Pattern Review: Kimono Tee

I stumbled across the Kimono Tee a few years ago when I first started sewing. It’s a free (I love free!) PDF pattern by Maria Denmark. The pattern is a thank you for signing up for her newsletter.

If you aren’t familiar with Maria and her site, you should click on over and check it out. In addition to patterns, Maria offers e-books on fit and maintains an active blogging schedule focused on how to build a handmade wardrobe. Maria won me over when I read that she taught middle school for several years before launching her sewing business. As a former middle school teacher, I have a huge soft spot for fellow educators, especially those who taught/teach at the middle level.

I wisely decided to sew a muslin of the Kimono Tee before cutting into my pretty fabric. The shirt is only two main pattern pieces and a neck band. Construction is simple. If you’ve made a knit shirt before, you probably won’t need to read them.

I made a muslin because I wanted to play around with the neckband finishing- visible t-shirt style or invisible and folded under. In addition, I’m in between waist and hip sizes on the pattern’s size chart and was a little worried about having enough room around my hips in the finished garment. The shirt did sew up too tight in the hips, so I graded out the side seams by about an inch and a half on each side. I went with a visible t-shirt style neck band for the muslin which turned out okay, but not great. I decided to go with the invisible finish for the final top.

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Since this shirt is such a fast sew, the muslin and final shirt were completed very quickly. I started mid morning and was done by lunch!

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Worn here with my linen Fint Culottes

 

Let’s talk about these fabrics…

Something weird happens to me in fabric stores (and when browsing online for fabric). I fall for a print or color I would never select in a clothing store. Colors or prints I would pass over in a RTW garment because I know they don’t compliment my complexion are suddenly in my cart when I’m fabric shopping. A prime example is the fabric I used for this muslin.

This midwestern style print features dusty shades of pale blue and coral. On the bolt, it was really pretty, but I know better. Coral is not a good color for my skintone and the blue in this print is too muted to provide any sort of visual pick-me-up. The resulting shirt badly washes me out.

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Look how close the coral matches my skin tone! Eek!

The second Kimono Tee was also made with a fabric that featured blue and coral, but this print really upped the wattage. The coral is bright and contains some red tones. The blue is dark, nearly navy. Additionally, this pattern utilizes a white background that really makes the colors pop. It looks a million times better on me than the knit I used for the muslin.

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Sorry about the brightness of the photo. I took the pictures on a REALLY sunny day.

It’s disappointing. I adore the pastel color palettes I see on so many IG accounts and love millenium pink (I hear that’s what the cool kids are calling it) , but such soft shades are poor matches for my skin tone. To fulfill my pastel dreams, I buy my husband lots of pale colored shirts and sweaters. The soft shades look great on him.

As I shop for fall fabrics, I’m trying to stick to the colors and shades I know are complementary to my skintone. It’s easier for me in the cooler months when stronger, darker colors fill the shelves.

Is it just me? Do you also buy fabrics that are pretty on the bolt only to find they don’t look particularly good on you?

Happy Sewing

XOXO

Pattern Review: Burda Magazine Flounce Sleeve Blouse 2017-7-119

The Burda Style Magazine for July 2017 contained several patterns that caught my eye. I shared a few of them on my IG Story and, with help from some IG friends, determined my monthly make should be the ruffled sleeve top, style #119.

Burda Style top
Image from BurdaStyle.com

Since I have a healthy stash, I didn’t want to purchase fabric for this top. I figured something I already owned should do the trick. After debating several options, I settled on a printed swiss dot I purchased at Joann Fabrics early in my sewing career, probably about five years ago.

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Light, with a gentle drape, this fabric has more body than the examples in the magazine. I was worried it might turn out too stiff, but, after spending some time this weekend in Georgetown boutiques and seeing one cotton ruffled and flounced top after another, I decided cotton was on trend for this type of top and would look fine.

 

The pattern is very simple. It consists of only six pieces and is pulled on over the wearer’s head without any zips or button bands. According to the Burda Magazine ratings, this is an intermediate pattern. I agree. While not a particularly difficult sew in a well-behaved cotton fabric, the sparseness of directions required significant sewing know-how to complete this project.

