Monthly Archives: June 2013

Dammit, I got squirreled again. This time it was lisa’s fault. She knocked off an Anthro contrast-back tee recently and it just demanded to be copied! And hey, I still had biggish pieces of some matching fabric under my cutting table (by which I mean on one of my dining chairs, under my dining slash sewing table) left over from my last SQUIRREL that I thought would work. Plus I had downloaded skirt as top‘s free Scoop Top pattern some weeks ago and had been wanting to make one up. So my newly cut Thurlow shorts pieces got pushed aside and I got my tee on.

contrast scoop top front

contrast scoop top back

You may notice that it’s not a very accurate knock off. Honestly, it’s because I was so excited to get sewing that I totally forgot the original(s) had a back yoke and the contrast was just the lower back. Whoops. Well, a copy of a copy never looks as good, right? So, obviously, I just cut the front piece and neckband from the solid and the whole back piece and the pocket from the stripe. I still like the effect.

But my mistake nagged at me, and I just had to get it right. So no sooner had I hemmed the first top than the pattern was on my table again and I was making another. When I went to hunt down the original Anthro top, I saw a similar tank-top version with a floral contrast. I had a small piece of the floral ITY left from my split-back dress, and I noticed that the yellow flower centers were a good match for the darker mustard stripe, so I thought, well, why not? It’s a little crazier than I usually go for, but it’s not like I was buying the fabric special. Look – this time I remembered to cut a back yoke!

contrast scoop tank front contrast scoop tank back

To convert the pattern to a tank top, I laid a random tank dress bodice pattern piece over and used it as a guide. The straps ended up a little wider than I’d like, so after I took these pictures I actually pulled out the armscye hem (twin needling is so easy to remove, thank goodness) and narrowed the strap at the shoulder a little to make a more traditional tank shape. I cut the contrast back piece an inch and a half from the fold to give room for a little pleat like in the inspiration (and that was the most I could do – the leftover floral piece was exactly that size, provided I cut it on the crossgrain, which I did because it’s not like I was worried about maintaining maximum stretch).

So I’d say I got my no-money’s worth out of this pattern already! And I’m sure I’ll use it again. Here’s why: this is the perfect neckline. I love it! It’s scooped just the right amount, the neckband is the perfect width, and it goes together so well. I may never use another tee neckline again. I’m less sold on the flowy nature of the lower half… I love the curved back hemline, but the front hem length hits me a little weird or something – or probably I’m just used to longer, tighter tees. I feel like the stiffer stripe fabric works better in the front than the drapey-but-clingy solid (which is a rayon or bamboo rayon maybe? I can’t remember), which just wants to glom on to my pants/belly/whatever, making for a less than flattering look. In future, I will probably either narrow the pattern towards the bottom to make it tighter, or perhaps lengthen the front and round it like the back, baseball shirt style. But regardless, the scoop tee is a great springblock for whatever random tee idea you’ve got banging around in your head, and a great quickie pattern for when you just can’t stomach constructing welt pockets at that exact moment. Just sayin’.


I love the show Psych. It airs on the USA network periodically and somewhat unpredictably throughout the year (I cannot wrap my head around cable split seasons), on Wednesdays, maybe? (We DVR everything, so I have only the vaguest idea when tv shows actually air.) It’s about a guy who solves crimes using his powers of observation, but he’s lazy so he lies about it and tells everyone he’s a psychic. Like The Mentalist, except Psych was first. And it’s played for laughs. The show is generally funny, rather silly, sometimes really out there in a good way, and the two leads are very nice to look at… but probably my favorite thing about it is that it’s set here, in Santa Barbara, where I live, but it is manifestly not filmed here. It’s filmed in Vancouver, I think, or somewhere similar – somewhere with pine trees and ferns and rain, none of which we have here. All the flyover establishing shots are of Santa Barbara, but when they cut to the actors they’re generally in some gloomy, foresty place that in no way resembles California, even, let alone Santa Barbara. Somehow this never fails to amuse me.

