Monday, September 26, 2016

Perfecting my button down shirt: Simplicity 3684

I have been sewing this past week. YAY! Although it has been slow and careful going. Sometimes my brain just doesn't want to cooperate with what I want my body to do.

Actually, there are 2 projects in the works. One is a 'challenge' project for the Chicago Chapter ASG fashion show in October. The chapter decided upon a fabric and whomever wants to participate gets half a yard of that fabric to be incorporated into a design. At least 3/8 of a yard of the fabric must be used to qualify in the challenge. There are several categories and I am entering mine in the Adult Apparel category.

The fabric is a polyester chain print and I am actually having a lot of fun incorporating this fabric into a design and playing with fall colors. Here is a sneak peak!

The other project I am working on is Simplicity 3684, a traditional button down shirt.
I have made this once in the past, several years ago, as a beach shirt coverup. For that version I just simply made the largest size in a lovely white cotton from Mood and didn't even worry about the size. I wanted big, oversized and loose. I wore this shirt on several lovely vacations and it suited my needs wonderfully!

However, now I want an actual shirt that I can wear. One that is fitted and looks good and looks like I spent a ton of money on! As many of you know, my ever shrinking size has caused me to become quite adept at making muslins and making many changes to the fit.

Let me start with the changes

  • Changed the bust dart to a parallel bust dart. The intake on my bust dart is pretty good size and between the bust dart and the waist fitting dart I was getting to much pouching of fabric. Changing to a parallel bust dart. I was able to move half of the dart superior to the existing dart by 1/2 inch. this gave the fabric more space to smooth over the curve.
  • Adjusted the front and back waist darts and the side seams to skim my curves.
  • Changed the armhole to reflect my body.
  • Changed the sleeve to a 2 piece sleeve.
  • Made many, many mockups of this sleeve to fit mu upper arm.
  • Changed the number of pleats into the cuff and cuff circumference to fit my wrist.
  • Dropped the neckline and lengthened the collar stand and collar. I will NOT wear this shirt all the way buttoned up to the next and wanted a more relaxed feel the neckline area.
  • Next version I will open the neckline up even more into a gentle V and change up the collar to reflect even more of my desired style.
I was a feeling mentally challenged with this project because I don't really wear button up shirts because I have never had any that actually fit well. However, a funny thing has happened through the journey of this shirt! The more I made fitting changes to reflect my body and style changes to reflect my design, the more I am falling in love with the button down! All of a sudden I am imagining a slew of these hanging in my closet and ready to be worn with all typed of outfits. Funny how that happens when you get the fit perfected!

Original dart on left with pouch, parallel bust dart on right with beautiful fit. Actual dart intake is the same.

Top is the pattern work, left original dart and right the parallel dart.
The bottom is a close up of the bust area with the parallel dart and the waist fitting dart.

Lets talk more about that darn sleeve.... I actually wrote on my white board next to my sewing machines 'sleeves are going to kill me!!!!' well, not really! but it made me chuckle every time I glanced at it and kept me from getting to aggravated.

The first thing I did was change the sleeve to a 2 piece sleeve via the Sarah Veblen method. This allows for an outer seam where you can have enough ease in the bicep with out sacrificing the ease in the sleeve cap. If you have her book, The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting,  there are wonderful directions on doing this starting on page 172 in the discussion on Set-In Sleeves. Basically you split the sleeve in half and then walk from the underarm up the shoulder on each side and adjust the sleeve cap ease as necessary to fit properly. 
Sleeve after first draft of a 2-piece sleeve and first round of length changes. On left you can see the excess I pinned out of length. On the left can see the extra poufy at the sleeve cap. 
Final sleeve! With all of the length, width and seam shape alterations.

From that point I made a muslin. This was back in June. I wasn't very happy with the fit and worked on it then and got something closer. Then I got sick again and have since lost more weight and redistributed some weight. All of these things causing my sleeve to look, well, wonky. I was having a hard time determining if I needed to adjust the length of the sleeve or the width of the sleeve. I worked on the fitting of this sleeve in a couple of my mentorship meetings with Sarah as well as on my own quite a bit. The final determination was quite interesting. Changes were made to the length at the sleeve cap, literally raised the sleeve cap almost 5/8 inch. Changed length again in dong a closed wedge over the bicep area. Changed width by shaving off and flattening the curve of the outer seam. These all got me really close. However, I still was just not happy with it! I put it aside for a day and came back to it and decided to really look at the pattern pieces and the relationship of the seam that was offending me. It was like a darn light bulb went off in my head!! I did a little happy dance and reshaped the front sleeve seam. considerably! Cut, yet another muslin and OH Happy day!! It worked! 
The front and back sleeve pieces. The original pattern iece is underneath and I have outlined in dark red the all the tissue that has been removed for the new pieces! Quite a change on the front sleeve!

