Style Arc Mandy Maternity Top

When I found out that I was pregnant, I had no interest in sewing maternity clothes. Then I remembered that making my own t-shirts has ruined RTW tees for me. And then I bought my first terrible pair of maternity jeans (which required 20 minutes worth of alterations to simply stay on my body while I walked), and I figured the time spent sewing a few maternity items might be well worth it.

The sewing world is not overflowing with maternity patterns, which makes sense given that you are sewing to suit a relatively short period of time and given the lack of energy a lot of pregnant people experience. A lot of the available options seem to be skirts or dresses, which I don’t wear. The most widely reviewed patterns seem to be those from Megan Nielsen’s maternity pattern collection. But her patterns are a bit too feminine for my tastes and, more importantly, the size range is pretty limited and I’d be busting out of the top end of it.

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In the end, I decided to try the Style Arc Maternity Bundle, which comes with the Mandy Maternity Top, the Andy Maternity Pants, and the Maternity Bandeau pattern. These patterns are very much basic wardrobe staples and are available in sizes 4-30. I’m in the process of trying out the Andy Pants pattern, but I’ve made several of the Mandy Tees and I’m really happy that I gave the Style Arc bundle a try. As far as I can tell, the only way that you can get these patterns is to order printed copies through the Style Arc site—they don’t appear to be available via Etsy or Amazon, unlike other Style Arc options. Despite paying for international shipping from Australia, I found that buying printed copies of the patterns was really affordable (especially since they throw in the free pattern of the month when you order directly from them). With the bundle price and the free pattern, I ended up getting four patterns for just over $30 USD and received the patterns in less than three weeks time.

 

Style Arc Mandy Maternity Tee

The Mandy Tee comes with options for long or short sleeves. I need these for warm weather, so I only made the short-sleeved version. The length on the sleeves is perfect for me, and I’m pleased with the shape and depth of the scoop neckline. I made all of my shirts out of Telio bamboo/Spandex jersey I ordered from Fabric.com.

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Honestly, the fabric alone makes sewing my own maternity tees totally worth it. The bamboo jersey is thicker and more opaque than every rayon jersey I’ve encountered while still feeling light and cool to wear—much cooler than a cotton-Spandex blend. Plus, it’s super soft but isn’t prone to pilling in the wash, which is perfect for shirts that I’m going to wear all the time given my limited wardrobe options.

Style Arc Mandy Maternity Tee

These tees are really easy to sew, even with Style Arc’s sparse instructions. You are basically just making a really long t-shirt and then gathering a portion of the side seams by sewing in a short length of elastic. To do this last step, I sewed the side seam on my regular machine rather than the serger and pressed the seam open. Then, starting toward the bottom of the shirt, I anchored the end of the elastic in place, stretched a small bit of the elastic out along the seam and sewed it in place with a zigzag stitch, and then repeated the process until I got to the end of the elastic.

I used ¼” elastic rather than the 1/8” elastic called for in the pattern simply because it was what I had on hand, but I think the slightly wider elastic was easier to control. The gathered part of the shirt looks pretty lumpy and gnarly when you first pull it off the machine, but it relaxes nicely with a healthy shot of steam.

Style Arc Mandy Maternity Tee

I was worried that the exposed elastic on the inside of the shirt would be irritating and that the visible zigzag stitching at the side seams would be ugly, but neither is the case. I don’t feel the elastic at all and the zigzag stitching is hardly visible since it gets lost in the gathering of the fabric. I actually have a few maternity tanks from Old Navy that have a serged side seam and then have been gathered at the sides with clear elastic sewn to the serged seam allowance. There’s no visible stitching on the outside of those tops like there is on these, but the side seam is much bulkier and the elastic can feel a bit irritating. So that’s all to say that I much prefer the finish of these tees.

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The downside of the printed Style Arc patterns is that they only come in one size, so you don’t have the option of grading between sizes. I just went ahead and ordered the size 16 for the t-shirt pattern based on my measurements at the time (I was nearing the end of my first trimester). I am usually pretty diligent about doing flat pattern measurements to figure out if I need extra width at the hips or at the bicep, and I usually consider doing at least a small FBA. But I completely forgot about all that business when I went to make this pattern up and just cut out a straight 16. Luckily, I’m pleased with the fit. The shirts are comfortable, they look good, and I feel like I have enough room to continue wearing these throughout the more ungainly stages of late pregnancy.

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Here’s hoping I have a similarly positive experience with the Andy Pants!