Anyway, that’s a long introduction to my latest garment, the inspiration for which came from a dress Juliet (one of the “Santa Barbara” police detectives and the main character’s love interest) wore in a recent episode. I must confess that I probably spend at least 25% of my tv-viewing attention on the clothes the characters are wearing, and if I spot something I like I spend the rest of the scene thinking about how I would construct the garment, rather than, say, following the plot. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this! This dress definitely distracted me (so much so that I made my husband watch the scene twice more so I could analyze it), probably because it hit my sweet spot of knock-off interest: something that’s obvious how it could be constructed, but interesting enough that I would never have thought of it myself. Here are a couple really terrible screenshots of the dress I took from the episode on Hulu:

juliet dress front      juliet dress back

I immediately thought of a pattern in my stash that I could adapt to make this dress: Vogue 8380. This was the first real dress pattern I ever sewed, maybe 4 years ago – I made it in a terrible burlap-feel linen from Jo Ann. But believe it or not it’s totally wearable (still!) and I’ve always liked the design. So I pulled out the pattern, and dug through the stash to find a fabric that I thought would work. And because I’m me, I obviously decided to make it in a knit. I mean, it’s not like I have occasion to wear a lot of fancy gold silk dresses, after all.

So here’s my version of Juliet’s split back halter dress:

Vogue 8380 mod

Vogue 8380 mod back

The first change I made to the pattern was to lengthen the bodice 2 inches, to lower the waistband from the empire line to my waist. (I determined 2 inches by simply trying on my old existing dress and measuring.) The pattern also has a shaped waistband, which I didn’t want here, so I cut my waistband as two straight rectangles the approximate width and length of the pattern’s waistband (3 inches by 18 inches). Then I tackled the back modifications. I started by tracing the side and top of the back bodice piece. I determined that I wanted to have about a 5 inch opening at center back, so I subtracted 5 inches from the waistband length and divided by two, giving me the length of the bottom of the back bodice from the side seam to the opening (6 1/2 inches). Then from the end of that line I drew a freehandy convex curve up to meet the top line. Here’s my modified pattern piece next to the original (note that the mod piece is wider than the original because the original was cut on fold – I will admit that in my first drafting attempt I did not think about this and my back pieces were half as wide as they should have been):

V8380 modified back piece

To construct the back, I started by hemming the curved edges and the armscyes (folded over and twin needled). I then laid one back piece on top of the other with both right sides facing up, matching the top edges, and sewed across the top. I then flipped the back one around to be on top, hiding the seam allowances between the pieces, and sewed a line about 3/4 inch down from the top to form the casing for the neck band. I then very carefully attached the waistband in the traditional way (sandwiching the bodice pieces between the waistband and waistband lining), matching the side seams. I attached the back skirt to the waistband, constructed the whole dress front, and sewed the side seams last. I took in the side seams quite a bit to get a close fit, to keep the back waistband from drooping too much in the middle. I didn’t want to have a big piece of elastic in the waistband because I didn’t want the bulk or the gathered look. Of course it occurred to me after the dress was totally constructed that I could easily have zigzagged clear elastic to the seam allowance of the waistband to support it a little more, but I wasn’t about to tear everything apart to do it, so I’ll have to live with a slightly droopy back waistband. Boo.

V8380 split back detail

I wanted a more streamlined neck band, rather than the neck tie from the pattern, so I just cut a rectangle that was an inch and a half wide by about 20 inches long, and sewed it into a tube. I tried the dress on and adjusted the length until it sat where I liked it and I just sewed the ends together and hid them in the casing. I thought a solid yellow neckband would have been cool, or even a cord like the inspiration dress, but I didn’t have anything appropriate around so I just used self fabric.

This jersey has been hanging out in my stash for quite a while waiting for the right project. I found it at my favorite crazy 99 cent place, and I snatched it up without anything in mind for it (as is my wont). I suppose the busy print obscures the design detail a little, but I don’t mind. I do like how it casuals up what started as a really elegant inspiration. Man, knock-offs with a twist are my favorite.

Anyway, it turned out to be a good dress to wear to the huge Solstice celebration today here in Santa Barbara. Real Santa Barbara, where it’s (mostly) sunny and there are no ferns. Or redwoods. Or beachfront office spaces that can be afforded by fake psychics.

And I will say that this kind of makes me want more split/open back items in my wardrobe. It’s officially summer, hooray! Happy late solstice!

As discussed previously, I seem to have the attention span of a golden retriever. So when I first hear about something I want-it-now! but if I can’t have-it-now, when I do finally get it I let it get buried by all the other want-it-now!s I’ve seen in the interim. Such was the case with the Tiramisu dress pattern from Cake Patterns. When it was introduced slash taking over the blogosphere, I wanted nothing more than to have one of the stripey prettys all of my own. I even pre-ordered the pattern, way back in November. Then it came, and I was flummoxed by the sizing, and I didn’t have enough of the striped fabric I wanted to use for it, and other things happened instead. A lot of other things. But, finally, when my time freed up somewhat a week or so ago and I was casting about for things to make, spurred on by the curious kiwi‘s Indie Pattern Month, I pulled the pattern out again and just did it. There, was that so hard?

