Two Pieces | Vogue 9181 + Jalie Emilie

An Outfit for First Snow of the Season

We had a marvellous autumn in western Canada with warm dry days and just a couple of hints of frost. When I was perusing Fabric Mart Fabric’s site in October, I was tempted to focus on pretty florals for blouses or dresses but part of me knew that … (da dah dum … ) winter was coming. Fortunately, Fabric Mart was stocked with a huge selection of cooler weather fabrics that are perfect for winter or holiday sewing.

Over the past several months I’ve been planning my sewing projects so I have pieces that work together so I decided to pick a print fabric for a top, and a solid for pants, using navy as the base.

Pants

For the pants I selected a Poly/Nylon/Spandex Stretch Corduroy in Navy. Corduroy is great for cooler weather, but if you live in a cold climate with blast furnaces you know that heavyweight cord can feel good outdoors but too warm when you come inside. This fine 14-wale corduroy is warm enough to wear outdoors but will be especially comfortable indoors. It also has a bit of drape which makes it nice for trousers. And who doesn’t want some stretch?

I selected Vogue 9181 (Custom-Fit Bootcut Pants) because it is designed for stretch woven fabrics, it has bootcut legs, and it has a front mock zip. For the past several months I’ve been working on the Top Down Center Out fitting method for pants and this pattern, with its shaped waistband, works especially well when learning Top Down Center Out. I first made a half-toile using muslin, then marked up the pattern and cut out the corduroy. The fabric was really easy to cut and sew. It does shed a bit but not nearly as much as cotton corduroy. I used a stretch needle and sewed the seams on my sewing machine, then serged the seam allowances.

I made two mistakes when sewing the pants and both were simply a result of a lack of experience working with corduroy. The first was neglecting to sew a test buttonhole on scrap fabric. That resulted in a good hour of unpicking after I made the same mistake twice! The second error is more embarrassing but I know I’m not the first nor will I be the last to do this. When I cut out the cord I didn’t even think about the nap of the fabric. So my finished pants has the nap going up on the front and down on the back. It makes a difference! I’m hoping that no one will notice and if they do, they’re looking too closely.

These pants are super comfortable. I like the drape with the boot cut shape.

Top

The second part of my outfit is a loose-fitting turtleneck that is perfect for winter weather.

When I was shopping Fabric Mart in the middle of October there were a number of fun holiday print fabrics and I just couldn’t resist this brushed sweater knit with Christmas trees and cabins in non-traditional colours. I think this print will be wearable throughout the winter, not just over the holiday period. This sweater knit is a poly/lycra blend and the stitches are very fine so it feels like a jersey. It has lovely drape and feel cosy but not too warm.

I went back to a favourite pattern, the Jalie Emilie. This free, downloadable pattern is sized for girls aged 2 through bust measurement of about 51″. It’s oversized with dropped shoulders and a turtleneck collar. I’ve used this pattern several times and love it because it’s such a fast make and is a great shape for wearing over tights or pants. And it’s fast! You can sew the whole sweater on the overlocker or serger, or on a sewing machine. The only change I make when sewing this top is to slightly change the shape of the columnar tube collar so it’s more loose fitting around the neck.

As you can see, we’re already in winter mode here in western Canada! I know I’ll get lots of wear out of both of these pieces. Only about seven months of winter to go!

Cashmerette Harrison Shirt

Cashmerette Harrison Shirt

Like many people with curves, I struggle to find button-down shirts that work for my body. If the placket doesn’t gape then it’s a shapeless sack. If it has any shape then the placket gapes.

My last experience with Cashmerette convinced me that I need to take a closer look at their patterns so I decided to give the Harrison shirt a try.

Finally, the answer to your prayers: a fitted button-down shirt that doesn’t gape over curves! The Harrison Shirt is designed with double princess seams for a uniquely curve-friendly fit and all the features of a classic shirt, including a two-piece collar, yoke, and placket, separate button bands, and buttoned cuffs. “

Sewing Bee

I was thrilled to make it to round 3 of the Pattern Review 2021 Sewing Bee and this shirt was my entry. The challenge was to make a garment in a print fabric and have the fabric pattern match across seamlines – to make it look ‘seamless.’ This pattern was not the best choice for this challenge because the double princess seams over the bust are basically impossible to pattern match (or I don’t yet have those skills). Ultimately, I went with this pattern because I wanted this shirt in my wardrobe and I have vowed to only spend time sewing things I will actually wear on a regular basis.

