Friday, May 30, 2014

Finished project: Peek-a-Boo Patterns - Alex & Anna Summer PJs

Do you watch HBO's Game of Thrones? And if you do, do you remember the not-in-the-books scene from Season 2 where the lovely Emilia Clarke (as Daenerys Targaryen) did the whole overacted "Where. Are. My. DRAGONS?!?" bit? If so, then substitute the word "dragons" for "penguins", and you've witnessed my 2-year-old daughter at bedtime lately.

If you don't watch Game of Thrones, then just picture a very irate 2-year-old who is threatening a meltdown if she can't wear her warm flannel penguin pajamas because they're either in the wash or because it's 72 degrees F in the house. Before you suggest that I let her wear them anyway, even when it's warm, understand that Eva doesn't sleep when she's too warm. And when Eva doesn't sleep, no one else in the house gets to sleep, either.

Thankfully, I had somewhat recently added a penguin print knit to my stash from Girl Charlee to my fabric stash. (I grabbed it on closeout about two months back solely because of Eva's love of penguins.) I poked around on the internet for a pattern for kids' knit summer pajamas and found exactly one that came in a size 2T (Eva's size): the Peek-a-Boo Alex & Anna Summer PJ's. Thankfully, the pattern is a winner:

Happy Eva models her new PJ's. Happy Eva = Happy Mama.
As a side note, while I was lamenting the lack of variety in kids' summer PJ patterns, Blank Slate managed to release not one, but two, summer PJ patterns in the past week--the Sweet Pea pajamas and Sleepover Pajamas. Both patterns have since been purchased and downloaded to my laptop.

If you're new to sewing knits or are a beginning sewist, this is a great pattern for you. Both the pattern and pattern instructions are clearly geared towards beginners. Instead of dealing with sometimes-tricky knit hems, the legs and arms are finished with cuffed bands. The only actual hem is the t-shirt bottom. I whipped these up nearly entirely on my serger in a little two hours, including PDF taping time. Since Seattle's weather can vary quite a bit, I also sewed a pair of matching Oliver + S leggings so that Eva could wear these on cooler nights:

3-piece pajama set + toddler foot
A few things to note:
  • Peek-a-Boo makes a conscious effort to reduce paper in that there are no paper pattern pieces for the neck and hem bands. In the instructions, you're given dimensions of the band for each size, and you can mark and cut the out yourself.
  • On a similar note, the top front and back pieces use the same pattern piece, but with two different necklines drawn. To make things easier on myself, I simply printed out the two sheets of paper containing this piece twice so that I could have separate pieces.
  • I found the neck opening to be quite small for my daughter's head. I dropped the neckline by an inch, and still found the opening a little tight. Since neither of my fabrics had much stretch, I finished the neckline with foldover elastic (FOE) to facilitate getting the top over her head, rather than add to the lack of stretchiness.
  • For at least the 2T, I found the sizing to be very true to RTW of the same size. Eva normally wears a 2T, and I felt that these fit her perfectly. As the pattern description notes, these are a snug fitting pajama (as knit pajamas should be). You won't find the excessive ease of many Big 4 kids' patterns with these.
I will definitely be making more of these. They were super fast and easy to whip up, and more importantly, Eva loves them. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A few favorite online fabric resources

I want to thank you all for the interesting discussion that came out of my last post on my pet peeves about being a plus sized sewist. I'd had a rough week and felt like I needed to vent about something. I was very glad to see that the comments were all thoughtful and respectful. (When I first posted, I had no idea if there'd be trolls coming out of the woodwork telling me that if I didn't like something, I should lose some weight. Thankfully, there was none of that.)

This week has been going a bit better. I've got one new finished project (previewed below) and a successfully wearable muslin (the HP Weekender Daytona Hoodie) in the works, but not ready to be blogged yet.

