Friday, November 16, 2018

Two Pieces for Layering

Filmore duster with Hudson top (TSW)
As usual, it seems that we're speeding into winter here in the southeastern US. It always seems that way to me because I love seeing the fall colors and I miss them when they're gone. There are still some beautiful trees here but we're beginning to light the fire at night.

As winter approaches, I think about 3-piece ensembles. One of my tried-and-true layering pieces is the super simple Hudson top, from the Sewing Workshop (TSW). I like to make the shorter version so it slides easily under a vest or a jacket. I know that a current style includes the hem of a shirt showing beneath a short jacket, but I have not been able to adjust my eye.  It just looks wrong to me.

This season's first Hudson was made with a swoon-worthy cotton Ikat in black and brown purchased online from Stonemountain and Daughter. I did not have enough fabric, per usual, and so added a band to the front hem and bias binding to the sleeve hems.

There is always enough fabric for a little something on the back.

Today I made a project of determining what pieces will layer nicely with my new Hudson tops. Here are the pieces I pulled from my closet for the Ikat version:

Chateau jacket in wool Melton maybe (TSW)

Marcy Tilton design in a cotton-linen blend

Wiksten Kimono Jacket in washed linen (also lined with linen)

Wool tweed and silk vest, OOP pattern Hong Kong vest from TSW

My most recent make is the Hudson in a pebble textured polyester (yikes!) piece I purchased from the Sewing Workshop (TSW). It was a pain to sew, but I'm glad I persisted. It came very close to the trash bin after I completed French seams on the neckline only to realize that I had sewn it all backwards! I kept reminding myself that black is a core color and I needed this top!

Due my recurrent theme of too-little-fabric, I discovered that I could cut the front and back as one piece with a center-back seam. The side seams are completely straight on grain so it was easy to overlap the pieces by 1.25".

It doesn't photograph well but it goes with just about everything in my closet:

This jacket is made with a heavy Japanese cotton using the Now and Zen pattern (TSW)

Hong Kong vest again

A more recent make, this is the Stafford pattern in linen from a curtain, lengthened and sleeves omitted (TSW)

Fillmore duster in Brussels washer linen (TSW)

Chateau coat again, always sharp with black, I think
It's good to bring out some old friends from the winter closet. Now I can look forward to wearing them on these dreary winter days.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Seasonal Changes

It is finally autumn here in the southeastern part of the US. And it feels a bit like we're heading into winter quickly. It always feels that way because I love the feel and look of fall and want it to stay a while.

Twice a year, I move my clothes from one closet to another. It is always a good time to assess the items I'm not wearing or items that need mending. And I find myself enjoying the making of small tweaks in a few items.

First up is this black cotton shirt with white sashiko, constructed 2 years ago. It is made in a medium weight cotton that feels a bit like washed linen. I traced the pattern while at Sew Kansas. It has never been published by the Sewing Workshop.

This neckline is not part of the pattern. I adapted it from the Egyptian shirt from Folkwear.
I like it a lot and have worn it often. Black pants; black top; done. No surprise that is began to look quite washed out after a number of washings. And I have all this black walnut juice around, so I thought, why not?

But I did not want to dye the white sashiko so I removed it. I let the top soak in a solution of black walnut juice and iron water for several days, simmering it on the stove from time to time. I think it did get a bit blacker. Afterwards I restitched the sashiko. Yes, I did. Who does that?!?

Next up was an unlined version of the the Sewing Workshop Tremont jacket. I have used this pattern more than once. It's a charming pattern, I think, with its asymmetrical fronts, set-in sleeves, and face-framing collar. This one was constructed using a hefty loosely-woven cotton ikat. I added some red accents that got in my way when I actually wanted to wear it. And it really should have been lined from the get-go.

I now see that the red accents are just about invisible. sigh.
So I removed the red accents and lined it. I used a soft light-weight cotton Ikat for lining the body and rayon Ambiance for the sleeves. I really like the weight of it now.

I also added a new closure using remnants from another cotton ikat project. I created frog knots per Sandra Betzina and simple loops on the other side.

And then I decided I didn't like that and removed the closures. Jeez.

