An Update

Hello there! I'll start by saying that June was a hard month. Three months into quarantine, our country also began to reckon with our legacy of white supremacy and systemic racism and violence against Black people. I took some time away from sewing to protest, to read, to listen. And I have to say I'm blown away by the conversations happening in real life and in online spaces. In Oakland, the city blossomed in art with new murals, street art, and community. After decades of work, activists succeeded in getting police out of our public schools. In our nonprofits with whom I work it is enabling conversations about race and justice that just weren't possible before. Yet there is still such a long, long way to go. It is exhausting, especially for Black folk and people of color for whom there is no reprieve. 

As I'm sure you've been following, the sewing community has been engaged in its own conversations. @BlkMakersMatter has emerged as a powerful voice in the sewing community. The conversations I've been following on Instagram have pushed me to dig deeper, explore my discomfort, and continue to wrestle with my own biases, including in a space that is "just for fun" for me back can quickly feel not fun for those who are excluded. If your sewing community hasn't yet begun this work, now is the time. I am feeling exhausted yet energized by these conversations and am deeply grateful to the many Black makers who have given their time and energy to this movement to de-center white voices in our community and build a more inclusive space.

I was planning to share pics of my new top but I think I'll just leave it at this today. Take care of yourselves, and keep doing the work as we head into the next month, and the next. 

Cape-Sleeve Top

I have finally made my way to the end of my planned sewing list, leaving my mind to wander over the possibilities of fabrics and patterns in my stash. I'm not worried - this is when quarantine creativity kicks in. I can finally start dreaming about what I want to do with a remnant I've been saving or that fabric my mom gave me. I try to always sew things that I think will get worn and have a place in my wardrobe. This time, those creative musing paid off with my new cape-sleeve top! 

Pattern: self-drafted using my t-shirt block
Fabric: 1.5 yds fleece-backed sweater knit
Cost: free

I have been obsessed with making a top with cape-like sleeves for a while now. My Pinterest history shows that I pinned this photo of Victoria Beckham in one in 2015. I'm pretty sure hers is just a cape over a top (maybe a two-piece set?), but I wanted an integrated piece (edit: turns out it's this Balenciaga piece). Ever since then I have occasionally pinned more inspiration or looked around for a pattern but never found anything that was quite right. 

The more I thought about it, the more complicated it got. You know what else I wanted? I was set on the idea that it shouldn't look like a cape from the back. Too much like a superhero. Too extra. I wanted something with the cape look in the front, but the look of a regular sleeved top in the back. And I just couldn't wrap my head around how to do that! 

But you know what? I finally figured it out! When you have months alone to your thoughts, even the most persistent problems seem to work themselves out. Here's a view from the back - actual sleeves!

After years of musing, the construction popped into place in my head one night based on a few key ideas. The first was that I needed a cape or yoke in the front that then attaches to regular set-in sleeves at the back. The way to do this is to draft half a set-in sleeve by folding the sleeve piece down the center and keeping just the back half. The sleeve gets set into the back armscye. This creates a long shoulder seam that extends from the neckline down toward the elbow. In the front, I drafted a yoke piece (similar to this top). I then connected front to back along the long shoulder seam similar to how you would assemble a normal cape. 

The second issue is what to do with the underarm of the back sleeve. In a normal top, the back underarm wraps around the arm and is sewn to the front underarm, creating a tube for your arm to go in. But we only have a back undearm - no front piece. So I re-drafted the sleeve to attach to the side seam: instead of having the sleeve extend out the arm toward the wrist, I continued extending the sleeve down toward the waist. During construction, it gets sewn into the side seam between the shirt back and front. The full effect is that the cape drapes across the front, wraps around the arm, and is attached to the back at the armscye and down the side seam. 

Does that make sense? No? I knew I would need to drape it on my dress form to get it right and test it out. I started with my t-shirt block and cut out a half sleeve from muslin to drape on the form. Here's what I got:   

And here's what it looks like on:

As you can see, it was a bit of a mind twister. In the end, however, there were relatively few pieces and it's not that much harder to sew up than a basic t-shirt. Honestly, if I were a pattern maker (which I'm not) this would be my ideal pattern - an interesting shirt that takes a lot of conceptualizing but isn't that hard in practice to sew up once you work out the mechanics. As you can tell, I was quite pleased with myself. See how you get that cape look when I bend my arm but without the full superhero cape in the back? Love it! 

