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.

sleeveless archer

a while back i ordered some tencel chambray (this one, while it’s still available… it’s gorgeous stuff). my intent was to use it for a modified CP laurel or the salme buttonless shirtdress, but i felt it was borderline too thin to go sans lining, and i don’t own a slip. it’s on my list of things to make though! since my initial plan wasn’t working out, i decided to make the sleeveless archer i’ve been wanting. must bend to the will of the fabric gods, amiright?

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this top looks less frumpy tucked in (or partially tucked… let’s be real) but i left it out for the sake of photos

i searched teh interwebs for everyone’s tips on how to make the archer sleeveless. i followed jen’s advice and wedged out part of the back shirt piece and moved the shoulder seam in (1-1.5″). i also moved the under arm up and in, by about 1/2″ both directions. i was worried about potentially gape-y armholes, and that seemed to do the trick. i typically have to shorten the depth of armholes, so raising it may just be something i need to do. better to cut away excess than wish you had more!

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i also decided to make it a popover and sew a placket down the front. i debated the length of the placket for a long time, and in the end i wish it were an inch or two longer. it bugs me that the placket and pockets end at about the same place; didn’t even consider that! i also altered the pocket shape to be smaller, left off the collar, and subbed gathers for the back pleat.

my little photo-bomber. at least he's wearing a mommy-made tee ;-)

my little photo-bomber. at least he’s wearing a mommy-made tee 😉

i’m pretty in love with this shirt! i have another sleeveless archer planned, which i’ll hopefully get to soon. i scored a gorgeous polka dot fabric recently and it’s high time i honored this great pattern with some silk, doncha think?

lisa g.

orange silk blouse | mccalls 6793

my last post was of a scout tee in silk, but this blouse is actually the first one i made, and my first real foray into the world of floaty silks! natch, it comes with a convoluted narrative, so bear with me…

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last winter i entered the sewing for children pattern review contest and came in second for the coat i made my daughter. my prize was a $50 gift certificate to sewitup.com. truthfully, most of what they sell isn’t really my thing (haven’t looked recently though), but they do have a small selection of fabrics. i ended up treating myself to two yards of a silk crepe de chine. the price tag was a whopping $23/yd, so i crossed my fingers that it would live up to my expectations. at the time i didn’t know my chine from my charmeuse and had hoped to use it as a fancy jacket lining, but duh it’s totally the wrong type of silk for that. so… it sat in my sewing room for months and i kinda forgot about it until recently.

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i decided to make a blouse (though i wasn’t completely convinced that orange would look good on me) but in typical i’m afraid to ruin this fabric mode, i agonized over the details. for weeks. you know how it is… the longer you hold onto a nice cut of fabric, the harder it gets to use… then on a whim i decided to use mccalls 6793 and make the bow blouse with the peplum gathers and blouse-y sleeves (i love those sleeves!!), but as it turned out, i didn’t have quite enough fabric for that version. however, it led me to trying out the pattern on much less expensive fabric, specifically the bow blouse i made recently. i’m glad i did because i realized i really don’t need many bow blouses in my wardrobe. also, it was perfect to test the fit so i could confidently cut into my precious fabric. since i had the fit worked out, i decided to make some design changes. i browsed a ton of blouses online and decided to do the following:

  • raise the neckline to be more scooped
  • add a front button placket
  • bias bind the neckline
  • add a back yoke
  • add 2″ to CB of lower back piece for light gathers
  • add 1″ to back length, curve hem up at the sides

from my last version, i only tweaked the sizing a tad. i cut a straight S on the back piece (but added 2″ width at CB gathered to the yoke). on the front i also cut a straight S, but slashed and spread from the waist to swing the width out to a M at the hemline (just as i did for my last scout). anymore i prefer the “slash and spread/overlap” instead of grading between sizes because it feels more accurate and it’s more obvious what pattern changes i’m making to get the fit i need.

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even though i had all the details worked out in my head, i still procrastinated starting my project because i had about zero experience on dealing with silk. after a bit of online research and some swatch testing, i felt pretty confident that my fabric would not fall apart if i machine washed it, so in it went on the cold/handwash cycle. i threw in a color catcher sheet for good measure. after washing i line dried it, and that was it!

construction was slow, but all went well. the first thing i did was make the front button placket, and let’s just say i’m glad that i’m very comfortable with this process otherwise it would have been a nightmare. it’s still not perfect; even though i was using a microtex needle, it had a hard time piercing the layers. i encased the yoke seams as i would a regular button up, and french seamed the sides. the armholes i trimmed way down and serged.