Cake Patterns Tiramisu

Of course, it helped that I had found the perfect fabric for a Tira the time before last in LA at Michael Levine Loft. It’s a super-soft, probably-rayon knit and I love the variegated stripe with the white pinstripe in between. In a happy coincidence, the stripes happen to be the same width as the finished neckline binding, making square mosaic-tile-like stripes along the neck and sleeves. I do wish my stripe matching skills had risen to the occasion of this fabric, but sadly they did not and about 80% of my seams have ever-so-slightly mismatched stripes. But I’m so not the kind of person who rips out perfectly good, so I left it, choosing the better matched of the two center skirt seams to be my front skirt. Luckily the fullness of the skirt and my hair somewhat hides my laziness.

Tiramisu back

But let’s get right down to it: the pattern. I’m honestly torn. There are a lot of things I really like about this pattern – the general style, the height of the midriff, the play with stripes it allows, the shape and drape of the skirt (I tend toward full gathered skirts, but this might make me a circle skirt convert), the overall feeling of the instructions and design of the packaging (font choice is a bigger deal to me than I should admit, and Cake nails it). But I’m just not sold on the bodice drafting. I knew this going in – for every ten glowing reviews of the sizing and fit of the bodice from a full-(or normal)-busted gal, there was one small-chested lady saying “this doesn’t work”. And I’m another one.

The Cake sizing is unconventional, and I totally see what she’s trying to do here, but I think it’s solving a full bust problem while creating a small bust problem. I know I have an unusual body type (hey, that’s why I sew!), but I really fall through the cracks here. My high bust measurement is 34 and my full bust is 35, or 35 and a half with a padded bra. That puts me right between the Cake sizes. Measurements alone indicate that I should make a 30D, which is clearly crazy. But I worried that the 35A would be huge in the shoulders and side seams. Steph actually very kindly gave me advice on her website back in January that I should try the 35A and take it in if necessary, but I was still dubious. After reading a bunch of reviews and thinking about it and comparing pattern pieces, what I ended up doing was frankensizing the bodice. Starting with the size 30 bodice, I traced (really, I traced! I never do that!) an A along the neckline and bottom, a C at the shoulders and a B at the side seams to give me more torso room. I then cut a size 35 in the back bodice piece, as a cheater’s forward shoulder adjustment and to allow for my bigger ribcage measurement. And, well, it sort of worked. But even the A proved too big for my tiny bust, and at the baste-the-bodice-for-fit stage I took off about an inch more of bodice at the center front. Then after putting the whole front together I took the midriff-bodice seam in another 1/4 inch. Here’s my traced piece, as I cut it, with a pencil line along the bottom to approximate how much I took off (and I should have taken it as more of a straight line, since I still have some fabric pooching below the bust points along the midriff):

Tira bodice adjustmentsYeah, not the perfect bodice pattern for me. I wonder, though, if all the unusual sizing just had me way overthinking the process. With a Big 5 crossover bodice, I just pinch out a wedge along the neckline as an SBA. I think if I’d just done that here, with the original 30A pattern piece, it would have worked better. Taking it in over and over at the midriff resulted in funny gathers at center front, where it’s clear the angle of the neckline hitting the midriff is wrong. That could also be from the fact that I changed the crossover quite a bit – when I basted it together the first time, with the center front as marked, it was possibly the most modest neckline ever. So I spread out my pieces until I felt like I had a more regular neckline. Probably if I had cleavage the crossover would have been fine as drafted, but I don’t, so the crossover came up higher than a regular t-shirt neckline! The last oddity, noted by several other reviewers and corrected by Steph on an update of the pattern, is that I didn’t need to gather really at all to match the bodice to the midriff. Because I decreased the crossover amount, I needed to ease the bodice in a little to make it fit, but no gathering stitches were necessary.

And then, with all that worry and care about making sure it was big enough, I ended up taking it in at the side seams like an additional half inch on each side. The pattern is drafted with zero ease, but this fabric is so stretchy that negative ease was necessary. I clearly didn’t need to cut the bigger back piece, though I like where the shoulder seam falls, so it worked out. The sleeves also ended up much longer than I had anticipated (I was thinking more of a wide sleeveless look would happen), so in future I’ll trim the sleeves down a lot (or add long sleeves, since realistically I won’t get around to this again in the current season).