I'm in a happier mood and would like to talk about something that makes all of us sewists happy...fabric. Now, unlike San Diego, Seattle actually has a decent array of fabric stores for garment sewists. However, I still do most of my fabric shopping online because online fabric shopping doesn't ever involve having to pry a bolt of Elmo fabric out of the hands of an emotional two-year-old.

I feel like I'm a fairly seasoned veteran when it comes to online fabric shopping, but I know that many other sewists out there are either apprehensive about buying fabric that they can't see or touch in person or have a couple of favorite stores and haven't ventured from those. Most of the rest of this post will be dedicated to sharing my own personal favorite online fabric sources and giving a rundown at what each store excels at and what that store possibly leaves to be desired.

One thing that I'll note is that I have a heavy bias towards fabric suppliers that carry designer or other RTW apparel overruns. (These are fabrics left over from the apparel manufacturing process. I find that they usually give me the best shot of a final garment with a RTW appearance.) My personal assessment of each store includes the following information:
  • Summary/URL: Description of the store and URL to the storefront.
  • Pros: Things I like about the store.
  • Cons: Things I don't like about the store.
  • Don't miss: The absolute standout thing(s) about the store.
  • Wishlist feature: Is there some sort of "wishlist" feature where you can bookmark fabrics to your account for possible later purchase?
  • Remaining yardage: Does the site list the remaining yardage of a fabric (allowing you to wait for a sale before pulling the trigger)?
  • Shipping costs: Shipping costs within the US.
I don't have any affiliations with any of these stores; I'm just a satisfied customer. Note that these are all US-based stores; international shipping policies vary by store.

In alphabetical order...

Emma One Sock

EmmaOneSock is a high-end online fabric store run by Linda Podietz. Quality is beautiful, and inventory generally turns over quickly. If you see something that you like, you're best off placing an order quickly. (Note that Linda will hold orders and wait to see if you like something else so that your order can be shipped more efficiently.) This site is generally out of my price range; however, it's a good source for "special" fabric when you've already made a pattern a few times and want a more special garment.

Emma One Sock


High quality fabric, you're not limited to buying by the yard. Good source of knits (and I'm a lover of knits, as we know.)


Prices are high, sales are rare, and you can sometimes find the same fabric for a significantly cheaper price on other online fabric sites.

Don't miss

The 11oz rayon lycra jersey is hands-down my favorite fabric for knit tee-shirts and tops. She also gets in a nicer array of print rayon jerseys than I've seen at most other stores.

Wishlist feature?


Remaining yardage listed?


Shipping costs

Shipping is calculated based on the weight/actual cost of shipping your order. You'll get an invoice for the final price of everything once Linda has your order cut and ready to ship. probably has one of the biggest selections of the various online fabric stores. I go to when I have a very specific idea of what I'm looking for. Case in point, right now, they seem to be about the only online fabric store with denim-colored chambray (by Robert Kaufman) in stock.


Good source for name brand fabric, such as Sophia Knits, Robert Kaufman, Michael Miller, etc. Prices are generally reasonable; sales are frequent; online coupons are sometimes available.


For the non-name-brand fabrics, quality can be hit-or-miss. Order a swatch, if in doubt. And also note, if a fabric here is described as "lightweight", it's REALLY lightweight.

Don't miss

Lots of licensed fabrics, sophia knits (if you like comfy double knits), lots of free patterns available for download.

Wishlist feature?


Remaining yardage listed?


Shipping costs

Free for orders over $35. Don't ask me what shipping is for orders under $35--I've always bumped up my order to get the free shipping.

FabricMart (The Store That Shall Not Be Named)

On PatternReview, FabricMart is sometimes known as The Store That Shall Not Be Named (TSTSNBN) because so many of us fall off of our fabric fasts when they run a sale here, and note that they have frequent, significant sales on top of their already reasonable prices.

FabricMart fabrics


Because most of their fabric is apparel industry overruns, quality is usually very good for the price. FabricMart is generally my go-to source for Ponte knits and rayon challis. Because their overruns are usually recent, colors and prints are usually fairly current for the season.


