Hi Ho Silver-Grey Self-drafted Modal T-shirt (American Apparel knockoff)

This one is a knockoff (and hopefully improvement) on American Apparel’s Sheer Jersey 2-sided top – which is pretty much the perfect black tshirt. I got a couple of these tops back when American Apparel was mainly sold in tshirt shops as vehicles for ironic transfers. Now we have a number of AA shops in town, but you think I can ever find this top? Noooooo, not amidst the shiny neon leggings, high waisted shorts and other sartorial nightmares. Besides, since this self-drafted pattern (I traced the original top’s seams) takes a scant .6 metres, I can make my own for well under $10. Who doesn’t love that?

This is my first nearly complete version (I’ve yet to hem it as I’ve yet to preshrink my knit interfacing; not that that’s stopped me from folding the hem under and wearing it out!). Just like the original, the top is reversible (front to back), which I love. Here’s the back view, which can sub as the front view.

'back' boatneck view

The main change I made from the original is the 1″ banded neckline, which was simply the result of some experimentation. AA’s version has a very narrow rolled hem that, try as I might, I just can’t (yet?) neatly replicate on my Brother 1034D serger. My initial plan was to bind the neckline. However, when I returned to the fabric shop to get some thread (they were out the first time), I was too lazy to check the colour with the bolt upstairs. As a result, the thread I bought is a shade too light! So no visible stitches allowed! Besides, I’m liking the band. It also directs attention upwards to the face, which I found I really needed in this light-coloured Modal knit top that shines a light on every bra seam and, well, ounce of backfat. Plus, something must have happened in my tracing/pattern drafting, because my scoop is deeper than the original – I’ll have to fix the pattern. The band gives me back some essential coverage, making the top much much more wearable.

There are two things I wish I knew about Modal before I started – and I confess to totally picking this fabric due to the colour, not the fabric composition. One is that Modal is a stage 5 clinger ready to advertise all of your flaws* and bra seams to the world.

I think the band helps a lot in directing attention upward, but I’m definitely going to avoid Modal for negative-ease knit garments in future! It would be totally dreamy for a draped knit pattern with plenty of ease, like the much-loved Tracy Reece Vogue 1224:

 The second thing I wish I knew is a little more concerning… Modal scorches. To press, I used a press cloth (2 layers of silk organza), and light pressure on a low heat, and it’s still shining like American Apparel’s neon leggings. I’m really not sure how I’m going to press the hem, other than from the wrong side. Will have to research more…

It’s not perfect, and not yet complete, but I’d give this a 7.5/10 (I’m gearing up to teach another course, so yeah, marking is on my mind).

Time: 4-5 hours, mainly because I had to rip out the first band I attached. Ripping out serger seams sucks! Without mistakes, this would be cut and sewn in 1-1.5 hours, if you’re slow like me!

Cost: $16.50. $14.50 in fabric (Modal is $18/metre!) + and $2 thread.

Will I wear it again? Heck yes; it goes with everything, and I’m looking forward to making a few more non-Modal versions!

*maybe not “flaw” but the full topography of your torso that you might not want the world to see.



Well isn’t this just smurfy! Liebster Blog Award

How happy was I to wake up this morning, only to discover that I’ve been awarded a Liebster blog award *and* a Versatile Blogger award, both from LSASpacey of As I said…?

Very happy 🙂 Danke Schoen, as the Germans say!

The liebster blog award (liebster = german for dearest) is an award that you can give to 3-5 blogs that are newish, have fewer than 200 followers, and that you think deserve a larger following. The Versatile Blogger award is for blogs that you’ve recently discovered (and enjoy reading!). One of the lovely features of both awards is that you get to pass them along 🙂

Before I get to figure out how to put the new badges in my sidebar, I want to get to my Liebster award winners…

I’m a little focused on bloggers in my home province of British Columbia – and in Vancouver, if poss. I just get such a kick out of seeing the cool things these folks are making with the fabrics we have available to us locally.

1) It was a chance encounter with Ms Modiste at a local fabric store that led me to start my blog in the first place! Her garments are beautiful and intricately finished. No wonder she’s twice been featured as Burdastyle’s Project of the Week, and once featured on the Coletterie!

