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Swimming in Stripes

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My dim childhood memories of hot summer days growing up in the ’90s are largely populated by fresh rayon dresses in dark floral prints. The fabric seemed like magic; soft, pretty, and inexplicably cool even in the most miserable weather. Styles changed, as they always do, and at some point what I can now identify as rayon challis pretty much disappeared from my sphere of experience. I’m not certain when this happened, and it certainly didn’t overly concern me as a child, but I do remember vaguely wondering what happened to the magically cool summer fabric.

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Decades later (now I feel old), rayon dresses are everywhere in stores again because 90s fashion is somehow coming back into style (and I feel even older!). Two delightful consequences of this change are that rayon is back on my radar and that it is easy to obtain in all sorts of whimsical prints. The print on the fabric used in this project is very whimsical indeed. I stumbled onto it while looking for something else on fabric.com and was completely charmed by the goldfishes swimming on an otherwise demure background of blue and white stripes. The fabric is a rayon twill from Telio, the listing for which can be found here though it has since sold out. I ordered the fabric before I knew what I wanted to do with it, because as far as I’m concerned, it just doesn’t get better than playful orange fishes swimming in stripes.

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When the fabric came in, I was pleased to find that it has the soft drape typical of a nice rayon and that it was opaque enough for an unlined blouse. After much dithering, I decided to use the Datura pattern again, this time with the collar option. The version with the collar requires less careful precision while cutting and sewing than the version with the neckline cut-outs. Given the slipperiness of this rayon fabric, the slightly more forgiving pattern option was a relief! To adapt to the rayon, I ended up hand stitching the shoulder seams to finish, as well as the bodice lining. The hem is a narrow, machine stitched one instead of the bias tape hem recommended in the pattern directions.

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This blouse has been grand fun to sew and to wear. I find myself smiling every time I look at this fabric, and it has proven wonderfully cool to wear in hot weather. It also traveled with me to Portugal and actually didn’t wrinkle as miserably as expected! I’m not finished with this fabric yet, so keep an eye out for goldfish swimming in stripes on the next blog post too!

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Pink Datura Blouse

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Last May, in many ways, seems as if it happened a very long time ago. This past year has involved completing my doctorate, a flurry of job applications, a new job, a new apartment, travel to a new country, and an engagement! It has been quite the year.

In light of all these developments, minor adventures in sewing, like finally making it to Old Town Alexandria and discovering the Stitch Sew Shop, seem rather insignificant. It is a delightful shop, and on my visit there last May I picked up the Datura blouse pattern from Deer and Doe. While the project got somewhat lost in the shuffle and then didn’t get blogged for months, it is a well-designed pattern, and I am very happy with the results.

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Given that I have been impressed by other Deer and Doe patterns in the past, I have kept an eye on their pattern line and had seen the Datura Blouse online. Even though the construction looked interesting, I never would have pursued it without seeing the pattern in person in Alexandria. The design of the neckline cut-outs is clever and clean, and the easy fit enables the blouse to function without closures. And of course, given that it is sleeveless, this one earns a 10 out of 10 on the arm mobility index!

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The cut outs at the neckline are achieved by lining the upper bodice to create a finished, zig-zag neckline and then connecting the points with a double folded bias binding. It requires some careful stitching, but this approach creates a really cool effect and a clean finish. For this project, I used a mystery, watermelon-colored twill fabric which I bought for a dollar a yard on a massive roll at a now defunct fabric warehouse in Lancaster, PA. It has a nice drape for a mid-weight fabric and has plenty of body to support the unusual neckline, but after months of wearing the blouse, I think it is somewhat heavy for this pattern.

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Stay tuned for another Datura blouse in the near future made in a lighter fabric with a more fluid drape. I have quite a backlog of projects to record on the blog and some free time for blogging, so you can expect the usual flurry of summer blog posts in the weeks ahead.

Dissertation Distraction Sweater

Long ago, though not terribly far away, I wrote a post about a delightful cable-y pullover sweater. This sweater took ages to knit, in no small part because I was working out the logistics of the pattern as I went, and, well that whole dissertation thing. Details.

The sweater is finished! It has actually been completed for well over a year now, but I had delusions of writing up a highly detailed and precise explanation of what I did to make the sweater. I have accepted that it just isn’t going to happen. Instead, here is a picture!

