Navy Flowers

I finally sewed after a long time; I think the last time I touched my machine was in January? To tell the truth, the whole Robson process had exhausted me a little mentally, so I just didn’t want to sew for a while.


Now then. This is a top based on my ancient sloper, which is a modified-beyond-all-recognition version of the Sew U Shirt. The sleeves and armscyes I substituted from the Colette Laurel, but I added a bit of fabric to the front curves of both, because the original pulled uncomfortably tight. I took out a lot of the curve from the back shoulder of the sleeve, but probably could take out a bit more since it’s still puffy. I didn’t do the front vertical darts, and also straightened out the waist curve, so I could have more fabric for gathering. The fabric is about 1m of regular cotton, nothing special.


Gathered cuffs:


Beautiful inner meeting of neckband and buttonband. I followed the instructions from Grainline studio and it turned out perfect! I had always approached V necks with reluctance before, despite the fact they look flattering on me, since I could never cut a neck+buttonband with the V swerving off at exactly the correct angle. There was always some excess fabric to be discretely tucked and folded away. But this method uses a bias strip for the neck and all the raw edges fold inside so neatly!


Side splits:

hem split

Flower buttons! The main print has giant flowers, so I thought, why not? Also, I think this is the first time I’ve made buttonholes with my machine. They came out pretty well, and I can’t imagine why I was so full of trepidation about the capacity of my machine before.


Finally, a channel for the cord, which itself was made of some slippery fabric so it would slide smoothly.


I really like this! The colour makes it a basic neutral, but the print and buttons relieve it from being boring. It’s great as a casual summer top.


Palate Cleanser

I sewed up some more quick stuff lately, as a break from all the knitting. Also, because I reorganized, sorted and neatly stored all my fabric and yarn stash and was pleased to find I had enough to make things which had been on my mind for ages! One of them was a shirt using a pretty pale cream cotton with a fine red paisley print.

small 01


I used my old sloper and risked making it without a closure. I can just about pull it over my head, so I’m glad I didn’t waste time making buttonholes and inserting zips. There’s a ruffled collar and slight puffed sleeves. Best part:



Tiny scraps! I feel compelled to save scraps larger than my palm although I have no plan for them. But these are tiny and discardable.


Sew Ends 2013!

I managed a decent amount, although nowhere near the prolific levels of my knitting. And that’s because I was away from my machine for months at a time!

The undoubted star of my 2013 sewing has to be my Minoru! Here it is, centre stage:

Sewing collage 2013

Column 1: Paisley Back Wrap, Truly Myrtle Bag, Banana Republic Shirt
Column 2: Minoru!
Column 3: Truly Myrtle Bag, Navy and Lace dress, Laurel (unblogged)
Column 4: (Invisible, since unphotographable, since in another country): Two tunic length Laurel kurtis, sleeveless top.

In terms of usability, the two Truly Myrtle bags get used a lot, and the Paisley dress comes out quite often too. As do the sadly unavailable-for-photography kurtis  I made with the Laurel pattern because the original RTW pieces were too big to simply adjust for size. So I just laid the Laurel pattern over the giant sized RTW garments and cut out the pattern, positioning the embroidery flatteringly. The red/print Laurel hack (bottom right) is a bit too puffy at the empire waist and I may topstitch the pleats to move it into wearable rotation.

That’s all for the 2013 roundup! I was absolutely going to post this in December, but then spent the last 10 days touring a half excavated, once fabulously rich medieval city (Persian, Chinese and Italian travelers describe its markets filled with gold, diamonds and rubies; dancers with arms so laden with gold that they had to be supported by servants; sandalwood palaces and parties that went on for days); and then savouring Indo-French fusion food in the utterly charming maisons and villas of Pondicherry.

Thank you for reading, commenting, pinning and liking… you’ve made it worthwhile! I hope you all had a very happy start to the new year, and may 2014 bring you every happiness!

