Plaid?? Yes, plaid.

So here’s my most recent completed project, the over-sized V9162, a Kathryn Brenne design. I first saw this shirt on a blog post by Ruth at Core Couture. (sorry I can’t link to the exact post) It looked pretty terrific to me. I actually bought the fabric at a real fabric store, off the roll, because it struck me that a large check fabric would really suit the design. It’s taken me almost a year to get to this. When I was finally ready to, I worried I wouldn’t have enough fabric, as it calls for 3 yards. I’d purchased 2 metres, which I figure is enough for anything. As it turns out, it was. After I’d laid out the pattern pieces on the fabric, I let this sit for about 10 days so my thoughts could percolate. I’m glad I did. I’ve never pattern-matched  before (I usually use solid colours, or sometimes subtle stripes). Over the 10 days I pinned and repinned and repinned again as new realizations struck.



Look at that white stripe up the middle? A concealed button placket took up most of the vertical white and blue stripe, which I thought was a shame, but I managed the white stripe.



Notice anything about the pocket? The decorative sewn-on flap has the blue and grey stripes reversed. I noticed that before I sewed it, but thought it would be a fun way to show the pocket, while otherwise maintaining pattern matching. I had no idea how to match the sleeve to the body, so I didn’t try. Now I see that I could have laid the pattern piece sideways to the body piece and tried to line up the horizontal stripes. That’s for next time.


Got the side seams matched up. But there wasn’t any way to match the back to the front pieces at the shoulders. I would have had to make a seam up the centre back, and I didn’t want to do that.


I have to say that navy blue is not my colour. I’ve never, ever received a compliment when I’ve worn anything navy. So when I draped this shirt over my body after I had the fronts connected to the back at the shoulders, I saw a lot of navy right by my face and it didn’t look good. So I decided to make sure I got a lot of the lighter blue, grey and white at the fronts of the collar. I’m really happy with that.


Weird closed-eye shot??? It’s a good shot of the shirt, so it stays.


I cut out the medium, but was prepared to reduce the side seams to a small if necessary. As it turns out, it was. When I had the sleeves basted on, and pinned the sides from wrist to hip, this looked more like a cape with sleeves than a shirt. I decided to cut back the sides and arm scyes to the size small, and it’s made a large difference.

Now I’m thinking of making a second one from a very stiff white cotton fabric I just picked up at the thrift shop. But don’t hold your breath waiting for pix of that! It’ll have to wait in line. First, more trousers coming up.


A Tail of Two Shirts

I’ve been whipping up shirts from a pattern I’ve used before, burda 6908. You can see the first shirt I made here. It was a classic white shirt, but after I wore it a few times, I came to feel it was too big. Size is hard to determine when you’re dealing with “oversize” or even non-fitted. I made it in a size 14, with parts in size 16. I can’t for the life of me fathom why the size 16 parts, unless it was simply an error in cutting out the pattern. Eventually I took in the seams from the wrist, under the arm and down the side. I liked the result. So this time I tried the size 12.

IMG_1155 A shirt’s a shirt, you know. I have two patterns for basic button-downs, a fitted McCalls, and this no-dart version. I like it because of this collar (it offers 3 types). It’s a narrow collar, and the “points” face a little backwards. The collar stands up beautifully.

I carted this fabric — a heavy cotton poplin — back from Beijing with me in 1979. And I’ve carted it around probably a dozen homes since then, most of the time wondering why I ever bought it. It’s so bright! Well, it seems that I’ve changed, or regained something I had then. I love it now. It’s so bright!

I had a little square of sample fabric that I used to add a little surprise to the shirt.

I also eliminated one breast pocket and most of the top-stitching, angled the corners of the cuffs and shortened the front by about an inch. I also eliminated the front button and button-hole plackets, adding enough fabric to the shirt fronts to turn the fronts under twice. I prefer that less-obvious placket. I haven’t sewn on cuff buttons yet, and I’m contemplating making little button holes instead, so I can put a cool set of cufflinks through.

While I was on a roll I decided to make a second. I’d bought this fabric for about a buck at a discounter. It didn’t look like much — it was either beige or undyed — but I like the texture. I threw it in a dye bath.




I could have ironed it for this photo-shoot, but this one is always going to wrinkle so I might as well show you all its “true colours” 🙂 I don’t know what this fabric is. I assumed it was cotton. The stripes are woven in, which makes it really crisp. But now that I’ve sewn it up, it’s acting a bit like linen. In any case, it’s both crisp and floaty. If anyone knows more about fabric than I do and would like to comment, please do.