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Sewing Fails: Jalie Dolman and Ottobre Statement Tee

Whenever I take a long break from either sewing or knitting, I experience a lot of stumbling and fumbling when I pick it back up again. It’s like I haven’t forgotten how to “ride the bike,” so to speak, but I’m pretty wobbly for a while. This wobbliness resulted in two failed projects (one of which didn’t even get finished) when I started sewing again mid-March.

The first failed project was a version of the Jalie Dolman Top (Jalie 3352) that I made with a really nice marled sweater knit—I’m fairly certain the fabric is a cotton/rayon/Spandex blend. It’s soft, lightweight but still opaque, has great drape, and washed and dried really well. I originally bought it with the intention of making a long-sleeved Concord Tee so that I would have just a basic, lightweight sweater in my closet. I’ve been kind of kicking myself for changing plans, but whatever.

Jalie Dolman

I don’t like this pullover. I’ve worn it a couple of times and it just feels sloppy to me. I think there are two primary issues at play: first, the fabric has substantially more stretch than the pattern calls for (~75% vs. 40%); and second, I made some ill-advised sizing choices in the hopes of getting something that would be more wearable during the spring as I moved into my second trimester and then again in the fall in the middle of unpredictable post-partum fluctuations. (This was also the logic that led to the pattern switch—I thought the looser style of the Jalie Dolman would be more wearable than the fitted style of the Concord. The overall lesson here has been that it really isn’t worth it to try to predict what my body will do or what I will want to wear in the future.)

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Given the stretch in my fabric, I think I would have been best off cutting a size down from my measurements. But what I actually did was cut a size larger than my measurements. The result is something that just doesn’t feel good on me and that I don’t enjoy wearing. The body feels completely shapeless and dowdy and the sleeves are too loose and long—it basically looks nothing like the pattern photos or other people’s finished projects suggest it should look like. To add to the frustration of this project, my twin needle gave me a hell of a time and kept skipping stitches and breaking threads, which really made me feel like I had no idea what I was doing at my sewing machine anymore.

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The twin needle issue was easily solved—I realized about a week later that I just needed a new needle. I ordered one and all my twin needle problems are magically gone. As far as the pullover goes, it’s still hanging in my closet, and I think at some point I will take apart the side and sleeve seams and either recut it as a smaller size or just take the whole thing in. But there’s no sense in even trying to do that right now. And who knows—maybe it will actually fit well in the fall and I’ll get a lot of wear out of it.

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My second failure was the Statement Tee pattern from the Spring 2017 issue of Ottobre Woman. I was drawn to this pattern for the relaxed fit and because it is drafted for more stable jersey fabrics. However, I didn’t even end up finishing the first tee I made because I hated the fit on me. I found that the neckline on this is really wide. I added a neckband instead of the binding called for to get a bit more coverage and still ended up with a neckline wide enough to allow for frequent peeking bra straps. The sleeves are also quite long (which, to be fair, is more or less indicated by the fact that the pattern photos show the tee worn with the sleeves rolled up) and I would have to cut off ~2″ to get the length I want. Plus, I think it is too short in the body for this style—something I found especially surprising since I have a long torso and Ottobre tops are still usually a bit on the long side for me.

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The unhemmed tee

There were enough issues and frustrations with the fit and style of this pattern that it just didn’t feel worth finishing right now. The failure of the project is mostly due to the pattern, which just wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. The real clumsiness on my part as a sewer was the fact that I cut out two of these tees before testing the fit of the pattern in any way. This gray fabric is no great loss at all since it is boring and inexpensive. But I cut the second tee from a really nice black and gray pinstripe cotton-rayon blend jersey from Mood that is super soft and lovely. So I’m really kicking myself for now having sacrificed two nice cuts of fabric to failed projects.

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The sadly cut up pinstripe jersey

Ultimately, I think I’ll have enough of the pinstripe jersey leftover to be able to get something out of the fabric, although I don’t know what that will be yet. And again, maybe I’ll pull this t-shirt out of my project basket at some point in the future and find that it’s totally wearable and worth finishing. Either way, I’m happy to report that this was basically the end of my sewing wobbliness and I’ve had a lot more success at the machine since.

Pacific Leggings and McCall’s 7386 Tank

Behold, my third pair of black pants in a row. I made a pair of lounge pants, then a pair of jeans, and now: activewear. And it’s activewear meant for actually being active in–I promise that I have not worn these pants while laying on the couch or while doing my weekly grocery shopping.

