Summer wardrobe staples

I’ve found myself lately reaching for separates rather than dresses when I get dressed in the morning. Crazy, I know. I will always love a knit dress, and come “winter” (the slightly cooler season defined more by me working than by the weather) I will almost certainly return to my standard jersey-dress-and-leggings wardrobe, but for daily summer life I’ve been really digging shorts and tops.

I’ve also found myself wearing the same tops over and over again all summer. One of the tees I reach for most often I made from a very, very out of print Simplicity pattern, 2934 (it was maybe the first pattern I ever bought, and it was on sale because it was going out of print even then) that by rights should still be available since it is awesome. I made the first shirt a couple summers ago and immediately thought I should make another one, which of course means that it took me until now to actually do that.

simplicity 2934 v2This top is a perfect example of my Plan Less Sew More mantra. I didn’t know I was going to make it until the other day when I wanted to wear my original but it was dirty, and I had one of those immense “duh” moments: MAKE ANOTHER ONE DUMMY! I went right to my stash, grabbed a piece of drapey rayon knit from my last Loft visit that honestly I don’t even remember consciously buying (but there it is in the top corner of my haul picture, huh), and pulled out this pattern. I think I cut and sewed the thing in less than an hour and a half. It fits just the same as the old one (the fabrics are basically identical, right up to and including a predilection to pilling, sigh) but this one is a slightly dressier/more versatile color. Why did it take me so long to do this? Answer: too much planning, not enough sewing.

My only complaint about the pattern last time was that the neckband was a little too wide to lay flat in a drapey fabric (which you kind of need to make the rest of the pattern work). So this time I cut the neckband a 1/2 inch narrower, which worked much better. It looks basically the same but behaves better.  I feel like I learn more about knit neckbands every time I use one, but I still don’t ever feel confidant that they will turn out okay. It always seems like somewhat of a miracle when my knit neckband behaves itself and looks good.

thurlow jean shorts

The other staple piece I made this summer is a pair of jean shorts. I actually conceived, cut, and sewed them in the first week of July as the first item in my hypothetical Mini Wardrobe for the PR contest that subsequently tanked my mojo and turned me off to planning entirely. But they are a useful item regardless and I’m glad I made them.

I used the remains of the nice stretch denim from my skinny Thurlow jeans. I literally had just. enough. to make these shorts. It took much layout ninja-ing and cutting in a single layer (ugh) to eke them out (and while I usually use self fabric for the waistband lining, I in no way had enough left for that so I had to line the waistband in some stretch poplin from the scrap bin). I even had to cut the back pockets in two pieces because there were no scraps large enough to make two full pockets. (I pieced them horizontally and topstitched the seam and called it a design choice.)

thurlow jean shorts back

Fitting wise, I started with my skinny Thurlow mod (which I knew would fit identically to my jeans because it was the same fabric!). The only thing I changed was to take a half inch off the front rise, starting at the center front and tapering to nothing by the pocket. It worked out well – these shorts have a much more reasonable front rise than my jeans, and the back was not affected. I might even do 3/4 inch next time.

For length, I cut the legs off at, well, as long as my fabric would allow, which was about shorts length but maybe slightly shorter than I’d wanted. See, my desire was to cuff them. But what absolutely did not occur to me until I had totally finished the shorts, put them on, and rolled them up was this: a tapering skinny pants pattern does not make for cuffable shorts. The taper of the skinny pants means that the circumference of the hem of the shorts is smaller than it is a few inches above, so when I rolled them up 1) they cut off the circulation in my thighs and 2) the cuffs, which didn’t have as much fabric available to them as I’d wanted, tended to shrink as I moved and ended up as tiny, unflattering half-inch cuffs that rode up my thighs in an indecent manner. Moral: when planning on cuffs, make sure the pattern stops tapering starting where you want the top of your cuff to be. After two or three frustrating wears dealing with migrating cuffs, I finally surged off an inch or so and just plain ol’ hemmed them.

thurlow jean shorts sideSo there you have it, two boring basics that I’m so glad I have now. I’m really enjoying making basics, actually, especially things like these based on items I know I wear a lot. I might go rifle through my closet right now looking for more awesome separates to re-make. Why it’s taken me this long to apply common sense to my sewing, I will never know.

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9 comments
  1. It looks good. You have a great pattern on your hands there! I think the neckline is the best with the slight gathers in the front. I’ve just started blogging and it is taking some getting used to – coming to fall/winter up here, summer down there!

  2. Erin said:

    Love the t-shirt. Love the shorts. I’m a big fan of basics and I always like what you sew.

  3. Nicely done! I live sewing without a plan- especially if it looks this good!

  4. Nhi said:

    Love the top. Yours look 100x better than the pattern envelope. The color is great on you and would go with just about any bottom. I’m taking notes on how to eek out a jean back pocket. Such creativity and problem solving skills.

  5. That’s a very nice top! I haven’t used Simplicity much, but I really like that pattern. I also like your choice of the topstitched “design choice” seam in the pockets. Way to make it work!
    Might I make a patterning suggestion about the cuffs? If you fold your pattern paper in the shape of the cuffs, then cut through along the sides seams, you will have cuffs that go in and out in precisely the angles that they will lay on the legs. This works for any tapering legs, short or long.

  6. Count me in the camp of loving boring basics! 🙂 I think both of these projects turned out super wearable, even though you didn’t get the cuffs you wanted on the shorts. I’ve had so many “d’oh” moments like that, I can’t even begin to count them.

  7. lisa g said:

    love the neckline gathers on the tee! and i think the pocket detail on the shorts is really cool, sometimes fabric constraints are a good thing!

  8. MsMcCall said:

    Yes! That t-shirt is perfect. I would buy it in 5 colors in a shop. More sewing less planning is what I should adopt too. Not that I really plan much. Maybe I should sew something soon? I have two weeks off between jobs starting Thursday, so maybe it’s time for some summer staples of my own!

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