Zoom Tops - Switching up Plain T-Shirts

In my year-end round-up, I mentioned closing out the year by making a bunch of "Zoom Tops" - comfy but cute tops to wear at work on my Zoom calls. T-shirts are a wardrobe staple for pretty much everyone, and this year I realized just how much I reach for them more than any other thing in my wardrobe. To make them a bit more work-appropriate, I've been trying to add fun details that make them a bit more interesting than a basic tee without sacrificing any of the comfort. 

So here is a roundup of my tees and my tips for making a basic t-shirt pattern work harder for work:

1. Pick an Interesting Neckline

This is probably the most obvious tip for a Zoom shirt, but I find that switching out a regular neckband for something more interesting makes my plain t-shirts much more work-appropriate. On this top, I used my regular t-shirt block and added the neckline from Vogue 1460, a Badgely Mischka designer dress, to create a high neckline with a bit of drape. So much fancier and just as comfy as a regular tee. I also like boatnecks, turtlenecks, gathered necklines, and even just turning under the raw edge rather than adding a neckband. 

2. Add Fancy Sleeves

While this switch isn't as visible on Zoom, adding fun sleeves definitely takes my plain tees up a notch. This shirt uses the Iris Pleated Tee sleeves. I added them on to my Mandy Boat Tee, which is a personal favorite pattern and one that I know I will wear a lot. I also love bishop sleeves from McCall's 7993, which I recently tried out. 

3. Layer Your Basics

I also cannot understate the importance of having simple basics in my wardrobe. I made this black turtleneck almost exclusively as a layering piece. I can see putting it under my Vogue Rachel Comey Jumpsuit for winter or, as pictured here, layered with a wool vest. 

4. Have Fun!

Whatever you do, have fun with it! Here I experimented by copying a favorite ready-to-wear design from my closet. The cut-on sleeves and loose fit make this an easy shirt for weekends. And I'd love a version in colorful stripes!  

Now to figure out what to make next...

2020 in Review: Sewing Through Quarantine

Well, it is hardly an understatement to say it's been quite a year. From the virus to public reckoning with police murders, mass unemployment, and a high stakes election (not to mention months of nightly fireworks, California wildfires, and remember murder hornets?!), I have often been stressed, sad, and angry (and often all at once). 

Through thick and thin, sewing has been there to entertain, console, and challenge me. This year, sewing also gained prominence as a political act. Thousands of people around the world took to sewing face masks to protect themselves and others. Sewing is also powerful as a hobby: finding joy in hobbies during a difficult time helped me channel my energy into something beautiful and creative when all else seemed dark. It is with this that I celebrate 2020 and am mighty glad it's over. 

As I leaned on sewing this year with not much else to do, I did a LOT of sewing. Typically I make about 40 things a year - this year I made over 60 (not including 50+ face masks). This rivaled even my most productive year, the first year I started sewing when I had a lot of time on my hands and a lot to learn. 

But I didn't just sew the same thing over and over. As I look back at my sewing from 2020, I definitely see categories or stages of sewing. Kind of like stages of grief, I denied, bargained, and recovered my way through the year. So here they are, my stages of quarantine sewing:

I have to admit, the first few weeks of stay-at-home orders were a nice little break from socializing. Though I really struggled with the adjustments and constant onslaught of news, I had my sewing machine and my projects to keep me busy. We had several weddings we were planning to attend this year and I focused on finishing up my fancy projects for them. Little did I know they would all be canceled, but I have them at the ready for when things are back on again. And someday I'll have the chance to photograph the full formal coat I made for my husband, which he's never even worn. 

I did catch myself in a little hopeful sewing at the end of the year, too. I made myself a velvet skirt that I hoped I could wear for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but we canceled our Christmas plans with my parents as cases surged in California again. Ah 2020, you're a tricky one.

1. Badgely Mischka Dress
4. Men's Coat (not blogged)
Not pictured: wool vest

This next phase was arguably the hardest for me. As the months ticked on and it became apparent we'd be staying home all summer, I got pretty down. I leaned on a lot of coping mechanisms like exercising, practicing gratitude, and, of course, sewing. During this time, I put a lot of my energy into challenging sewing projects like a Vogue jumpsuit sewalong, sewing up a cape idea I'd had for a long time, and drafting a pleated wrap top

1. Cape Sleeve Top
5. Knit Poncho (not blogged, currently being transformed)
Not pictured: Two sets of baby overalls
Also not pictured: Dog Tiger Halloween costume

As I slowly eased out of my funk, I took new joy in bright colors and stretchy fabric of activewear. I ran over 500 miles this year and started drafting myself a workout wardrobe. We were also lucky to take some socially-distanced trips to the beach and the mountains, and I made more than my usual one-suit-per-year. 