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The trickiest bit was the sleeves. I read the directions over and over. They could have been in the original German… I have no idea what they wanted me to do. The incomprehensibility of the directions was impressive. I have followed dozens of sewing pattern instructions over the years, spent over a decade teaching people how to read and write, and hold advanced degrees in English, but I could not figure out those sleeve instructions. No clue.

I finally figured it out by pinning the sleeves onto the bodice and fiddling with them on my dress form until they looked right. (Unfortunately, I was so in the sewing zone that I failed to take photos as I went. Sorry about that!) After much pinning, I decided to fold the sleeves back along the shoulder seam. At the dart in the sleeve, I folded the sleeve back over itself, lining it up again with the shoulder seam and allowing the excess fabric to drape down. This created the sleeve flounce. I basted the shoulder seam, now three pieces of fabric thick, together. For the back sleeve, I folded the fabric back over the shoulder seam and continued the fold around half of the back neckline. At the sleeve dart, I folded the sleeve back over itself and basted all three pieces of fabric as one. The shoulder seams were then sewn together. Each shoulder seam consisted of six layers of fabric! Luckily, with this light cotton, thickness wasn’t a problem and it sewed up easily.

After spending ages scratching my head over the sleeves, I was in no mood to fuss with the fabric loop for the front closure. I found a piece of thin black satin ribbon that I decided would do the job. When sewing the facing to the neckline, I pinned it into place between the two layers of fabric. I positioned the loop facing away from the neck opening. Once sewn together, I turned the facing right side out and the loop was in the perfect spot. The directions for attaching the loop are poor. They tell you to attach it, but don’t describe how. This sewing knowledge is assumed. I strayed from the directions by understitching the facing. This resulted in a crisp facing fold at the neckline.

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Directions on how to construct the bottom of the flutter sleeves were given but, I ignored them. The directions suggest folding over the fabric once and securing the fold with a short zigzag stitch. I worried this would produce a messy finish. Instead, I serged the hem of the sleeves. Then, I folded the serged ends to the inside and secured them with a straight stitch. I think my method produced a neater finish than the recommended method. A rolled hem would also look nice.

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I am wearing a navy camisole under the top due to the depth of the open neck. I think I can get away without it for casual wear.

The finished top was too long on me. This wasn’t surprising as I am shorter that the measurements Burda uses to create patterns. I cut 1.5 inches off the bottom length. I thought a deep hem might balance the heft of the sleeves, so I folded and pressed the hem by 1/2 inch. Then, I folded it over again by 2 inches and sewed it down. This produced a wide 2 inch hem and provided the visual balance I was seeking.

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I finished this make with a round pearl-white button at the neck.

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I like the final shirt so much that I forgive Burda for the poor directions.

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Did you sew a style from the July issue? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Happy Sewing!

XOXO

Pattern Review: Penny Dress or ‘A Modern Woman Makes a Case for Vintage Sewing’

I officially declare this the Summer of the Shirtdress!

They are popping up everywhere in sewists blogs and on Instagram with the #sewtogetherforsummer sewing project. Three independent pattern companies have put out lovely shirtdress patterns to fuel interest and keep sewing machines busy. Closet Case Patterns released the Kalle Shirtdress (my version is here), Named Patterns’ put out the Reeta Midi Dress, and Sew Over It offered the Penny Dress as it’s June PDF Club pattern.

When news of the Penny Dress release arrived in my inbox, I couldn’t purchase and print it fast enough. It is everything I love in a dress- a full feminine skirt, fitted waist, and unfussy bodice. The pattern and instructions didn’t disappoint and I am very pleased with the finished dress.

While I like my new dress, Penny did not get a five star review from my husband. His verdict? “You look like June Cleaver.” This was not a compliment.

He isn’t wrong. This led us to a discussion of 1950s nostalgia that forced me to critically consider my love of vintage fashion. My affinity for vintage styles horrifies my husband. He reminds me that in 1950, our marriage would have been illegal in many states (Thank you, Lovings!) and that my feminist viewpoints wouldn’t have been tolerated by society. He can’t separate the social context from the fashion of the era.

He’s right in that they are tightly intertwined. The most obvious example I can think of are women’s undergarments in the 1800s and earlier that restricted physical activity and reinforced ideas of female weakness. Even in modern times, fashion is tightly bound to social forces. Hemlines are a well-documented  indicator of national economic well being. Ultimately, a dress is not just a dress. It’s a reflection of the social and economic forces of it’s time.

