Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Sarah Campbell Spell

When I saw this orange print peaking out from a stack of fabric bolts at the Sewing Workshop (TSW) in February, I had been studying under the tutelage of master print-maker Sarah Campbell for several days. The end of the bolt read Japanese cotton crepe. Then I touched it. And I had to have it.

It's only today that I realize that I may have been ever so slightly influenced by Sarah's flamboyant aesthetic. But I love it still and that class is old news now, since it occurred before Covid-19 (BC).

Shortly after that trip, the Venice shirt was issued by TSW, first as a download. I worried only a little about all those ruffles on my hips and that little dippy thing on the back hem. I wanted a sewing puzzle. Poof. Wish granted.

But, back to the deep red-orange Japanese cotton crepe. Yummmm. I took my time and enjoyed the process for quite a while. The fabric was lovely to cut and sew and feels nice on. Perhaps due to my fits and starts, or because it was a full moon, or because I'm a bit distracted these days, a few mistakes were made.

I followed the pattern fairly closely, making only minor design changes. I changed the shoulder seam bust dart to a pleat. I made plain 3/4 length sleeves. And my collar is a simple band.

The pattern includes what they call an all-in-one collar, a.k.a. convertible collar. It is one of those collars that combines the conventional collar stand and collar into a single pattern piece. I prefer mostly just a band, but sometimes both band and collar, rarely the combination of the two.

Things went so smoothly at the beginning. Above it is in an early stage. I like the fit enough to repeat this as a more conventional shirt, that is, with a shirt hem. The sleeveless version looks nice on my dress form.

Trouble only started when I began the ruffles. I started with such high hopes! I measured the left hem and measured the unruffled ruffle piece. Then I installed my ruffler and tested it on a piece of muslin that was cut like a ruffle. With no changes to the ruffler, it appeared to ruffle to exactly the right length!!! How lucky is that?!?

The pattern instructions included zigzagging over a piece of heavy thread and then gathering. The left ruffle is long enough that it was not going to be easy to ruffle that way, IMO. But then, in general, I find ruffles to be fiddly and unpredictable. I was motivated to make the ruffler foot do the work.

As a bonus, the ruffler foot even sounds cool. I attached the left ruffle to the shirt, finished the edges with the serger, and edge-stitched. Then I compared it to the pictures of finished versions. Hmmm... not quite right.

A quick email exchange with Linda Lee (thanks so much, Linda!) confirmed that this was indeed incorrect. The instructions in the PDF version are not clear to me. I now know I should have ended the ruffle at the dot, not at the notch.

In order to fix this, I cut an additional piece for the left ruffle, matching the pattern, and made it work, perhaps with a bit of brute force.

On the right side, I made it work using some hand gathering and some machine gathering. In this print, it looks fine. Really.

In the category of knowing-what-I-know-now, I wish that I had simply cut each ruffle extra long to start. Then I could use the ruffle foot, and finish the ends to match the hem and the end dots.

Truthfully, if I had this to do over again, I'd skip that opening in the back and make the ruffle even all the way around. Adding the placket, buttonholes, and buttons was not worth the effort in retrospect. But. I wanted a puzzle and I got just that.

This wild print gave me another opportunity to use remnants of the black and white linen stripe fabric for the collar band and the sleeve facings. So that was fun.

All in all, I'm happy with this make. I do recommend it. It fits nicely through the shoulders and bust, skims the rest, more or less. I look forward to leaving the house some day wearing this shirt.

It's kind of sweet, I think.


  1. Very nice..maybe I'll try my ruffler again. thanks for posting.

  2. Beautiful and those facings are such a sweet surprise!