1. Tempo Tights
Not pictured: about 6 more pairs of running tights
Also not pictured: Men's merino wool undershirt and boxers, plus three cycling caps

Once I had my activewear clothes sewn I up, I slowly slid into loungewear. From this point I have been fairly comfortable with staying home. Luckily my family can work remotely (I was working remotely already pre-COVID), so it was mostly about reaching the right mental state to stay home. To help us stay comfy, I sewed up some loungewear for my life at home:

Not pictured: 50 masks

What do you sew at this point? Like, seriously, I never thought I'd have this much time to get through all the things I wanted to make. So I started tinkering and decided to draft my own pair of pants. The year had started with me sewing up a few pairs of Deer and Doe Sirocco Jeans. But I wasn't quite happy with the fit. So I made my own custom jeans block and made up 4 more pairs. It's a bit excessive but I also consider some of these wearable muslins - it was more about the learning experience than wearing all of these.  

1 through 3: Deer & Doe Sirocco 
5. Thrift Jeans (unblogged)
7. Shorts (unblogged)
8 through 11. Self-Drafted Pants

To close out the year, I made a series of comfy but cute tops to wear at work on my Zoom calls. I actually finished a few more this morning, so they're not all photographed yet. But comfy knit tops with interesting details and bright colors are my staple. 

1. Wrap top (unblogged)
4-6. Knit Tops
7. Inaguration Shirt (coming soon!)
Not pictured: two more knit tops

A few of these are misses (my first round of pants, a bathing suit, the Badgely Miscka dress), but many of these have become closet favorites and I'm quite happy with my many, many projects this year. I don't know what the coming year brings, but I hope you find your moments of joy. Happy, happy new year!

Adding Gathers to Any Neckline

It is that delightful time between Christmas and New Year when I hardly know what time it is let alone the day of the week. During this time I like to get lost in a cozy project and try something fun. So today I'm sharing a little pattern "hack" - how to add gathers to any neckline. It's something I think looks so fancy on shirts but was surprised to find that it's actually very easy to do (even for my vacation-adled brain)!

Fabric: 2 yds sweater knit
Price: gift

To be honest, my main motivation for this hack was to look good on Zoom, something that has become oh-so-important in 2020. I wanted to sew up McCall's #7993, a dress pattern with fun pleated sleeves, but realized all the interest would be left off-camera. To add some more detail to the neckline, I decided to add gathers. Here's the basic instructions for altering the pattern: 

1. This adjustment can be done on both the front and back of a shirt, or just one or the other. It works on both knit and woven patterns that have a basic crew neck and a collar or neckband. For my adjustment, I started with the shirt front and measured the neckline.

2. I then cut a slash horizontally across the front of the shirt to the underarm and pivoted the top of the shirt up and away from the center front. I repeated this on the back pattern piece. 

3. I wanted my new neckline to be 5 inches longer than the original so I pivoted to that point and re-drew the neckline. You may want more or less gathers - experiment with your fabric to see what you like. And remember that adding 5 inches to the front pattern piece will create 10 inches of gathers across the entire front. 

To construct the top, I sewed a row of gathering stitches across the neckline and gathered the shirt until it fit the original dimensions of the pattern (this is why it's important to measure the neckline before you get started). I then attached my neckband to secure everything in place and sewed the rest of the shirt up as normal. 

I was a bit surprised that adding 5 inches to my pattern pieces (which is 20 inches total across the front and back) didn't actually create huge gathers. Of course, this is a very spongey sweater knit so maybe this is something that would be more dramatic on a woven cotton or something. It's fun to experiment and I'm actually glad it didn't add too much volume to this pattern.

In addition to the gathers, I also altered the pattern neckband to make it narrower (somewhere between the width of the large View B collar and the smaller View A neckband) and tapered it by sewing the back seam at an angle so that it sat flat against my body. The View B collar is designed to stand away from the body (very 60s in my opinion) but for this design I liked the flatter look. I also shortened the dress to a top so I could wear it as a sweater in my cold apartment. 

While Zoom viewers can now see my cool neckline, the star of this pattern is still those sleeves. They have a fun pleat detail that give nice volume and a look that is very current right now. I also find that the extra volume traps in more heat, which is always nice. 

Passing through the Darkest Night

This week, we passed through the darkest night of a very dark year toward the light of the new year. As the days start to get longer, I find I have much to celebrate. We have come through a very hard year and discovered strengths we didn't even know we had. At the same time, we grieve the losses around the world due to COVID and hope we can begin the process of healing in the months to come. 