Inventory turns over quickly. They won't always have what you're looking for if you have something specific in mind.

Don't miss

Designer overruns! JCrew, Maggie London, Marc Jacobs, etc.

Wishlist feature?

Yes. It's called "Maybe later" here.

Remaining yardage listed?


Shipping costs

A flat $8 for US orders. FabricMart occasionally runs free shipping specials, as well.

Girl Charlee

Most of the sewing blogosphere seems to have known about Girl Charlee fabrics for a while, but they're a relatively recent discovery for me. Girl Charlee has a fantastic selection of fun and whimsical cotton and cotton-blend knits, often with coordinating solids. They've also recently branched into sourcing sourcing some fun wovens and swimsuit fabric, as well.

Girl Charlee fabrics


Great selection of knits with current and trendy prints. I LOVE that the site-exclusive Girl Charlee line has coordinating solids to go along with their knit prints. Prices are very reasonable. The house line also is a nice light-side-of-mid-weight, very soft, and very drapey (after pre-washing).


I've heard that quality can vary, but I've been happy with everything I've ordered here. One thing to keep in mind is that most of their Girl Charlee line lacks a spandex blend and so therefore isn't very stretchy. I'm willing to overlook this most of the time for the cute prints and adjust my fitting accordingly.

Don't miss

If you've ever wanted to look like you walked straight out of a farm-to-fork vegan cafe in Portland to hop on your fixie, don't miss their "wildlife collection" full of whimsical animal prints in trendy colors.

Wishlist feature?

Yes. You can save a fabric to your "stash" here for later.

Remaining yardage listed?


Shipping costs

Shipping is free for orders over $99. If you can manage to go through checkout without filling your cart that much, shipping is still reasonable for smaller orders.

Gorgeous Fabrics

Gorgeous Fabrics is one of the first online fabric stores that I used when I started sewing. I discovered them because it seemed like all of the sewists on Pattern Review were buying their really cool knits (unlike anything carried by JoAnn) at Gorgeous Fabrics. Great selection, somewhat higher prices than I usually go for, but still cheaper than Emma One Sock.

Gorgeous Fabrics


Great selection of fabrics, colors. Ann, who runs Gorgeous Fabrics, frequently gets overruns by New York-based designers like Milly. I'm always a sucker for a good Milly print. Excellent customer service. Because prices are a little on the high side here, I'll usually save my Gorgeous Fabrics for garments that I've made before (as with Emma One Sock). I love that Ann lists patterns and needle size recommendations to go along with her fabrics. This site also runs frequent sales, so if you love a fabric, save it to your wishlist and wait for it to go on sale.


Quality is nearly always good, but I've occasionally run into the "fabric isn't what I thought it would be" issue here. e.g. Scale of the print isn't what I expected (most but not all have a ruler in their picture for scaling), hand/drape isn't what I was expecting. I can still usually find a use for fabrics even when they're not what I thought they were.

Don't miss

Milly fabrics! Lots of gorgeous wools on site at nearly all times. Ann also sometimes gets in lots of lovely silk jerseys.

Wishlist feature?

Yes, accordingly called "wishlist".

Remaining yardage listed?


Shipping costs

Shipping costs are based on the weight of your order and calculated at checkout.

What are your favorite online fabric sources? Have a missed a particularly great store?

Memorial Weekend Sewing: Summer pajamas for a toddler

I'll do a full blog post on these when I'm able to take some pictures of Eva actually wearing them, but I spent my "sewing time" over the long Memorial Day weekend sewing a three-piece summer pajama set for my daughter:

Peek-a-boo Anna & Alex Summer PJs with Oliver+S leggings
Please excuse the toddler leg photobomb; I was in a hurry and was unable to move her out of the shot--she really didn't want to NOT be touching her new pajamas.

