M7357: Mom’s Birthday Blouse

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.

This photo doesn’t do any justice to illustrating the fit of the garment but it’s too small to fit on my mannequin!

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!


Toiles & Triumphs

This is the story of how a terrible toile morphed into a TNT pattern.

My husband Jeff runs a small advertising agency here in Charlotte with his dad. The agency has been around for decades and has had major successes as well as weathering some pretty tough economic hits. A recent major success has been winning the 2016 Best of Show and Best of North and South Carolina awards at the Pro Ad Awards of Charlotte.  One of the honors of this award is that the winning agency is responsible for the theme of the next year’s awards ceremony.

I’ll bet you are wondering what any of this has to do with a dress pattern review, right?

I’ve been going to these award banquets with Jeff for the last two years; this will be my third event. The first two themes were Hawaiian and Super Heroes- I was on point for the Hawaiian theme with a Sis Boom Jenny Dress but I was a little stuck with the Super Hero theme. I ended up making a tasteful cocktail dress out of Butterick 5982 which turned out to be a good choice as we ended up having the after-party at the Punch Room in the Ritz Carlton (Ooh la la!)

Sis Boom Maxi Dress and the Butterick 5982 with self-drafted petal sleeves
This year my husband chose a BBQ theme for the party and I couldn’t have been more inspired!!! For some crazy reason however, I originally chose Butterick 6015 as my event dress.

Terrible idea.

As you can see by my toile, the bust is waaaaaaay too small and shallow; even after EIGHT (!!!!!) adjustments, nothing made this pattern wearable for me by any stretch of the imagination. Terrible, humiliating photos below.

So after some whining and cussing, I decided to look for an alternative pattern for the picnic inspired event. After sifting through my pattern stash and looking to the Curvy Sewing Collective TNT Patterns for inspiration, I finally settled on Simplicity 8096.

And then there was light, and it was good.

This pattern was one of the easiest patterns I’ve sewn in a long time. I still made a bodice toile (Once burned, twice shy) and it was as perfect of a fit as I could have hoped for out of any Big Four pattern.  The only adjustments I had to make involved the shoulder straps ( I have tiny little shoulders), raising the neckline about 5/8ths of an inch, and shortening the hemline. The skirt is still a bit longer than I would like ( think tea length) but it was made for a work function and the design is sort of Fifties inspired so I think it works in this particular incarnation.

I used fabric from the Cotton + Steel collection and I lined the bodice with a very light cotton voile I found at JoAnns. The buttons on the front are from my grandma Hembree’s notions. I also used some of her old-timey hem tape as well.


The only complaint isn’t really a complaint but more of a confusion. The elastic that is meant to keep the garment from gaping under the arms is nice, but the directions were as clear as mud. Also, they asked for 1″ wide elastic, YIKES! After a brief conference with Tanya Maile Hughes (Check out her version of this dress, stunning!)  I decided to wing it with some 1/4″ elastic I had laying around and sort of did my own thing, irrespective of the directions.

In conclusion, I will definitely make this dress again. The straps, as promised by the pattern literature, do indeed cover my bra-straps. The elastic, once I figured out my approach , snugs up against my underarm beautifully, and more importantly, comfortably. I feel like I could wear this garment without a cardigan confidently, which is saying a lot.

I hope to show off pictures from the event in my next post. For now, happy weekend to all my Sewcialist friends.

Beginnings Can Be Awkward

One of the first things in the way of creating a blog was always how do I begin? How am I going to reveal who I am, and what will I feel comfortable revealing? I’ve spent more time on these thoughts than I care to admit. I always felt it would be disingenuous to pretend that I was new to online journaling; I was a big Live Journal junkie back in the day when I was in my early twenties and didn’t have any reservations about pouring my heart out to strangers.

Things have changed so much. Now, ten years later at 34, I’m a lot more cautious about how and what I share with people. I’m planning on tossing some caution to the wind. Some.

This is going to be a blog mostly about my creative pursuits and a little about my life. I will be sharing a good deal of my hand sewn garments and my knitting projects for the most part. I have a good little Instagram going but I want to start following the blogs of some of the sewists  I admire and I would like others in the sewing and knitting  community to know me as well.

I toyed with the idea of doing an introductory post about my life story but I feel like it will be more organic if I tell you who I am during the course of my posts. When I start following a blog I sometimes feel self-conscious that I am virtually entering a room of people who know each other and Im sort of interrupting the flow. I don’t know about some of the inside jokes or the back story to certain situations. I ambitiously aim for my blog to be a conversation.

Now all we need are hot coffees and snacks.

Or whiskey. I’m down with whiskey too.


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