Mccalls 6172 | finished!!!

Man, I feel like this blazer took me an eternity to make! There’s that point in blazer and coat-making where you feel like you’ll never finish and you just can’t bear to complete one. more. step. It’s been a while since I’ve made any tailored outerwear, so I was a little rusty in terms of construction order. In the past I had followed the RTW jacket sew-a-long on Pattern~Scissors~Cloth but I thought I would do more hand-sewing this time around (this comes to play once you start attaching the lining). In the end, I ended up going back to the machine and scrapping most of my hand sewing plans.

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Since I’ve already detailed my fitting and construction in previous posts (here and here) I won’t rehash all that. In short—I found the fit to be very good, so long as you go down one size from the size chart. The “size down” thing is pretty standard (unfortunately) with Big 4 patterns, so always make sure you check the finished garment measurements first.

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About the only thing left to talk about is the lining. I picked up a poly charmeuse from joanns, mostly because I was really excited about having a print instead of a solid color. I love the print, but I don’t think I’ll be using this type of fabric for a lining again. It was extremely difficult to sew, it frayed like MAD, and it does end up feeling a little plastic-y. However—PAISLEY! So that basically makes it all good in my book. The shell fabric (wool) has a good weight to it, so this will be a blazer to wear when it’s cold. The poly lining actually lends extra warmth, for better or worse. I do prefer the feel of a rayon bemberg lining, but the stuff I can typically find around here is too thin for blazer or coat lining.

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As I already mentioned, I decided to ignore most of the pattern’s directions and instead followed the construction order of the RTW Jacket sew-a-long. I did the sleeve shell/lining join, and started the hem bagging by machine. It is so much cleaner to finish the facing/lining/hem join by machine rather than trying to hand stitch all that. What I did was sew the facing hem all the way to the dart seam by machine. Then from there, I catch-stitched the remaining hem turn up, and then fell stitched the lining in place. I do think that this gives a nice crisp hem line, superior to simply tacking the hem facing at the SA’s. Plus, that small bit of hand sewing doesn’t take that much extra time.

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One thing I wish I had done differently would be to draft a better lining. Except for the back piece (which at least has a deep pleat for wearing ease) the rest of the lining is just a duplicate of the shell. I was all set to draft this, but I was feeling a little burnt out at that point and just didn’t want to deal. In the future, I will take the extra step! (Jen at Grainline Studio has an excellent tutorial on how to do this.)

Random note: I typically need to lengthen sleeves by 1″ on patterns, but I didn’t make any changes here. So, if you suffer from an average to short arm length… you may need to alter the sleeves.

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I did feel like I had a hard time getting a good crisp press at the lapel and collar edge. Part of this is due to my failing iron (the water chamber leaks, so I have to use a spray bottle with water to get any steam) and the thickness of the wool. In the end, I decided to topstitch the collar and lapel to get the crisp edge I needed. I’m completely happy with this decision given that I wanted a casual look and I had already topstitched the patch pockets in place. The extra topstitching at the collar fits right in and ends up being a nice detail.

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All in all, I am very pleased with the fit I achieved, the fabric is killer, and I know I’ll be wearing this a lot. I can already imagine sewing up both the short and long length options in a variety of fabrics. Basically this pattern is very versatile, and if you’re looking for a classic blazer pattern—this is a good one. Sheesh… now that’s it’s winter here, maybe I should start a winter coat. Ya know, so I can wear it sometime by March.

—lisa g.

Some dress fitting…

I finished my new blazer and was hoping to get some photos today… alas there is no sun and it’s rained all day… blerg. In the meantime, I’m working on a dress and am having some fitting issues, and thought I’d share. Kennis from the new pattern company Itch to Stitch contacted me to see if I would be interested in sewing and reviewing her first pattern, the Marbella Dress*. To be honest, I was reluctant to sew up a pattern from a company completely unknown to me. Aside from from a handful of indie pattern lines, I’ve been drawn more and more back to Big 4 patterns. The thing is, once you sort out your standard fitting issues you can broadly apply them to a vast number of patterns. With indie patterns, you don’t always know what type of figure they draft for. I don’t like re-inventing the wheel every time I sit down to make something.

