Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Grainline Archer

The Grainline Archer shirt is a popular shirt. There are 129 (!) reviews for it on Pattern Review. And I do think it's a shirt pattern I'll make again.

The envelope contains two views. View A is the classic shirt with an inverted pleat off the yoke in the back. I made view B with its "lower back detail," that I would call a peplum. It is a little low for a peplum as I learned from other reviewer. So I raised it by 2 inches. That is, I shortened the back piece by 2 inches and lengthened the lower back piece by 2 inches.

There are many things to like about this pattern, starting with the instructions. They are contained in a convenient 8.5 X 5.5 brochure. I do hope this catches on. It is sooooo much easier to manage than those huge fold-outs I've used for years, decades. Also the instructions are well-written and clearly illustrated.

The seam allowances are 0.5 inch; that worked out fine as soon as I noticed it.

The pattern includes a separate right and left front. The left front has a cut-on button band and the right front has a separate buttonhole band. My fabric is this pretty Ikat cotton purchased from Topstitch in Decatur, GA. Initially I worried about matching the weave of my fabric both vertically and horizontally.

Finding center front seemed important. I searched and searched but found no center front markings on any pattern piece. Now that I've completed the shirt, it's fairly easy to determine CF. It's 2.5 inches from the raw edge on the left front; 0.5 inch on the right front; 1 inch on the buttonhole band.

I don't know why I worried about all of that. In the end, I did my best and I like the result.

The Archer, like a lot of shirt patterns, includes a bias-bound vent in the sleeve, rather than the classic placket. I love plackets on sleeves so pulled out my favorite shirt instructions for that and the yoke. Cutting Line Designs' the Blouse Perfected has the best instructions for these techniques, IMO.

This changed the size of the cuff so I putzed with that a while before adding a 3rd pleat to the sleeve. It's just barely noticeable, but I cut the yoke on the bias:

The next time I use this pattern, I'll make a few changes:

  • Shorten the sleeve by 1 inch.
  • Decrease the circumference at the wrist by about 2 inches.
  • If pattern matching is involved, I'll cut two left fronts. The buttonhole band is only needed if you are creating a contrast there.
  • I'll use 0.5 inch seam allowances from the beginning.

In sum, this is a really good pattern. Go ahead and try it. You can be the 130th reviewer on PR if you hurry!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Silk and Serendipity

Sunflowers on a farm in NH
The more I play with plant dyes, the more I want to play. There are endless variations and the results are unpredictable. I enjoy the surprise and make no attempt to create repeatable processes. Sometimes I chastise myself for not keeping better notes, but not often.

Black walnuts rescued from my local hiking trail
Years ago I spotted a bolt of PFD china silk at an estate sale. I have only just now come to appreciate the magic that is silk. I'm guessing that most silks contain dye magic. Of course I love to sew with cotton and linen but dyeing is not nearly as exciting with those celulose fibers.

My most recent adventures have been primarily with black walnuts but also with leaves and sunflowers. Here is the (first) one with sunflowers. You can see that bolt of PFD china silk in the upper left hand corner.

I started by dipping the silk in an iron bath: The iron bath is water and white vinegar in a glass container with some rusty objects. After about a week of steeping, it was a light orange color. So I dipped about a yard of the silk in it and squeezed it out. Wearing gloves, of course!

Steamer with the silk piece and some Hanji paper pieces
Next I pulled the flowers apart and laid out rows of the various parts of the flowers on half of the damp silk. There were green leaf-like structures (sepals) under the yellow petals, the yellow petals and then the black center torn into small pieces, each placed in rows.  I folded the remaining silk half over the plant parts, rolled it tightly, securing with twine. Then I curled it so that it would fit on top of my steamer.

I am totally in love with the resulting patterns and colors. I believe that the dark navy/purple parts were stained with the dark center seeds and that the other parts produced the orange stains. Now I am itching to stitch and wear this. I've done some research and I'm fairly comfortable that these are safe to use for clothing. For more on this subject, check out this very helpful post from India Flint, as well as this one from Alpenglow Yarn.

Meanwhile I've returned to my black-walnut-dyed silk pieces with plans to make something. The variety of results is endlessly interesting to me. This one was folded and steeped in leftovers from last year. I am amazed to see the pink colors and have no idea what caused it. I was not expecting much from year-old black walnut juice. But silk is magical.

Folded, clamped and dyed with year-old black walnut juice
The fresh walnuts from this year also yielded a wide variety of results. All pieces came from that off-white china silk. The following piece was simply stuffed in the dye pot and left to steep for a week or so, stirring occasionally. It looks more solid in reality. Some combination of sunlight and the camera created a rusty color. Because of the sheen, the color varies quite a lot.

This next piece was folded and clamped between two pieces of glass. It was steeped in a plastic container also for about a week. Perhaps the plastic inhibited the color transfer, or maybe the clamping was especially effective as a resist.

So now I must make something.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mychael Knight RIP

So sad to hear of the too-soon passing of Mychael Knight (1978-2017) here in Atlanta. You may recall his appearances on an early season of Project Runway, as well as Project Runway All Stars. He was voted fan-favorite.

I was lucky enough to meet him briefly at Charleston Fashion Week 5 years ago. I asked if he would allow a picture to which he responded, "of course." He seemed to be a kind, gentle soul with little ego.

I send good karma and prayers to those left behind who mourn for him. He was a very talented guy.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Another Hadley

So I went stash-diving for fabric to make the Grainline Archer shirt and came across this cotton border print from Gail K in Atlanta. It's been languishing in stash long enough now to be considered free. That's how it works. I've had it long enough to forget how much I paid for it, so it's free.