The top is made from a fleece-backed sweater knit that I think my mom gave me. It feels really nice and worked out really well for this project. It is drapey with a lot of stretch but still has good weight and structure. It is incredibly comfortable to wear and I must admit I do feel a bit like Victoria Beckham when I put it on. I was a bit worried that the sleeves wouldn't allow for much arm movement but it's actually fine. The only thing this top is not good for is layering under any type of coat or jacket!

Now that I have finally finally worked out how to do it, it would be easy to make again. Unfortunately, it's the type of garment you probably only need one of in your wardrobe. Perhaps I'll think up another clever way to make it up, but for now I'm enjoying that I actually did it!

Note: This post contains affiliate links. 

Spring Sweatshirt

Are there stages to quarantine sewing? My trajectory has been like this: finishing up the projects I was working on for events I won’t be able to go to, followed by making all the fancy/weird things I've always wanted to make but didn’t have time for, and, finally, coming to terms with reality and just making loungewear. What’s next? I’m worried I may be reaching the bottom of my list and actually make menswear! Ha!

Pattern: MadeIt Patterns Glide Jacket
Fabric: 2 yds french terry
Cost: free gift/scraps

For this project, I wanted something cozy to wear at home. I have a similar store-bought sweatshirt with black accents that I've had forever, but it's always been a bit cropped and bit tight. My mom had given me this french terry and I had a coordinating black zipper, so I decided to see if there was a pattern that caught my eye. I wanted something with some interesting details and re-discovered the MadeIt Patterns Glide Jacket. I like the interesting seaming at the front as well as the triangle cut-out openings at the side hem and the way the front wraps around to the back. The collar variation was the final selling point - I love a good collar.

To transform this into a more fitted, unlined sweatshirt, I had to make a few modifications. First, I recut the armhole and new sleeves to be cut-on. This is more fitted than the drop-sleeve in the pattern. As I was sewing, I also did some fitting at the waist by nipping in the diagonal side seam there. The fit at my hips was spot on though. The result is a nice fit that's still good for layering. 

Because I wasn't using a lining, I topstitched the neckline facing down in the back and then hand-tacked it to the pocket bag in the front to keep it in place. In the back, I cut the hem facing in black and sewed it to the outside of the jacket for some contrast. I omitted the pocket zips because it's quarantine and I'm hoarding those for something else. However, if I were to make this again, I think I would make the entire diagonal front piece into a pocket bag. As it is right now, there's the outer piece, the pocket and bag, and then the front/hem facings. This makes sense for a lined jacket, but I could have simplified for a sweatshirt. It also would have given me roomier pockets. These are a bit on the small side.

MadeIt Patterns was another new-to-me indie pattern company. I've been following Olu on Instagram and like the creative take she has on everyday clothes, like the hug hoodie. Unlike some other patterns I've tried recently, I found both the drafting and instructions for the pattern to be pretty good. There is lots of detail in there for newer sewers and really takes you through EVERY. STEP. Their measurements seemed accurate and there were good pattern markings, etc. I'm a little confused about why some pieces had a separate facing and some had a cut-on facing, but I didn't follow the instructions or fully read them so I guess I'll never know. I also found that I had to even out the back hem because it sloped down, but again didn't follow the pattern construction so there may have been a reason.

Above is a shot from the side so you can get a sense of how the front piece wraps around to the back. It's hard to see my black hem facing against the color of my pants, but you can also see the cool hem notch detail near the pockets. I used an extra stretchy fabric for the cuffs as I almost always end up wearing long-sleeved garments pushed up around my elbows.

I'm hoping this will be a nice staple in my temporary stay-at-home and permanent work-from-home life. The collar elevates it a bit from a normal sweatshirt, so I think it will pass muster on video calls. It has already done well on dog walks and lounging around the house.