 2) I’ve fairly recently discovered Snappy Stitches – also a local. She’s a super accomplished quilter who’s also starting to make some gorgeous garments. I love her B5619 out of a cotton sateen print that I’ve got a metre of in pink, and that I’ve seen in used in the collections of two local designers. Apparently it was on clearance over the winter, but it’s now back at regular price! Grrr! (Okay, I’m just happy they still have it in stock! My god I love that fabric!)

3) ElleCSews is from Kelowna, BC in the heart of BC’s Okanagan wine country. I love Elle’s wonderful sense of humour (and her name… Elle!) and especially how non-plussed she is about posting her self-stitched undies on the internet! Not to mention that she’s down with showing projects that didn’t quite work out. As an educator (and learner), I love that! Being a leader – I think – is all about showing your stumbles along with your successes, because that empowers others to feel okay about stumbling and to keep on keeping on!

4) Wearable Muslin doesn’t come from Vancouver, but rather a place I called home for a couple of years – Austin, Texas. Funny thing is, when I was in Austin, I followed an old blog of hers, and only recently tripped upon her new sewing blog! Like Elle, I love how Neemie is cool with saying, you know, this dress… not really feeling it. And you know, this dress… can’t be bothered to hem it right now. Cos I’m exactly the same way!

5) Anne from South Carolina’s sewing output over at Pretty Grievances makes me blush, and while her garments are gorgeous and her wit dry, I’m always secretly hoping her next post will include photos of her adorable long-haired dachshunds. They are so cute it hurts!

moving on up

Because I need some money, and because a friend needs a cheapish (we’re talking vancouver…) place to live for four months, I’m renting my place to her as a summer sublet. I’ll be at my bf’s in the meantime – a trial run for moving together I guess, though I already stay here much of the time.

It’s a funny thing doing a half move. I don’t have to worry about moving my pull-out couch and other furniture, but am bringing my foodstuffs, summer clothes, some of my books, and most of my sewing gear. The bf has a 2nd bedroom that until the last couple of weeks was barely used. Now, we’re converting it to a little creative studio. It’s a nice place to work at during the day too! It’s on the 2nd floor, and while I don’t have much of a view beyond other highrises, I do get to watch the dogs walk by.

I’m so behind on posting projects! It’s because I have a hard time getting good pictures, and because I’ve been living in two places until now, only occasionally heading home to grab a change of clothes or two. I have a full vogue 1247 outfit, two pairs of trousers (V1051), and two skirts (simplicity 2512 and V1170) almost ready and waiting to blog up. And a Colette Macaron that I finished up ages ago. Of these, I’d say, the Macaron and the 1247 outfit that I’m wearing the hell out of, one of the trousers, and one of the skirts (thus far…) have been successful. The 1170 skirt fit right until I put the waistband on. I’m not sure what’s going on with that skirt + my body, but that thing is going far past my waist and up my ribcage. And I hong kong’d every last stinking seam! I hope that taking off the waistband and replacing it with a facing will make it work (Tim Gunn style, obvs).

I have another ambition project coming up – a spring blazer for the BF. He has a navy herringbone cotton twill blazer that he has worn past it’s best before date that he wants me to replicate. We’ve sourced a blue herringbone twill that he likes, and he’s cool with me cutting up the jacket to make a pattern from it. There isn’t a lot of tailoring involved at all – there’s a facing at the front, but that’s about it. No lining! I’m using a Burda men’s blazer pattern to guide me in drafting some of the pattern pieces, and in constructing the collar.

My job hunt has admittedly been sputtering. I have a teaching job lined up for May/June, which will give me some much needed cash. So I’m really looking for July. One of the annoying things about these teaching jobs are the weird hours – I teach in the late pm, twice a week. I imagine it’s difficult to find a f/t job that would allow me the flexibility in my hours to leave early twice a week to teach.

Truth be told, I had a rejection in mid March for a job I *really* wanted, and it’s been hard getting over that. I know I have to change my mindset towards seeing each these setbacks as one more step towards attaining my goal of gainful employment that pays enough that I can adopt a dog.

A change of <3

Until now, my fabric choices have tended towards the drapey – the drapier the better – and I rail against the use of quilting cottons for garments.

