Some ideas keep coming back around. The particular idea I’m referring to is that of a rectangle of cloth with a hole cut for the head, that wraps and ties both front and back to make a lovely top. I found at least 3 different Pinterest entries (here, here, and here) and 2 YouTube videos (here and here) showing how this can be done, and the idea has been around since the 30s. I had maybe a yard of cotton shirting left over from a previous make, so I decided to give it a go.
The front and back are shaped identically with the neck line being the only thing that differentiates one from the other. To avoid a mistake that would waste my lovely shirting I started with a mock-up made from an old bed sheet. Once I had my final pattern piece I cut into my fashion fabric. I had a very long strip of fabric left over, so I decided to make this into a peplum to extend the length of the shirt – filling the roles of both form and function! One thing I’m very glad I did was add darts to the front. Darts make such a huge difference to the overall fit and look of the garment!
This really was quite a simple make: after cutting out the overall shape I sewed the darts, then pleated the peplum and seamed it on front and back. These seams were finished with a finishing stitch on my sewing machine. Then I cut the neckline. My next step was to make a belt for the front (I used twill tape for the back ties). I hemmed the outer edges of the top and attached the back ties, then hemmed the belt and sewed it on at either side. I was down to scraps at this point, and I was lucky that 2 of my scraps fit the neck hole quite well, so I seamed these together and trimmed them up to become a neck facing. I finished the outer edge of the facing and seamed the facing onto the neck hole.
I did the final bits by hand: I used a herringbone stitch to (almost) invisibly tack the neck facing down on the inside, and I caught the upper edge of the belt to the bodice just above the peplum to keep it permanently in place.
This is one of the simpler tops I’ve made, but I really like it. It’s quite light and breezy while still giving good coverage. It’s also nice to know that if my weight fluctuates I can still wear this by adjusting the ties as needed. I want to adjust the curve of the sleeve a little, but other than that small detail I have no changes to make.
At the end of last year I did an assessment of my wardrobe, and I was appalled with what I found. My clothes were worn, didn’t fit, or just didn’t excite me anymore. The result? I didn’t want to wear any of the clothes I had, and I hated getting dressed in them. I have always loved clothes and dressing in a way that makes me feel pretty, and without that ability I didn’t feel like myself. I resolved to dig myself out of this hole not by going shopping (or at least, not just by going shopping), but by making many of the pieces that were missing or worn out.
You’ve seen several of the pieces I’ve made over the last 6 months. Most of them have been made of woven fabrics for the simple reason that my sewing machine had broken and would only stitch a straight stitch. It did (and still does) a great job at straight stitch, but I dreamed of sewing zig zags and buttonholes, so I entered a side-quest to find a new sewing machine. I searched online, read dozens of reviews, and visited several sewing shops in my area. Finally I made a decision, gave the shop my money, and sat down to wait for my machine to come in. Did you know that the pandemic has caused a sewing machine shortage? I didn’t until I was shopping for a new machine. It seems that when everyone was stuck at home a lot of people decided to pick up sewing. That along with factory and shipping issues has caused a shortage of sewing machines and delays in getting a machine once you have ordered it. I waited 2-3 weeks (which felt like months) before my machine came in. Then the sun shone, the birds sang, and I brought my new machine home!
My new machine is a Baby Lock Presto II. She has 100 built in stitches (including 7 zig zags, 7 buttonholes, and 4 alphabets), and sews up to 850 stitches per minute. I had planned to buy a manual machine for the sake a simplicity and quality, but companies are moving more and more toward electronic machines, and these seem to have the best quality offerings. I am still learning what she can do, but I am happy with what I’ve seen so far.