I am now ready to cut into my fashion fabric and make this up as a real shirt. I will still work on the muslin just a tad to make the final changes to the neckline and collar. For this first version they will stay as is. Who knows I may want a full button up to the high neck shirt one day and I will have the pattern pieces ready to go. 
My fashion fabric and sketch for the final garment to be worn at the ASG Chicago chapter fashion show as part of our neighborhood group challenge.

This shirt is also going to be showcased at the Chicago Chapter ASG October Fashion show as part of our Sew Chicago Neighborhood Group challenge. Several of us will walk the runway together to show off our button down shirt creations.
A meeting of the mentees! Several of us participants in Sarah Veblen's mentorship program met up for a nice ling lunch and discussion about all things sewing and of course about our wonderful experiences in the mentorship program.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

How sewing soothes my soul and keeps me moving forward!

Today I am celebrating life. I am celebrating the fact that I do not have pancreas cancer!
Unfortunately, even though cancer has been ruled out doesn't mean that I automatically feel better. What a lovely wish that would be. In fact, I feel just as crappy today as I did last week. What I do feel is a huge sense of relief and a huge weight off my shoulders.

My current diagnosis is Autoimmune Pancreatitis (AIP). A benign disease that can be treated. I say current diagnosis because the genetic tests needed to make a definitive diagnosis are extremely cost prohibitive and require a fight with the insurance company to get approved. So while we go through the process and try to cut through the red tape with the insurance company the doctors have decided that AIP is the most likely diagnosis. The treatment for the disease consists of a treatment regiment of high doses of steroids for 12 weeks followed by a course of immunosuppressive drugs. Sounds easy enough... except that I have an intolerance to steroids and experience abnormal joint pain.

I do not have cancer!! So, if 3 months of joint pain and assorted other crazy side effects is the path I have to travel then so be it! I have my family, my loved ones and my friends to stand by my side and help me down the path to health. They are the most integral part of my life!

I also have other things in my life.

I have meditation.
I have the beautiful outdoors and fresh air.
I have my dog
I have my sewing studio.

Yes, my sewing studio is a key part of my mental and physical health.
I can think of no better way to help myself get through trying times then to have some projects to work on. They will need to be 'easier' projects and projects that utilize my master patterns because success will be key to keeping my spirits up.
When I am in my sewing studio I feel like I have the ability to get into the zone. My creative energies flow and time seems to move smoothly by. Being in this zone has been quite helpful already in getting me through this illness. Even just pulling fabrics from my collection and sketching designs to create with them is a great way for me distract my mind from my body.

The process is the key. Having developed a process in my designing and sewing has already taken my skills through the roof and now I am using those same processes to keep myself moving forward in a an entirely different way.
  • Sketching designs
  • choosing fashion fabric
  • flat pattern work
  • making a muslin
  • finalizing all fabric choices
  • preparing fabric for construction
  • garment construction 
  • Final hand finishing
All of these steps are part of my creative process that allow me to get into the flow and enjoy life no matter how I am physically feeling!

On days that I am really feeling physically weak I retreat to my comfy chair with design and sewing books, my iPad and online classes, sewing and design blogs and of course, online fabric shopping! Plus there is always online fabric shopping to make me feel better ;-)

Does sewing mean more to your life than just producing a garment?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Neckline Extravaganza!! J Stern Designs-The Tee

Neckline shirt project. 
Goal: take a well fitting base knit shirt and play with the necklines to create a variety of Tee shirts for summer and fall. All shirts use the same pattern pieces for the upper and lower back and lower front. What was changed was neckline pieces and variety of sleeves.Sleeve decision based purely on my decision of summer or fall/winter wardrobe.  Click on any photo to see it larger.
Shirt: Jen Stern Tee pattern # 0041
You can purchase the Tee pattern and neckline workbook at

Shirt #1: Original boatneck neckline. This is a polyester ITY knit. I constructed this shirt back in early July before going to JSTern neckline workshop.