However, I was intrigued by this dress because she offers different bodice pieces based on bra cup size. YES. Now Mccalls and Simplicity do have a handful of cup size based patterns, but they only go down to a B (which is their normal draft) so I still have to make bust alterations when using those.  I also happened to have some black cotton sateen on hand that was a bargain buy, so if the dress worked out great! If not, I wasn’t really out much.

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I’m happy to report that the bodice front has a very nice fit, and the bust is perfect—did you catch that?—perfect on me. That is an absolute first. The back bodice has some neckline gape (I had to remove a full inch from center back at the top of the zip), and the overall bodice length is too long (I’ll need to take up the waist seam by 1/2″). These are fairly common issues for me, so nothing shocking there.

Unfortunately, the skirt portion of the dress is problematic for me. The skirt has a tulip shape with pleats on the front, and the back is fitted with darts. Going by my measurements, I cut a 4 at the waist and graded out two sizes at the hip. The finished skirt width seemed perfectly adequate, however the distribution of the skirt width is completely wrong for me. My backside is dramatically throwing off the fit of the skirt, to the point that it’s completely unwearable as is.

I know I have a curvier backside, so I went back and took my hip measurement (40″) and determined that my front hip measure is 18″, and my back 22″. That’s a 4″ difference. So here’s my question: What is a normal backside measurement? Would an 18″ front and 20″ back be more “standard”? Should I select size based on a 38″ hip then add 2″ to the back (increasing through the dart intake)? I just haven’t made many fitted skirts (for a reason!) so I’m pretty inexperienced here. Looking at the back dart, it is comically small… about 1/2″. That seems tiny even for someone with less booty than myself.

Now, I do have more fabric, so I’d like to sort out the skirt problems because frankly—I like this dress. I’ll go back and take some pattern measurements, re-cut the back piece, and trim down the front side seams. However, I’m not sure if I really want the back fitted (as designed), or if I want to go tulip shaped all around (think a more subtle version of the BHL Elisalex). I’m open to thoughts on this one, but at the moment I’m inclined to alter the front skirt piece to use as the back. Looking past the current fit issues, I think this would end up being a fairly useful wardrobe addition, so I’m hoping to end up with something wearable! When I do re-work the skirt, I’ll be sure to give a more comprehensive review of the pattern.

—lisa g.

*this pattern was a freebie, given for me to review.

mccalls 6172 progress

I managed to make solid progress on my blazer last week (Mccalls 6172), and I’m pretty thrilled with how it is turning out! There is very little in the pattern I’ve felt the need to change or improve upon, so if you’re in the market for a blazer pattern, this one is a winner. I especially love that it will work in a variety of fabrics (structured or not) and there are options for different lengths (cropped to hip length). Also, it has a lot of built in lines for pattern alterations and instructions for many common adjustments. Very handy! As per usual, there are only directions for FBAs and not SBAs… but whatever. :P

I spent what felt like an eternity fusing the jacket pieces. I used weft interfacing on the entire front, collar, facing, then partially fused the back pieces and the sleeves. I also added fusible horsehair on the lapel, upper chest, and the stand area of the undercollar. I had such a hard time with the fusible, and encountered near disaster. First off, the fusing leeched through and stuck to my press cloth so badly that I ended up using parchment paper under my iron. I don’t have an organza press cloth, I was just using muslin, so I don’t know if that would have made a difference.

Then, after fusing, I went to transfer my pattern markings only to find that my pieces had shrunk quite significantly (vertically). I had a mini panic attack and contemplated my options. my longest pieces had shrunk by a solid 3/8″ vertically. Now, I had pre-shrunk my wool, twice actually. I sent it through the dryer on high with a wet towel, then I took our garment steamer to it. I spent quite a bit of time doing this, so I was perplexed as to what had happened. Turns out, it was the fusible that shrunk. Yeah, thanks Pellon. Next time I’ll be ordering from Fashion Sewing Supply. Should I have block fused? Maybe… but to be honest I’m not sure that’s 100% the way to go either. Plus it’s really hard to do well with my current ironing board setup.

Anyways, I had two options: (1.) Sew as if nothing happened. (2.) Go back to my pattern pieces and reduce all the SA’s and re-cut my fabric.