I found unusual buttons.


Fabric is everything, isn’t it? You can have the simplest designs — and I love simple — but make it up in a gorgeous and appropriate fabric, and you’ve got a great look. Next up, a tablecloth refashion!

My first coat

This is a post about a coat, yes it is, but first I’d like to show off the skirt refashion. Altering the chubby Chinese dress turned out pretty well, I thought.

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There were diamond darts in the back, and I simply converted them to one-way darts, and added two darts to the front. I had to do no other alterations, except add a facing. Voila. It seems to me like such a sophisticated skirt. The shirt is McCalls 6649, minus the front vertical darts. It’s made from a sateen sheet. I’m not happy with it because the fabric isn’t crisp or stiff enough for this kind of basic button-up.

Okay, on to the coat, which is Vogue 8841. I came across a substantial length of pink wool crepe at My Social Fabrics and a small scrap of matt-back satin in rose. They were so cheap I couldn’t resist. And so, why not try a coat? What was there to lose?

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Although I didn’t see this as a hard pattern, there were so many firsts that I decided to take it really slow. It was my first time to make a coat, my first time to sew a lapel/collar, first time to make a whole lining, including sleeves, first time to make a back vent. But I took it so slowly that it really began to weigh me down by the end. All that zigzag stitching of the  seam allowances, sigh. I hand-hemmed the sleeves and the bottom of the coat. I started out using size 14, but added a bit to the sides for extra room in case I want to wear heavy sweaters or a quilted vest under it. I had to scale the shoulders and arm holes down to a size 12. And I think I didn’t need the extra at the sides either, but better too much room than not enough I figure.

I’m becoming friendly with the manager of a new fabric store in my hood, Fabrics, etc. Before starting the coat, I went to him for advice about the lining. I knew wool crepe would not stop wind, or hold in body heat, so I wanted a lining that would. I had a length of dark green,exterior microfibre, which I thought would be just the ticket, until I held it against the pink and discovered it showed, and muddied the colour of the crepe. He demonstrated the “blow test” for me. To find out how airtight a fabric is, take an edge, press it against your lips and blow. I’ve been doing it ever since, but I have to tell you I wonder how many other women are doing the same thing?? Hygiene, anybody?

He also showed me a kind of interfacing I’d never seen before. It stabilizes just the weft. He advised me to use it around the armholes and cuffs. I also used it across the shoulders. I used a regular woven interfacing for the satin facing.

I ended up with a 100% oxford nylon for the lining. Because it’s an oxford weave, it’s not as airtight as you might expect nylon to be (but it’s pretty good), but it has a nice drape and isn’t noisy. I’ve very curious to find out how warm this might be. Of course, an airtight lining is only going to do something if the coat closes up tightly. This coat is meant to be held closed simply by a belt.

Well, I made the belt, and I tried tying it around my waist and …. horrors! It looked like I’d put a housecoat on over my clothes. I had a horrible image of myself in curlers, fag hanging out of my mouth, reaching out the front door to bring in the milk. Ugh. Hideous. Now I’ve got to try to wipe that image from my mind! So, I tried making a button hole on a scrap of the fabric, and it doesn’t look good. I need bound buttonholes, and although I’ve read up on how to make them, I don’t particularly want to ruin this coat by trying my first bound buttonhole on it. So I’m going with a snap or two.

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Have I mentioned that I love hats? I have quite a collection, most of which I’ve picked up at thrift stores or yard sales. How could anybody give away that hat?? I love it, but I haven’t had the courage yet to wear it. It’s the kind of hat you don’t wear just to attend the opera — you have to be on stage to wear it.


So then I tried to make an infinity scarf out of some gorgeous crimson fabric I had — a shiny fabric that used to be a dress, I think, lined with some organza that I also picked up at My Social Fabric. I just don’t understand what happened. I had four pieces of fabric, two of the shiny fabric, and matching pieces of the organza. I sewed them all together,right sides together, end to end and left an opening at the side to pull it right side out. I ended up with a tube ….


If I were a little thinner, I could wear it as a strapless fully-lined sheath dress. Wtf?? (pardon my language) I guess I’m going to have to take apart one of the ends, turn it right side out and then sew the ends together? We’ll see. If anybody wants to make a strapless sheath, just sew a lined infinity scarf and leave an opening at the side to pull out your sheath.

I’m outta here 🙂