My Comfy Clothes

I used to think that the goal of sewing my own clothes was to be glamorous all the time. Make the prettiest dress for the party! The most interest top for work! The best fitting slacks. And there are still plenty of occasions for glamour (I am designing a really fun wedding guest dress right now). But in my current job, where I work out of an office with some friends who aren't my professional coworkers, I mostly just want to be comfortable on a day-to-day basis. In fact, it's those casual days that make dressing up, whether for a client meeting or a party, all the more fun. And not having to care all the time about what I'm wearing can make way for getting other shit done.

Does comfort always have to be at odds with glamour? No, probably not. But I don't think I'm ever going to be as comfy in my dressy clothes as in my stretchy pants and loose fitting shirt. And that is what I'm sharing with you today: my comfy clothes. Hopefully, I have made them somewhat interesting, but deep down these are the functional fabrics of my wardrobe.



Pattern: Victoria Jones's Waimea Ranch Shirt and my trusty Mambo No. 5 pants block
Fabric:  2 yds windowpane plaid flannel and 1.5 yds stretch bottom-weight fabric
Cost: $22 for the shirt, and free fabric from our fabric swap for the pants

Both of these patterns I've made up before. The top is the Waimea Ranch Shirt, designed by Hawaiian patternmaker Victoria Jones to include lots of hidden shaping in a comfortable performance shirt. The pattern is a joy to sew up and has lots of great techniques, like how to cleanly attach the collar and stand. The only difference I made from last time, other than not sewing it in a horribly off-grain fabric, was to shorten the sleeves by 2 inches and sew a straight size small rather than grading out to the waist. I love the shaping in this shirt and how it is still curvy without being fitted. It can be sewn in sizes small (31-inch bust) to 2X (48-inch bust).

I am especially proud of my pattern-matching across the front and the fact that I finally bought a snap setter, which made this whole process a lot easier. The cuffs, collar, and pocket are all cut on the bias, too.


The pants are the same old pants block I have been playing around with for a few years: my Mambo No. 5. I picked up this rather thick corded stretch mystery fabric at the Bay Area Sewists fabric swap meetup and decided they would make the perfect pair of pull-on pants. To keep them looking more like pants than leggings, I was careful not to overfit them, using my pants pattern rather than a leggings pattern. The waistband has elastic encased inside to keep everything secure. These are by far my comfiest pants right now, and I have to try to not wear them every single day of the week.


So, this is my comfy, cozy, share-an-office-with-dudes, wear-every-day outfit. Do you have any favorite comfy patterns I should be trying? 

Sleeveless Elwynn Top in Silk and Velvet

Today I'm here testing the first pattern from Fig and Needle, a new company by sewing bloggers Ping and Sandra. Having followed Ping's blog for quite some time, this Elwynn Top is definitely a reflection of her girly style with its collar and gathered sleeves. As you can see, mine is a bit different, but more on that in a minute.

If you've been following along with the recent conversation on size-inclusivity in sewing patterns, one way you can support this movement at any size is by sewing size-inclusive patterns like this one. The Elwyn Top ranges from size 0-12 in a D cup and 14-26 in a DD/E cup. How fun!



Pattern: Fig and Needle Elwynn Top
Fabric: 1 yd velvet applique on sheer netting and 1/2 yard silk lining from Stonemountain 
Cost: $35

I've often heard people wonder why anyone would bother testing patterns. While you get the test pattern for free, the fabric and time are your own, and there's often quite a bit of work involved sewing it up and providing feedback. Personally, I volunteered to test this pattern because I've been curious about this company and wanted to check them out as well as have the chance to work a bit with the founders. Every once in a while it's interesting to see people's pattern development process, check out their instructions and drafting, and hear from them throughout. Plus, as I mentioned above, I love their commitment to offering their patterns in a wide range of sizes.

As you may have seen, Fig and Needle are actually releasing two patterns - the Elwynn Top and the Faron Dress. I couldn't make up my mind about which I wanted to try, so I volunteered to test them both. However, gone are the days when I jump right into a new pattern brand with my expensive fashion fabric. I sewed each up in one of the old bedsheets I've been hoarding for making muslins, following the directions exactly and cutting the pieces without making any modifications. This allowed me to test the pattern as written, and pinpoint any fit issues before I decide if I will make it up for real.

Here's how the Elwynn Top fit straight out of the envelope, with the one modification being that I graded to 4-6-8 at the bust-waist-hips.




Not bad, right? The bust darts were a little low on me, and there was some slight puckering where the yoke met the front bodice piece. It also looks like I didn't need to grade out at the hips, where it really flares out. The tester version of the top was also very long, almost a tunic length. Bedsheets are very unforgiving fabrics in terms of draglines, so this helped me see all the little things that weren't working for me in the testing stage.