A quick rundown of this project is that we realized during our recent "heatwave" (temperatures in the low 80s! In Seattle!) that Eva only had about two sets of summer pajamas in her current size (2T). I wanted to make her a few more sets, and this is the first set in that series. I used the Peek-a-Boo Patterns Alex & Anna Summer PJ's for the top and shorts and a slightly modified version of the Oliver+S Playtime leggings for the leggings. I added the leggings to the original pajama set to increase their versatility for our varied weather in Seattle. The penguin fabric is a no-longer available cotton blend jersey from Girl Charlee.

These were very easy to sew, fit true-to-size, and I love how they turned out (and Eva does too). Blank Slate just released a new summer PJ pattern, too, and while I haven't bought that one yet, I'd like to give that one a try, too.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Six pet peeves of a plus-sized sewist

I've had a rough week. I'm tired, I'm cranky, I had way too much stress at work this week from last minute fire drills related to a release, and I just want a beer.

I usually try to keep things fairly positive on this blog, but sometimes you just need a good rant to blow off some steam. I've been so stressed out that I've found seven things to vent about. Why seven? Because I couldn't narrow the list down to six, and I didn't really have ten.

Here goes...

Pet Peeve 1: Patterns whose largest size is a 41" bust and 44" hip. 

I know that some pattern designers have defended themselves saying that they need a different pattern block at a certain size, but having such a narrow size range just reeks of body snobbery to me. It reminds me of the Project Runway designer who vocally whined during a "real woman" challenge about his client having 43" hips.

Size chart from an unnamed indie pattern company
Look, it doesn't take a lot of sewing experience when you're plus sized to figure out that the patterns that fit you best are the ones where the designer either uses a separate block for plus sizes or uses a larger size as their sample/prototype (for example, HotPatterns starts at a size 16 and grades up and down from their). But, when your patterns stop at a 41" bust, would it really kill you to add one or two more sizes? Do you really need a second block for that?

And before you tell me that I should just "grade up" a pattern if I like it, do I really want to spend those extra hours of work on grading unless the pattern was a cheapo that I picked up at a Hancock sale or traced out of a magazine?

Pet Peeve 2: Being told that a certain figure type "can't" wear certain styles or that certain figure types "have to" stick to certain styles. 

For example, horizontal stripes, skinny jeans/pants, raglan sleeves, dropped shoulders, kimono sleeves are all supposed "no-no's" on a curvy figure. Try being short on top of this--I'm not supposed to wear maxi-length anything, either.

Most of these "rules" don't take proportion or styling into account, anyway. If you wear a shaped jacket over a shapeless, boxy top, you no longer have a shapeless silhouette. Scarves and jewelry can draw the eye up and break up a "too high" neckline.

I truly think that if you have self confidence and know a few styling tricks, you can pull off most garments that you're comfortable with.

Pet Peeve 3: Thinking that every single piece of clothing you own had to make you look 10 pounds thinner. 

For example, "Dress in all one color to create a lengthening vertical column", or "Stay away from boxy tops if you have a defined waist." Sometimes something can be worth wearing because it's comfortable and a good color on you. Like the pet peeve before it, this one irks me because it's imposing needless limitations on us, and don't we have enough limitations already?

If I always want to look 10lbs thinner, I should probably really focus and work my ass off to lose 10lbs. Monochromatic dressing is boring.

Pet Peeve 4: Pattern cup sizes that stop at a "D" and act like they're doing curvy women a favor.

I especially love this when the pattern copy includes a blurb along the line of "Includes multiple cup sizes so that you don't have to do an FBA!" or something like that.

Really? Some studies indicate that the average cup size in the US is a "D", which means that half of the women in this country need a cup size larger than a D.

I do get it on some level; I'm always thankful when I only have to do an FBA of, say, 2 inches instead of 4. (Granted, I start using "fudging it" FBA methods when I need more room than that, anyway.) However, I can count the pattern designers out there that have designs for a DD+ cup on one hand. That bites.

Pet Peeve 5: Shapeless sacks and shapeless sacks with belts around them masquerading as plus sized designs. 