Fabric

The fabric I used is “Cotton Viscose Fabric Cashmere Blue Ivy Gingham’ from JoAnn. Fabric content is 60% cotton/40% viscose. It’s very soft and drapes really nicely. It also stretches just a bit on the cross grain. That wee bit of stretching meant a lot of pin basting, machine basting, hand basting and some Wonder Tape to align the fabric print over seams.

Toile

Before cutting into my fabric I did a quick toile. YES! I DID! I marked the grain lines and everything!

When I entered my measurements into Cashmerette’s website it was suggested that I sew a 14 G/H with a 2″ FBA, 18 waist and 16 hip. For the toile I went the lazy route and cut a straight 18. The thought of an FBA just was so unappealing. After messing around a bit with the toile, I settled on a 16 G/H with slight grading to an 18 for the waist and hip. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have more room over the hips if I’m going to always wear this over jeans or trousers.

Sleeve sizing: The sleeves don’t have a lot of ease below the elbows. My arms are not inordinately large – they are average sized. I would suggest anyone making this measure the sleeve width before cutting the fabric. Next time I use this pattern I will add 1/2″ ease between the elbow and the cuff.

Pattern Matching

Honestly, I don’t have much experience matching patterns. I knew that everyone else in this round of the Sewing Bee would be doing far more complicated projects (one entrant made a lined jacket, lined skirt, blouse and scarf in a WEEK – and it’s perfection) so I decided to focus on doing a very good job of practicing pattern matching on a relatively simple garment instead of trying to compete with those who sew at an advanced level. My goal was to match the main horizontal line around the bodice. There were a total of 11 seams to match around the bodice, then I also worked to have the sleeves match at the same point. The horizontal line I chose was at my waist.

First, I penciled in all of the seam allowances on the pattern pieces so I could fold them back and see where seams would intersect. I used Frixion pens to mark the fabric design. A couple of pieces were impossible to match because there were no markings (the sleeve plackets). There were also no markings on the sleeves so I did not cut those until after the bodice was completely assembled and then I marked the pattern tissue and cut.

One thing I have learned this year is the value of careful pressing and a good ham

I had one piece in the back that I was never able to align properly so it’s totally wacky at the yoke BUT it matches on the horizontal at the middle!

Sewing

Once everything is cut out and interfaced, this is a very straightforward pattern. Things that seemed complicated, like doing the button band, would be easy if it was not for the print.

Many times the pattern match was off by just a few threads.

Only one section was very confusing and that was the two piece sleeve placket. In the end, the pieces went in well and it’s very nice looking but I think the instructions could be a bit clearer (or perhaps more detailed).

The methods to attach the cuffs and button bands are very good. For the button bands, the shirt is hemmed first, then the button band is added. So if your finished hem is not precisely 3/4″, you can make the button band the length you need. The collar goes on next and, again, things fit together really nicely. It probably helped that I was being so careful to matching everything but if that’s what attention gets you then I guess I should be sew without distractions more often!

For the buttons, I used Prym self-covered button kits. I used 1/2″ covered buttons and matched the fabric to the button placket as best I could. Lesson learned: the shank portion has to be aligned perfectly with your fabric print if you want to easily match button to button band. I knew I should have bought more button kits than I needed!

Think I will need to replace that button that will not line up straight!

Conclusion

For the first time since about the year 2000, I have a button down shirt that fits well! I give a lot of credit to the crew at Cashmerette for designing a great pattern.

In looking at the gallery contest entries for the Sewing Bee I know that I won’t be moving forward and that’s okay because I am really excited to put this shirt into rotation in my wardrobe.

Sewing as an activity in my life right now …

In the last couple of months I have had a lot of success with my sewing. It’s a stupid and clichéd understatement to say that this is a ‘stressful time.’ Although I am ‘okay’, there is massive uncertainty and I would be lying if I said that there aren’t worries that keep pushing their way to the front of my mind.

One of my ways of dealing with stress is to be very present and focus on the task at hand. My earliest memory of this coping mechanism is of when I was 6 and I bonked my head very hard on a porcelain water fountain. While I waited in the classroom for a parent to pick me up, I worked on a colouring book. I recall focusing VERY hard on staying within the lines – and that kept me from freaking out over the massive goose egg that was growing on my forehead. These days I am focusing very hard on whatever it is I’m doing. It’s helping me to get through this time until we get the all clear, and also helping my sewing!

Take care.

Jacket Express with Recycled Denim

Jacket Express with Recycled Denim

A couple of years ago I bought the Craftsy class on industry sewing secrets (“Sew Better Sew Faster“) taught by Janet Pray. The class came with the Jacket Express pattern from Islander Sewing Systems. I didn’t watch the class and just filed the pattern away.