Sewaholic Pacific Leggings and McCalls 7386

These are the Sewaholic Pacific Leggings. I made view C, but added two inches to the bottom of the leg to make them more of a cropped length rather than capri length. I also added the yoke pocket from View B.

Sewaholic Pacific Leggings

My current waist and hip measurements match the size 14 almost exactly, so I cut a straight 14 and made no pattern adjustments beyond lengthening the leg a bit. Overall, I’m really happy with the fit for a first go with this pattern. My only issue is that I’d like the waistband to sit a bit higher. I sewed the waistband with a smaller seam allowance to give myself a bit more height and while the rise is high enough to wear comfortably, next time I’ll add an inch to the rise of the front and back pieces.

Sewaholic Pacific Leggings

The fabric is a black poly/Spandex activewear knit I bought from Fabric.com. It’s a nice medium weight that is very shiny on the right side and a bit more matte on the wrong side. I decided to use the matte side of the fabric as the right side since I’m not into shiny pants. I wanted to try to highlight the seaming on the pattern, but didn’t want to do something like top-stitching in a contrast color. So for the outseams and the waistband seam, I decided to serge the seam wrong sides together, press the serged seam to one side, and then top-stitch it down. The result is an exposed seam finish that looks a bit like a faux-flatlock stitch. I just used a straight-stitch to top-stitch the seams to one side, and it is surprisingly stretchy. I’ve pulled these on and off multiple times and moved around a lot in them and haven’t had any popped stitches.

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I wore these on a long hike this past weekend, and they were very comfortable. It’s been many years since I owned activewear other than cotton-spandex yoga pants, and these leggings are infinitely nicer than anything I’ve owned before. The waistband fit is perfect for me. I usually have a hard time keeping any kind of elastic waistband from sliding down my hips but this waistband fits firmly and stayed in place throughout our hike.

Sewaholic Pacific Leggings and McCalls 7386

I also made the tank top I’m wearing here. (Although please ignore my embarrassing farmer’s baseball spectator tan, acquired during an intensely sunny Reds game over Labor Day weekend.) I’ve been looking for a basic tank top pattern that does NOT have a racer back, which is surprisingly hard to find. I ended up buying McCall’s 7386, which is a “learn to sew” pattern with options for a basic knit tank, skirt, and tank dress.

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I cut a L for the upper body and blended out to an XL through the waist and hip. The tank top, as drafted, is pretty short, so I added 3″ to get a low-hip length. I had to take a small wedge at the side seam under the arm to get a better fit in the armhole, but otherwise the fit is good. The pattern has a shaped back seam, which gives a close, curvy fit through the back. It’s a nice detail to include on a very basic pattern like this.

McCalls 7386

The pattern instructions call for finishing the armholes and neckline with a simple turn-and-stitch hem. I wanted a more professional-looking finish so I tried the skinny knit binding method described in this post from Sew Fearless. I pretty much followed her tutorial, although I didn’t fold the binding under as I sewed. I’m just not that coordinated. Instead, I pinned the binding in place so I could just focus on making sure my topstitching was even. This is probably the nicest finish I’ve managed on a knit top to date, and the skinny binding is definitely a technique I’ll use again.

Skinny Knit Binding

The fabric I used is a cotton/rayon/Spandex jersey I got from Girl Charlee at the beginning of the year. Their jerseys can be a bit hit or miss and this is one of the nicer ones I’ve bought–super soft, lightweight but not sheer, drapey but not clingy.

Overall, I’m really happy with both of these pieces. I’ve been hiking and walking enough recently that I should probably be making more things like this!

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Black Fog

My current sewing project selection process is to simply sew whatever seems interesting to me at the moment. I’ve given up on making sewing plans since I never stick to them. I think when I’m in the process of planning, I tend to be very practical, privileging whatever projects I would most benefit from having in my (very lean) closet. But then when it comes time to actually sew, I find myself completely bored by the practical. The other thing that kills my plans is that my style is changing a bit. When I’m making plans, I end up talking myself out of some of the different cuts and style lines that I find myself drawn to right now and instead come up with lists of projects that reflect the kinds of things that I’ve been safely wearing for years but am now bored with.

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Anyway. When I got the newest issue of Ottobre Woman, I was a little put off because it was pretty much full of things that I cannot ever imagine wearing. Skirts and dresses are always a hard pass for me, but I also hate jumpsuits, anything with a peplum, and especially any kind of cold-shoulder shirt. There are a couple of basic designs in this issue that I might make at some point if I come across the right fabric, but the only thing that immediately jumped out at me was design #5—the Fog Jersey Blouse.