This year, we have chosen to celebrate at a distance, staying home and cooking food and watching movies, with an outdoor picnic with family on Christmas Eve. In our apartment, we decorated one of the houseplants with lights and stuck a few presents under it. At this point, half of the gifts are just bottles of wine ;) I also have a new skirt to show you that is just as warm as the season itself. 

Pattern: self-drafted
Fabric: 2 yds velvet
Cost: gift

I picked up this fabric in the summer at the only in-person fabric shopping I've done all year. I loved the rich berry color and, while I didn't know what I'd do with it, I knew it had to be mine. I sewed it up before Thanksgiving as a festive outfit to wear for the holidays. 

After looking through my stash, I found a had some A-line and circle skirts, but nothing quite like what I wanted. I decided to draft my own 3/4 circle skirt, with just the right fullness. However, the joke's on me because I realized my calculations were off. The front and back are each drafted with a center seam and I realized after making it that EACH half was enough to make a 3/4 skirt, meaning with both panels together I had made a 1 1/2 circle skirt - even fuller than a full circle. No matter, I like the final result and all its volume. If you're looking for similar volume, I love circle skirts (and all their fractional variations) because they aren't gathered at the waist, reducing bulk there. So you get all of the fullness at the hem with none of the bunching around the waistband. 

The other thing that's different about this skirt is that the front and back actually have different volumes. And this part WAS on purpose. I have a much fuller backside and sometimes find that circle skirts add a little too much volume back there. So the front is drafted with two panels equalling 3/4 of a circle while the back is drafted with two panels equalling 1/2 of a circle. 

You can see in the photo below how this makes the back just a little less full and sits a little flatter across my backside. Please just ignore the bunching around the zipper - if you haven't heard all the complaints this season, velvet can be quite uncooperative!

I borrowed the waistband and pocket design from the Sewaholic Hollyburn Skirt. This pattern has a lot of fans online and I do like the company, but I find myself wishing the skirt was fuller which is why I didn't use the complete pattern here. I also realized it has a straight rather than curved waistband, which isn't my favorite. It did not want to cooperate with the velvet and I find doesn't give as nice of a fit. But the pattern does have pockets, which are always nice to have!

While I don't often wear skirts, colorful midi skirts have a special place in my wardrobe and I can see myself getting some use out of this one! You know, once we can go to parties again...

Happy new year and may you stay safe and happy!

Fantasy Land Shorts

These days, time is better spent daydreaming. With new stay-at-home orders in my area, fantasy is what we've got left. I'm dreaming that I'm eating out at a restaurant with takeout from my kitchen table. Remembering the warm weather and late nights. Imagining I'm back in Hawaii with the Pacific wind in my hair. And showing off my cool new orange shorts in the middle of December. 

Pattern: modified McCall's 7789
Fabric: remnant from my fall jeans
Cost: free/remnant

You may recognize this fabric from my fall pants, a much more seasonally-appropriate garment. I had just enough left of this delightfully stretchy denim to make a pair of short shorts. Literally, this was the longest I could make them 

I made these for my last vacation, a real trip to Hawaii. They are big and fun but also comfy and practical for warm weather. They also remind me a little bit of Mickey Mouse shorts and I'm not totally against that. 

The basis for these is McCall's 7789, a dress and jumpsuit pattern with radically wide legs. I have made two pairs of pants from them (here and here) by finishing the top with a waistband. Each time I narrowed the leg just a bit for a full leg look without going overboard. For this version, I folded the front pleat into an inverted box pleat and I like the fullness this gives. I kept the back as a flat pleat because, well, I don't need any more fullness there. 

For closure, I did a side zipper with a fly treatment and fly shield. Essentially, I did a fly front but on the side seam. This took a bit of thought to make sure the fly opened the way I wanted it. Done correctly, it should open toward the back so that the zipper is hidden from the front. I like this treatment because it fully hides the zipper and also protects my skin. It also allowed me to use whatever zip I had on hand, which in this case was a white and silver affair with a fun pull. Perfect for the vibe of these pants. 

I also very much wanted a pocket. But with the front pleats and the side zip, it was hard to figure out quite where to put it. Ultimately, I inserted a right front pocket under the waistband on the side of the shorts without the zipper. If you've made the Colette/Seamwork Clover Pants, it's the same type of pocket. It fits my phone quite nicely and got a ton of use. 

TThese will most likely be put away for the season, but a girl can dream, right?!

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