I would have used this for the Archer shirt but, alas, not enough fabric. That's another reason why I like Grainline's Hadley shirt. And the Hadley is really a nice pattern for a border print. I did not have enough to cut both sleeves from the white border, so one is solid black. As is often the case, this is actually better than it would have been if I'd had enough fabric.

As I mentioned in my previous post, this is a simple make so it should have gone smoothly. And it did with just one or two glitches.

The wrong side of this fabric is not noticeable until you attach the shoulders using French seams, and finish the neckline with self-fabric bias binding. Then it's real noticeable.

Also I found it relatively easy to sew the hem facing up-side-down. I swear, I'm going to go back and add some notches to the top of the facing so I don't fight that battle again.

Here's something I missed on Hadley #1: you use only the outer two notches when forming the inverted pleat in back. I am guessing I would have noticed that sooner if I had used the provided facings. This pleat is deeper and prettier, I think. To help it keep its shape, I stitched the inside fold of the pleat about 1/8" from the fold.

I made the same changes to this Hadley as the previous - bias binding for finishing the neckline and sleeve hems, cut both front and back on the fold, and I shortened the sleeves by 2" (!).

I think I like this Hadley even better than the first one, maybe because of this fabric. It's a cotton lawn and a tad sheer so I may need a cami underneath.

Next up: Grainline's Archer shirt. I have it cut out already.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Grainline Hadley

The newest pattern from Grainline Studios is a super simple shirt pattern called the Hadley. There are two views - a sleeveless (deep) V neck version and a long-sleeved jewel neck version with a pleat in the back. I made the long-sleeved version.

Both versions feature a slight high-low arrangement with the back about 4 inches longer. The front is fairly stright but the back angles out to create an overall A-line shape.

Both versions also include lots of facings - facings for the neckline, facings for the sleeve hems, and a facing for the body hem. I cut out all the facings but, in the end, decided to bind the neckline and sleeve hems. I do like the use of a facing on the shirt hem. This is a loose fit and needs the deep facing to ground it, I think.

The binding and facing fabric is a blue and black window pane plaid with a white background, left overs from another shirt. I think it adds a little something to the overall look. Or, it may have taken it into pajama territory. The proof is in the wearing.

I cut off about 2 inches from the sleeves. This is unusual for me. I often add 1/2 inch to long-sleeved patterns. I think that maybe the idea is for it to pool at the wrist? It's hard to determine the intent from various pictures of the Hadley online. I'm assuming the model is 6 feet tall so it hits her at the wrist, but reviewers on Pattern Review have also mentioned that the sleeves are quite long.

These sleeves have an inch cut from them. After this picture I cut another inch from them.
The Hadley has a center front seam and a center back seam. Each follows the grainline. Normally I like extra vertical lines, but with this cotton print fabric, I decided to cut on the fold. I would have felt guilty about not matching the print down the center front where it would be obvious. Just kidding. I would have matched the print. But why? So that the center front seam won't be so visible? Yeah, cut it on the fold.

The sleeve is an interesting draft - far more than I expected from such a simple pattern. It has a high sleeve cap and requires much fiddling to fit into the armscye. The sleeve hem also has a graceful curve to it - something I almost never see in a pattern with such a plain sleeve. I am impressed.

I've followed the Grainline blog for a while and I also enjoy her posts on Instagram. The Archer shirt has 127 (!) reviews on Pattern Review. And they named it a Best Pattern for 2013, 2015, and 2016. I think I'll try it next.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Stitching in New England

It's gorgeous here in New Hampshire. The leaves haven't reached their full glory but you can tell it's coming. I moved from Austin, Texas to Princeton, New Jersey back in the 80's. It was a big shock to this Texas gal, but I do have fond memories of the fall colors, especially mums like these.

The colors in my latest ensemble form a background for autumn colors. With the right jewelry or scarf or jacket this will be a favorite for me, I think. Both pieces are made with Sewing Workshop patterns - the Helix pants and the Odette top.

The Helix pants are a rayon ponte in a color I'd call caramel. Yum. I cut them out before heading north. These are such an easy make, a great basic. They are just right for sewing under less-than-ideal circumstances - away from home, no access to my stash of thread, chalk, and other supplies.

I did not have the right thread but made do. I have found that it's super important to use polyester thread on knit pants. I've tried them with cotton thread, but it's just too easy to place my foot in the wrong place and pop the side seams while slipping into them. Polyester is much stronger and better for knit pants, I think. The closest color I had on hand was a dark green which was fine for all sewing, except top-stitching. I used some matching cotton thread for the top-stitching.

I brought my sweet featherweight 222K which is relatively easy to carry on a plane and easy to tuck away when I'm not sewing. It's such a pleasure to have and to use. Almost too pretty to use. Almost. Look at that gorgeous straight stitch.

The Odette top is made from organic Alabama Chanin cotton jersey, in a brown just a shade lighter than the rayon ponte in the Helix pants. Again I see this piece as a basic, background for other pieces to shine. The Odette pattern in asymmetric in style. Almost every pattern piece is cut single-thickness. The sleeves are the only exception. Luckily I was able to cut these out prior to leaving home.

Some of the Odette pieces offered a nice place for sashiko. That was such fun. I used sashiko to secure the neckline, as well as all hems. Then I added some to the angular seams. Not sure that was a great idea but I can always remove the sashiko that crosses my belly.

Although the sewing has not been the same as it is in my home studio, it has been fun. And look what I found!

So has the season change affected your sewing?