Stay-At-Home Loungewear

From my rooftop I can see into the top apartment on a neighboring building. I've never noticed anyone in there before, but the past few times I've been up here to take photos I've noticed the couple is home. I guess everyone is home now. Today the man was doing some sort of virtual exercise routine. They also have a very nice looking cat with a window seat. I wonder if they've noticed me?

Like the rest of them, I've been staying home. I guess it's not too different from my normal routine of working from home. Regardless, I've definitely been needing more loungewear in my life and finally took a break from fancy projects to sew some up.

Pattern: Schnitten Patterns Sue Sweatshirt and Greenstyle Creations Stride Athletic Tights
Fabric: assorted knits
Cost: remnants for the top and $20 for the tights

Let's start with the top. I actually had this planned for a while, but for those sewing from your stash right now this pattern and ones like it are a great way to use up remnants. The main fabric here is an Art Gallery knit from my partnership with Modes4U. I somehow got it in my head that it would be really fun to play with the print and color blocking and mocked up quite a few versions in Photoshop until I found something I liked. I bought the burnt orange to go with it, though I realized later I could have used a remnant from my jumpsuit, and the black pieces are remnants from two different knits.

The pattern is the Sue Sweatshirt from Schnittchen Patterns. A bit of research showed that it was inspired by Helmut Lang's Alexandre Plokhov collection for Uniqlo (Sewing Workshop also has the Bristol pattern that is inspired by this collection). 

This was my first time working with Schnittchen and, well I wasn't terribly impressed. For one, there appear to be two different versions of the pattern floating around, one sold on their website and one sold for a bit more on The Foldline website. This would be all fine except the line drawings are different. See the difference? The one from their website (left) has a hemband that wraps all the way around, while the one from Foldline does not. The model in both cases, however, showed the one on the right. 

I wondered if maybe the line drawing was wrong but when I bought my pattern the pieces were for the one on the left. A quick web search shows that people indeed have sewn up two different versions. The problem was, I had my heard set on the one on the right. It's not a huge difference but it changes the construction order and some of the pattern pieces. So, do know that and choose accordingly before you buy. 

The other thing I disliked about the Schnittchen pattern were the instructions. They're a bit hard to follow. But there are some clever construction techniques in there. I think they were in there - otherwise I made them up and I'm clever! They were translated from German but the line drawings (showing markings like center front, etc.) weren't always translated so that was also annoying.

I do like the final fit, however. I didn't want this to be too boxy and it ended up just fine. This is probably also due to my fabric choice, which is more drapey than sweatshirt fabric. In terms of alterations, I only made a few small changes aside from re-creating the hem-band of the other version. First, I re-drew the neckline to make it more of a crew-neck shape. I also shortened the arms by about three inches as they were looong. Finally, I cut the back and side fronts as two separate pieces so I could play with the directionality of the stripes in the front without messing with the grainline on the back. I like the final result. Isn't that hem band cool?

The top is probably more interesting but I am arguably much more excited about these tights. I struggled with the Jalie leggings over several versions before deciding that I needed to try a new pattern. In addition to a good fit, I was looking for something that had pockets on the legs and that sat high at the natural waist. After looking through several patterns I settled on the Stride Athletic Tights from the new-to-me Greenstyle Creations company.

Sometimes I can be a little reticent to try out indie pattern companies that I'm not familiar with. Indeed, the pattern had a few of the common flaws I see from others: the instructions were overly detailed in some places but lacking in others, there weren't enough notches to help with construction, and it was hard to tell which pattern pieces to cut for which view.

However, overall I'm very happy with this pattern. First off, the fit is great. This is my second pair. The first did turn out a little snug (I imagine the fit will really vary based on your fabric), but the shape was great on me and was exactly what I was looking for. The designer has a wide size range and also uses models throughout the size range, which is really great. It seems people tend to get a good fit.

I am also really pleased with the details. The designer appears to be very athletic based on her Instagram and I feel like these could work well for me on my runs or, made in a fabric like this one, for lounging around the house. This is great as my running tights are wearing out and I'd been looking for a replacement pattern. I don't usually run with my cell phone but I love the pockets for using my phone when walking the dog and also stashing my keys. There's also an option for a waistband pocket but I skipped that.