I sent my feedback to Ping and Sandra, and they ended up shortening the top by two inches and removing some of the flare below the waist. I then set about making plans for my final version.
I tweaked my muslin by bringing the waist and hips back in, shortening it by 2 inches, raising the dart by half an inch, and shaving a quarter inch off the top of the front.


While I sewed up my test version exactly as drafted, I also had a few modifications in mind. The peter pan collar isn't really my style, and I wasn't in the mood for sleeves, either. I also had visions of making the top yoke in a sheer fabric, taking advantage of those seamlines to play with the fabric a bit. Here's what I did:


Tips for sewing a collarless, sleeveless version of the Elwynn Top with a sheer yoke and binding: 

Cutting:  Cut the yokes and main body from your sheer overlay fabric, and the main body pieces again from your lining fabric. Optionally, you could just cut the yokes from sheer fabric and use a contrasting opaque fabric for the body.

For cut-in shoulders, I modified my pattern using the cut-in shoulders of another pattern.

Skip the sleeves and collar.

For the yoke opening, neckline, and sleeves, trim the entire 5/8" seam allowance off to prepare for the bias binding.

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Binding: Finish the yoke opening, neckline, and sleeves by binding with bias tape - when working with embellished fabrics, it can be very difficult to turn the raw edges under, so binding offers a much easier finish.

For a softer look, use a home-made bias tape from your lining fabric. Another option is to use a quality foldover elastic like I did in this project.




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Construction: If using a sheer overlay for the body, baste the two front pieces together, laying one on top of each other. Repeat for back. Then assemble the pattern as instructed. I finished all raw edges with my serger.

When attaching the front yoke to the body, I also inserted a piece of decorative trim.

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Seam finishing: 

Remove the basting stitches from the hem at front and back. Open up the layers, and understitch the side seams and yoke seams to the lining fabric so everything lies nice and flat. Re-baste the hems, noting that things may have shifted as you sewed and they may need to be basted at a different place than before.

Finish the raw hem, turn under with a narrow hem, and hand sew to the lining.


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I think it turned out rather lovely! Ping and Sandra had asked in the feedback survey where I would wear my top. This is definitely a nice top for a night out - paired with jeans it's casual, but it could also be dressed up to make it fancier. I've paired it here with my faux leather skinny jeans.

The silk and velvet feel really divine against the skin. I'm happy with my modifications and feel that the top is quite wearable for me now.





As for the rest of the testing process? During the testing phase, the directions were pretty sparse. It looks like they have been fleshed out considerably since then with illustrations, tips, and other information. They also provide a lot of detailed measurements, like the torso length that the pattern is drafted for, along with the cup size.

As you'll notice, I didn't end up sewing the Faron Dress. Originally the pattern was described as being drafted for a C/D bust, but the final version is labeled as a D bust. That's just a bit too big for me without a small bust adjustment, so I let others do the testing on that one. Very convenient though if you normally have to make full bust adjustments!





I wore this top for the first time at Thanksgiving and most recently out with friends. It even survived a trip through the washing machine (!). Congrats to Sandra and Ping on their new patterns!

Experiments in Twists

Last week, I posted a trio of basic tees. But I've also been experimenting with how to make my favorites a bit more interesting. This top started out as the Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee, but with a twist.



Pattern: Named Inari Tee, with twist borrowed from the Style Arc Dee Knit Top
Fabric: remnant cotton eyelet
Cost: free from Bay Area Sewists fabric swap

I first started experimenting with twists when I made this cozy sweater for the Britex blog last winter. I took the twist from the Style Arc Dee Knit Top and grafted it on to the hem of my favorite Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee pattern. It's not terribly difficult to do (you can read the step-by-step on the Britex blog) and was a fun little transformation.

In fact, I liked it so much that I thought I might give it a try again, but this time on the sleeves. I used the same method to graft the twist onto the bottoms of the sleeves of the Mandy Boat Tee. However, this time around things were a bit more tricky. First off, I didn't cut the sleeves nearly wide enough to accommodate the twists. As you can see below, it is quite a full sleeve and all that volume gets eaten up in the twist.

Once I added another piece to the sleeve (I didn't have enough fabric to re-cut), I didn't like the proportions at all. The dropped shoulder of the Mandy Boat Tee made everything look frumpy. So I recut the body using the Named Inari Tee, which is slightly narrower and has cute little set-in sleeves. I also shortened my sleeves so they hit right below the elbow. Still not quite happy, I also scooped out the neckline so things didn't look quite so Victorian.