Last weekend I signed up for an indigo dip at my local recreation center. I looked around and saw this nice white top I made with a French pattern, the Cezembre. I had already adjusted it once, as the cotton shirting was too tightly woven for the sleeves to fit smoothly into the armscye.

Cezembre before
I tried to create a gradiated indigo color with the darkest portion at the bottom. It was impossible (for me) to keep the upper portion white, so I dipped it all. I'm pretty happy with this color. I do love indigo blue.

Cezembre after
Ah, well. Two steps forward, three steps back. It's all about the joy of working with cloth in my hands.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Contemporary Kimono

I have long been enamored of the traditional kimono shape. I have made many, usually from the Folkwear pattern, Japanese Field Clothing. It is composed strictly of rectangles, a conventional Japanese kimono construction.

Recently I've seen a plethora of posts on Instagram for the Wiksten Kimono. I resisted ordering the pattern as long as I possibly could. After all, what could be so different in a kimono pattern?

Ultimately I fell under the Wiksten spell after seeing one image after another of this kimono on Instagram. There are a ga-zillion of them, all lovely, IMO.  Wiksten patterns are produced by a designer out of Oregon. She has a few patterns, but I am certain that nothing has sold like the Wiksten.

It took about 10 days to arrive. The Wiksten is nicely drafted, unconstrained by a need to rely on rectangles and so is different from a Japanese kimono. The front and backs are curved out at the armcyes. Also the shoulder line is sloped in a more natural fashion than a typical kimono. And the sleeve is slightly shaped to reduce the amount of bulk under the arm.

Fabric came from stash - a medium brown washed linen for the face fabric and a plaid linen for the lining. The Wiksten is intended to be fully lined. It is lined in a manner appropriate for a reversible garment though I'll not reverse mine.

The pattern has 3 suggested lengths. I chose the longest one which is about three-quarter length. I chose my size based on my hip measurement as that is the most crucial one for me.

Once I had the pattern pieces prepared, it was pretty straight-forward to cut out and make.

The lining is sewn to the face fabric on the lower hem first. It called for under-stitching to keep the lining from peeking out. I used the standard bag lining procedure for sewing the sleeve hems. The band was stitched to the remaining raw edges, then wrapped onto itself and slip-stitched in place.

When worn, the band/collar folds back on itself, creating 4 layers of fabric. The sleeves are long enough to create a fold-up cuff. Due to these 2 features, the lining is highlighted as trim.

At first I thought it was much too heavy. But that was simply because the weather has been so warm here. As soon as we got a cold snap, I was totally in love with this piece.

And it provided a nice canvas for sashiko, always a plus. I have a number of stencils for sashiko and chose the hemp leaf one. The brown linen was dark enough to use a white powder pounce to mark the pattern. It rubbed off as I sewed, sometimes before I wanted it gone.

I may add some more stitching. There is still space. I enjoy having a project to wear that is still a work-in-progress.

So, have you fallen under the Wiksten spell yet?

Thursday, October 18, 2018


The Sewing Workshop re-issued the Bells and Whistles pattern just a year ago according to my copy. But it's been around a while. I see reviews dating back to 2008. It contains two very different blouses. I was mostly drawn to the Whistles version initially, especially after I saw one of their samples in that style.

When I found this lovely soft cotton lawn at Gail K, I figured it would make a great version of one of these tops. At this point I don't remember why, but I selected Bells instead of Whistles. I will continue to long for a Whistles version.

This blouse is, I think, one of the most fitted patterns ever published by the Sewing Workshop. The sides seams are quite shapely and the back has 4 (!) vertical darts. The hem is curved in a very girly fashion. All of this makes me wonder if I'll enjoy wearing it. Oh, yes, I will. I promise.

As you can probably tell in the picture, the left and right front pattern pieces are quite different in order to create the angled closure. The pattern contains two sets of button bands, one set following the more expected center-front vertical placement. I omitted the vertical set and kept the button bands that follow the curve of each front piece. It seemed to me that there was already plenty going on in this design and that I'd be happier with one fewer design element.