The JStern Tee with the original neckline and changes to the front and back lower pieces as seen below. These are the main pieces that are used on every shirt.
For the look I wanted on a basic Tee I needed to shorten the bodice by 2 inches and I also wanted a more swingy look. To Achieve this I used a slash and spread method.

Shirt #2 and #3: two variations on 'V' necklines. I choose to make these soft V's instead of a sharp neckline. The top shirt is made with neckline facings and the fabric is a remnant I had from a project several years ago. This is a very thin, see thru tissue knit. Perfect for hot summer days! The bottom shirt neckline was bound with a knit binding over the lace. The lace was is an Anna Sui over printed stretch lace purchased from Britex. I used an underlayer of the light blue cotton/rayon knit (shown below in high crossover neckline shirt). The back top, sleeves and upper front are all the single layer of the lace. 

The 2 versions of the V neckline versus the original boatneck pattern piece. Theses 2 V necklines were developed in a neckline workshop with Jen Stern and are included in her Tee workbook.

Shirt #4: High Crossover neckline made with separate facings. This is one of my favorite necklines although the color of the shirt is kind of blah on me. This is a more stable, very smooth, cotton/rayon knit.

High crossover pattern piece versus the original neckline. This was also developed in Jen Stern's neckline workshop and is included in her workbook.
Shirt #5: Draped neckline version 1. During the workshop my brain started ticking away with ideas and between Wendy and I we thought what about a draped neckline? 
This first draped neckline is cut with separate facings. The fabric is a soft rayon knit. I played with the direction of the print. The bottom, main pieces of the shirt are cut with the print going horizontal. and the sleeve, upper back and upper front pieces are cut on the vertical. Makes for a fun design! I won't say what online site I purchased this from... It was so off grain and I was just lucky to have had purchased 3 yards. It took all 3 yards for me to get enough on grain print to make this top! 

For this neckline I slashed and spread vertically and decided that I would make this with a facing so the main pattern piece is cut on the fold. This is my own pattern development. 
Shirt #6: draped neckline version 2. with a foldover free facing that I cut as a single layer on the bias. This is made of a thicker very soft modal knit and is a re-fashion from a dress that I no longer wore. This fabric was bought several years ago from JoAnn's and is the nicest fabric I have ever purchased from JoAnn's! It has been washed and dried at least a dozen times and the fabric was like new. I have never found it again at JoAnn's!
You can see this is developed from the first draped neckline(outline in pencil on left). I just raised the front and drew it so that the neckline would just foldover and come from the seamline at the shoulder. I also decided to cut this on the bias to play with that draping property.  I really like this one as well! Below you can see the full pattern piece.

Shirt #7: draped neckline version 3. This is also a foldover free facing design. This is made from a stiffer 100% cotton knit and has less stretch and drape than the rest of the shirts. This is a super fun fox print from Girl Charlie fabrics. This draped neckline has the largest drape. I toyed with the idea of cutting it on the bias but I didn't want the print interrupted that way. So I cut it on the cross grain. Due to the stiffer fabric you can see in the photo all the way on right that this causes a more dimensional neckline.
This neckline again was created with a slash and spread method although I used a vertical slash and spread method. Next time I use this i will cut it as a single layer on bias. 

You may be thinking what ever possessed you to make so many versions of the same shirt? Well... A couple pats backed I told you that I have been unwell. On one night, very late at night, unable to sleep and on pain medication, I decided that I really hated the regular old t-shirts in my dresser draw and that I needed to make new ones. Tee shirts that are fun, interesting and that fit well. Not being able to sleep I went down to my sewing studio and pulled a bunch of fabrics and started cutting.
Several days later and I had a bunch of new shirts! Constructed 98% on my serger all with the same thread color. I really approached this project with a lets see what happens! attitude with nothing to lose since most of these fabrics were remnants from other projects. This project also served to kick start my sanity from this nasty illness I am dealing with.

6 new necklines!
wait.. what? another shirt?
Well this is version: EPIC FAIL!
In the Jen STern Tee workbook she has directions for a couple wider necklines that are just too wide for me! Of course I had to document this silliness and of course my hubby really liked this one!! LOL!! I guess i'm just not one for the off the shoulder look.
What was interesting about this shirt was the dual sleeve. It didn't really work with this fabric combo but has potential for something in the future.
Flutter sleeve pattern that I developed on top. Just slashed and spread the original short sleeve so I would have a flutter sleeve.

Happy Sewing!!

Here are some fun outtakes of Princess Victoria. She was helping with the photo shoot!

Trying on grandma's new shirt!