The fabric is the yoga stretch knit from Stonemountain. It is actually less like an athletic material and more like a medium-weight t-shirt knit (I actually made the hubs a t-shirt out of this over a year ago), but I actually quite like it for tights. The stretch percentage is slightly lower so I added an inch of extra ease to my tights.

The only other alteration I made to the pattern was to convert the side panel into a straight vertical panel rather than one that extends as a yoke toward the back. Looking at the pattern pieces I could see that the yoke didn't add any extra shaping, and I prefer fewer seams in tights if possible.

In all I expect to get some good wear out of these during quarantine and beyond. In fact, I'm wearing them now! And by the way, yes, this is me.

V1645 Sewalong Post 4 - The Final Garment

This is the final post for my V1645 sewalong! As I mentioned at the start, one way I've been coping with the shelter-in-place and the worry about what is going on in the world is to dive deep into a complex project. It's a nice silver lining that I hadn't had time to work on this one until now! For this reason, if you are in the same boat, I thought it would be fun to offer some encouragement to take on this very popular Vogue Pattern.

If you're looking for other posts in this series they can be found here:

Pattern: Vogue 1645 Rachel Comey Misses' Jumpsuit
Fabric: 3 yds cotton-linen blend
Cost: $60

Today I'm sharing with you my final version! By now I had researched the pattern, sewn a muslin, and sewed it up. With all the extra work I'd done to perfect my fit and construction, I thought I could get this done with no problem. However, as I went I tried it on for a final check and... the crotch hung down around my knees! Turns out the loosely woven fabric had stretch horribly during construction. Yikes!

While I am generally pretty conscious about not stretching out my fabric as I sew, it looks like this fabric needed extra care. The fact that it was more loosely woven than the firm bedsheet I'd used as a muslin probably also contributed to some fit issues. The thing has a lot of fabric so can really pull on the garment when worn. Furthermore, the seams appeared to have stretched horribly as I finished my seams, bound the armholes, and turned under the neckline. I had to cast it aside for the night and come up with a new plan.

In the morning, I decided I could try to salvage it by taking up the shoulder seams. I unpicked the armhole and the neckline and took over an inch out from the front and the back at the shoulder seam. I then unpicked the entire neckline and used elastic to stabilize and ever so slightly draw in the neckline (something I should have done in the first place - I recommend stabilizing the neckline in the instructions). When I tried it on again things were actually much better! The crotch is still a bit lower than I would have liked but everything was back to a place that much more approximated its intended position. I further hemmed the legs and it was worth salvaging! So I'm here to encourage you not to get frustrated if things don't completely go your way at first.

Here she is in full:

She's still slightly less fitted than my muslin but very nice indeed. Also now the armholes are a little too high due to me taking up the shoulders. But I'm OK with it. 

I almost never sew with linen but am really liking the look lately and am even willing to risk a few wrinkles. This fabric is a cotton-linen blend so it's a little less wrinkle-prone, plus I pre-treated it with a hot wash and dry and a dry iron right after. 

This is definitely intended to be a summer staple for warm days and barbecues, if we ever go back to having those again. But what I like about it is that it pairs equally well with a shirt underneath and I think could be worn all year round. I could really see this at a holiday party later in the year. Thanks again to Beulah Birtley for the inspiration! 

I also wanted to show you another view in the finished garment. So often when I'm interested in a wrap pattern or one with interesting construction I'm very curious to learn more about how it all goes together. As a reminder, I made myself some extra long ties that fully wrap around my body instead of the shorter belt. However, that front overlay is still the same. Here she goes fully open, wrapping the belt, and tied closed at the side: 

And a few more shorts for you just so you can see how the overlay looks different in different poses. Sometimes it just looks like wide-leg pants and other times it makes the whole thing look like a dress. So fun!

Ok I think I need to stop sewing aspirational clothes for a minute because I'm getting a bit sad and anxious that I can't wear them out. Next up I have some comfy loungewear clothes to share that were quick to sew and are going to get worn ALL. THE. TIME.

I do hope that this series was helpful though and would love to see if anyone has found these instructions useful! 
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