Ottobre Woman 02/2016 Fog Jersey Blouse

This shirt is an A-line tee with a shaped hemline that is basically cropped length at the front. It also has invisible zippers at the side seams, so you can open the side seams up for a deep split. I’m not really sure what drew me to this design, except that I liked the way it hung with the zippers open and that it seemed to strike a nice balance of minimalist with a bit of interest. Regardless, it was what I was interested in sewing, so I didn’t think too hard about the practicality of zippers at the side seams or the fact that I would probably never try on a shirt like this in the store or about whether the neckline was deep enough to be “flattering” for me. I just traced the pattern off and sewed it up in some black cotton jersey I had on hand.

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As far as sizing goes, I traced a size 46 for the shoulders and blended out to a 48 under the arm. The only adjustment I made to the pattern was to shorten the sleeves by 2” to get a true ¾ sleeve length. The magazine describes the sleeves as “cropped,” which I think means that they are sort of bracelet length? It’s hard to tell because the sleeves are pushed up on the model.

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Neckline detail, complete with all the fuzzies black fabric inevitably attracts

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Invisible zipper, partially undone

The neckline is faced with a strip of binding, which results in a nice, clean look. (And it turns out that I really like the shape of the neckline, even if it is higher than I normally wear.) Constructing most of the shirt was a no-brainer. The most time-consuming step was, of course, installing the zippers at the side. I’ve never actually sewn an invisible zipper before. It turns out that what everyone says is true—if you have an invisible zipper foot, it pretty much does all of the work for you. When the zippers are done up, they are actually invisible (although there is some reinforcing stitching at the tops of the zippers, per the pattern instructions, so that definitely makes them less invisible). Of course, I intend to wear the shirt with the zippers open, so no one will really appreciate my work, but that doesn’t make me any less pleased with the outcome on my first two invisible zips.

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This is how the shirt hangs when the sides are zipped up

The shirt is fairly short at the front—all the shorter on me than on the model in the magazine because I didn’t do an FBA to add any length for the bust. But I always planned to wear a tank top or something underneath this, so it’s not a big problem. This isn’t the kind of pattern that I see myself making over and over again, but I do like the shape of it, and I’m glad I gave it a try. Plus, now I can mark “invisible zipper” off my sewing-skills-to-learn list!

Ottobre Woman 02/2016 Fog Jersey Blouse

Paprika Onyx Shirt

Behold: my first successful woven garment.

Paprika Onyx Tee

This is the Onyx Shirt from Paprika Patterns. It’s a pretty basic woven tee pattern with a crop top option (thanks, but no thanks). But it has some nice details that I really liked: a slight dropped shoulder, the option for a scooped neckline, and—the big seller—a sleeve cuff and epaulette detail. I ended up making View A with the scooped neck option.

I didn’t make a muslin since it was a pretty basic style and since my fabric was something ridiculous like $2/yard. I did, however, make a few fit alterations before cutting out my fabric. Starting with the size 7, I:

  • Did a 1.5” FBA, rotating part of the dart out to the hem but leaving most of the dart in for a better fit.
  • Added 2” in width to the sleeve. Since I was adding so much width, I had to make some adjustments to the sleeve cap and the length of the armscye. I used this tutorial from The Curvy Sewing Collective, and the adjustments worked out nicely.
  • Blended out to a size 9 at the hip.

For a first go with this pattern, I’m pretty happy with the fit. Next time, I’ll add a bit more width to the back hem so it falls better at the back hip. If you look at the profile view picture farther down the post, you can see that the side seam is unbalanced and is being pulled towards the back.

The fabric is a cotton voile from Fabric.com that has a plaid pattern woven into it. I believe Fabric.com described it as a “shadow plaid.” The texture is a nice alternative for the print-phobic like me. Plus, while I did make an effort to match the horizontal lines of the plaid along the side seams and to center the plaid down the front and back, I didn’t have to worry too much about messing up the plaid matching at the sleeves and such since the plaid design isn’t highly visible. This fabric was very eager to fray, so I used French seams wherever I could and finished the sleeve seams with a 3-step zigzag stitch.