Sack dress from BurdaStyle
Who wants to look like this? This isn't going to look good on hardly anyone. Just because I'm a larger woman doesn't mean that I want to hide from the world.

Pet Peeve 6: Someone who wears size 36 in Burda saying, "Ooh, I like the Burda Plus designs better than the regular designs--you're so lucky!"  

I see this one nearly every month on PatternReview when someone starts the thread for the new BurdaStyle preview that's just been posted. I think this one bothers me because I find it really condescending.

Really, you're telling us that we're lucky when we're limited (outside of grading) to five or so patterns every issue? And nearly every issue, at least one of those patterns is one of the shapeless sacks mentioned in Pet Peeve 5? You get practically the whole magazine, if you're a size 36-44. Don't tell me I'm lucky because I get one decent knit top pattern, a dress, a shapeless sack, a basic trouser pattern, and some weird rectangle thing every issue.

Okay, I feel a little better now.

Is it just me, or are my fellow curvy and plus sized seamstresses irritated by some of these same things? Or are you irritated by different things?

A final word...

And on that note, I'll leave you with this brilliant scene from last week's episode of Louis CK:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday drive-by

I haven't abandoned my blog! I've just been super, super busy these past few weeks. Things are completely nuts at work right now, and I'm taking a class this quarter as I continue to chip away at my Project Management certification. The only time that I've had to sew for the past two weeks has been the half hour that I grab by getting up at 6am (before anyone else in the house is up).

But, the good news is that I am very close to having a wearable muslin of the HotPatterns Weekender Daytona Hoodie. I do need a few minor fit adjustments before I make my "good fabric" version, but I'll write up a post for the test run as soon as it's finished. In the meantime, I need to stay off of the Girl Charlee web site because their coordinated prints/solids mid-weight cotton blends would be absolutely perfect for this pattern, and I only need to own so many hoodies.

I don't know about you, but when I'm really stressed out, I shop for fabric (and to a lesser extent, patterns) online when I can grab a minute or two here or there. These past few weeks have not been kind to my debit card.

I normally blog on my lunch break ~twice/week, but things have been so crazy here that I haven't had a lunch break in two weeks.

I have about a half dozen half-written posts saved in "draft" mode on non-project-specific sewing topics. Right now, I'm being reminded that it would be really nice to have one or two of these ready to go for times like these when I really don't have time to do any non-work-related writing!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Finished Project: SBCC 320 - Julep Skirt (and another Tonic Tee)

After the fiddliness (is that a word) of my StyleArc Amber top, I needed an easy project to get my sewjo flowing again. Around this time last week, we were hit with a wave of warm weather (80 degrees is a heat wave in Seattle terms), and I realized that I had a serious lack of summery skirts in my wardrobe. I also felt like I was just about the only woman on my tech company's campus NOT wearing a dress or skirt with a hi-lo hem during those couple of sunny days. I've also been so enamored with my various versions of the SBCC Tonic Tee that I'd really been wanting to try a few other SBCC patterns.

I decided to kill two birds with one stone and sew up an easy skirt with a hi-lo hem. Enter the SBCC Julep skirt:

SBCC Julep Skirt line drawing
Now, I know that there are Big 4 versions of this skirt out there that I could have picked up at a $0.99 or $1.99 sale, but given the shape of the skirt, I was more than happy to pay a few more dollars to not have to worry about where I'd need to shorten the skirt for my 5'2" frame. I also made a coordinating Tonic Tee to go with my new skirt:

Julep skirt + Tonic tee
I hadn't seen any photos of this skirt on a "real" person yet, so if you're having trouble telling where the skirt hits, the front of the skirt hem hits me just below the knee, and the back of the skirt hem hits at about mid-to-upper-mid-calf.

Hello swayback! I really need to add a CB seam to the Tonic Tee pattern.
The skirt does have a center back (CB) seam, which isn't reflected in the line drawing. The CB seam adds some shaping and also gives the skirt a little "kick" at the bottom back hem, which you can't really see in my busy print.