Tiramisu pockets

I took about 2 inches off the length of the skirt (but I think I accidentally cut one size larger at the hem in the first place), and I haven’t hemmed it yet because the thought of hemming a circle skirt made of flimsy rayon knit makes me shudder, and I’m hoping no one will notice if I don’t. I might like it a little shorter, though.

So, conclusion? I don’t know. I like this dress. I will probably want to make another at some point, but should I use this bodice piece? Draft a new one? Use a different dress’s bodice? I really like the idea of this pattern, and the pattern line in general, but it’s just clearly not drafted with my shape in mind. Which is fine! I love the idea of independent pattern companies solving issues the designer has had to deal with their whole lives – I just wish there was someone out there shaped more like me drafting patterns! Frankly, so far I feel like the Big 5 pattern block fits me better than most of the independent companies’ blocks, and I know generally what adjustments I consistently need to make to those patterns. But I want to support my fellow sewists! So, any small-busted-big-waisted folks out there with an itch to pattern draft? You’ve got one customer already!

My full pattern review can be found here.

Addendum: I just had to share this. I love WordPress, it’s terrific in almost every way… but the spell check leaves something to be desired. I grabbed a screenshot of what came up when it didn’t recognise “Tiramisu”:

Tiramisu spell check

So, yeah, I get why a blogging platform might not have a traditional Italian dessert in its dictionary – but why on earth would it think what I really wanted was “bigamist”?! Too funny.

I feel like I’ve crossed some kind of invisible sewing line at last: I have finally made up a Burda magazine pattern. Spurred on by the curious kiwi and modern vintage cupcake‘s Burda mag sewalong, I took the plunge into making something from my first (and only) magazine. I traced it out and added seam allowances and everything! And, wouldn’t you know, it wasn’t nearly the ordeal I thought it would be.

Huge credit for that goes to Ms. McCall of Brown Paper Patterns, for her awesome tracing advice. She even gave me two sheets of the magic carbon tracing paper she uses when we met up in LA! Basically, her method involves putting your blank pattern paper on the bottom (I used brown painter’s paper, which I got in an 18 inch by bajillion foot roll at the hardware store for like 5 bucks), then the carbon paper (colored side down) on top of it, and the Burda pattern mess sheet on top, then tracing the pattern lines with a tracing wheel. She uses a fancy double tracing wheel to add the seam allowances as you trace, which is brilliant, but of course that’s not the type of thing they sell at Jo Ann… so I improvised. I bought two cheapo tracing wheels and taped them together. Hey, it works! I measured the distance between the wheels and that’s my seam allowance (it turned out to be about 3/8, which is fine). It’s a cool setup, and I’m so glad it allows me to trace with the pattern sheet fully visible on top, rather than trying to pick out the right lines through a layer of tracing paper. And frankly, I think the whole tracing operation is still somehow less annoying than printing out 50 pages of a pdf pattern and taping them together, cutting out the pattern, and then still having to add seam allowances! I might be a physical Burda mag convert.

burda tracing tools

As for the pattern itself – it’s number 107 from the March issue (which I bought in LA from a real newsstand!), the gathered front cardigan that was pretty much the reason I bought the issue. I knew the front bands would be fiddly, but I liked the design so much I was willing to deal with the hassle. And I was totally correct – the bands were fiddly, but not impossible. I ran into some trouble at the bottom where the hem encounters the bands, but it worked out okay. Honestly, I have no idea if what I did at the hem was what was instructed or not, since I find Burda instructions so impenetrable that I confess I didn’t even read them. All-text (and translated text at that) instructions just make my eyes cross, and I didn’t want to put in the effort when I understand already basically how to construct a cardigan. I made the bands first, sewing the outer (interfaced) and inner bands together, sewing just the outer band to the body, then topstitching the band to secure the inner band and sandwich the seam allowances into the band. At the bottom I sewed across the bottom of the band right sides facing then turned them out, inserted the edge of the hemmed body into the band, and topstitched in place. It wasn’t the neatest thing ever with this thin knit, but it worked okay.