Banana Republic Takeover

My last shirt making adventure still lies incomplete. I could sense something was off but didn’t know how to fix it. And that is frustrating! I’ve become so used to knitting garments that fit me, it’s a shock each time I sew to realise that it’s a new skill, at which I’m actually not so skilled!

My frustrations were chiefly with the enormous amount of ease in the pattern (Sew U – Wendy Mullin). The darts were placed more-or-less correctly on my pattern size, indicating that it was meant for someone with my frame, but that ease! Six inches or more of fabric flapping around!

Last time I made some attempt to reduce the expanse, but the fit ended being not quite right. Before starting again, I made a mental list of what I would have to do. Reduce back width, avoiding darts, but what happens to the darts then? Should I use those to reduce the width? But then, the shoulders will remain wide and if I adjust them what about the armholes? And on the front, how do I change the width without making the darts point in all the wrong directions? But wait, don’t I have to do a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) anyway? So should I do that first and then reduce the width or the other way round? Aaargh!!

Wait, deep breaths. I’ve already gone through all this in knitting, right? Never being able to get gauge, then deciding to work with my own gauge and calculating dimensions of the original pattern to find how many stitches I needed with my gauge, then realising I wanted different dimensions for my cardigan anyway so why was I referring to the schematic? !

And that, my friends was the Aha! moment in my knitting. From then on, I learnt to capture the essence of a pattern: a lovely stitch, gorgeous cables, unusual construction, unique design element… and fit that into the basic template of my shape. Since then, almost every bit of knitting has been enjoyable and ended up mostly flattering.

I suppose the sewing equivalent of that would be to draft my own pattern. But I’m not quite ready for that yet! What I did was to apply the succussful strategies of knitting to sewing.

The first fix: remove four inches of ease. Since the pattern pieces are in quarters (half back and half front), 1 inch needed to be removed from each body piece.

I started with the back, since it’s simpler. I removed half inch from the centre-back line, and from there, measured out to how wide the widest point needed to be (at underarm level). Using that point, I redrew the armscye and side seam, by echoing the existing pattern lines inwards. I changed the neck (which had become narrow with the removal from the CB line)… and that was it! The back was done! I cut it out of this fabric which has woven stripes, so that the grainlines were obvious. Already, I knew this approach was going to work. The back piece looked like something that could fit me, and not my horizontally stretched cartoon self.

At this point, I was steeling myself to tackle the front. I took a break. I thought and pondered. And then, another knitting epiphany struck me. I knit my front exactly like my back, except for added increases and short rows.  So my front was just a back, with FBA!

Very excited, I made the FBA to the back piece (Google it, there are lots of good tutorials). I cut the front pieces out, sewed it all together… and it fit!

The only thing left now were the sleeves. I reduced width. Also, when I used the pattern previously, I got ugly diagonal wrinkles across the sleeve cap. A quick internet search showed me that the solution was to increase cap height. So I just drew a taller bell curve, not really bothering to match anything. After all, a cap has to be eased in anyway, so a little bit here and there isn’t a problem.

I tried it on, tweaked the darts a little bit, and there it was. The best fitting mono-sleeved, raw edged shirt I ever owned. I forgot to take a picture in the excitement. Then, I ripped it out, cut it along the final sewing lines, stablized the edges with fusible stabilizer, drew in the darts with a ball point, and declared I had the Perfect Sloper.

Which got used to make this:


I like, I think. The fit isn’t perfect – far from it – but absolutely better than anything I can buy, since it fits my shoulders without gaping at the chest. I made a V-neck and self facing on top. Since the fronts weren’t wide enough (more on that below), I made sure they abutted, and sewed in a rectangle between the front and facing on the left side. This flap is the home of some neat little hook loops. The hooks on the other side are sewn in before the facing is finally closed, so that all threads are invisible.


The cuffs have slits. Tutorial here.


Seams are finished by turning the raw edge under and sewing. So much better than zig-zag stitching!

I didn’t use any fusible interfacing for the button bands. All the sewing blogs I’ve been reading despise fusible interfacing, so I shall join the gang and despise away! Anyway, you don’t really need it with a good solid fabric.