Both the skirt and tee fabric are ITY knits from a recent FabricMart sale. The skirt was super easy to make (I think it took me around an hour, two hours if you count PDF assembly and fabric cutting time).

I'll note a few things about the skirt construction and sizing:
  • According to the SBCC size chart, I'm a 2X, so that's what I sewed with no adjustments.
  • Sizing is true to size chart measurements through the hips.
  • As you can see from the line drawing, the skirt uses a yoga pant-style fabric waistband with no elastic. I felt like the waist ran a little large. I rarely size down for a waistband, but for this skirt, I'd grade down to a 1X the next time that I make this skirt.
  • As noted in the pattern, you'll ease the waistband onto the skirt. The skirt waistband has a side seam and notches for the CB and center front (CF). Since the skirt itself has a CB seam, you can line the waistband notch up with that. The CF lacks any marking or notch, so make sure that you mark that point in some way (I cut a tiny snip into my seam allowance) while the fabric is still on the fold.
  • The skirt waistband piece is marked to lay out and cut on the fold, but does not indicate the direction of stretch. If you've got your fabric folded selvedge-to-selvedge, that would put the stretch for the waistband running vertically. Given that my fabric didn't have much vertical stretch, I laid out the waistband on my fabric so that the fold was perpendicular to the selvedge, making the stretch go around my body. (Maybe this is why my waistband seemed a little big?)
The finished skirt is super comfortable (yoga pants comfortable, with that waistband) and very on-trend at the moment. I will definitely be making a few more of these for the summer--probably when I am in need of another instant gratification project.

Friday, May 9, 2014

HotPatterns sewalong! (Fast & Fabulous Blouse-Back Tee)

HotPatterns is doing a sewalong! HotPatterns is doing a sewalong! (Can you tell that I'm a little giddy about this?) The sewalong coincides with today's release of their latest pattern, the Fast & Fabulous Blouse-Back Tee:

HotPatterns Fast & Fabulous Blouse-Back Tee
I think that this is such a cute top with some really fun details! Love that back yoke/draped contrast piece. 

Trudy has never done a sewalong before for one of her patterns, but she's doing one for this one. On Facebook, she said that she was inspired by her recent lunch with Renee of Miss Celie's Pants and wants to get people sewing this pattern and not just stashing it.

If you've been tempted to give HotPatterns a try before but have been hesitant for whatever reason, this is a great pattern to start with:
  • The Fast & Fabulous line (which includes this pattern) has a lower price point than other HotPatterns and is only $9.95.
  • With the scoop neck in the front and the draping in the back, I think that this is a style that will work well on most figures. (And honestly, that's a big part of what I love about HotPatterns--Trudy rarely releases a style where I look at it and think "Wow, you have to be 5'10" and 120 lbs to wear that!")
  • The sewalong! You'll get the camaraderie and inspiration of sewing along with others. And if you've been hesitant about HotPatterns' minimalist instructions in the past (and to be fair, the F&F line does tend to have more detailed instructions), you'll be able to get help from Trudy and other HotPatternistas as you go.
So, yes, of course I'll be participating in the sewalong, and I will be blogging along as I go. I also have another HotPattern as the next item in my sewing queue and will be working on that in the interim while I wait for the sewalong to begin. I've got a Weekender Daytona Hoodie pattern-prepped, and plan to get it cut out and start construction this weekend.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The StyleArc Amber overlay panel construction post

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'd like to do an occasional series of posts where I de-mystify the construction process for some of my favorite indie pattern lines that are known for their minimalist instructions. I sort of did this back with my Lekala wadder a few months ago, and I figured that the StyleArc Amber top that I finished last week was also a good candidate. This post will walk you through constructing the overlay panels and top-stitching them to the top, including tips and "gotchas" that I discovered along the way.