I contemplated dramatic action. I debated burning the dress in a show of feminist resistance and social justice angst. I thought that at the least I probably shouldn’t wear it…

I felt like a hypocrite for a few days until I made a discovery in my pattern stash. I was organizing my growing pattern collection (more on that in a later post) when I came across this McCall’s pattern from the 1980s. I had completely forgotten ordering it from an Etsy seller months ago.

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The first view looks awfully like Penny, doesn’t it? This pattern was created long after the social horrors of the 1950s, but here is virtually the same dress reimagined in a soft draping fabric. This discovery reminded me that, while we can’t separate fashion from history, we can remake it in our image today.

I decided that I am going to wear my Penny and other vintage-inspired me-mades with the knowledge that this dress may have roots in the past, but is very much tied to the present.


Below is the full pattern review. This review is also posted on Pattern Review.

Pattern Description: 1950s inspired shirtdress

Pattern Sizing: Misses

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes. My dress is a bit stiffer due to my fabric choice.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I’ve been impressed with the instructions for Sew Over It’s PDF patterns. Consistently, they have been very clear and produced a professional finish.

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What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love how easy it is to wear. The elastic waist allows for large pasta lunches and the the full shirt is cool in hot D.C. summers.

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Dress without belt and showing pasta-lunch-ready elastic waistband.

Fabric Used: I used a cotton oxford shirting from the latest Vogue Fabric‘s fabric catalogue. I’m not a huge fan of the color purple, but I really like this shade of lavender. It’s one of the few pastel colors I can pull off with my pasty skin.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I shortened the pattern by 2 inches at the bottom. I made no other adjustments. Sew Over It tops generally a great fit me well without any adjustments and this was not an exception.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, I will sew it again, but, to make it a little less June Cleaver-esque, I will go with a softer draping fabric.

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Conclusion: Another great sew from the Sew Over It PDF club!

Happy Sewing!

XOXO

Pattern Review: McCalls 7542 and Flint Culottes

Today’s review is a two-for-one: the Flint Culottes and the very popular McCalls 7542!

Flint Culottes

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First, I sewed Megan Nielsen‘s newest pattern, the Flint Culottes. I’ve been on the fence with the culotte trend, but when I saw Megan’s design, I decided to go for it. I was originally taken with the cute little side bow on version 2, but, in response to my husband’s plea to limit the number of bows in my wardrobe (he seems to think it is possible to have too many bows…), made up version 1 with the two-button closure.

The button closure is cleverly constructed. The overlapping fabric used to create the pocket doubles as the opening for the pants. No side zipper or fly closure is needed!

Below is my full review. (Also available on Pattern Review.):


Pattern Description: Summer-perfect culottes

Pattern Sizing: I made a muslin first and was glad I did. Referring to the back of the fullsizeoutput_eacpattern envelope, I realized I was between sizes at the waist measurement. I cut the small for the muslin and it fit- if I didn’t breath. Feeling a bit chubby, I cut the medium and that worked much better.

 

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?: Yes, even my muslin looked good.

Were the instructions easy to follow?: The pattern directions were clear and there were no tricky parts that had me scratching my head or running for help online.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?: I love the fullness of the pant. When I’m standing still, it looks like I’m wearing a skirt, which I think is pretty neat.

 

Fabric Used: I used a navy linen I ordered during a Craftsy supplies sale. I believe it’s from the Robert Kaufman line. It has a nice drape and, unlike some linen fabrics, it didn’t “grow” with wear during the day.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I’m vertically challenged, so I took about 3.5 inches off the length of the pant. I took two inches at the lengthen/shorten line when cutting them out and another inch and a half after trying them on in the linen fabric. I think the linen hung lower than the muslin I made, necessitating taking more length off the bottom.

 

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Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?: I might sew it again. The style is distinctive, so if I make another version, it will be in a very different fabric- perhaps something dressier with even more drape. I definitely recommend it to others. If you’ve made a few pairs of pants already, this is in your wheelhouse.

Conclusion: This pattern is worth the price and the time needed to make the culottes. In my signature navy, I am sure to wear this pair throughout the summer.