Paprika Onyx Tee

My only complaint with this pattern has to do with the cuffs. The way the cuffs are finished, you end up with an unfinished edge that gets folded down to the edge of the sleeve and that remains invisible so long as the cuffs are in place. But the cuff is only secured by a line of stitching at the sleeve seam and then by epaulette. The end result is that it is pretty easy for the cuff to flip out of place and show the unfinished edge. I recently finished a pair of pants with a cuff that is invisibly secured with a hem stitch. If/when I make this pattern again, I would probably try the same technique on the sleeve cuffs to keep the cuffs from flipping down.

Paprika Onyx Tee

I wasn’t sure I would actually like a woven tee, but I’ve really enjoyed wearing this shirt and I think it looks pretty good on me. I actually wore this with a pair of gray pants for the new faculty orientation at my college and no one gave me side eye. So two thumbs up for that.

Ramona sat at the window watching me like a creeper as I photographed four different projects. Such a nerd.

Simplicity 1062

Since I last checked in two months ago, I:

  • Successfully defended my dissertation.
  • Got to play tourist around Cincinnati for a week when my dad and his girlfriend came down to visit.
  • Met our new and deliciously tiny twin nephews (the recipients of the green and blue sweaters from this post).
  • Played trains with our 4-year-old nephew, who has somehow come to believe that my name is Lisa.
  • Made it through a very long week full of new faculty orientations, meetings, and workshops.
  • Redesigned my blog.
  • Completed my first week of teaching as a new professor.
  • Officially graduated from my PhD program.

It has been a very full summer. The first half was kind of dire, what with the seven week rush to finish my dissertation and then pack up our apartment to move to Cincinnati. But the last five or six weeks have been much more pleasant and relaxing. Even with the start-of-the-semester rush, I’m feeling good about my new job–I’ve got good students, the people I’m working with are all very nice and welcoming, and I’m glad to be teaching writing again. And although many people seem to expect me to be disappointed about moving to Ohio, I’m really loving Cincinnati so far.

A post-defense pic with my committee, including a committee member who had to Skype in.

A post-defense pic with my committee, including a committee member who had to Skype in.

After a long break, I also started sewing again at the end of July. I’ve finished a handful of items but was put off by the idea of having to figure out where to take blog pictures in our new place until today. As it turns out, the patio area at the back of our townhouse is a pretty perfect location with good light and low foot traffic from the neighbors in the afternoon, and I was able to catch up on all of the project photos I needed to take (with the exception of a cowl I knitted and now need to re-block after stupidly letting my cats sleep on it).

Simplicity 1062

Today, I’m sharing the simplest of my recent sewing projects–Simplicity 1062, view C, which I made up using a lightweight poly/rayon/cotton blend jersey from Girl Charlee. This isn’t my usual style, but I’ve been feeling drawn to oversized shirts so I thought I’d give the pattern a try since I had some fabric on hand that I knew would work well. I’m surprised by how much I like the batwing cut and all of the extra ease. It is, as you can imagine, incredibly comfortable, but I like the way that it looks on me as well.

Simplicity 1062

As far as the sizing goes, I was a little tempted just to make a straight size XL, which is the size that most closely matches my bust measurement. However, I decided in the end that I wanted to stay truer to the intended design ease, especially around the hips. So I ended up tracing the L for the neckline, blended to the XL for the sleeves and upper torso, and then blended out to the XXL for the hips.

Simplicity 1062

This shirt is meant to have a subtle high-low hem, so the hem of the front piece curves upward by an inch or so. Since I didn’t do an FBA on this top, I added some extra length to the center front of the shirt by simply straightening out the front hem. The shirt would have been too short at the front without that extra bit of length and thanks to, you know, boobs, I still get the curved hem effect.

Simplicity 1062

I feel compelled to explain that this shirt is cut on grain, but the heathered striations in the fabric run at a slight diagonal. I’m thinking of it as a fun design feature. I haven’t really worn this yet but am looking forward to wearing it all the time once fall sets in. I’m also keeping my eye open for a good striped jersey to use for my next version.

More finished projects coming soon!

Normcore Tonic Tees

A little while ago, I decided to give up on trying to make basic t-shirts. I had tried two different patterns—the Maria of Denmark Birgitte Basic Tee and McCall’s 6658—but after making both up multiple times and making lots of adjustments, I couldn’t get either pattern to fit the way I needed through the chest and shoulder. It didn’t seem like it should be such a struggle to find a basic pattern that fit well where it matters most, so I decided to just give up the ghost and start buying t-shirts from Old Navy again.

