite top and bottom to the design. The instructions said to cut two pieces of fabric 17″x27″ for the body. But that results in either the front or the back having the design upside-down. I added in a seam allowance for the center bottom and cut two pieces 17″x14″ for the directional fabric on the outside. A novice sewist wouldn’t know to make that adjustment.

If I were redesigning, I think I would make the outer bag and the inner bag separately, using a temporary spray adhesive to hold the batting in place on the inner bag. Then I would stitch the two bags together around the top, leaving an opening for turning. (I’d probably leave the opening in the side of one of the bags and turn the whole thing right-side out through that opening. Leaving the opening in the top would make it too obvious on the finished product.) (With a directional fabric, the opening could be left in the bottom seam.)

ToteComp2The only other thing I would change would be to use a much heavier-weight stabilizer in the bottom of the bag. I bought the wrong product. I will go back and get a heavier weight, then make a sleeve of the inside fabric for it and either hand-sew it to the bottom of the bag, or attach Velcro dots to the four corners of the bottom insert and the bottom to hold it in place.

If you stop and realize how long it took you to read this post, you’ll correctly figure out that this bag took a lotta lotta lotta work. To put that much work into something, one wants to love it when the work is complete. As I stated before, I don’t love this bag. But maybe when I get the new floor in it and tuck my laptop or iPad into the pocket, I will.

ToteQuiltingWhat do I love about the bag? I love each of the individual components. I love that it will remind me of this, probably my tenth or twelfth visit to Paris, for years to come. I love the piecing on the side. I love using my hand-painted fabric inside and remembering the sunny Tucson day when I painted that fabric and laid it out on my desert-landscaped yard to dry. I love-love-love the silkscreening and how well that turned out. Probably in a week or two, I’ll have to reread this post to remember that at one point I didn’t like this bag. I hope so.

And what am I grateful for? That my Husqvarna Viking Designer 1 has a built-in stipple quilting stitch, so I could put the fabric sandwich in place, push the start button, and just guide the fabric while the machine did all the hard quilting work for me. That definitely saved my shoulders!

Hmmmm. On second thought, maybe I do like the bag. I think I’ll keep it!

I left the bag on my dresser last night after photographing it. It was the first thing I saw as I opened my eyes this morning, and I instantly realized that my make-two-separate-bags-and-attach solution won’t work. Part of what gives this bag its stability is all the quilting. Quilting “inside the box”, if you will, after the bag is constructed will be headaches of difficulty. So it’s back to the drawing board as far as how to make the side panels fit easily.

I made a similar unlined mesh bag a couple of years ago. The side panels were sewn in the way these are, and then double-fold bias tape was stitched over the seam to enclose those rough seam allowances. But you’re already sewing through fifteen layers—this would be another four layers on top of those fifteen.

Hmmmm. Keep thinking ….

Done *and* Completed

MulberryBothAfter writing about my feeling of exposure given the length of the front “ruffles” on Katherine Tilton’s Vogue 8691, I went back to my sewing table and gathered up all my scraps. Alas, there was not enough fabric to cut new, longer panels.

So I pulled out the pattern piece for the two front panels and cut a second panel to be attached to the bottom of the first panel. The piece started at the bottom edge of the front panel, extending down 2″ and up 1″—a total height, if you will, of 3″, with the bottom of the first panel extending down 1″ over the top of the second panel. Make sense?. That gave me enough length topstitch the first panel over the second with a double needle and wooly nylon in the bobbin.

Then I went out slipped the top on and went outside, interrupting the Jazzman’s mowing to ask his opinion. Still not right.

The back was good. The front was now good. But the side—not so much. We looking at the angles where each panel met its neighbor and decided I would start at the side seam and angle down to where the side panel meets the front seam. (The side panel—double wide—is attached to both the side front and side back. But the side back didn’t need any alteration.) I drew the pattern piece to start even with the bottom of the side panel at the side seam and drew it down to meet the bottom of the front panel at the side front/front princess seam.

