People ask me to sew garments for them all the time.
While it’s flattering that they believe my work is done so well it could pass for RTW, I break out in a cold sweat any time people ask. There are quite a few reasons why this makes me uncomfortable but this isn’t the post for that.
This isn’t to say that I refuse to make clothing for others. So far I’ve only made things for my mom and my mother in law because a mom usually loves everything you do. I’m not setting myself up for a bad time if I make either mom something homemade. I have projects in the queue for other family members (Alma, I’m talking about your hat, just let me learn short rows and you’ll love what I have planned) and a neighbor who I like quite a bit (Addy, let’s look at some chambray soon!).
Speaking of Mom, the 30th of May was my mother’s birthday. I have to get a little creative and sometimes cajole her into letting me make something custom for her because it’s extremely tough to shop for her. In the past, I’ve made her a dress New Look 6020, A cardigan Plymouth Yarns “Kimono”, and most recently a knit top McCall’s 6963. I meant for the Drop Stitch Scarf to be for me, but she lives in Wisconsin and it’s wool so it was a lucky break on her part that I finished it while she was visiting. 😉
While she and my dad were visiting in March, we made a stop at JoAnn’s for some notions and some patterns. She was very specific about what she wanted to add to her wardrobe but got very overwhelmed by all of the choices of pattern styles and fabric. We settled on two patterns, the afore-mentioned M6963 (made from rayon knit in my stash), as well as McCalls 7357. We searched for some fabric for a while and she fell in love with a silky grey and rust poly. however, I think she hit system overload at that point and we left; she felt the fabric was too expensive and she didn’t think I had the time to execute both tops in the week that they had planned to stay.
Naturally, after they left, I waited for a sweet coupon deal and bought the fabric.
if you’ve worked with a silky, satiny polyester fabric before, you know it can be incredibly tough to cut and keep on grain. it also frays like a son of a gun and gets distorted easily. But, I had a trick up my sleeve!
I use a gelatin treatment every single time I work with a slinky poly. Threads Magazine has a fantastic tutorial available here. I soaked my fabric for about two hours in the gelatin solution (plus water to fill my bucket and cover the fabric) and what I got was a fabric that handles like broadcloth. For real. Fair warning though, with steaming and ironing and handling, the stiffness will eventually go away so work with care. Even so, it makes cutting the fabric, matching pattern pieces, and sewing them together infinitely easier- completely worth the extra effort.
For mom I made a standard size 8 with the B cup bodice pieces. Piecing together the bodice was a breeze. I did french seams and used Pam Howard’s burrito method for the self-lined yoke. unfortunately I sewed the bodice front to the bodice back incorrectly the first time (even though I heard that nagging voice in my head that said check your work before you sew). That was no fun at all but at least the fabric was stiff enough to handle the un-picking.
The neckline proved to be a bit tricky and I have to admit it’s not as I hoped it would look but it was close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades. The curves are a bit awkward, even when clipped, so it’s not as even as I would like but I don’t think it’s terribly noticeable. The tiny tab that covers the end of the neckline as it connects to the blouse was a finicky little bugger as well. I ended up using wash-away tape to “glue” the tiny little tab in place so I could top stitch the edges.
I chose to sew an elastic in the sleeves instead of a cuff; I hate not being able to push up my sleeves to get them out of the way of my hands and I can only presume my mom feels the same way. The drawings on the pattern envelope had led me to believe that elastic would be involved so when I found that this was not so, I decided to be a renegade and do things as I saw fit.
After I had constructed the entire blouse I felt that the french seams maybe made the whole thing a bit too bulky and heavy for the weight of the fabric. However, I was at an impasse; I don’t have a serger and there is no way my plucky little machine has the wherewithall to sew a cover stitch with a zig zag setting.
The pattern is mostly a easy sew (save the neckline) and I may attempt this in my size because of the separate cup sizes. Another thing I like about the pattern are the princess seams to add a little shape to the bodice. My mom is very small and would get lost in a boxier blouse. My only dislike are the sleeves. I don’t think bell sleeves do a darn thing for my short, Tyrannosaurus Rex arms and the other options aren’t really appealing to me either. Mom specifically requested the bell sleeves and I thought they would be a nice length for her because of my customization with the elastic.
I boxed up the blouse and sent it North a week after mom’s birthday; this is standard protocol for my family, we rarely do anything on time. The night that it arrived, I called mom to follow up and see what she thought of it. She loved everything about it it, except the elastic in the arms which were too tight and restricted movement. D’oh. Thats the trouble with surprise garments I guess.
I’ll probably make another version of this top for her, but with the wider sleeves for ease of movement. I’ve also learned my lesson about making split-second changes to the pattern when I don’t have my model available! All in all, I have a happy, pretty Mom in a one of a kind garment. Happy Birthday Momma!