Monthly Archives: February 2015

So, what do we think – is the end of February too late for a reflection on the previous year?

Late to the party as always, I didn’t really have last-year-wrap-up thoughts until this month. I’ll spare you a detailed rundown of my 2014 in sewing and just say that I feel like it was the year of the discovery of the magic of separates. Yes, after years of making jersey dresses my niche, I kind of got bored with them last year. Not with making them, actually, I still love nothing more than whipping out a full self-contained outfit in a day, but with wearing them. Last year I routinely found myself standing before my closet and either reaching for pants or shorts and a top, or lamenting that all my pants/shorts and tops were dirty and all I had left were dresses. For this amazing and surprising phenomenon, I credit my discovery of Making Bottoms That Fit (see: the magnificent Thurlow Trousers, shortsed and  skinnified, again and again). I remembered why I’d moved to an all-dress wardrobe in the first place (no fitting RTW pants), and now that reason had fallen away, leaving me with a whole new swath of wardrobe options to play with.

This is all a long way of saying I’ve been making a lot of tops-to-go-with-jeans. Many have been boring, or pattern repeats, or otherwise not compellingly bloggable, but I did want to share my experience making two tops from Lekala Patterns, or That Russian Company That Uses Your Measurements For A Custom Pattern. I of course chose two tops with weird necklines, because I’d heard their instructions were rubbish and I wanted to be frustrated? Not really, I guess I just like weird necklines.

lekala cross neck top First up I tried 4042, or “Blouse with cross-over collar” because the only place I noticed the pattern number was on the actual pattern. I had seen a few reviews of this pattern, including some made in a striped fabric with a chevron front, and I loved it. I knew it would be a bit of a puzzle, particularly considering the instructions contain no diagrams whatsoever. But I did figure it out eventually, mostly because it’s a similar construction to some of the other knot/crossover tops I’ve made before, but the other way up. Actually, the hardest part was figuring out how to attach the front shoulder yoke pieces. There are no notches or other marks to indicate what pieces go together and how, other than the neckline, so I had to kind of lay it out and decide which way made an armhole shape that made more sense. The notches that did exist weren’t labeled, obviously, but they sorted themselves out as I pinned the neckline twist and they actually lined up perfectly.

lekala cross neck top close

The fabric is a lovely bamboo knit (I bought it in a few colors) that was leftover from a top I made for my mom last year, so I didn’t have very much (maybe a little over a yard). Even though the pattern has a weird shaped front piece and I cut it on the diagonal, it all fit. I made the sleeves as long as the fabric would allow, so they ended up almost elbow length, which is fine with me. I cut the bodice the drafted length, but when I tried on the top, it was shorter than my preference (I do like longish tops, though). Miraculously I had a strip of fabric left over that was just barely big enough to finish the hem with a band, adding a couple of inches in length. I actually really like the way it looks with the horizontal stripe at the bottom as contrast. Happy accident! But I would probably just add length when I cut it next time.

The other top is the helpfully named “Blouse with collar“, or 4245. I’ve been wanting to make this kind of shawl collar for a while, and came close to buying the Kwik Sew pattern in this style several times, but what can I say, I’m cheap, so I was pleased to find this version instead.

lekala shawl collar top

Again, the instructions weren’t super clear, but this top has a much more obvious construction method, and as a result the text of the instructions was more helpful than the gobbledygook of the other top. You do have to sew a right angle turn at the corners of the front neckline, with the bodice corners going the opposite way, which is always basically impossible (or maybe just for me?), so my corners are kind of puckery, but it sort of blends in with the front gathers.

lekala shawl collar top close

This fabric is a fantabulous soft and beautiful mini-stripe coral orange merino jersey from The Fabric Store in LA. I thought the collar would make a nice cozy winter top, so I used the merino and lengthened the sleeves to full length. The length of this top, inexplicably, was just right. Not sure why the hem lengths would be so different, but I think these patterns come from many different places/designers, so there may not be a consistent length or fit across patterns.

I will say that both of these tops tend to ride up in the top front, bunching a bit over the boobs, so I find myself making the Picard Maneuver all day. I think this is more a symptom of the neckline design rather than a fit issue, but I can’t be sure.

Overall, I like these patterns and I would absolutely use Lekala again. When I first heard about the company, they had a super sketchy badly translated website, but now the site is pretty good and very straightforward. (And although they have many unique and interesting patterns, there are also some of the strangest, most terrifying things I’ve ever seen. Check out this one’s line drawing: Flashdance Scarecrow, anyone?) You enter your basic measurements, plus some less common ones if you want, and you can specify common adjustments. I was a little afraid to select anything other than “normal”, because I wasn’t sure how adjusted the pattern would end up, and I’m closer to normal in most things, I think. Plus with knit tops I didn’t figure it would make much difference. I will say that I think the fit is pretty close to what I get when I grade between sizes on any of the big 5 patterns. What was funny, though, was that without all the extra lines on the pattern paper to distract, the fact that my side seam is basically straight up and down (because I have no waist) is embarrassingly obvious.