McCalls 7542

My second pattern is the super popular McCalls 7542, a simple top with multiple dramatic sleeve options. Since venturing into the world wearing Vogue 9243, I’ve determined I need more statement sleeves in my life. This top is all over Instagram and sewing blogs and, I have yet to see a version I didn’t like. The pattern is so in demand, I had to order my copy directly from McCalls. My local Joann Fabrics store was sold out of the pattern each time I stopped by to purchase it.

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I made this shirt specifically to pair with my Flint’s but I’m worried that it’s one trend too many in a single outfit. Despite this nagging concern, I wore the two pieces together earlier this week. No one laughed, at least not to my face, so I think I pulled it off okay. Below is the full review for McCalls 7542. (Review also available on Pattern Review.)


Pattern Description: Simple top with a cropped option and several sleeve variations. I went with version D.

Pattern Sizing: I cut a 12, my usual McCall’s size and the fit is spot on.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?: Yes, the top turned out exactly as I expected it would based on the envelope.

Were the instructions easy to follow?: Nothing funky to report here. The directions and order of construction all made sense.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?: BELL SLEEVES! I feel very feminine in this top.

Inserting the sleeves into this top was agony. Next time, I will increase the number of

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Close-up of the sleeve “design feature” GAH!

gathering stitches I use to set the sleeve. As drafted, the gathering stitches should only be sewed along the sleeve head, but in order to gather the fabric for a smooth sleeve insertion, the stitches need to extend far below the points indicated on the pattern. I have some puckers (I’m calling them “design features”) at the heads of my sleeves where I gave up. I hope the busy print renders them invisible to all but the very discerning eye.

 

Fabric Used: I used a cotton sateen that’s been sitting on my stash shelves for a few years. I found it at Joann Fabrics on the sale table. The super busy print reminds me of something from the 1960s, one of my favorite clothing design eras.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: The sleeve flounce is cut as a

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These do not match up…

circle with a smaller circle inside that attaches to the sleeve. I noticed right away that the hole in my flounce was way too small for the bottom of the sleeve. I was feeling very done with puckered fabric by this point (I had just survived my sleeve-setting debacle), so I increased the size of the hole in the flounce by half an inch all around. With this modification, I was able to set and sew the flounces without any problems. I noticed on Pattern Review that a few other sewist experienced this problem with the flounce.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?: Yes and yes! I think my next version will be in a solid color and a lighter fabric. I’m thinking maybe a cotton lawn in solid red…

Conclusion: Overall, this is a well drafted pattern that sews up quickly with an on-trend result. Hello, Summer 2017!

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May Burda Pattern Review: Skirt #108 

 

I’ve been a Burda Style subscriber for over a year now and I really enjoy the publication. While I don’t love every pattern, there are usually a few patterns each month that I really like and want to sew up.

May 2017 Burda Style magazine

If you haven’t yet used the patterns from a Burda magazine, a word of warning- they are intimidating the first time or two. You have to trace them off and add seam allowances. Even though I’ve made quite a few patterns from various issues, it can still freak me out. That said, I highly recommend giving it a go.

This month, my Burda pattern crush is a skirt on page 15:

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I can’t resist bright and sexy. The pocket details are easier to see on page 34:

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I reviewed my fabric stash and settled on a rickrack cotton print. The fabric was part of a Craftsy supply sale a while back and I bought a two-yard cut. I didn’t have enough to cut the entire skirt from this fabric, so the back center panels are a plain white cotton.

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Burda pattern directions are sparse. They assume at least a basic knowledge of sewing from readers. As a result, there is usually something about the pattern that I find tricky. For this pattern, it was the pockets. To attach them to the skirt, you sew them down to the front piece using provided pattern markings. Then, you sew them along with the back side panels to the center back panels. Not tough at all once I figured it out!

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Close-up of the pockets sewn down the front panel and attached at the back panel seam

The rest of construction was very straightforward, especially if you have made a skirt or two before. I installed an invisible zipper and I shortened it by about an inch. I’m short (5’3″) so it hangs at a midi length on me even with an inch off of the length,  I debated making it shorter, but I like how it looks with heels. I didn’t make any other changes to the pattern.

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Do you subscribe to Burda Style? What was your pattern crush this month?