Honestly, I'm still not so sure about the proportions on this one. I know the big sleeve trend is/was in, but it is something very new one me. The Mr. was not a fan at all, but I got some compliments and encouragement at a recent Bay Area Sewists meetup (love those folks!) so I'm going to hold on to it for now. Plus with some new photos taken in the crisp winter sun, it is growing on me.

Of course, after I finished all this experimenting I spotted the Sadie Tunic on the Style Arc website, which is basically this pattern all drafted out for you. But what's the fun in that, right? I noticed that Meg of Cookin' and Craftin' is also experimenting in twists, so I hope this at least inspires you to get out and try your own.


A Trio of Tops

We are well into January by now, but during that last week of December bookended by the holidays, I stole some quiet time to relax, sleep in, take the dog on walks, and do a bit of easy sewing. The result is a trio of tops that have already gotten a ton of wear. 

Pattern: my modified McCall's M6164
Fabrics (left to right): 1.5 yds each of chocolate chip rayon knit, remnant sweater knit, and another rayon knit, all from Stonemountain
Cost: about $15 each

In my new years reflections, it has become painfully obvious how much I love a good knit top. They are incredibly comfortable, easy to wear, and what I reach for most every day. Working remotely in an office I rent with a bunch of dudes, they are also perfectly casual for my daily life. Still, it was nice to freshen up my t-shirt game with some pieces in new prints and styles that make me feel good.

First up is a v-neck shirt that I originally paired with my velvet holiday pants. I wanted a casual counterpart to all the sparkle. While it is cut with the same pattern as the others, I added an inch to each side seam at front and back (four inches total) at the hem, grading back down to nothing at the underarm. The fit is now a bit more forgiving, similar to the Deer & Doe Plantain shirt. I love a good white T, and have already worn this one a few times. 

Next up is this incredibly soft sweater knit from the remnant pile at Stonemountain. The color reminds me of a favorite turtleneck from my childhood and I think works well with my skin tone. I wanted to do an oversized cowl for this one, but with limited fabric ended up just more of a small, floppy one. I also struggled with the hems, as the fabric didn't have as much recovery. They are now a bit wavy. Still, this is the warmest of the bunch and very soft and wearable.


This is by far the prettiest of the three and I have already gotten a ton of compliments. It is very fitted, but the fabric is thick and cushioned enough that it doesn't show every lump and bump. I like that I can dress it up or down, and look perfectly pulled together but comfortable. I didn't do the best with pattern placement, but those painterly flowers are so pretty it doesn't really bother me. A winner for sure!

All three were drafted with my modified McCall's M6164, which is now out of print and has hilariously wacky sleeve options. I made a few fit changes and traced my own version, complete with various neckline and sleeve length options. It makes it so easy to whip out a bunch of tees anytime the urge strikes. 

A Short Ulysses

I perused the Ulysses Trench pattern when it came out earlier this year, but wasn't truly sold until I saw this wool coat lookalike pop up on Pinterest a few months ago. While I have little use for a lightweight jacket this time of year, wouldn't it be fun to sew up this style in something warm and snuggly? 

Pattern: Victory Patterns' Ulysess Trench
Fabric: 3 yds Italian black wool stretch twill 
Cost: free/remnant

I had very limited yardage for this left over from another project, so I figured I would make a shortened version like my inspiration picture. I barely squeezed all the pieces out of my fabric and was left with just a handful of scraps, but I even managed to cut the "rain guard" overlay (just not on the bias). 

This was my first pattern from Victory Patterns and it was a pleasure to sew. Everything came together beautifully. She has great attention to detail, the most obvious one being the clever way that the "rain guard" overlay forms the belt loops at the waist. I also like the way the angle of the overlay seems to mirror the angle of the center waterfall front pieces. I tried to capture that in the photo below, where you can see that the same angle is carried over from back to front.


I made a few modifications to make this pattern work for a thicker winter wool. For one, I wouldn't bind all the seams in self fabric, as that would be way too bulky. For this version, I finished the inside seams with a serger and topstitched them down. I also used bias tape made from cotton shirting to bind the front and neckline edges rather than turning them under twice. After trying on the jacket, I also decided to line the sleeves in a softer knit fabric so the wool wouldn't irritate my skin. It is so comfy now!

 Finally, as this is a warmer winter jacket, I also plan to add some sort of closure other than the tie belt. I don't love how it looks all tied up and don't enjoy having the tie dangling when it's open. I have some snaps I could add, but I might pop into Stonemountain to see if they have any magnetic closures that I could add to each side to hold it in place without the belt. We'll see.



Overall this was a pretty quick and satisfying project. I wore it almost every day over the holidays after I finished it, as it was great for walking around and also lounging around the house when our heater went off. I also love the versions of the Ulysses I've seen in lighter fabrics, but for me this has been a much more wearable option with some unique details.

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