A Sneak Peek at Fall

We are having an uncharacteristic August...much cooler than the norm, and absolutely gorgeous!  It is putting me in the mood for fall.  I know we will still have those hot last days of summer before we get 'real' fall, but right now I'm loving the hint of autumn in the air.  

I decided to take advantage of the  weather and get a jump on my fall sewing. I found an upholstery end cut at the fabric store the other day that I like with a sweater that I made last summer, but really haven't worn much.  I think it's because I don't really like what I made to go with it.  

The fabric is a decorator linen.  Really quite heavy, but soft and drapy.  Even softer after a few rounds in the washer and dryer!  I had a 2 yard hunk and it was 54 inches wide.  Lots to work with.

I picked out a Sandra Betzina pattern that I got from her booth at a trade show eons ago.  I have had it on my list to try for years!!  I had the chance to try on her sample garment and loved the bias cut of the dress.  The sample had been made with a heavy linen, so I knew it would work with the decorator fabric.  

I trolled around the interweb to see if anyone had made a version of the dress sans hood.  I knew I didn't have enough fabric for the hood and it certainly would not work with the sweater...the whole point of the exercise!  I was really surprised that I couldn't find ANY versions of the pattern.  Lots of Sandra's other patterns, but nada for this one.  Curious, because I think it is a lovely style.  I was on my own to come up with the 'non-hoody' version.

I cut the front and back pieces and knew immediately that this fabric was going to have to spend a good amount of time hanging around on the dress form to let the bias relax.  So I hung it up and went to work on the new neckline.  After several rabbit holes I finally landed on a simple v-neck with a wide facing.  Given the loose weave and the bias cut, I thought the neckline would need some extra stabilizing.  

It looks like a rather simple, straight forward dress...and it is...except that I was working with bias pieces and that took some extra steps.  Directional sewing, particularly at the neckline, was a must.  The bias really shifted around and wanted to wiggle out from under the presser foot at every opportunity!  The shaped seam at the back just above the waist is a particularly nice feature of this pattern.  A full back piece on the bias always ends up bunching up around the waist.  This shaped seam acts like a set of darts to take in the extra fabric and lets the dress hug into the curve of the back.  Very flattering!

I wasn't sure whether to add the sleeves or go sleeveless, but I rather like them and they don't get in the way under the sweater, when it's on me...on the dress form it's a different story!

The sweater is very cropped and the waist-defining bias of this dress really works well.  I think it will be a nice transitional piece when we get to having 'real fall.'  


Key West Dreamin'

When I was in Key West earlier this year I packed very lightly.  I literally had 2 t-shirts for the whole month.  One to wear, one to wash!  It was really rather freeing to not have to decide what to wear.  I just put on the clean shirt everyday.  I know it is way early to be thinking about packing for January, but the weather is starting to feel a bit fall-ish and as I was gathering up my summer project pile and putting away the fabrics that didn't quite make it to the sewing machine this summer, I decided that if I wanted new t-shirts in Key West this winter, I could make them now and still get a few weeks of wearing before the weather turns.  (I know, weird, but that's where my brain went!)  

So...new stuff for Key West...

Having only a few things means that they need to work hard and work well together, so I started with a fun tropical print to set the color palette.  Gray and aqua.  I made four pieces and we'll see which ones end up in the suitcase.  It's nice to have a bit of a try-out period.

1.  Fun tropical Hawaiian shirt.

I used my tried and true camp shirt pattern to make an oversized Hawaiian style shirt.  The fabric is a cotton and rayon blend that feels very tropical.

2.  Comfy T-shirt Dress

I worked on this pattern last summer for a t-shirt style dress but never got around to making it. I kept nipping it in as I was putting it together and I think it might still be a bit too big.  The fabric is also quite soft, it feels really lovely, but I'm afraid that it may stretch out a bit too much.  I may need to take another whack at it before I decide if it makes the Key West cut.   Right now it is not an unqualified success.  (I do like the pockets!)

3.  Striped Linen T

One of my two shirts from last year was a gray linen jersey t-shirt.  I really loved it!  The linen jersey was soooo comfortable and dried much more quickly than cotton jersey...important when you only have two shirts!  I found this cute linen jersey stripe to make a new version.   Even though it was quite challenging fabric to work with, I like the way it turned out.

