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.

maybe i’ll say something interesting

no doubt you’ve seen the blog hop going around talking about why we bother with this whole writing and blogging thing. Heather from Handmade by Heather B passed the baton along to moi and so, like a good sport, i joined in! i don’t remember exactly when i came across Heather’s blog, but i’ve been thoroughly entertained ever since. she regales us with funny stories and frog adventures all the while claiming that the writing is often a struggle. however, i think she’s just saying that to make the rest of us feel better about our own inadequacies… yeah? oh, and let’s not forget her mad sewing skills. this fine lady is single handedly raising the style bar for moms everywhere. i think the world would definitely be a better place if more of us wore tiki dresses to the grocery store, doncha think?

why do i write?

i think it’s true for a lot of sewists that our overwhelming need to chat about the nitty gritty of sewing is not shared by most of the adults encountered in daily life. finding the right fabric, how should i apply this binding, should i machine hem or hand stitch, what sort of interfacing should i use, and how the hell do i insert this zip?!?! are not typical conversations when chatting up the cashier at the grocery store or the moms in the waiting room of the dance studio. but you guys—you get it! after reading sewing blogs for a while i found myself wanting to get into the conversation and add my own (meager) knowledge to the pool instead of just correcting people in the comment section… ahem.

as a side benefit, this blog helps me keep up the practice of writing. i graduated from college with english and history degrees, so yeah. i spent a LOT of time writing research papers and poetry analysis. then, after college, i never embarked on a “real” career and ended up being a stay at home mom. that wasn’t exactly my intention, it’s just how life panned out. now i don’t expect my blog writing will ever land me a job in the future, but simply the practice of writing gives me the confidence that i can write. like any skill—if you don’t use it, you loose it.

how does my writing process work?

so you might come away from the “why” question thinking that this whole writing thing comes naturally to me. not exactly. just because i have a lot to say in my head, doesn’t always mean those thoughts translate into coherent sentences. i’m not a chatty person by nature, so it takes me a long time, hours even, to put together a simple post. if i’m really having trouble, i make a simple list of everything i want to say, then expand on each individual idea (kind of like those topic outlines you probably hated making in high school). my initial rough drafts are indeed rough, peppered with cute phrases like SAY SOMETHING INTERESTING HERE. eventually i smooth out the edges and hit “publish” when i’m about 75% happy. then, i pray that no one makes fun of me and hope that maybe i said something  interesting.

how does it differ from others of it’s genre?

this is a tough one for me… i think what i do, or what i strive to do, is pick out the technical aspects of sewing that can take your sewing from eh to what… you made that?! i don’t have any formal training, but i do spend a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to construct garments to get professional, long-lasting results. my attitude is that if i can do this, so can you. broadly speaking, my goal is to build an interesting, long wearing, and wearable wardrobe and if i figure out a great technique, i try to pass it on to you guys. i can’t really claim any of that sets me apart from other sewing bloggers, there are just so many talented people out there! the fact that anyone reads this blog is a constant source of surprise, to be honest. (thanks guys, you’re the best!)

what am i working on?

i don’t have a WIP at the moment, but i just finished up a new archer (SHOCKING). also if you check out my IG feed you’ll discover that i have a serious backlog of unblogged projects… really trying to fix that. oh wait, i have one WIP… it’s sitting around half finished, and i have every intention of getting back to it soon! ugh i seriously hate WIPs… i was stalled in the spring by zip ordering complications, making design changes, etc. whatever. i’m determined to finish it!

nominate

ah, on to the fun part… so with greatest humility, i would like to nominate Morgan from crab & bee, and Melanie from poppykettle. both of these ladies you are, no doubt, familiar with. Morgan always inspires me with her ability to make everyday wearable clothes interesting, and her focus on sustainable fibers is truly the way of the future. and Melanie… her impeccable sewing, tailoring, and incorporation of couture techniques is nothing short of awe-inspiring. i mean, THAT WEDDING DRESS. truly, it belongs in a museum. swoon… (and ladies, if you don’t have time to write up a post, please don’t feel obliged!)

thanks again for the nod, Heather—it was fun to explore and really think about my own writing process!

—lisa g.

grainline studio | alder dress

i’m sure it’s no surprise that i pounced on the Alder Shirtdress about the second it was released. i love the ease, the button up style, and the knowledge that i’m getting some top notch drafting. and thank goodness Jen put this one in print, because the pdf would have been pretty cumbersome to assemble! not that that would have stopped me though.

note: if my dress looks a little wrinkly, or seams puckery, it’s because i washed it right after i finished sewing, but didn’t bother pressing :)

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i went with the shift version because i really like the swingy hemline and lack of frills. so many times in the past month i’ve stood in my closet deciding what to wear thinking man, an alder dress would be perfect for today… so if that’s not a good omen, i don’t know what is. fabric hunting was a little tricky, and i had a hard time finding something that would be opaque enough to not require a slip. (note to self: make a slip damnit!) i checked out the Robert Kaufman denim for some quality chambray and fell in love with the chambray dot in black.