Now that I’m starting to get interested in quilting, I’m wondering… are those cottons really so bad? Am I just fearful of the unknown? After all, the dense weave of the highest quality cottons could substitute for interfacing. It could eliminate the need for interfacing altogether! I imagine that in strapless dress with princess seams, the bulk and stiffness of the seam allowances would probably eliminate any need for boning. And the prints… so whimsical; so fun; so unrepentantly crafty!

Now that I’m about to rid myself of all of the polyester in my stash in a what-not-to-wear style mass chucking, I’m wondering – it might be worthwhile to put myself onto a quilting cotton challenge. April will be the month of the quiltings! Jackets, tunics, a-line skirts, oh my!

Lesson learned: you can only make bias tape out of fabric that presses well

Things that are self-evident to everyone except me: if a fabric doesn’t press well, it won’t make good bias tape.

I was trying to make some tape last night out of some poly charmeuse scraps for my next project – the Vogue 1170 Rachel Comey skirt.

Baby has not got back!

The pattern calls for a hong kong style finish on all of the seams, and I strangely loved doing them on my 1247 skirt (review coming soon!). I particularly like flipping up my hem and seeing this lovely contrast tape! Pretty on the inside!

As soon as I started cutting up the poly charmeuse, I remembered how much I dislike sewing with it. I was having visions of tossing every last piece of poly charmeuse I have misguidedly purchased in the last couple of years.

And yet I let myself get to the bias tape pressing stage before realizing – this stuff just doesn’t press. It doesn’t do much of anything that you want it to do. There’s a reason it’s been referred to as Satan’s own fabric!

I’ve been holding on to the pieces in my stash, thinking, they might be good for a pocket, or bias tape, or muslins. Now, I might do a what not to wear style intervention on myself, and ceremonially dump them into the bin.

Vogue 1208 – as a blouse

Finally – a finished project to photograph and show!

There has to be some kind of magic to tucking in blouses. I can never get a clean tuck.

I’m starting a job hunt and doing some interviews. Good times, obvs. The shell that I currently have for my suit is a lovely lightweight neutral knit, but I’m starting to wonder about the wisdom of wearing knits to an interview or with a suit in general. Knits just scream casual to me – even when, as with this one, they don’t look like a t-shirt. I wanted a silk blouse – silk crepe de chine, in particular. Partly because it’s so lovely, partly because I just don’t like the shininess of charmeuse, but also partly because I have a cheap as chips local source for the crepe de chine. Yay Indian fabric shops!

Besides, with this cheap silk source ($10/yard!), I just want to make up some nice silk tops. I was thinking Colette Taffy, which calls for 1 3/4 yards of 44″ fabric in my size (8). I know that Colette typically over-estimates the yardage requirements, but having muslined Taffy up, I think it might take the full amount.

On a sunday when I really should have been prepping answers to behavioural interview questions, I headed down to Vancouver’s ‘Little India’ with my suit jacket in tow to see what I could pick up for a nice shell. You’d think an almost-charcoal grey would be easy to match things to. Maybe I’m a colour perfectionist. It’s tough.

I fell in love with a medium blue silk at the 2nd store I went to, but they only had 1 1/4 yards left. A full half yard less than the Taffy calls for. Alright, I said against my better judgment, I have to have it. I’ll change my plans.

1 1/4 yards of 44″ fabric isn’t a lot to play with. I narrowed things down to three choices: Sorbetto (no photo needed), Simplicity  2593 View B (now out of print), or Vogue 1208, which I’ve been wanting to make as a top – to recreate a silk Nanette Lepore bow-shoulder top I fell in love with a few seasons ago, but, at $275, couldn’t afford.

I squeezed a top length version out of the fabric I had, and it comes down to about my belly button. It’s too short to wear untucked with anything, but tucks quite nicely into a high waisted skirt, like the V1247 rachel comey I’ve paired it with.

Here’s the back view, untucked:

The pattern is super simple with only 4 pieces: one front, one back, a piece for the bow, and a piece for the bow tie. I ended up lowering the front neckline but about an inch or so. I didn’t follow the directions very closely, though they seem easy enough. This is because I didn’t line it, and so with such a simple garment, the directions really didn’t apply to my version. I made some self-bias binding for the neckline. However, I’m not super happy with how that turned out. You can tell on the front view that the neckline doesn’t sit flat as I wish it would.