If you'll recall, the StyleArc Amber is a loose-fitting raglan sleeve top with overlay panels, where you can add color blocking or optional piping.

StyleArc Amber top
For my version, I underlined a black lace with black ponte (my fashion fabric), and used white, store-purchased piping for contrast. My version was inspired by a RTW top:

StyleArc Amber - my version
You'll have four panel pieces that you'll be working with:
  • Back neck panel -1
  • Front neck panels - 2
  • Center front (CF) panel - 1
Some general tips that I've found for working with piping:
  • Cut your piping pieces longer than you think you'll need. It doesn't hurt to have a little extra length--sometimes you need it, and you can always trim the extra length later.
  • Use pins or a 2-sided adhesive (e.g. Wonder Tape) to base your piping to your fabric.
  • If your piping will cross a seam line, you can pull the end of the cording out a little bit, clip it, then "unscrunch" your piped fabric piece so that you don't have to sew over the cording itself. 
To construct the panels for this top (with piping):
  1. Apply lightweight interfacing to each panel piece. I skipped this step, thinking it would add too much bulk, but that was a mistake on my part. You need the interfacing to stabilize the pieces, so use a lightweight interfacing if you're concerned.
  2. Match up the flat edge of the piping with the flat edge of the seam allowance with your first panel piece, and stitch the piping to the piece. I use a zipper foot and move my needle as close as I can to the corded edge of the piping before I stitch:
    Stitching piping
  3. Repeat this step of stitching your piping for all five panel pieces:

    Finished piped panel pieces
    My cat generously agreed to model my piped panel pieces:

    Gratuitous kitty helper pic

  4. Construct the back piece:
    1. Pin the right side of the back neck panel to the wrong side of the top's back.

      Right side of panel piece pinned to wrong side of top
    2. Stitch along the neck edge.
    3. Understitch the seam allowance to the top (not the panel piece).
      Understitching the seam allowance
    4. Flip/press the panel piece over to the right side of the top. Use Wonder Tape (or a similar product) to get the positioning of the panel piece exactly how you want it.
    5. Top stitch the panel piece down along the inside of the corded edge of the piping.
      Back neck panel top-stitched down
  5. Construct the front piece:
    1. Lining up the notches, pin the first front neck piece (right sides together) to the CF column piece. Make sure that your seam allowances for the piping are folded up, so that the corded edge of the piping is at the bottom of the panel complex.
    2. Stitch as close to the piping cord as you can get (continue to use a zipper foot):
      Left front neck panel stitched to CF panel piece
    3. Repeat for the second front neck panel piece.
    4. Flip the neck panel pieces so that everything is in its right place. Press/finger press.
    5. Top stitch the seam allowances of the panel pieces down by butting your zipper foot up against the cording of the CF panel piece. This will help stabilize your panels.

      Your front panels should now look like this:
      Front panel pieces
    6. As you did with your back neck panel, pin the right side of the panel complex to the wrong side of the top front. Stitch the neckline.
    7. Understitch the seam allowance of the neck edge to the garment front.
    8. Flip the panels over so that they are now sitting on the right side of the top. Use your double-sided adhesive to help position the panels exactly how you want them.
    9. Top stitch your panels down to the front of the top:
      Top front with panels top-stitched down
So that's pretty much it. The rest of the top is quite easy to construct if you've ever made a raglan top before. You will need to bind the top of the sleeves, which makes for a nice, neat finish along with the finished-by-panel neck edges.

For the interested, I hope that I've cleared up any questions or confusion about constructing this portion of this top. And if not, post a question and let me know!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Finished Project: StyleArc Amber top

As I mentioned a while back, I managed the Bargainista Fashionista contest, which ran during the month of April, over at PatternReview. In the spirit of the contest, I decided to knock off a RTW piece myself.