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i realized i haven’t done a proper bias bound neckline in… i can’t even remember when, if ever! it’s a bit nerve-wrecking since you have to chop off the whole seam allowance. no turning back once you choose to go that route. fortunately it turned out pretty darn good. in the future, i think i need to “pre-stretch” the binding before cutting it to the right width. as in, cut bias strips wider than needed and actually stretch them out, then cut to the width i need. i think that would have made the bias tape more stable and easier to bind. if anyone has thoughts or experience, feel free to chime in on that one!

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i love these feminine bloused sleeves. they have a continuous binding placket and bias bound cuff/hem. if i had to do over again i wouldn’t bother with cutting the cuff on the bias (per the directions); the bias made it extremely difficult to sew since my fabric is cray cray stretchy on the bias. i had to meticulously measure the cuff as i gathered the sleeve to it to make sure it ended up the right length.

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anyways, i’m glad i finally got over my fear of silk, and i’m glad i fretted over every detail. even though i had the difficulty ramped up in my head, i would have regretted skimping on the details. i think the hardest part sewing wise was getting used to the feel, or lack thereof, of the fabric. the stuff is so thin and floaty that it almost disappears under your fingertips. other than that, it was pretty well behaved. and oh yeah… i love my blouse!

—lisa g.

scout tee in silk

not long ago jen over at grainline studio posted a tutorial on how to make the ever-popular scout tee with longer sleeves. i had just bought a nice cut of silk specifically for a scout tee, so i decided to give it a try. turns out, it’s pretty easy to do!

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so yeah, silk! this is the second blouse i’ve made in the last few weeks in silk, but i’m posting this one first because it’s a simpler design and i thought people might be curious about the longer sleeve adaptation. i don’t know if this is a particular type of silk, it’s er… silky, smooth, and appears to have a plain weave (as opposed to a crepe de chine, which is more textured—that is the limit of my knowledge of silks). since my first attempt at using silk went so well i was pretty confident to cut into this. to pretreat my fabric, i washed it on cold on the hand wash cycle, then line dried. it dries in about two seconds, so that’s pretty cool.

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i made my sleeve to have about a 12″ finished length from underarm to hem. the width of the sleeve hem is 12 1/2″ which i lightly gathered onto a 10 3/8″ long cuff/binding (i wrapped a measuring tape around my arm to determine how big i needed the cuff). the only thing i did differently than jen’s tutorial was to swoop the hemline up at the underarm seam by 1/2″ to keep it from being super slanty on my arm. the longest part of the “swoop” should be about 1/3 of the way in from the back underarm seam.

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the last time i made a scout tee i changed it up to have a yoke and a swingy back. this time around i left everything per the pattern (shocking!). i made a size 4 at bust, graded out to a 6, then slashed and spread to get the hemline out to a 10 (front and back pieces).

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and i dropped the back hem by 1″ cuz i like-a-de bum coverage.

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from my first scout i knew i needed to remove some excess at the bust so i made an SBA and removed 1″ from the front, like so:

i trued up the side seam when i cut my fabric.

i trued up the side seam when i cut my fabric.

i am thrilled with how this came out! the fit is basically perfect, and i love the sleeve length. since my fabric is more winter-y in color (the background color is dark navy), having sleeves was a no-brainer. and wow, i am totally team silk now. as much as i love rayons for their drape and fun prints, the wrinkle factor drives me mad! i picked up this silk for $12.99/yd at fabric basement (local). what a steal!

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i usually don’t bother looking at the silks. in fact i was by the rayons when i touched this bolt of fabric, looked at the content/price, then clutched it with my dear life! the cutting lady said the fabric was bolted (instead of on rolls) by mistake. had it been with the silks i never would have laid eyes on it. you can bet i’ll be perusing the silk section from now on.

—lisa g.

p.s. i’m working on organizing my blog a little better. if you are interested in my past makes, up above there is a “what i’ve made” page. there i have, in order, everything i have made this year, and links to the blog post. i planned to do the same for last year’s makes, but since i had switched my blog from blogger to WP, all my old pics are a jumble and nearly impossible to track down. also, i’m trying to make better use of my categories and tags. i’m working my way through all my posts (fortunately it’s super easy to do in WP) and hopefully within a few weeks i’ll have it better organized!