4.  Cropped French Terry Sweatshirt

I am hoping that I won't have to wear this one too often, but it is January...even in Key West!
A gray sweatshirt seemed kind of boring (practical, but boring!) so I put it together with the seams to the outside and stitched down the raw edges.  I think they will fray nicely as I wear it and give it a bit of character!

I'll give these pieces a 'test-drive' for the last weeks of the summer and see it I think they can handle the rigors of the Key West adventure.  Only a very few get to make the trip!


That was Easy...NOT!

Looks like a pretty straight forward polo shirt doesn't it?!  Ha!  Not so fast!  Literally, not so fast!  It may look all cute and innocent, but this was one of those 'challenge-at-every-turn' projects.

It started innocently enough, with a lovely remnant of Liberty cotton lawn that I got on my trip to London this spring.  It was just under a yard...plenty of fabric...but Liberty prints are a bit narrower than quilting cottons, so that was the fist challenge.  How to get the pieces for the desired top to fit the amount of fabric.

 I had in my head a sweet little cotton shirt, buttons up the front, short sleeves and a Peter Pan collar.  It just felt like the right thing to do for the fabric.

I cut out the fronts and the back (no pleats of course!) using the barest one inch to fold over for the front closure.  I could manage the collar if I cut the under collar on the bias and pieced it, no problem, I like that anyway.  The sleeves...???  OK, if they are extremely short and cut in the opposite direction of the main pieces.  (look closely, the print on the sleeves is 'upside down.')  Not my usual OCD approach to pattern matching, but OK, I could get over it.

So that took WAY longer to figure out than normal!

I started assembling...the one inch fold on the fronts...not so much.  Or should I say, not enough.  The fineness of the fabric and the weight of buttons just wasn't going to cut it.
Plan B.  How about using twill tape to beef up the front placket?  Good, but it didn't really look that great at the hem.  Plan C.  Let's make a polo type opening at the center front!  Yeah!
I'm pretty proud of the job I did matching the center front seam...yes there is a seam from the hem to the bottom of the placket!  Awesome! (kind of makes up for the sleeves being upside down!)

So the center front detail went from a full buttoned up look to a polo, half open look.

Continuing to the shoulder seams...

It turns out when you hack your t-shirt pattern to make a center front opening and forget to adjust the back of the pattern you end up with a really crazy shoulder seam....Notice how much longer the back of the seam is than the front....ooops!  Not too much of a problem that can't be handled with a sharp pair of scissors, BUT....

...That cute little Peter Pan collar that was based on the T-shirt neck opening...Yeah, that...way to short!

Plan D.  No collar?  But I really wanted a collar (can you hear the whine in my voice?).  Recut the Peter Pan collar?  Not a chance!  How about a knit collar?  Kinda works with the polo idea...OK...find a scrap of cotton knit.  

All good...no Peter Pan collar, but a nice knit polo collar.

Next up, the upside down sleeves.  Another interesting thing about using a pattern designed for knits to make a woven top is, you can't stretch the sleeve head to fit the armhole opening.  Drat!  Fortunately this was an oops in the right direction.  I could recut the sleeve head to make it work...which in turn meant that the extremely short sleeves got to be EXTRA extremely short!

Plan E!  Maybe it could be a sleeveless polo-ish top?  Aw come on!!!  A wee little serged edge turned up hem?  Pretty cheap looking for classy Liberty fabric!  Any more of that knit scrap around?  Bingo!  Knit bands on the sleeves!

Let's talk about the hem.  The 'try-on' with the side seams finished revealed that the length was darn near perfect...without a hem!  Plan F!  A cropped polo style top?  (How old am I?)  More knit scraps...nope.  If I cut apart the cute little Peter Pan collar would I be able to make a hem facing?  Yes, if it's pieced and going across the grain!  (at this point...) I love it!

Finally, buttons!  I had picked out really nice mother of pearl buttons that looked so perfect with the original style...now, with the evolving polo style...meh.  Plan G!  What is more polo-ish than snaps?  And way easier than button holes on a placket opening!

Now you might think that I would set those pesky snaps and call it good!  But no, I just couldn't leave well enough alone.  The hem just didn't do it.  It needed side splits!
Plan H!  Even with the facing there was not enough hem depth for decent splits.  Hmmmm...
Those two little knit ends that got cut off the collar?  Perfect! (and check out that matched side seam! Sweet!)


So there you have it, my cute little Liberty cotton polo shirt, dirty secrets and all!