My Bespoke PJs got me into Round 2 of the Pattern Review Sewing Bee. This week the challenge was to make an adult garment using ONLY recycled denim. I needed a pattern for a garment that I would actually wear on a regular basis AND said pattern needed to be comprised of many small piece. Jacket Express met the bill on the latter, and I could make a few changes to the design.

I convinced my husband to give up a couple of pairs of jeans but everything else came from the local Goodwill where I managed to find a calf-length denim dress, a pair of ladies jeans in stretch black denim and a pair of men’s jeans in size 48. The denim below is what I started with. I didn’t use the garments that are marked with red X’s.

For about an eighth of a second I considered spending time picking out the leg seams but I had enough denim so why bother. Then I set about laying out the pattern pieces so the colours would look okay. The black jeans provided just enough for the front and back side panels, the inside panel of the sleeves and the cuffs. Black is slimming, right? 🤣

Laying out the pattern

To make this wearable for me I first decided that I didn’t want the rounded collar. There’s a facing all the way around the garment so I simply drafted a piece of facing for the back neck. Then I skipped the breast pocket flaps because they would scream ‘1980s jean jacket.’ My denim was pretty heavy weight so I also left off the welt pockets as they would add bulk. This was going to be a jacket made of denim, not a jean jacket. Once all the pieces were cut I interfaced everything and it was …

Time to Sew

Although I had access to the Craftsy class (4 hours!) the instruction booklet is excellent so I didn’t bother with watching the video. I’ve attended a couple of Janet Pray’s classes at sewing events so am familiar with how to place the hands and hold the fabric so you take advantage of the feed dogs.

I put a denim needle in my machine, threaded the serger so the thread colours would work with my denim and set to work, following along with each step. The instructions are in the order needed to give a professional finish while still constructing with some speed. There is a LOT of jumping back and forth between stitching a seam on the machine, then over to the serger, then the iron, then back to the machine which now needs topstitch thread, stitching two rows and changing back to poly thread … But the results were really good right from the start so I just kept following along. All of the steps made sense, especially since there’s so much top stitching.

Pretty buttons from Fabric Mart

There was only one point when I watched the video and that was for the cuffs. The instructions in the pattern booklet were a bit of a head scratcher and since my project was completed, I’ve read several reviews that said the same thing. I managed to get them done right without any hand stitching. Actually, the only hand stitching in the whole project was slipstitching the back facing over the yoke and sewing on the shank buttons. Gotta love that!

One thing I wish I had done was use my cover stitch machine. Since I hadn’t used the pattern before I wasn’t sure if that would fit in and it definitely would. In a few cases you’re instructed to stitch just a single line of topstitching but in most cases it is two lines.

A surprise that I hadn’t considered was an interesting geometric design that appeared when I left off the breast pocket flap. The pocket is sewn to the interior of the garment (I used pockets from a pair of jeans) and then a facing is added. This meant that there was an opening that was highlighted nicely by the colour blocking.

This wasn’t supposed to look like a standard jean jacket so I added straps at the waist – you know, the kind that you can tighten up when you’re smaller and loosen up when your waist expands? I just unpicked two jeans waistbands and stitched them at the side panels. I like the look and at some point I can add another button hole to cinch the waist in a bit. 😉

Part of this contest is always going above and beyond so I considered different embellishments. My initial thought was bleach painting but the black denim just turned copper. Then I thought about machine stitching a row of leaves and adding rhinestones for flowers. In the end, I skipped all of the bling stuff because I don’t think I’d wear the jacket if it was flowery or too feminine.

One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that I prefer simple garments without a lot of embellishment, especially for things like jackets that I’ll wear frequently. A wild print is fun for a dress or a top but all that colour and print has to be balanced with clean shapes. For this, I decided that less is more.

Several sewists I follow on Instagram have embroidered phrases and thoughts inside their garments so instead of putting a design on the outside, I used the lettering feature on my Brother PS500 and stitched a quote on the inside of the hem facing. For everyone this has been a really hard year and I wanted something quiet that would reinforce my optimism every time I put on the jacket.

Even if I knew the world would fall to pieces tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree.

Martin Luther

Once that was done and all of the necessary topstitching completed, I added the buttonholes and buttons and was done!

For the purposes of the contest, this was completed in almost exactly six days (Sunday noon through Saturday noon). Other than thrifted denim, I used interfacing, thread and buttons. (The buttons were from a big bag that I got at FabricMart in November.)

Summary

This is one of my better projects. It doesn’t feel like a jean jacket. And the interior looks good enough that I would throw it over a chair in a public place and not be worried about raw seams.