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This sweater is very snuggly and a bit oversized, which is just what I was aiming for. The only complaint I might have is that the shoulders and sleeves are too bulky to be very comfortable under a jacket. It works best as a solo act or as the outer layer on a cold day.  This is not quite the sweater that I initially dreamed up, but I am very happy with it nonetheless.

 

So what went awry? As you may be able to see, the front and back neckline are identical, so the sweater has no true front or back. This was NOT the original plan. The original plan was to extend the two rows of braided cable from up the sleeve all the way across the back of the neckline, rather than ending them at the neckline as they are in the sweater. This would have given the neckline more stability and offered the weight of the sleeves some support across the back of the shoulders. Unfortunately, when I was knitting this, I was rather focused on a dissertation chapter (DETAILS) and just carried on obliviously until I finished knitting the neckline edge. I couldn’t bear the thought of ripping out all that knitting, so I improvised and left the knitting as it is.

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Without the added support across the shoulders, the heavily cabled shoulders tended to drag themselves off my shoulders under their own weight. Nothing against off-the-shoulder sweaters, but that sort of thing works MUCH better when it’s deliberate and not weirdly bunching on the arms! My solution was to run a piece of sewing elastic through the pocket created by the double layer of ribbed knit at the neckline. This way the neck opening is still stretchy, but it also doesn’t let the sleeves attempt to wander off in different directions.

So will I ever catch up on the backlog of creative projects that haven’t made it to this blog? Who knows! But now I can finally wear my dissertation sweater without quietly thinking, “You know, you really should blog this!”

Mimi Blouse Redux

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For this blouse I revisited a pattern I have made twice before, loved, but still had not gotten quite right. Sadly, this one is not the perfect Mimi blouse either.

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Of course, I am also being exceptionally picky here! This blouse is still charming, reasonably comfortable and eminently wearable. It is made from a heavier cotton lawn, so the blouse is a bit more crisp than my earlier versions of this pattern. For the buttons, I lucked out and found some beautiful vintage glass buttons at Stitch Sew Shop in Alexandria, VA. The magenta glass of the buttons matches the flowers in the fabric, and the iridescent finish is even a pale turquoise. If there is a better button for this project, I can’t imagine it!

The problem continues to be fit. You may recall (though I’m not sure why you would, it’s been ages!) that after my last attempt at this blouse, I altered the sleeve pattern piece in order to add fullness to the sleeve hem while retaining the overlapping folds. What a sensible idea! Make alterations while the fit problems and their best solution are fresh in your mind!

Of course, I have since lost the altered pattern piece, so I improvised.

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That’s right, I just cut straight across the bit where the sleeve pattern cuts back in for the double fold. When sewing it up, I simply left out the overlapping folds, which creates a very slightly belled sleeve hem. For my arms at least, this is ideal.

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Yet because nothing is ever simple, releasing the tension on the sleeve hem revealed that the depth of the armhole is just a bit too short on me. Sigh. I was able to cheat on the seam when I sewed in the sleeves, but I will need to make the armhole deeper next time I make this blouse. I am going to get this pattern right, darnit! I like the collar too much to admit defeat.

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My ongoing obsession with comfortable sleeves which allow the full range of arm movement has inspired me to take a more scientific approach to evaluating this problem area. Thus the Arm Mobility Index was born. What follows is my (admittedly ridiculous) attempt to quantify the ease and comfort of arm movement in any given garment, ranked from worst to best. This Index will enable a more consistent assessment of just how suitable a garment is for climbing trees or retrieving books from high shelves.

Arm Mobility Index

0/10  –  Literal and/or figurative straightjacket. Not a good option for climbing trees or retrieving items from high shelves.

1/10  –  Try as you might, you cannot even get your arms into these sleeves properly. No, just no.

2 /10  –  These sleeves give you T-Rex arms. The T-Rex is extinct. Don’t let these sleeves drive you to extinction!

3/10  –  You need to dislocate your shoulder(s) to get in and out of this garment. Fashion isn’t worth this.

4/10  –  You always end up regretting your decision to wear this shirt/jacket/dress because of how the sleeves fit. Life is too short for regrets.

5/10  –  These sleeves are uncomfortable but wearable. They are fine if you keep your arms by your sides or stick with small arm movements, but they tug uncomfortably if you need to raise your arms above shoulder height or need to drive a long commute.