Around the same time I ordered my machine I bought several cuts of jersey in preparation for FINALLY having a zig zag stitch (I had been wanting this capability for at least 2 years, so I was ready!). First I made a Wiksten tank with some jersey from Hobby Lobby (it’s the same jersey I used for this shirt). It had been a while since I made my last Wiksten tank, but my modified pattern pieces seemed about right, so I moved to cutting out. My cut of fabric was about 6 inches too short for the pattern, but I didn’t let that deter me. I ended up piecing the upper front and back pieces to make a final piece that fit (I didn’t want to sacrifice any length in the top since I am long-waisted). After the piecing was done I completed the actual construction, then moved to fitting. The Wiksten tank is patterned for woven fabric, so I wasn’t sure how it would do with jersey (even a more rigid cotton jersey like this) and I’m so glad I took the time to fit this before doing the finishing. I took several inches out of the shoulder and out of the underarm (I angled this out to the hem, and I love the angle it created and how it fits me). I contemplated putting a tuck in the front neck to reduce gaping, but decided to wait until I had washed the garment in case the neckline had stretched out while sewing (after washing I decided the neckline was ok). Finally I finished all my edges by turning under once and zig-zagging into place. In hindsight, this wasn’t a great way to finish the neck and arm holes because it created some puckering, but it is what it is, and I am treating it as a learning experience.
Second I made a light blue t-shirt with bees on it (fabric from Joann’s). I veered from my trusty Alabama Chanin t-shirt pattern to try the t-shirt pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. I have found that the Alabama Chanin pattern works well with ribbed Jersey, but doesn’t fit me when using a stockinette style jersey. I went by the pattern size recommended in the book, and was very pleased with the overall fit. I felt that the neckline was too low, and the neckband gaped a little, so I took note of these things to change in my next version.
For the third shirt I used the same pattern as the second, this time with a happy clouds jersey fabric. I raised the neckline, made the neckband a little smaller, and stretched the neckband a little tighter when applying it. This resulted in the perfect t-shirt! I am so happy with the fit of this and I definitely plan to make more.
3 tops in a weekend is a lot of sewing (at least for me). I am so pleased to have these garments to help fill out my casual wardrobe. I am planning to make more t-shirts, so stay tuned!
Do you have a favourite stitch on your sewing machine?
When you sew (or knit, or do any kind of craft) you inevitably accumulate some sort of a stash. Pretty and useful materials are fun to accumulate, and this has the added advantage that when inspiration strikes you can immediately make the thing. But a significant part of any maker’s stash ends up being scraps of this and bits of that – enough to do something small with, but not small enough to throw away. I had a scrap of linen just like that. I had made a bias-cut dress and my scraps were weird shapes. I rescued a rectangle about the length of my waist to knee and almost as long as my full waist measurement, and decided to make an apron. But not just any apron, oh no. I had to make it complicated interesting. I had seen several Smocking tutorials floating around Pinterest, and decided to give the honeycomb stitch a try.
I started out by hemming both sides and the bottom edge of the apron. Then I marked my smocking lines using a heat-sensitive pen and quilting ruler. You don’t have to run gathering stitches through your fabric before beginning Honeycomb stitch, so I started on the smocking immediately after this step. I used a blue ombré embroidery floss (3 strands) for the smocking, and worked both left to right and right to left. I found that it was easier to work left to right, but perfectly possible to work in both directions.
When the smocking was done I ironed the top edge flat and applied a bit of navy blue bias tape (also left over from a previous project) as a waist tie. The apron was done!
I’ve never thought about myself as an apron kind of gal, so the apron sat around for a while waiting to be used. One day I was harvesting peas from my garden and needed a receptacle. A bowl seemed annoying to wrangle, so I put on my apron and fell in love! This is the perfect use for an apron and the perfect way to harvest produce since it moves with you and keeps your hands free.
I do find that the bias ties are a bit slippery, so I might sew along the ties with some embroidery floss to add texture and hopefully a little more grab.
What is your favourite thing to make with fabric (or yarn) scraps?
I was browsing patterns (as one does) and was stopped in my tracks when I saw Bruyere by Deer and Doe. I thought the plaid version in the pattern sample was incredibly striking, and decided to make myself a plaid version as well. Since it was early winter when I started the project I chose a yarn-dyed plaid cotton flannel from Joann’s (I took my colour inspiration from this make).