It has a single epaulet on the right shoulder that balances the asymmetry formed by the button bands. And the sleeves are quite different too, with the button bands and the cuffs. These 3 elements presented a fun opportunity to use a contrasting cotton fabric. I also used the contrast as the under collar and the under collar band.

My contrast fabric is a bit more beefy than the soft cotton lawn. This worked out fine as I was able to skip the interfacing that I would have needed otherwise.

Overall I am pretty pleased with the result and look forward to wearing it. Isn't the pattern fun? Calculus was the last math course I really loved when I pursued my mathematics degree at the University of Texas. So this is a small tribute to that.

So what's on your cutting table?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A San Diego jacket

I have just finished a San Diego jacket. It is a versatile pattern and so I'll probably make it again. I made the shirt almost two years ago when the Sewing Workshop (TSW) updated and reissued it. I blogged about it here.

From time to time, I have thought about making a jacket version. I have seen so many pretty San Diego jackets, in person and online. First there was this vintage version from the basement at the Sewing Workshop in Topeka KS. I think it must be a beefy silk tweed. Isn't it lovely?

The one below has been modified (I think) to make the fronts extend horizontally to create an extended collar with more vertical drape.

And the Sewing Workshop hosts a trip to France that often involves lovely versions of the San Diego jacket. I watch for those posts on Instagram. Always inspiring.

So this time I made the jacket version. My fabric is a linen-cotton blend from stash. I think it is a Robert Kaufman fabric probably purchased at a quilt shop. I like these fabrics that are cross-dyed, this one in burgundy and off-white. The addition of linen makes it right for a light-weight fall jacket.

It is not dramatic and the making is quite simple. There is a Y seam that forms the collar, but otherwise it is very easy. The pattern does have a 2-piece sleeve but I'm not sure why. It is strictly a design feature and that may be enough. It would certainly be an interesting place to insert some pretty piping. You can tell by looking at the two pieces that this is essentially a one-seam sleeve. The seam between them follows the straight-of-grain.

To me, this seemed a blank slate for pattern play. I started by reading about the anatomy of sleeves in Helen Armstrong's Patternmaking for Fashion Design. That gave me the basics of drafting a sleeve but it did not help me alter an existing sleeve. A quick search on Youtube led me to a tutorial by Christopher Sartorial. His video was clear and exactly what I wanted.

The first step was to convert the original two pieces into a single piece. This was accomplished by overlapping the seams by 1.25" as seen below. 

I traced this onto a single piece of tissue and removed all seam and hem allowances. The first step on the tutorial was to fold the single pattern tissue so that the underarm stitching lines met. This was interesting to me because it showed that all sleeve shaping had been shifted into this one seam. You can see that in the gap created when I brought the underarm seam lines together.

Original 1-piece sleeve after seam allowances were removed.
Next I traced lines according to the tutorial to create an under sleeve and an upper sleeve. Below you can see that I've added back the 5/8" seam allowances, as well as hem allowances.
Each says Right Side because I discovered I had created a right upper sleeve and a left lower sleeve.

This version of a two-piece sleeves has one vertical seam that is visible from the front and another that is visible from the back. It creates the effect of an elbow dart and some very subtle shaping.

I tested this by creating a toile for just the sleeve pieces and basting them into the jacket armhole. I was (as usual) short of fabric and could not take a chance on my pattern play failing. But it worked. Hooray! I was still a little short on fabric and so added cuffs to my sleeves.

In fact, I had to further piece one of the sleeves. You can see if you look carefully below that the undersleeve has an extra horizontal seam. I sort of like that it's different from the other sleeve.

The original pattern includes a single back piece cut on the fold. In order to add a bit of upper back shaping, I created a center back seam. 

Because this is a light-weight unlined jacket, I sewed flat-felled seams throughout.

Finishing the armscye
I think it might be interesting to make a layering blouse to wear under this. By switching back to the shirt pattern pieces, I think it'll fit nicely under the jacket version. This dark red silk fabric from Laura Murray may be just right.

This was a satisfying experiment. I hope to wade into pattern drafting just a little deeper because this was fun. And honestly I don't need clothes so fast sewing is hard to justify.