SBCC Tonic Tee

And then I actually bought some T-shirts from Old Navy and remembered what a shitty solution that was. Such is the plight of bodies that span 3-4 sizes on a standard sizing chart. So I went back to the drawing board to find yet another t-shirt pattern to try. I’ve come very close to buying Sewaholic’s Renfrew pattern several times, but even as a pdf download, it’s a bit more money than I want to spend for a pattern that only goes up to a 41” bust. In my searches, I was reminded of the SBCC Tonic Tee, which is not only available in plus sizes (albeit as petite sizing) but is also free. And lo and behold, I’ve finally hit on a t-shirt pattern that I’m really pleased with.

SBCC Tonic Tee

Honestly, the only reason I tried this pattern was because of its lack of price, which, combined with a length of stashed fabric that I had no plans for, meant that I had nothing to lose with this experiment but a bit of time. But I am really impressed with some of the drafting details on the Tonic Tee. It’s drafted with a slight forward shoulder, a high and scooped armscye, a sleeve head that is shaped differently for the front and back of the body, and a slightly dipped front hem to account for the stretch of the fabric over the bust. I also really like the shape and depth of the neckline.

SBCC Tonic Tee Back

As far as sizing, I started by tracing off a straight 1X. My high-bust measurement actually matches the XL size, but my fabric had less than the 75% stretch called for by the pattern, so I sized up per the pattern instructions. Since the pattern is drafted for petites and I am not (especially in the torso), I added an inch of length at the pattern’s shorten/lengthen line just above the waist and an additional inch around the hip. I also added ½” of width to the back at the hip and did a 3/8” narrow shoulder adjustment. Finally, I did a 1” FBA, rotating part of the dart out to the hem and easing the rest of the dart in to the side seam at bust level. It seems like a lot of adjustments, but they didn’t take long and, more importantly, they gave me a really good fit with this pattern right out of the gate. All told, I’m wearing these shirts with 1” of negative ease at the bust, ~2” of negative ease at the hip, and zero ease at the sleeve hem.

SBCC Tonic Tee Neckline

All of these shirts are made with lightweight cotton-spandex blends. The charcoal, black, and olive fabrics are all from Girl Charlee and the black and gray stripes are a Riley Blake print I ordered from Fabric.com as a reward for finishing a long dissertation chapter on a film that goes to great lengths to make fat bodies seem disgusting and pathetic from the inside out. So, you know, self-care all that jazz. Sadly for the filmmakers, I feel neither disgusting nor pathetic and will continue flaunting my fat in these horizontal stripes. I give their film two hearty middle fingers.

SBCC Tonic Tee

Anyway. I had kind of discounted SBCC patterns because of their petite sizing, but now that I know I can make a couple of easy adjustments to make them work for my non-petite body, I’m planning to try out the Cabernet Cardigan this fall. Hopefully I won’t bore you too much with all of my normcore fashion decisions.

Jalie 2921

I finished this project a few months ago—either at the end of February or the beginning of March—but it’s clearly taken me a long time to actually get pictures of it. I think part of the reason it took me so long to take photos was because I wasn’t sure how I felt about the style. Honestly, I’m still not completely convinced that this is a style I like on me.

Jalie 2921

(Clearly I have given up on smiling in blog pictures. It’s awkward enough to take modeled shots of the stuff I make. I’m not going to make things more complicated by fighting my resting bitch face.)

The pattern is Jalie 2921, which was very easy to make. I like working with Jalie patterns because so far I’ve found that they are relatively simple to fit to my body. I made this up using some Dakota Stretch Rayon Jersey from Fabric.com that is very soft and drapey, but that has nice recovery so it doesn’t bag out like some rayon jerseys. It’s actually the same base as the fabric I used for my Faded Stripes top, and I just ordered another length of this fabric in a different color.

Jalie 2921 As far as size goes, I started with the size appropriate for my high bust—AA—then blended out two sizes at the armscye to size CC and then blended out to size DD for the hip. I also experimented with doing a length-only FBA, where you add length just to the front piece and then ease the excess length into the back at bust level. It worked okay for this top, and definitely gave me the extra fabric that I need at the front, but I don’t know that I would do it again. I found the easing a bit tricky and I feel like I have to sort of “arrange” the shirt when I first put it on or I end up with weird wrinkles from the bust up.