I had a hard time getting the fabric to lay flat without warping, but I did my best to get all the pattern pieces laid out straight. I cut the collar, shoulder piece, waistband, and sleeve cuffs on the bias for visual interest and to save myself from the horrors of trying to match the plaid across so many different pieces. I cut the front facings, inner shoulder piece, cuff placket, and inner cuffs from a scrap of black wool crepe that I had leftover from this vest I made a few years ago. I thought the solid colour would be a nice change from the overall plaid. This was my first go at this pattern, so I did not do any pattern alterations when cutting.
There are a lot of pieces in this pattern. It is one of the most complicated patterns I had ever made, so I followed the instructions religiously. There were a few instructions that I had to read a few times before I really understood them, but overall the top went together pretty well. In the absence of finishing instructions, I finished my seams with lace seam binding and faux French seams.
The only pattern alteration I made was using a smaller seam allowance for the front button plackets than the pattern specifies. At this point in the project I was able to try on the garment and test it for fit, and I needed more room. This small change worked perfectly, though I still could use a little more room along the waistband (you can see in the photo above that there is a small amount of pulling along the waistband).
By the end of this project I couldn’t stand the thought of hand-sewing 7-8 buttons and buttonholes, so I bought some snaps to close the shirt front. I had never set in snaps like this, and I was intimidated at first, but they went in really well overall and I haven’t had any problems with them.
I LOVE this shirt! It ticks all the right buttons for length, fit, and overall style. I especially love how well the shoulders and sleeves fit me. This may become my personal shoulder/sleeve block! I do plan to make more Bruyeres. When I do I plan to grade out at the waist 1-2 sizes. The fit is perfectly comfortable as is, but I want to avoid the pulling at the waistband in future.
Young girls used to make samplers to learn (and show off) new skills. In today’s day and age it is an exception rather than the rule for someone to know how to embroider and to make a sampler. My mom taught me some embroidery basics when I was young, but last year I decided I wanted to learn more stitches. Around the same time I came to this conclusion I created a Creativebug account and found Rebecca Ringquist’s Embroidery sampler tutorials. I went to her Etsy shop and ordered all 3 of the samplers she had Creativebug tutorials for.
I love how fresh and new these samplers look, especially compared to older designs that can feel stuffy and outdated.
In my head I thought I would work a new stitch every day for about 3 months and have 3 new samplers and a decent knowledge of embroidery stitches by the end of first quarter, 2021.
I started off well, and dutifully worked my stitch a day for about 10 days. Then I missed a day and made up for it the next. I would miss days and then work multiple stitches in one go. Invariably, I missed more days than I made up.
My first sampler took me from January to the end of April, so actually longer than I thought all 3 samplers would take me. But that’s alright. I enjoyed the first one, and I’m looking forward to the next two.
I used this collection of beautiful ombré embroidery floss. I’ve had this floss for years, and have always been afraid to use it because it is so beautiful and I don’t know where I got it and I don’t want it to be all used up. But what are beautiful materials for if not to be used?
Using a collection like this also helped me to keep my palette limited. When I needed to add a different material, such as yarn for a couching stitch, I tried to choose yarns that would coordinate with the colours in the floss. I also couched around the “hoop” part of the design with handspun alpaca, which felt like an extra special touch.
I had a lot of fun working this sampler, and I learned a lot! I have 2 more samplers to go and lots of embroidery floss left, so I will be embroidering on and off for a good long while.
Day 27: plaid Wiksten top with striped jean shorts
Day 28: blue Adrienne blouse with cream shorts
Day 29: jersey Wiksten top with cream shorts
Day 30: happy clouds t-shirt with cream shorts
Day 31: linen Juliette blouse with striped jean shorts (+new smocked apron for gathering peas!)
I made 3 new jersey tops over the weekend, so my wardrobe this last week tended to be more casual than what I’ve worn the rest of the month. It’s funny that even though I really felt like I needed more pants throughout the whole month I only ended up sewing tops. I guess tops somehow seem a little less intimidating, which I don’t understand since my pants pattern is already fitted to me, but the patterns I used for my tops were mostly un-tested as to fit.