At any rate, I’ve been really enjoying making and wearing more separates, so I anticipate that this year will be more of the same. To that end, I’m currently toiling away on an entry in the Pattern Review Travel Wardrobe contest – two tops, a pair of jeans and a skirt (hopefully), as well as the odd jersey dress or two (old habits die hard). And that’s because… I’m going to New York in just over a week! I’m excited about everything but the weather (though I did buy a nice wool coat – like I was going to make one of those in a month). I foolishly thought that by March  the snow would be done, but clearly I was wrong. Anyway, blizzards be damned, anyone out there on the other side of the country want to meet up in the Garment District for some shopping? I’ll be there from March 5th to the 9th, and am prepared to ditch the husband for at least a full morning or afternoon (or both) while I gorge on fabric. Got any fabric store suggestions? I’m planning to leave a lot of room in my suitcase to bring home all the awesome fabric I know New York has to offer. And it would be even better if I got to meet any of you awesome East Coast sewing folks!

I’m usually not one to jump on trends (not because I’m stubborn, more because I’m just always late for everything), but the bomber jacket trend got me excited enough to actually make an effort to catch it. For me, that meant ordering the Papercut Rigel Bomber Jacket pattern well in time for fall sewing, securing fabric for not just one but two bombers, and then letting it all sit for months. So I was excited to see the announcement of Rigel Jacket January – with all the Christmas crafting done, I’d totally have time to make a bomber, or maybe two! Oh, when will I learn.

Work ate me alive last month, and I managed to barely finish one jacket on January 30th, photograph it on the 31st, and then absolutely not have time to post it until now, after the Rigel wrapups were all done. Ah well. Here it is all the same.

ponte rigel

Aaaand… I’m not so sure about it. I was really excited about the idea of a ponte bomber (knits for all the things!), and more excited about a mustard ponte bomber with black and white accents. I found this cool patterned ponte for the ribbing sections (I got it from Girl Charlee but it was at also), and decided to use it for the welt pockets too. I love the combination in theory, but in practice… does it look cool and trendy, or like something a senior citizen would wear to mall walk? There is a bit of the 70s track suit about it. Is that good or bad? I’ve lost all perspective.

ponte rigel?

Construction-wise, well, I always think ponte will be more well behaved than it is. I suffer under the delusion that bulky knits will be as easy to work with as they are comfy to wear, but sadly it is not so. Mostly it’s just that the front is poufier than I’d like, because ponte doesn’t press at all. The zipper went in fairly well, actually, but it’s still a little wibbly, and because I interfaced the facing but not the front, they fed slightly unevenly and one of the corners at the top of the zipper is kinda wonky. Also, I shortened the neck facing a little because I was using ponte and not stretchy ribbing, but I should have shortened it more because it flops over in the back. And I lengthened the hem band a little for the same reason, but I could’ve used a little more because I really had to stretch it a lot when I was attaching it and my gathering is kind of uneven and strained looking near the front. (And I had a heck of a time with the corners of the ribbing in the front – corners are evil, I’ve decided.)

I was conflicted about what size to make. On the size chart I’m just under a S in the bust but a M in waist/hip, but I’d heard it ran big and looking at the pattern pieces I noticed there is no waist shaping at all, it’s just straight down the side to the hip, so I figured I’d be safe making a straight S. I actually think I could have gone with an XS in the shoulders/neckline, at least in this knit. Practically every review mentioned that the sleeves were short, but I didn’t find that to be true at all – in fact they seem kind of on the long side for me, and I don’t think I have super stubby arms. Again, that could be just because of the knit, or the fact that the shoulders seem to be a bit too big.

ponte rigel back

There’s also a lot of talk out there of the need for a lining. I knew I didn’t want to line a casual knit jacket, so I resolved to make the pocket insides as neat as possible. I cut the interfacing for the welt hole just slightly bigger than the hole would be to avoid a big visible rectangle of white on the inside. I used a lightweight rayon jersey left over from this top for the pocket bags, because the color was almost identical. This was a good idea in theory, but the jersey was a bit of a challenge to work with as a pocketing. I serged stay tape along the top of the pocket bag pieces so they wouldn’t stretch too much when I sewed them to the welt, but they still got out of alignment a little (because the stay tape wasn’t wide enough to actually get caught in the seam when I sewed the pockets to the jacket along the welt lines).

rigel pocket construction

The welt pockets look good from the outside, but on the inside I wasn’t able to serge the pocket bags neatly because of the weird corners, and the welt insides don’t stay put because ponte doesn’t press, so, yeah, I see why everyone wants to line the jacket. I will say that I have several RTW unlined jackets, and I don’t mind seeing the pocket bags on the inside at all, but on closer inspection they’re mostly in-seam pockets, not messy welts. I do think that in a well-behaved woven, the visible pockets on the inside wouldn’t bother me. All the inside seams and edge of the facing are just serged, which is a plenty neat finish for me on a casual jacket.

ponte rigel inside

My last issue with this jacket is this: what on earth do I wear this with? I’m realizing lately that my love for color and pattern has left me with a lot of things that don’t go together. I love the idea of a funky print jacket, but the fact of the matter is, my plain solid jackets get a lot more wear. Adding to the what-do-I-wear-with-it conundrum is the super low neckline of the jacket. I actually really like the v-neck as a design feature, but it does show the top I’m wearing underneath, and with the patterned neck binding, I can’t really pair it with a print top… I fear I’ve made a totally unwearable jacket.

While all this is disappointing, it has strangely not deterred me from bomber jacket fever. I still do want to make another Rigel, this time in a woven. I have a white, black and gray pixelated print poly faille earmarked for, yes, another print jacket, but hopefully a slightly more neutral one. Maybe we can do a Rigel Jacket June? Because it’ll probably be that long before I get around to it.