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since i have that pear shape going on, i muslined the dress first. i went with a 6 on top, grading to an 8 at the waist, then a 10 at the hip. the size 6 was still 1″ bigger than my bust measurement, so i did a 1″ SBA. the dart is pretty small to begin with, so i may have been able to get away without fussing with it. however, i’m always annoyed when i end up with excess fabric in front. i also raised the bust dart by 3/4″, and raised the armhole by the same amount. these fall in my normal list of pattern alterations, so no surprise there.

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as anticipated, i had excess fabric in the back so i added some fisheye darts. each dart only took out 1/2″ (1″ total) because i wanted to stay in keeping with the original design. this isn’t a fitted dress, and i wasn’t about to change that! the darts worked great, but i would also be interested in trying out princess seams in the back. i think it could be a nice design feature and allow for more controlled shaping. plus it’s another seam that could be topstitched. ya know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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the last thing i did was lengthen the dress by 1/2″. i was pretty happy with the unhemmed length of my muslin, and given that i’m 5’8″ (and especially long from waist to knee) i decided a tiny bit of length would be a good thing. it’s still pretty short, but i think it would start to look frumpy on me if lengthened any more.

this guy decided to join me

this guy decided to join me…

after mostly constructing the dress, it occurred to me that snaps would look really great instead of buttons. i sent out a little plea on IG about whether i should go with the berry color i had on hand or order some white snaps. IG overwhelmingly voted berry… being the contrarian i am, i went with white. i have a hunch that white will be my long-term preference, even if it meant another $10 and waiting three days. ultimately i want to be able to layer this dress with sweaters and tights, and white snaps would give me the most options.

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…and then offered to take my picture. not too bad for a 5-yr old

so yeah. i really, really, really love how this dress came out, and i can imagine several versions of it in my wardrobe. a silk ruffled version is definitely calling my name. wouldn’t that be heavenly to swish around in? hopefully that happens sooner rather than later!

—lisa g.

sleeveless archer in silk

it was only a matter of time before i made the ubiquitous grainline studio archer in a fabulous silk print. i prefer not to waste my precious fabrics on untested patterns, and since i’ve made the archer so. many. times. i felt no hesitation slicing into this beautiful yardage of silk crepe de chine. i love a good polka dot, but i ADORE an irregular polka dot. throw in the squiggly lines around those dots and i was a gonner. oh, and i got it for $10/yd at my local sewfisticated. their selection can be hit or miss, but it’s rare that i walk out of that place without at least one unique gem of a fabric at a stellar price.

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paired with my always in rotation moss skirt

i knew immediately that i wanted a sleeveless archer, having recently made one with good results (sadly, pilling beyond all rationality so it mostly stays home—sob!). since i was dealing with a floaty semi-sheer silk, i made sure to pick up some fine sewing thread (they carry it at joanns, chances are you just haven’t noticed). i recall from David Coffin’s Shirtmaking book that he suggests using a finer thread than your regular all purpose coats & clark.

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i have to say that it made a world of difference. in previous silk makes it was very difficult to sew without the seams puckering up, even if only slightly. the fine thread i used here did well gliding through the fabric without snagging or puckering. see, it’s not only necessary to use the proper needle, but the proper thread as well! it also made my topstitching look excellent, if i do say so myself. and ya’ll know how much i love my topstitching. ;-)

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speaking of topstitching, typically you want to increase the stitch length. however, in shirtmaking, especially with dressier shirts, you actually decrease the stitch length (2-2.5 setting on my machine). go pull out one of your hubby/significant other’s business shirts and you’ll see what i mean. a shorter stitch length and a finer sewing thread will give you a most professional finish.

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i messed around with the button position in order to add one extra button down the front. from the original pattern, i’ve lengthened the shirt by about 1″ and that always left a weird space at the bottom. my second button ends up a little higher than i’d really prefer, but eh, no biggie.

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i had to be extra careful about my seam trimming since you can see the seam allowances through the semi-sheer fabric. i took my time and kept them at about 1/4″. the yoke is fully encased, and the side seams are frenched. no exposed seam allowances means it looks nice and tidy on the inside. honestly, this is one of my best finished shirts and i’m quite proud of it.

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despite taking my time i was still able to sew it completely in about 3 sittings. without those pesky sleeves to deal with, it sews up pretty fast. also, silk crepe de chine is a good silk to work with. it has a nice grip which makes sewing pretty painless, really. the bias binding is a different story, but you could always sub a cotton voile for those bits. plus, silk blouses are just heaven to wear! i plan to get loads of use out of this top.

—lisa g.