I thought about it for a while and decided that from shoulder to hem, 3/8″ isn’t all that much for a loosely fitted blazer. I had considered shortening the armhole depth, but in the end didn’t, so if I lost 1/8″ there, no big deal. Also, my waist sits high, so a little more length lost there, no big deal. All the fused pieces that had shrunk were going to be sewn to other shrunk fused pieces, so most everything would match up as is.

Okay, freak out over, I started sewing and everything has worked out just fine. Big sigh of relief! As it stands I have the entire shell and facing complete. I should note that I did add a back neck facing piece. It always bugs me when patterns don’t have them, and it’s no work at all to draft.

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I’m very happy with the fit alterations I made from my muslin, everything seems to be working out as expected. I cut a 10 at the shoulder/bust, grading out to a 12 at the hip (for reference, my measurements are: bust 34″, waist 29″, hip 39″). From there I made the following fit adjustments:

  • 1″ SBA (small bust)
  • 1/4″ FSA (forward shoulder)
  • added 1/2″ to the lower part of the back of the armhole (you can check out my pattern alteration in my last post)
  • narrowed the sleeves by 3/8″
  • decreased my SA by 1/8″ from waist to hemline on all the back pieces and the side seams, giving me an extra 1 1/4″ for le booty.

One last thing I need to do is add pockets to the front. I’ve decided to go with patch pockets since, well, I like patch pockets on blazers. I also think I’ll be doing an interior welt pocket. I put one in the winter coat I made two years ago and it’s super handy for phone stashing.

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I finally picked up some lining the other day, so now I’ve got everything I need to finish this baby up. May not get there by the end of November, but it’ll be close!

—lisa g.

blazer | mccalls 6172

Life has been pretty hectic around these parts… unfortunately my sewing time, not to mention blogging time, has been virtually non-existent. So, so sad… I actually had decent Halloween costumes made up for the kiddos this year, but I never got around to getting good photos, so… oh well. They’re up on IG if you’re interested.

Instead of trying to post all the unblogged things, I’ll just jump ahead to what I’m working on now. Namely, a blazer! I’ve been wanting to make a blazer for a long time, so I jumped in when Gail and Shar teamed up on IG and were all like “Yeah! We’re sewing blazers! Wooooooo!” Andrea joined up as well, and we were all pretty gung-ho for a couple of days. So… that was the end of Septemeber, and we aimed to be done by the end of October-ish. Oh what, it’s mid-November now? Heh heh… oops.

I’m making view B, but will add patch pockets

I muslined the blazer (what seems like) ages ago but only this week did I transfer my alterations to my pattern and got cutting. I’m going for a relaxed fit, so I tried to keep my fitting low key. I stuck to my usual changes and did a 1″ SBA, a 1/4″ FSA (I didn’t mess with the sleeve cap, I figure it will be easier to just make some small adjustments when I set the sleeves), and took a small tuck out of the lapel. The only thing left troubling me was some restriction in arm movement. In the past I’ve shortened the depth of the armhole to gain more movement, but when i fiddled with the seam line on my muslin it left the back of the armhole looking kinda funny. Then by chance, I read Idle Fancy’s post with a ton of fitting links, including this one from A Fashionable Stitch. BINGO. That’s exactly what I needed. I don’t have broad shoulders, but I think perhaps my forward shoulder makes the standard armhole placement a little off? Or maybe it’s something else altogether… who knows!

The change was fairly straightforward. I simply straightened out the curve on the back of the jacket, and added a little extra in the same part on the sleeve. Things got a little dicey when I was altering the sleeve since this has a two-piece sleeve and the adjustment crossed between the two pattern pieces, but I think I’m in a good place. Basting will be my friend when I get to the sleeves.

I feel the need to apologize for the terribly lit iPhone photos… it’s a dark and dreary day!

The fabric I’m using is a very nice Pendelton wool that was gifted to me by one of my husband’s aunts. A few months ago she sent me a box of five cuts of wool (with receipt dated from 1992!) and the pink is just the right shade of bold without being obnoxious. Now that my fabric is cut, I need to get to fusing. The fabric has nice weight to it, so I’m using a weft fusible, reinforced with a little hair canvas fusible on the back collar, front lapel, and upper chest.