6/10  –  These sleeves are only mildly annoying. You can still move your arms pretty freely, but you have to fight against the sleeves for larger arm movements.

7/10  –  These sleeves don’t stop you from doing anything but do pull slightly when you move your arms.

8/10  –  The presence of sleeves is at times noticeable.

9/10  –  These are nice, roomy sleeves that allow unrestrained arm movement. You literally never think about the fact you are wearing sleeves (which is clearly an unusual state for me).

10/10  –  No sleeves. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

I would place this blouse project at somewhere between a 6/10 or a 7/10. Perfectly wearable, mildly annoying when trying to reach into cupboards over your head.

 

 

Right. I’m so sorry. Here, have a cat.

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Spirodraft Blouse

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I have returned at last, dear readers! This year I have been busily writing my dissertation (yes, that’s Dr. Autumnyarn now), but I am very glad to have mental energy for other kinds of creative endeavors again. I intend to get back to my at-least-one-post-a-month level of activity on this blog, which should help me get through the project back-log that has accumulated.

This post is a bit of a project log and a bit of a pattern review, but really, it’s all about this gorgeous fabric.

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It is a cotton voile from Art Gallery Fabrics in a print called “Spirodraft.” I was drawn to the warm mustard color because it makes a nice contrast to most of my wardrobe, but it is the delicate, complicated symmetry of the line drawing that I love most. If you look closely, this fabric has layered, nonsensical outlines and labels that playfully imitate technical designs. Suffice it to say that I think this sort of thing is really cool! But the question of what to do with this really cool piece of fabric has had me stymied for some time. The fabric obviously demanded a sewing pattern that would show off the unusual print, but I didn’t want to be left weeping with frustration when trying to match the print to cut out pattern pieces. The fabric called for something structurally simple and symmetrical to support the busyness of the print. That’s where the Belcarra Blouse from Sewaholic Patterns comes in.

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The Belcarra Blouse pattern is a simple pullover top with raglan sleeves meant for woven fabrics. The shirt has quite a bit of ease and a wide neckline so that it can be easily taken on and off without any zippers or buttons. This sounds like a great concept, but too often I have found that the execution of this sort of pattern ends up giving boxy, awkward results. But miraculously, the Belcarra Blouse somehow avoids the dreaded Boxy Problem. The gentle waist shaping at the side seams keeps the top flattering and also prevents any uncomfortable bunching of excess fabric around the waist. I am always a big fan of raglan sleeves anyways, and these sleeves fit beautifully with no extra fuss.

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The pattern sews up quickly and would make a great project for a novice sewer. I decided to catch stitch the neckline and hem (which takes forever because I am slow), but if you machine stitched everything, it could be sewn in an afternoon. I love the clean lines and simple finishing on this pattern. It includes pattern pieces for a variation on the sleeve with pintucks, which look charming, and overall, this pattern just begs for experimentation with different fabrics or a contrasting sleeve! I’m looking forward to playing around with this one for a long time.

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Most importantly, I would give this pattern an 8/10 on arm mobility. I can comfortably lift my arms above my head while wearing the blouse, but it does ride up a bit. However, the blouse doesn’t actually tug uncomfortably when I am driving or when I wave my arms wildly over my head just to see if I can, so it still gets my seal of approval.

The things I do in the name of rigorous pattern testing.

Overall, I am beyond pleased with how this project came out. The symmetry of the blouse pattern beautifully complements the symmetry of the fabric print. The blouse pairs nicely with jeans or a skirt, and you know I find that kind of versatility almost as important as arm mobility.

Almost.

 

 

 

Soon.

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My long hiatus is nearly ended. You can expect more posts and projects in the days ahead!

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Bright Red Bicycle Blouse

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Hello again friends!

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It has been much, much too long since I’ve managed to write a blog post, but these things happen when you are writing a dissertation! This is just a quick post for a quick sewing project. Long, long ago over Christmas break I sewed a wrap blouse using Vogue 8833. I can now attest that the blouse is comfortable, versatile, and durable after wearing it all Spring. This red blouse is made using the same pattern, minus the sleeves and with a different collar. The fabric is a Robert Kaufman Lawn in bright red with tiny white bicycles all over, and I am utterly besotted. I’m looking forward to wearing this blouse to death through the rest of Summer and into the sweltering DC Fall!

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