I had a lot of fun wearing full me-made outfits this month. 2021 is the first year where I’ve had enough me-made garments to wear full outfits every day of the month, which is a huge milestone for me! My favourite garment to wear was my grey pencil skirt, which really surprised me. It is comfortable to wear and I always feel fabulous in it. I think I might have to make another.
One of the things I love about Me Made May is how it really forces me to look at my handmade wardrobe and see what works well and what gaps I still have. Over the last year I have been mostly focused on sewing “nice” clothes that I can wear to the office. These happen to be the kind of clothes that I most like to wear, but can be a little impractical for cooking or cleaning or running around with my dog. I knew I had a gap in my handmade wardrobe regarding leisure staples and pants like t-shirts and jeans. I am looking forward to filling this gap and continuing to improve my overall handmade wardrobe.
Day 20: cream shorts and a brand new ruffled blouse
Day 21: striped petticoat worn as a dress with a brown vest
Day 22: cream shorts with a brand new Wiksten Tank in Jersey
I tried some new outfit combinations on days 19 and 21, and mostly didn’t like them. I also got tired of my limited options and made/finished two tops, which I wore on days 20 and 22. This is ironic, since my options are much more limited for pants/shorts than for tops. I have a great pants pattern that is already fitted to me, and my fabric is already washed, so I really have no excuse to not make some fantastic new pants. I guess I know what I’m doing this weekend.
I tend to dress up when I go into the office (usually two days a week) and dress more casually when I’m at home. My dressier wardrobe is serving me well, which makes sense, since I’ve been more heavily focused on making pretty clothes than on making casual items to wear around the house. I am still finding some new clothing combinations as can be seen on day 13. Despite this, I’m getting to the point where I feel like I’m wearing the same pieces a little too often.
April showers have indeed brought May flowers. And with the flowers we have also come to Me Made May. I have been participating in Me Made May since 2017. The first year I had a hard time wearing just 1 self-made item every day, but as I have continued making myself clothes dressing myself in Me-Mades has become easier and easier. Here is what I wore the first week of May:
I definitely feel a lack of pants in my Me-Made wardrobe. The one pair of long pants I have made are very warm, and will quickly become unsuitable as the month goes on, so I am mainly reliant on the 2 pairs of shorts I made last year and several skirts and dresses to clothe my lower half. I have several self-made tops, but I’m worried I don’t have enough to fill all the gaps for an entire month. I am enjoying wearing some items that don’t get a lot of wear and mixing up which pieces go together (days 4-7 were new combinations!). Trying new garment combinations may be one of my favourite parts of Me Made May!
I started knitting a sweater for my husband in September or October of 2019. I’ve written about it several times (here and here) as I made progress, but to sum up, I knit three quarters of the thing, then stopped due to project fatigue and a repetitive motion injury. Six months later I started the second sleeve, but set it aside again when it wasn’t the same size as the first (this is a prime example of shifting gauge. The first sleeve was knitted on vacation, the second in the middle of a pandemic). After doing a little math I made the new sleeve work. Then I sewed up the seams, knit the front bands and neckband, and sewed on the buttons. I was so excited to finally be finishing the sweater, and I documented my progress copiously on Instagram.
Seaming the body up.
Setting in the sleeves.
Adding the front bands, collar, and buttons.
I thought it was perfect…until my husband tried it on. The sweater didn’t fit. The fit issues were partly due to gaining the COVID 15, but equally at fault was the too-loose gauge I chose for the sweater. The front bands gape and refuse to hang straight even on a smaller body. And the neckline is wonky. It’s too low to be a crew neck, but too high to be anything else, and it stands out from the body instead of fitting snugly to the chest and neck. Part of me wants to rework the neck portion and the front bands and see if that will solve the problems. Another part of me wants to burn the thing and then pretend it never existed.
What do you do when disaster strikes your knitting?