I’m pretty excited to get going now that my schedule has eased a bit and I have some momentum behind me. Who knows, I may finish it by the end of November… only a month late!

—lisa g.

P.S. If you’re really interested in seeing our slow progress, just search #bourbonandblazers on IG

the pepruffle top

way back in July during our summer trip to Texas i picked up a rayon crepe from the Common Thread whilst fabric shopping with Susan and Dixie. i wanted to use a pattern with a simple shape because, frankly, this fabric was kind of difficult to work with. despite the nice crepe texture, it was still pretty shifty! i had never used a rayon crepe before, so this fabric was new to me.

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i decided to use see kate sew’s zippy top pattern for it’s simplicity and layer-ability. but, i thought it would be fun to give the top a little interest, so i added a slightly drop waisted ruffle/peplum. the whole peplum trend has kinda passed me by—i like the peplum, but i don’t like the idea of a fitted waist for an everyday, running errands, kinda top. this hits below my waist and is nice and loose, so i get both a cute top and a comfortable one. double win! i got the idea of the loose pepruffle (we’re just gonna call it that since it doesn’t totally square into either the peplum or ruffle category, mmm’k?) from mccalls 6793 which i have used twice before (bow neck blouse and silk blouse). i haven’t made the pepruffle variation yet, but i always liked it. it was an easy change—i just snagged the pepruffle pattern piece and used the pattern as a guide for where to make the waist seam. it totally worked out and i just love how swingy this top is!

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as you can see, i left out the zip and went with a long teardrop-shaped opening, closed with a button and loop. also, when i first wore the top, i was getting some drag lines at the neckline from the facing. my facing may be a little too stiff, so it wasn’t playing nice with the shell. to fix this i went back and topstitched at about 3/4″ from the neckline so they would hold together better. thanks to the texture of the fabric, the topstitching is barely noticeable.

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this top ends up being so much fun to wear because it’s swingy and a little different. it works with jeans, but would also pair well with leggings or skinny trousers. and yeah, i really, really like it with my blazer. sorry for sticking that blazer in every single post lately, but it really gets a workout in the fall!

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—lisa g.

silk saltspring camisole

i have been wanting to add a few silk camisoles to my wardrobe for layering. i figure a silk cami is far more grown up and/or sophisticated than the ratty tanks i’ve been layering with. i picked up some silk charmeuse, and planned to make the bias cut camilla camisole by tessuti fabrics. what i didn’t notice when i bought my silk was that it has width-wise stretch to it. i imagine the stretch would mess with the bias drape, so i had to shelve my pattern plans and figure something else out.

ps. sorry about the lame photos… this fabric is super hard to capture so i couldn’t be picky as far as choosing photos that didn’t make me look stupid… i’ll get over it :P

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i looked around for a pattern, but remembered that my sewaholic saltspring has the exact neckline shape i wanted. instead of starting from scratch, i went with what i had and modified the bodice. this was really just a matter of extending the side seams, and making sure i had enough width so that it would graze my hips.

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i had a long think about how to finish the neckline, and in the end determined that a facing was the best route. bias binding or bias facing was pretty much out of the question, as the top stitching would have been a nightmare. i know people get hung up over facings, but seriously—it’s the easiest way to finish a neckline cleanly. drafting it was as simple as tracing off the neckline plus 2″ or so. i interfaced the facing with a lightweight fusible, then pinked the edge to reduce any show through.

as far as construction goes, i strayed from the pattern’s instructions because i find stitching all the way around the neckline in one pass to be stressful—all those up and down curves! so what i did was attach the facing to the front piece, then attach the facing to the back piece, then sew up the side seam of the shell and facing all in one pass. since i’m making straps with a fixed length (as opposed to the ties as per the pattern) it’s a little less fiddly this way. and don’t forget to trim, clip, and understitch that facing. you can use this same order of construction for lining the dress bodice too, btw.

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after trying the top on, i went back and shaped the side seams in by 1/2″ (2″ all around). i couldn’t go too fitted since there is no closure, but it was looking a little tent-like otherwise. then i decided to finish the hem with a blind catch stitch. i planned to do a rolled hem, but the stretch of the fabric was making my test scraps (yes, i was good and tested first!) look all wavy and unattractive. i’m still not completely happy with the hem. this fabric is really not holding a press very well, so not long after pressing it starts to look a little bubbled. ah well, win some loose some.