Jalie 2921

Like I said, I’m still not completely sold on this style. It’s a style that I like in general and like when I see it on other people, but I’m just not sure how I feel about it on me. I know that I definitely will not be tying the scarf part into a bow—I hated the way that it looked on me. I guess I feel like maybe the scarf front is a bit girly or a bit too retro for me? When I first finished it, I thought: okay, maybe this will grow on me. And overtime, that feeling transformed into: ugh, what was I thinking? Why did I make this? But then I tried it on for Aidan and he liked it, and that’s brought me back to feeling like it might grow on me. To be fair, I haven’t really worn this out and about since I finished teaching in April and I default to ultra-casual in my day-to-day. So this won’t get the full test run until I start teaching again in the fall, when I’ll actually need to wear it because my professional wardrobe is shamefully small.

feminist scholar

Maybe if I just try to channel Kathleen Hanna as feminist scholar, then I’ll really start to love it. We’ll see.

Ottobre Faded Stripes/Foxes Shirt

It turns out I was just kidding when I suggested that I wouldn’t sew again until my dissertation was done. I had thought about having Aidan take my sewing machine with him when he left for Cincinnati, but I decided against it at the last minute. And then as soon as he was gone and I had no one around to entertain me, I started sewing in little bits of time while taking a break from work. This is first thing I managed to finish—the Faded Stripes Top from Ottobre Woman 02/2015. The main fabric is a rayon/Spandex jersey from Fabric.com and the bindings are a rayon/Spandex ribbing from Girl Charlee. I rarely find prints that that I’m interested in wearing–I don’t want anything that is too bright, too busy, or too feminine. So even though this fox print is verging on hipster nonsense, I liked it enough to spring for a yard’s worth. I think this shirt is now the coolest piece of clothing I own. (Although, to be fair, I am extremely thin on clothing at the moment, so the bar isn’t very high.)

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

I started subscribing to Ottobre Woman last summer and have three issues, but this is the first Ottobre project I’ve actually made. The two things people always note as a word of caution about Ottobre patterns is that 1) they come with the crazy, color-coded pull-out sheets that you have trace your pattern pieces from and 2) the instructions are on the spare side. I didn’t find either of these things a problem, but this is also a really simple pattern with only 3 pattern pieces plus bindings. I mean, you could easily figure out how to put this shirt together just by looking at the line drawing.

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

My one quibble with the instructions has to do with the binding around the sleeves and neckline. The instructions tell you that for binding fabric with 40-50% stretch, you should cut the binding strips at 70% of the length of the opening you are binding. Now, when I read that, I thought it seemed way too short for binding. But my ribbing has ~60% stretch, so I followed the instructions anyway and sewed the first strip of binding to the first sleeve and it was, indeed, way too short—the entire sleeve opening was gathered. I went back and recut binding strips at 85% of the length of the opening (Ottobre’s recommended length for binding fabrics with 20-30% stretch) and that worked much better. But it also makes me think that if you had a fabric with significantly less stretch, you’d probably want to cut the bindings just a tiny bit smaller than the opening. Anyway. Lesson learned.

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

My high bust measurement puts me in a size 46 on the Ottobre chart, but since the style of this shirt is more relaxed through the shoulders, I just traced a straight 48 to give me a bit more room at the bust to start with. I did a 1” FBA, and rotated most of the dart to the hem to give me a bit more room at the hips. I eased the rest of the dart into the side seam at the bust level. I’m relatively happy with the fit, although I did have an issue with the back neckline drooping and collapsing on itself. I remember seeing a tip from Debbie at Stitches and Seams for dealing with drooping knit necklines by running some elastic thread through the stitching line at the back of the neck to tighten it up. It took me about 5 minutes to do, and it worked out perfectly. When the shirt is laid flat, you can see some rippling at the back of the neck from where the elastic is, but it lays flat when I wear it.

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

And finally, not to belabor a post about a very simple t-shirt, but I did end up using a twin needle to top-stitch the binding and sew the hem. It’s the first time I pulled out the twin needle since I swore them off a few months ago, and it wasn’t so painful this time, primarily because I saw this post from Pandora Sews Plus Size Clothes. I was already doing most of what she recommended, but she had one tip in particular about threading a twin needle where she explained that you aren’t supposed to hook the thread going into the right needle over the bar in front of the needle. This one little trick—not catching the second thread through the bar above the needle—made a huge difference and resolved almost all of the problems I was having with thread tension and skipped stitches. So, I have tentatively invited the twin needle back into my life, although I still maintain that people tend to oversell its virtues and ease of use. The twin needling around the binding worked out much better than the twin needling at the hem—it’s almost like the twin needle responded better to sewing through a more substantial thickness of fabric? I’m going to see how it wears, but I might actually end up redoing the hem using a narrower twin needle. We’ll see. At the very least, I’m glad to have stumbled across the first tip that has made a serious difference for using a twin needle on my current machine.