After wrestling with that for a while – and realizing after the fact that perhaps I should have tried to squeeze out a facing from my scraps – I just did narrow hems on the arms and the hem.

The narrow hems work well on the arms, but I’m not happy with the hem . Maybe it’s because the hem is sewn on the bias, but it’s really rippling (as it does on the original dress). That rippling looks nice on the dress, but it’s kind of weird on the top version (especially such a short top!).

I’m still wanting to change up the hem – this top is still definitely a work-in-progress. I know it can be great so I want to tinker with it until I get it right! I’m thinking of getting some black crepe de chine and adding a 1 to 1.5 inch non-bias band onto the bottom. I’m hoping that the straight grain band on the bottom will anchor the fabric down, and get rid of that annoying rippling (can you tell it *really bugs me*?)

I might take the opportunity to re-do the side seams as well. I knew that one wants to use a longer stitch length when sewing on the bias, but did I remember that when it was time to set needle to fabric? Of course not! So I do have some seam puckering that I hope I can smooth out! With these changes, I think I’ll have a blouse that I’ll really love. Here’s hoping!


new sewing adventure: city quilts!

These have been some tough weeks at Casa Muslinette: I’m job hunting. I’m hunting for my first real full time job, having spent a lot of years chasing a PhD and then a string of teaching gigs. It’s as tough as they say – the job hunting, I mean. Academia is so much more clear cut (write paper, succeed)!

Monday was an especially tough day – I got a rejection email for a job I interviewed for a couple of weeks ago – and which I thought would be a perfect fit. I thought I rocked the interview. I have a phone call scheduled for early next week to get some feedback. Maybe it wasn’t me, and maybe it was. I’ll find out, and my earnest hope is that I’ll make a positive enough impression to expand my professional network.

Anyway, there I was on Monday evening, feeling very disappointed, and having a cheer up talk with my fellow. At one point, he asked me to close me eyes and to put my hands out. In came:

I’ve recently started expressing a bit of an interest in quilting, and my sweetie asked me to make him a quilt. I said, you know, a quilt is a lot of work. I’m willing to make us a quilt – meaning, when we decide to live together, I’ll make a quilt for our bed.


I’m excited to get quilt planning! The book has lots of great ideas. While it provides patterns (12), I love that it focuses on giving guidance on how one might design one’s own city quilt. How wonderful!

I checked into the software they recommend, Electric Quilt 6, and it’s just too much of an investment for me right now. I think we’re just going to play around with quilt design on illustrator, to come up with our perfect bedcover 🙂 <3.

Sewing and the 80/20 rule – life lessons from the sewing machine

Two completely different blog posts arrived in my google reader today – one having to do Halston and almost-Halston sewing patterns from the 70s, and the other having to do with the 80/20 rule that motivational and self-help types like to talk about. I think it was Woody Allen who said that 80% of success is just showing up (20% effort)? The way I understand the 80/20 rule is that 80% of your efforts are your solid bedrock, and 20% are the flourish that give you your creative and competitive edge. I’ve also read a variation that 80% of your returns come from that 20% of your efforts.  Kind of like a cake… you can have a delicious cake base (the 80%) but it’s the frosting (20%) that’s the make or break between a sale or not, or how much people anticipate and enjoy it. So, the 20% is an intensely valuable little zone.

Anyway, the juxtaposition of these two posts, side by side in my reader, was interesting to me. Peter of Male Pattern Boldness was asking, just what is the difference between a Halston pattern from the 70s, and a nearly identical pattern from the same period? I’m a regular in the high end department store in town (not like I buy there… ha! I’m pawing clothes for inspiration!), and I sometimes ask myself, what exactly is the difference between a $600 dress here, and a $120 dress elsewhere?

I know that some… well, many… cynically disparage high-end fashion as being ‘just a label.’  A top is a top is a top.  I wonder how many of them have really paid attention to the elements of garment production. Probably very few; I’ve known a number of people who confess to being intimidated by high end fashion. Which I kind of get – my SO was suit shopping a few weeks ago, and doesn’t have a lot of options outside of Big and Tall stores, which he really doesn’t like for good reason. Their stuff tends towards the horribly unfashionable. I agreed to scout out some places for him to see what they have in his size, and when I came up to the super high end menswear shop in Vancouver (Harry Rosen), I paused. I didn’t go in. I was intimidated.