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i would like a couple more camisoles in my wardrobe, so i’ll make sure to get a non-stretch fabric so i can try a bias cut. i’ve never done a bias cut garment, and i feel like a camisole is good practice. however, if you don’t think you’re up to a bias garment, this saltspring mod is a nice compromise. it would also be nice with lace trim at the neckline and hem; i definitely want to try that sometime. so far i really like to wear it with my knit blazer or a cardigan and jeans.

i know some people get all worried about using and wearing silk fabric, but i say why not have a little lux in your everyday life? i pre-wash all my silk (with a color catch sheet if it’s a print) and sometimes even put it in the dryer on air dry. you’d be surprised how resilient this stuff is! but, i also don’t wash my silks after every wear; letting it hang to air out is sufficient for a few wears. then when i do want to wash it, i use the delicate setting on the wash and line dry. moral of the story… don’t be afraid of the beautiful silks in your stash. sew and wear them!

—lisa g.

here’s the post on my blazer, if you’re interested!

shirred back dress

i made this dress mid-summer and it feels kinda mean and cruel posting such a summery dress just as we’re moving into cooler weather… but hey, i’m right on time for southern hemisphere folks, yeah? i wanted this dress to be light, casual, and free of fussy details. i decided on a princess seamed bodice, thin adjustable straps, shirred back, and a lightly gathered skirt.

i fell in love with this fabric at my local fabric store, initially to make a dramatic maxi dress. i thought it would be perfect to swoosh around in on our summer Texas vacay, but i’m glad i ran out of time for that. it would have been fabulous, but highly impractical for much of anything else.

for my dress, i went back to an old pattern that features the princess seamed bodice i wanted (i’d go track down the pattern number, but it’s nothing special and i wouldn’t really recommend that specific pattern). i had already fit this pattern before (i’m so not linking to that old post, however i wore it during MMM), but i really didn’t trust past me’s fitting techniques so i started from scratch. one muslin was enough (yay!) so i threw out my old tracings and replaced them with my fresh fitting. so happy that past me traced to begin with! this pattern includs crazy amounts of ease, so this time i knew enough to pick a size based on the finished measurements instead of the size chart.

once i fit the bodice, i took the back panel and added a few inches since i would be shirring it. i also moved the zip to the side because i don’t like zips to run through the middle of shirring. to keep the upper edge of the bodice and the waist seam of the shirred panel stable, i use 1/4″ elastic to give me a nice clean edge. so, the first row of stitching from the top of the panel is done in regular thread, but allowing enough width to insert elastic between the shell and lining. from that row on, i shirr each row using elastic thread. then i leave enough space at the bottom of the panel so that once i attach the skirt, i can top stitch the waist SA towards the bodice, (creating a channel) and insert elastic later. i secure the elastic by stitching in the ditch between the back bodice pieces.

since my skirt is only lightly gathered, the bottom edge of the bodice where the skirt attaches is pretty much sewn without gathering (on the shirred part only)—the gathering comes once you insert elastic at the waist seam. clear as mud? sorry… if you have specific questions feel free to ask. :)

i waffled a bit about how to go about lining and/or underlining the rest of the bodice. in the end, i decided to underline the rest of the bodice pieces, and draft a facing to finish the upper edge. this worked out well and kept the bodice nice and lightweight. as i mentioned before, the skirt is only lightly gathered. i had plenty of fabric to work with, but i had to resist the urge to make a super full skirt. i tend to wear dresses with simpler skirts more often, plus it reduces the amount of bulk at the waist.

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i decided to make adjustable straps since i always have a hard time deciding exactly how long to make them. i tend to fiddle with them forever and well—that’s annoying! this is also perfect if you have one shoulder higher than the other. much as i’d like to think i’m symmetrical, i’m sure i’m not! thin straps are far more likely to want to slip off the shoulders, so this is a great way of dealing with that.

long story short… i love how this dress came out and i managed to wear it several times this summer. actually i’m hoping to sneak in a few more wears since it looks really great with a jean jacket. word has it we may hit the low 80’s F over the weekend… fingers crossed!

—lisa g.