I decided to go with making my own version this blouse found on ShopRuche:

Inspiration blouse by Ruche
This project gave me the excuse to sew up the StyleArc Amber top, a freebie giveaway pattern from last summer:

Have you ever noticed that on a lot of blogs, it seems like other sewists just magically whip together whatever project they're working on and get a cute top/dress/skirt at the end of it? With no pain? This is not one of those blog entries. This top looks simple enough, but trust me, there was pain involved.

I suspect that my fabric choice might have partially been the source of some of the pain. If you read the "Suggested fabrics" on the pattern's web page, you might notice that they're all lightweight wovens: "Crepe, viscose, silk, any soft woven with drape". So what did I choose? A lightweight ponte. As someone who usually knows better, why did I go with the ponte? Because with all of that piping, it seemed like a lightweight woven might not be substantial enough--I had a suspicion (and this might be the case--this top hasn't been reviewed or blogged about much) that all of that piping, especially on that long vertical column would change the hand of the fabric, and I felt like I wanted something beefier than, say, a voile to stand up to the piping. I also thought that using a knit would increase the wearability of the top, since it would likely be much more comfortable than a piped woven blouse.  In hindsight, I think I overshot a bit, and it was a huge pain to apply that much piping to a fabric with stretch.

I think that the end result is cute, but it's not my favorite thing that I've made:

StyleArc Amber modeled by me
I had thought that the piped column going down the center would be elongating and flattering on my figure. On the finished top, which has no side seam shaping outside of the bust darts, I feel like any flattering effect of the piping is countered by the boxiness of the top.

The construction of this top was a pain, too, as I alluded to, which is probably coloring my opinion of the finished garment. The piping is applied to overlay panels, which are then topstitched onto the top itself. I feel like I would have gotten more precision had the panels been pieced and the piping applied directly into the seams. You can't really tell this from the line drawing, so that's why I'm telling you in this blog post. I went through a LOT of Wonder Tape to stabilize the edges of those panels and get everything placed accurately. (Note to others: Follow the suggestions in the pattern of fusing interfacing to all of the panel pieces. I omitted this step because I was afraid that it would add too much bulk, and I'm sure that didn't help things.)

Here's the back view:

StyleArc Amber - back view
Here, you can see that I needed to do a swayback and/or shorten the CB length, but this pattern didn't have a CB seam, and I didn't want to add one where there wasn't one previously, so I figured I'd just live with the bunching over the top of my butt.

As far as sizing goes, I sewed a size 20, which was the size I ordered last summer when I was about one clothing size smaller than I am now. (My current measurements match the StyleArc size 22.) However, I figured that between the ease in the top and stretch of my fabric, I could get away with the 20 without any grading. Doing a flat pattern measurement and comparing it to my Jalie raglan t-shirt pattern confirmed that the size 20 should be okay for me.

I know that some sewists are intimidated by the "minimal/order-of-construction instruction" companies like StyleArc and HotPatterns, so I'll be doing a blog post next week to show how the panels are constructed with the piping. Both companies are very plus size-friendly and offer some unique styles that you don't find with other pattern companies. Here's the front panel, a little more close-up:

StyleArc Amber detail shot, complete with cat hair!
Another thing that came out of this project was learning why I sometimes find fabric scraps taken out of the trash and scattered around my upstairs. I had been mentally blaming my almost-2-year-old, but it turns out that someone else was to blame:
Trash cat
I always hate it when a project that I think will be quick and easy turns out not to be so. To keep my sewjo intact, I'm looking at whipping up a quick knit skirt/TNT t-shirt outfit as my next project. Instant gratification projects are my friend!

Is anyone participating in Me-Made-May?  I've sewn most of the tops that I wear regularly and all of my dresses and skirts, so I'm not sure how much of a "challenge" it would be for me. (Today, I'm wearing a SBCC Tonic tee with my Mabel skirt.) With the chaos in our house (toddler + dog), it would be kind of a pain to photograph my outfit every day, but I could certainly list what I'm wearing (including my me-made item) in a weekly roundup-style blog post, I guess. What are others doing?