Et voila!, as they say in France. I wore the top half-an-hour later to our friends’ retirement party, and heard lots of compliments. And I didn’t feel overexposed!


Done but not Completed

Mulberry1Here’s the top I finished yesterday. It’s another Katherine Tilton top, Vogue 8691.

I snapped a quick pic to send to Jas at work before I left to attend a performance of Mahler Symphony #2. As I was walking from the car to Stambaugh Auditorium, I realized I felt a tad exposed. I wasn’t comfortable with how short the front was. No, you can’t see my crotch, but it feels like you can. That just won’t do.

This morning I tried it on with my EF black slim washable stretch crepe pants, and didn’t like the look. That was going to be Solution Number One. But I prefer the look of this top with leggings, so I’m moving on to Solution Number Two: pool all my scraps from this top and figure out how to make the front “ruffle” 2″-3″ longer.

The fabric? Emma One Sock Mulberry 11 oz. rayon/lycra single knit jersey. Can you say heaven? This fabric is the softest, coziest fiber I’ve wrapped around my body in a long time. I want more-more-more!

Let me just tip my beret to Katherine again on this top. Those bottom “ruffles”? Topstitched into place! Brilliant!! No finishing required. And really, why would you need to? A) The knit doesn’t ravel. B) It’s at the bottom of the garment. Who’s going to ever notice that you have a raw edge there? NOBODY! The ruffle is constructed in five pieces. The back piece is gathered to make it ripple and flow as you walk. Easy-peasy construction.

The other feature I love about this pattern is the center and princess seam finishing techniques. Sew the seam once, press it open, then topstitch with double needle and wooly nylon in the bobbin. Cool look!

I cut a size 16 with no pattern alterations and love the fit—with the exception, of course, of the front length (which I wouldn’t have been able to figure out until I tried on the finished garment and walked around).

So it’s back to the sewing room, and I’ll post again when I solve this overexposure issue.

Love at First Sight

PurpleAbstractYou’ve seen two versions of this pattern so far (1, 2). Those were all View C/D of Katherine Tilton’s Vogue 8817. While I was in Santa Barbara for Design Outside the Lines, I saw two women wearing tops out of View B. It was very flattering on them, and I wanted to try it for myself.


I had seen a gorgeous stretch rayon/lycra knit on the Emma One Sock site. The print is a mix of large abstract and small marbelized pools. Just gorgeous! The colors called my name. When the fabric arrived a few days later, I almost purred as I stroked it. It is incredibly soft, yet stable. I didn’t have the layout issues that I have with a softer, lighter-weight knit. It cut easily, sewed easily, and finished up like a dream.

The way Katherine designed the front, it cups nicely, making a form-fitting—rather than boxy—top. The minute I sewed in the sleeves, basted the side seams and slipped it on, I wanted to shout for joy. This, my fellow sewists, is one nice t-shirt pattern.

Notice the inset in the back (in the top left photo). One could use a coordinating sheer or a knit lace, or a contrasting knit of the same weight as the body. Emma One Sock kindly posts virtual swatches of coordinating fabrics on each of their detail pages. So of course I grabbed a couple of yards of the mulberry rayon jersey. (No, I didn’t need two yards for that little inset, but tomorrow you’ll see the yummy tunic-length top of Katherine’s that is coming off my sewing machine today.)

I inserted a folded strip of the mulberry in the under-bust seam so that a ¼” peeked out. I used it also for the back inset and the neck binding, then zigzagged a band, per pattern instructions, about 2″ from the bottom of each sleeve.

Where the three tunics from this pattern will all go with leggings or skinny pants, this top looks perfect—to me—with my Eileen Fisher straight-leg stretch crepe pants.

Yes, it will be going in my suitcase.

And yes, I will be making more of this top. Another tip of the beret to Katherine Tilton for a design very well executed.