The basic construction of the jacket was far easier than I expected. The instructions are so good that I think a beginner could tackle this project. You need to be pretty present when doing the topstitching and the seam allowances aren’t large (1/4″ or 3/8″) so there isn’t much room for error.

Would I use this pattern again? Yes! Next time I would add a few inches to the length but this might be awfully nice in brocade or velvet. Hmmmm …

Anticipation – Cashmerette Webster Dress

Anticipation – Cashmerette Webster Dress

This project was shared on Fabric Mart Fabric’s Fabricista blog on March 10, 2021. Fabric Mart provided me with the dress fabric, thread and pattern in exchange for this blog post. If you’re a regular reader of my blog or watch my YouTube channel you will know that I have bought a lot of fabric from Fabric Mart over the past 3 years, so I definitely am a customer!

One of my favourite colour combos is yellow and grey. When we went on our first real vacation about 10 years ago, I planned my wardrobe around those two colours. I had a yellow trench coat, grey jeans, grey dresses, yellow print tops … Making this dress filled me with the anticipation of warmer days and trips to restaurants, patios and maybe even soaking up the sun on the balcony of some vacation villa.

The fabric was obtained online from Fabric Mart Fabrics and was described as “Caution Yellow/Graphite Grey Blouseweight Woven.” This is a completely opaque polyester fabric that would make a nice blouse but I think it’s better suited for a dress.

Pattern – Cashmerette Webster

As this will be a sit-around with a drink or hang out on vacation dress, I wanted something comfortable so selected the Cashmerette Webster. I liked this pattern for the fitted bust, loose body and interesting straps on the back. It’s also perfect for a fabric that drapes well and floats in the wind.  I’ve made the Cashmerette Springfield top a couple of times and loved the simplicity of working with a pattern that doesn’t need a full bust adjustment, or a shortened waist so I decided to give this pattern a try.

If you haven’t heard of Cashmerette, its patterns are designed for people with curves – in particular, boobs. (Cashmerette has recently started the process of expanding their size range to cover those from sizes 0-32.) The size charts are slightly different from Big 4 patterns, however, they offer a handy size calculator which was very helpful because I definitely would have cut the wrong bust cup size. After using the guidance from the website, the only adjustment I made when cutting the dress was adding 2” to the length. (There was one other adjustment while sewing … keep reading …)

Details

The weave on this fabric is dense and so I used a few fine pins then added weights (and a cat) to secure everything while I cut with scissors. I didn’t use a rotary cutter this time because the fabric slipped a bit.

Note – It is important to carefully mark the placement lines for the upper straps so they are angled correctly on your back.

Helpful Caternweight. She had to demonstrate that this fabric is perfect for her colouring.

To work with this fabric I used a Schmetz Microtex needle (size 70/10) and slightly loosened the needle tension and I used Wonder Clips instead of pins when sewing.  To finish the seams I ran a second row of stitches in the seam allowance and then used pinking shears..

This is quite a simple pattern and the instructions are good. Amazingly, I only had to unpick ONCE! World record, folks. For the back straps you stitch the upper edge when attaching the facings and leave an open space in the facing to insert and stitch the lower edge of the straps. First mistake, I did not take the advice to have someone help me place the straps. I just stuck them in where indicated on the pattern and sewed. I tried on the dress and the back gaped between the straps. So I unpicked the seam and under stitching (ugh) and thought about what was going on. I realized that my back was too broad for the strap placement. I wound up moving the lower edge of the straps almost 2” higher. If you have a rounded or broad back like mine, consider leaving an extended opening so you don’t need to unpick. (Photo below)

The card shows the opening per the pattern. On the left is where the straps were correctly placed after unpicking.

The instructions for the hem are to fold under 1/4” and then again 1/2”. I’m absolute rubbish at finicky folds – I have a really bad habit of just eyeballing hems but I’m trying to be more careful so I followed some advice posted in various places and ran a row of long stitches (5mm) at the point of the first fold (I used 1/3″) and pressed using that line as a guide. Then I stitched ran another row of stitches up 1/2″ and pressed again. Finally, I topstitched. This process worked well and I didn’t dread hemming the long edge!

The last bit was hand stitching the side and back neck facings in place and the dress was done!

I like the tidy neck and arm facing finishes. Also, the straps are wide enough that you can wear a bra and there is zero gaping at the front armscye which is a huge bonus. No pins or fashion tape anywhere!

This fabric is just the right weight for this dress. And it doesn’t crease so that makes it a perfect dress to throw in the suitcase for a weekend away, whenever that may be!