While a top is a top, and a jacket is a jacket, I’m starting to appreciate that it is the 20% that makes so much of the difference. So much of it is about the subtleties in cut, never mind the flattering placement of prints, and plaids that match. I once saw a D&G shirt with narrow pinstripes – which formed perfect chevrons at the darts. That kind of precision sewing is the difference maker. It’s the chains used in jacket hems, and the petersham ribbon used to cover a zipper. It’s the use of decent lining – not acetate – and knits that recover their stretch.

I now think maybe it’s that 20% that makes people what to throw up their hands while shopping. We can see the effects of the 20% in the different ways that jeans fit, but I think the frustration is that we generally don’t understand why there’s such difference. (sheesh, who outside of pants makers understands the subtleties of crotch curves and rises!?) Why does one dress look so much better on than another that, on the rack, would seem to be its twin?

All of this is useful to keep in mind as I’m marketing myself… I’m on the job hunt. Good times. 80% of us have roughly the same qualifications. We can all plan projects, use excel, be nice. I’ll have to pay attention to that 20%, and keep asking myself – what does my 20% say about me?


New Simplicities! (Spring 2012)

The release of new Simplicity patterns never gets as much attention as the Vogue pattern releases, but maybe it should. Of course, Simplicity’s offerings never get quite as ridiculous as Vogue’s. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of good stuff to note. Simplicity may well be my favourite of the Big 4… I’d own and sew more of their patterns, if only their international shipping wasn’t so crap, and if my nearest source wasn’t a solid half hour away by bus. It’s just so much easier to mail order Vogues and McCalls the every so often that they go on sale.

Anyway, there’s a lot to like in the Spring 2012 release. Like the two Cynthia Rowley patterns. The featured dress is super pretty – but maybe a little too ruffly for me. I’m digging 1872 as a top – and especially love those ties on the sleeves, though I would maybe take away a bit of the flounce on the bottom.

Rarely do I insta-love a pattern like 1873, also Cynthia Rowley. View C (featured in the photo) is fantastic – and almost identical to a Milly dress I was just coveting yesterday at Holt’s. Definitely a must-buy. Soon. Just imagine it in a silk twill!And while we’re talking about the fabulous patterns, I’m calling 1882 for the Best of 2012 list on Pattern Review. I’m loving that curved midriff and the collar. It’s going to be a hit. I want to sew this, though when I do, I’m going to chop a few inches off of that length. S’nice on a model, but on the rest of us, I’m thinking it could go a little matronly.

Have to admit, I’m really liking View B from S1897, a SuedeSays patterns (though View A… yikes…). I’m seldom keen on ruffles, but these are subdued enough to be pretty, but not prissy.

The Project Runway line has a really versatile dress pattern (1880, for wovens) that includes both shirtwaist and faux wrap versions. Maybe I’d sew it up if I took some of that fullness out of the skirts (things I’ve learned about myself… generally not into the full skirts). For faux wraps, I prefer New Look’s 6097 for knits – other than Rowley’s 1883 (above), it’s probably my favourite pattern of 2012.

1881, also Project Runway, would be just smashing for summer in a slinky knit… maybe a silk jersey. I love the short versions, and that nice defined midriff section.

I’m *also* loving options A and B from the 1884 sportswear collection. And I’m going to lay it out… I think that top is going to be one of the most under-the-radar patterns this year, and I think that if a company like Colette put it out (it looks like a Jasmine Sorbetto hybrid*), it’d be sewn up everywhere.

And lastly, I don’t think it’s a pattern collection if we can’t poke a little fun at something, right? I had to giggle at S 1889 Babies’ Sportswear.

I know… in the American fashion tradition, sportswear is more about coordinated separates than, well, sports. Still, seeing “Baby Sportswear,” I couldn’t but think – for what sport? Crawling!?

*speaking of which, I do love to make ice creams and sorbettos in the summertime, and a delicately flavoured Jasmine sorbetto sounds pretty delish…