Blank Canvas

This is kind of a boring, basic pullover, but this project was meant to be an experiment with a different sweater construction method. I’d say the experiment was a success.

I prefer to knit sweaters in pieces and then seam them together, and this is partly because I find knitting an entire adult-sized sweater in one piece rather tedious and partly because I’ve just had better luck getting a seamed sweater with set-in sleeves to fit me well. Raglan sweaters, in particular, have given me a lot of trouble in the past because they just don’t seem to agree with my body. Not only have I found it difficult to get a good fit with traditional raglan sweaters, but I don’t think they look particularly good on me either. I just don’t seem to have broad enough shoulders to pull a raglan sweater off without looking, well, frumpy. While a set-in sleeve helps to define my (relatively narrow) shoulders, traditional raglan lines have a way of making my shoulders disappear. Not good. Still, the lines of a raglan sweater offer some attractive design options (color blocked sleeves, textured sleeves, striped sleeves, lace sleeves, etc.) that just wouldn’t look quite as good with the set-in sleeves I typically prefer.

So I wanted to try Ysolda Teague’s Blank Canvas pattern, which claims that women who don’t typically look good in raglan sweaters might prefer the look of the modified raglan shaping used in her pattern. A traditional raglan yoke is shaped through a series of decreases or increases (depending on which direction you’re knitting) where the sleeves and the torso connect. These decreases/increases are worked at an equal rate across the sleeve and torso, and are usually worked at a consistent frequency, to basically create four straight lines that run diagonally from the underarm to the neckline. The yoke of Blank Canvas switches up the traditional raglan shaping and instead has you decrease across the sleeve and body at differing rates and also changes the frequency of decrease at different points in the yoke to create a raglan line that more closely follows the physical contours of the arm and shoulder. And I can now verify that this kind of shaping does, indeed, look a lot better on we narrow-shouldered-and-busty types who don’t look good in a traditional raglan.

I followed the instructions for the size that most closely matched my upper bust measurement and the fitting through the shoulders is spot-on. This method of shaping the yoke isn’t quite as simple and straight-forward as working a traditional raglan, but Ysolda’s pattern directions are very clear and easy to follow. Now that I’ve worked with the pattern, I feel like I could easily adjust the shaping to accommodate different weights of yarn. I’m looking forward to playing around with this raglan construction more in the future. While I followed the instructions for the yoke shaping and the sleeves, I determined my own cast-on numbers, worked out my own shaping through the body, and added my usual 3” of HBDs. I also swapped the pattern’s crew neck for a deep V-neck. The yarn I used is Berroco Vintage DK in Neptune—it’s a color that says “spring” even if the weather around here doesn’t agree.

The view from our front door last Wednesday. Taken during my “Spring” Break.

There are a couple of other things that I’ve learned from this project:

  • Because I modified the pattern to create a deep V-neck, I worked all of the raglan shaping back and forth rather than in-the-round as the pattern specifies, and this  meant having to work some of the decreases from the wrong side. This turned out to be pretty easy, and it’s a good reminder that I can decrease on wrong side rows whenever I’m knitting flat if I want to—something that opens up possibilities for figuring out rates of decrease in the future.
  • This pattern uses a different increase method than I’ve worked before. I usually work a M1R/M1L, while this pattern uses lifted increases (which are explained at the end of this Knitty article). I was a little worried about how these increases would look in the final product, but they create a very neat finish. The best part is that I think it’s a lot more intuitive to figure out how/when to work a left or right-leaning decrease than it is with the M1R/M1L business. I plan to continue using lifted increases in the future.
  • Finally, I wanted to tweak the fit at the back of the sweater since I don’t think I’ve been using quite enough back shaping. However, I couldn’t decrease on the back any faster than I’d been doing or the fabric would start to bias. So after looking at some other people’s projects on Ravelry (which is a nice way of saying that I spent a lot of time studying other people’s backsides), I decided to add a second dart halfway between my usual decrease line and the edge of the back of the sweater. I decreased an additional half inch on either side (removing an extra inch of fabric overall), and I’m really happy with the result. I’ll definitely be working that second set of darts in the future.

I want to keep expanding my familiarity with different sweater construction methods. I want to try making a circular yoked sweater (perhaps the Van Doesburg Pullover from the Spring issue of KnitScene?), and I’m also intrigued by the top-down method Andi Satterlund uses in her patterns. Do you have a favorite sweater construction method?