Burda 107-03-2013

The fabric I chose is yet another yellow striped knit from Girl Charlee that’s too thin to make into a dress (I went through a crazed striped-fabric-ordering phase last year and about half of them turned out to be more lightweight than I anticipated). I like really thin cardigans for our cool summer evenings, and I thought the gathers would be fun with the stripes. And while both of those things are true, I think this cardigan would’ve worked a bit better in a heavier knit. I prefer open cardigans, but this one is really designed to be closed, I think. I haven’t put buttons on this, but I probably should. It would make the shaped neckline make a lot more sense! There’s also a lot of fit-and-flare through the waist and hip, which works for a cardigan that you wear like a shirt but not so much for an open cardigan – there’s like little flaps below my waist on the sides. I will also agree with most reviewers that this pattern runs small; or, rather, it’s designed small. I prefer a cardigan I can wear, you know, over clothes, but this is drafted to be a tight shirt on its own. To be fair, that’s what it looks like in the magazine, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. If I make another one of these, I’d probably size it up a bit, straighten out the side seams a little, and make it in a slighter heavier knit so it wouldn’t be so fiddly to put together. I still like the shape and the idea, and, well, I went to all the trouble of tracing it so I feel kind of obligated to make it again…

At any rate, I’m glad I got over my fear of Burda magazines. Thanks to the Wellington Sewing Bloggers for hosting the sewalong and getting me to actually crack open that crazy pattern sheet! I don’t think I’ll be subscribing to Burda anytime soon, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled for pattern magazines, and hopefully eventually make something else from this issue. Of course, the keyword here is eventually.

I can sometimes be very Dug-the-dog-like when it comes to sewing. I’ve got a bunch of things on my table to sew next, but then along comes a contest and SQUIRREL! So when I came across Skirt Week at crafterhours, I was suddenly seized with a strong desire to MAKE A SKIRT, even though it had been the last thing from my mind just a few days ago. And a tight deadline? Even better. So into the stash I went!

When I brought home my pieces of mustard colored knit from Fabric Planet last fall, I was struck by how well it matched a mustard stripe knit I had gotten some time ago from Girl Charlee. It was one of the (sadly) several knits I ordered from them that turned out to be too sheer to make into an unlined dress, so I didn’t really know what to do with it. With this solid match, though, I started to ponder reversible garments. I toyed with the idea of a reversible tank dress or something, but when my SQUIRREL popped up I knew they should become a reversible easy jersey skirt.

reversible skirt stripereversible skirt solid

I was hooked on these simple yoga-waistband jersey skirts a couple summers ago, and I made like 5 of them. All with slightly different proportions, of course (consistent I am not). Here’s the diagram I made at the time.

easy jersey skirt measurementsThis was a good start, but I was looking for the magic proportions which would give me enough ease in the skirt to not pull across my bum, but not so much ease that I would have to run gathering stitches to ease the skirt into the waistband (these measurements require gathering). So I lengthened the waistband and shortened the top of the skirt… And you know what? I think I’ve finally got it! For this version, I made my waistband 34 inches long (I cut one piece and seam it in the back rather than have side seams), and I made the top width of the skirt piece 20 inches. Taking into account my 1/4 inch seam allowances, this made for 5.5 inches of ease, which I was able to deal with just by stretching my waistband to fit as I sewed it. Hooray! The waistband on this skirt could be an inch or two smaller, but I wear this style of skirt pretty low on my hips, so it’s fine.

For the reversible version, I cut two skirt pieces in each fabric, and a waistband in each fabric, making the waistband pieces half as tall as usual (6 instead of 12 inches). I basically sewed two skirts, attaching the matching waistband to each one, then sewed them together along the top of the waistband. When the skirt is laying flat it’s all one fabric, because I wanted the contrast to show when the waistband is folded down.

reversible skirt flat

I also sewed the waistband seam allowances together on the inside to keep everything in place better. (Which you can maybe see in this picture – this is the previous view but with the top layer of skirt flipped up over the waistband.) The seam allowances are sandwiched between layers to keep both outsides neatly finished.

reversible skirt insides

I didn’t hem the skirt(s), because I couldn’t conceive of a way to do it that wouldn’t negatively affect the drape of the skirt. I just cut them neatly to match as best I could. Does a little solid hang out on the bottom sometimes? Maybe, but I’m cool with it. This is a casual skirt, after all!

I’m actually pretty happy I was distracted by this squirrel. I wanted more colored bottom pieces, and this one is like two skirts in one, right? Honestly, I’ll probably mostly wear it striped side out, but it’s nice to have the option. Reversible is way more fun than just wasting the solid fabric as a lining.

So head on over to crafterhours and check it out – just beware you may get SQUIRRELed. There’s a ton of tutorials and great inspiration over there, if you’re in the mood for skirts… or even if you’re not! And if you want to whip up something to enter into the contest, well, hey, you’ve got like 3 hours left. Why, no, I never cut these things close at all.