And finally, the fabric. It’s a Banana Repbulic mens’ size L shirt. That’s why the fronts only abut – after my FBA, my front pattern pieces were pretty wide and barely fit into the front of the original shirt. And that’s why the sleeves are short. I only had so much left of the sleeves after the cuffs and placket were cut off from the original shirt.

Pattern: Sew U Shirt, Wendy Mullin
Fabric: Banana Republic shirt pinched from my husband
Mods: err… see entire post.
Cost: minimal, only for hooks and thread.

PS: As you  can see, my camera’s misbehaving in the presence of red, again!

Cheapskate Sew U Shirt

My Sew U Shirt is almost done. Cut, slashed, sewed, ripped, re-drawn, but the bones and flesh are done; it only awaits trimming and prettifying.

But first, the back story.

A big reason why I started making my own clothes was the the difficulty in finding anything my size and shape – narrow but busty. Going by my full bust measurement I’d buy size S, but shoulders would fall off and the waist would be gigantic. And while finding XS in many brands is difficult, finding an XS with bust shaping is impossible.

 While knitting, I would theoretically have to find a pattern written for bust size 30, and then add plenty of bust shaping. That way the shoulders and other proportions would be correct. In practice, I just don’t bother to match gauge or follow the pattern instructions; since I know I’ll be doing tons of calculations for bust shaping anyway, I just pick the yarn, needles and gauge I like, and only read the pattern for general shaping and construction guidelines (eg: at which point does an intriguing pocket start, are the sleeves set in or raglan, how is the collar made to lie as in the photographs, and so on). I know I need horizontal and vertical shaping, so I do several quick, dramatic increases just above the underbust line, and then add at least 1.5 inches with short rows. This creates a garment that looks pretty bad on the hanger – fronts drooping below the back, bumpy and wrinkly – but fits perfectly on the body.

So I was fully prepared to have to do a Full Bust Adjustment while sewing the shirt. But I was dreading it a little, not because I don’t like geometry and change, but it just seemed like too much to tackle for a first shirt project.

And then, struck by something looking not-quite-right, I measured the half back piece for the XS size pattern piece. It was 9.5 inches at the fullest point.  The finished garment back would be 18 inches – a full 3 inches of ease. The horror! The front would give me another 3 inches of ease. Double horror!! Was I going to all the trouble of sewing my own clothes for SIX inches of ease?!

So I did something I thought was mighty clever (pardon my conceit if this is a standard adjustment!). I just nudged the pattern sheet so that the Centre Back line lay outside the fold of the fabric by 1/2 inch… meaning, I lost one inch from the back. And cut out the front pieces as they were, but told myself these pieces now included front facings which would later get folded inwards. Problem solved! I reduced extra width in the body, and did so without messing with the darts! The only re-drawing was to push the front neckline back a little bit, to adjust for the width lost in the middle of the bodice.

Having made these changes, I couldn’t stop. I decided on an empire waist and tunic length ‘skirt’. Changed the bust darts to shape the empire waist even better. And a whole lot of other things which I’ll write about in the FO post.

 The best part for me was this:

… these are the exact amount of scraps left from this project. I’ll probably use some of the bigger pieces to practice buttonholes. Now that’s economy!

The fabric is from an old Fabindia wrap skirt:

The weave has an extra thick warp thread every few rows, making it look sort of like corduroy from a distance. But there is no nap, which gave me greater freedom in cutting. Because it was made from three panels, I had to do some creative thinking about how to position the pattern pieces — in the end, the only way to fit everything was to have the bodice pieces with the welts going horizontally and the ‘skirt’ and sleeves with the welts running vertically. Also, there was only enough fabric for elbow length sleeves.

But I’m delighted! I’ve had this rather dowdily unwearable skirt for so long that the fabric may well be considered free. The trimming fabric has been lying around for over ten years too. In effect, I’ve got a decent (though slightly strange) shirt for the cost of thread and buttons. My cheap little heart is singing.