It’s still a bit chilly to wear this dress today so I’ve paired it with another recent make, Helen’s Closet Blackwood Cardigan (I’ve made a few of these over the years, link to blog post here). The cardigan fabric is something special that I’ve been hanging on to for a couple of years. This is a lovely, luscious St John knit that I purchased from Fabric Mart about 3 years ago. I had a bit of fun with my sewing machine and made a “Hand Wash” tag from the selvedge of the fabric. The cardigan is just right for this dress, and the colour is perfect! Some things are just meant to be.

Now waiting impatiently til this duo can go out somewhere and be seen!

Bespoke PJs

Bespoke PJs

As usual, Pattern Review announced the Sewing Bee contest challenge and I was compelled to enter. This year, Round 1 was pyjamas for an adult. My husband made a couple of sad comments (😕 I need new pyjamas. Can your entry be for someone other than you? 😿) So I made PJs for him. The challenge was to make not just pyjamas but to make them unique for the wearer.

Pattern

I used a pattern I have used twice before to make him PJ bottoms – Favorite Things Pattern Designs Sleep Well (V034). When I started sewing again in 2015, I took a ‘return to sewing’ class at Discover Sewing in Atlanta and our project was these PJ bottoms so I felt very confident sewing the pants and the top looked simple.

“Bespoke” PJs

I wanted to make these something that DH will wear (no cat fabric), so that meant finding a print that would be fun and be wearable. He’s a proud alumnus of the Pennsylvania State University and I had a bunch of PSU logo’d fabric around so the decision was made. The top requires 2 1/4 yards of 45″ fabric but I had just 2 yards of the Nittany Lion fabric and nothing suitable for bottoms (2 2/3 yards of 45″). Off to Hobby Lobby for a lunchtime shop. (The Sewing Bee has a short window – just 7-days – so if you live away from a major city there likely isn’t enough time to order fabric without paying for express shipping.) I had hoped to find a nice checkerboard or plaid to match but only find stripes.

To advance to the next round of this competition you really have to make your garment stand out. You might be able to get away with a perfectly sewn garment and excellent pictures for the first round but each year there are more entrants so that means you have to do something to catch the eye of the judges, and in this case, add elements that made the PJs unique for the wearer. I had the print and striped fabric so decided to mix things up and use bits of both fabric on both the top and pants, and add piping where possible.

Construction Basics

For both pants and top, I finished all the seam allowances through the serger to keep them secure through many washings. All hems were stitched with my coverstitch.

The top pattern piece has fold over front facings. I wanted to add piping so I separated the front piece into a front and a facing. I didn’t trace, I just cut down the fold line and had to remember to add a 1/2″ seam allowance to each side. That allowed me to insert a strip of facing down the front.

Facing piece on left, piping in middle, front piece on right

The piping was made by cutting 2 1/2″ wide bias strips of the striped fabric. I then folded the fabric over 1/8″ cording and stitched the piping closed on my regular machine with a zipper foot installed. The piping was inserted between the front and facing on the left side only. (I had to keep reminding myself that this is a man’s top so it closes bassackwards.)

Because I only had 2 yards of the PSU fabric, I was a smidge short for the sleeves. They were cut about 1″ too short and my husband declined to sign off on the capped sleeves design feature. I had plenty of striped fabric so I added 3 1/2″ of striped fabric to the bottom of the sleeve then folded it under and coverstitched along the seam line.

For the front closure, the pattern suggested either buttons or snaps. I asked DH what he would like and he chose snaps, so I stitched on big old snaps. To secure the front band so it didn’t pull, I ran a row of stitching down the front from the neckline to hem, 2 1/4″ in from the edge of the front.

Time to do the pants!

Oh, these pants are a quick make! I sewed the side, inside and crotch seams on the serger. For the waistband, DH had asked for a combination of elastic and ties so I stitched button holes in the front of the waist band to allow for ties.

For the waistband itself, I made two fabric ties from the contrast fabric, each 15″ long with one end finished. I cut an 18″ piece of elastic then stitched a fabric tie to each end of the elastic. The elastic segment of the waistband went at the back, and I ran a row of stitches in the centre back of the waistband to hold the elastic in place. The fabric ties came out through the button holes. This will allow him to either tighten or loosen the waistband as needed. It gives a lot more flexibility than just a piece of elastic.

DH’s primary request was a pocket for his Kindle, on the right leg, above the knee. (Yes, he was that specific.) I used a piece of the contrast fabric and added piping then stitched it on the leg.

Once the pocket was on and hem stitched, these were done!

This was a fun and easy project to sew. I have not sewn anything for him for quite awhile and honestly, it was so easy to fit … I cut a medium and there were no adjustments. Gee, what a difference from sewing clothes for me!

He likes his PJs and is ACTUALLY WEARING THEM!