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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!

Blue Wrap Blouse: Vogue 8833

Ah sewing, how I have missed it! This past semester was demanding enough that I couldn’t justify sparing the mental energy for sewing projects. Knitting is one thing – by now it doesn’t take that much mental effort for me to put together even a fairly complicated project because it progresses slowly. Sewing requires much more focus because when things go wrong, they can go wrong quickly and permanently.

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It has been a pleasure to get back to sewing even though my sweater project has kept me company this Fall. This blouse is the recently discontinued Vogue pattern 8833. It is a wrap blouse with princess seams and a small dart which allows for a good fit without any nightmarish easing of pattern pieces. The pattern has alot of different pattern pieces, but the construction is straightforward and quick.

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The trickiest bit was figuring out what size to make rather than anything to do with the sewing itself. This pattern is one of those with variations for different cup sizes included right in the pattern pieces. While this is an excellent idea as it can theoretically save a good bit of effort in modifying the pattern for different shapes, deciphering how all the size options on paper translate into an actual garment is far from simple. I ended up making a 14c and am very happy with the fit.

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The fabric for this blouse is a Robert Kaufman denim that I picked up from Fabric.com to round out an order for free shipping. While it wasn’t a deliberate purchase, this denim is lovely – soft but substantial, with an interesting and subtle woven pattern. It washes up very nicely, is easy to sew with and comfortable to wear. 10 out of 10, would buy again, on purpose even!

Wrap blouses haven’t made it in my sewing repertoire before, but they make a welcome addition. I’m particularly enchanted with the collar band on this one. This pattern will definitely see at least one future project; I’m planning a sleeveless version in a magenta shirting from my fabric stash. I don’t know if I will ever sew one, but I can see this pattern easily adapted to a wrap dress too.

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This blouse has made for a quick, satisfying project to get back into sewing, and I am looking forward to wearing it in the new year! These pictures are all taken amidst an old art installation at some nearby athletic fields. They seem rather dramatic from a distance, don’t they? almost reminiscent of Stonehenge or something.

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Reinventing a Must Have Sweater

This knitting story begins with the yarn.

Worsted weight wool, to my thinking, is not unlike rice or pasta. While perhaps not the most exciting gauge or fiber, it nonetheless provides the makings of many a substantial, satisfying knitting project. I like to keep a certain amount of worsted weight yarn on hand in much the same way that rice and pasta are always stocked in the pantry; they are my staples. Two years ago now I ordered a sweater’s worth of an admirable staple yarn from the WEBS annual sale. I like the combination of softness, sturdiness and stitch definition of Berroco Vintage, and the warm, autumnal color Chana Dal. It’s a nice yarn for cables. I am sure that there was a clear plan for this yarn at some point, but I’ve thoroughly forgotten what that might have been by now. Almost two year later, though, I have landed upon a sweater pattern/yarn combination that feels like a good fit.

Well, I got at least one decent knitting picture in.

Well, there was at least one decent knitting picture.

It has been some time since I last made a sweater for myself, so I wasn’t in a rush to use any old pattern. But late this summer, I got the itch for cables for some reason – densely knitted, complicated, twisty cables. At some point in my Ravelry trawling for a good, cable-heavy sweater pattern, I came across fibrenabler’s “On the Bandwagon with the Must Have” sweater and fell in love. I adore a clever saddle-shoulder construction in a sweater; they always seem to fit better across the back and to hang nicely without shifting around. The saddle-shoulder means that the cable pattern on the sleeves can continue up the shoulders to the neckline and even along the back of the neck.

... and then this happened.

… and then this happened.

One advantage of using this particular sweater for inspiration is that I already have the referenced patterns on hand. This lovely sweater is an adaptation of the Paton’s Must Have Cardigan pattern which was released way back in 2002. I suppose it tells you something about how long I have been knitting that I picked up a copy of the Paton’s pattern booklet way back then. According to fibrenabler’s project notes, she also used Elizabeth Zimmerman’s “Seamless Hybrid with Shirt Yoke” sweater recipe. I say “recipe” because Elizabeth Zimmerman doesn’t really do knitting patterns in the way that most patterns are written – they are closer to recipes with notes on appropriate ratios and suggestions for variations depending on the preferences and available materials of the knitter. EZ (as she is sometime affectionately referred to by knitters) wrote several brilliant, practical, and helpful “knitting theory” books in the 1970s and 1980s that I was fortunate enough to stumble across relatively early in my knitting career. If you have any interesting in knitting at all, I cannot recommend them more highly.

My polite request that she move has given great offense.

My polite request that she move gave great offense.

But anyway, back to the sweater! Knitting takes much longer than your typical sewing project, so this is very much a Work-In-Progress. Working in the round and from the bottom up, I have knit the torso to where the armholes should begin… I think. It looks kind of short the longer I look at it? I need to measure the length against some sweaters that fit me well. I am currently working on the first sleeve and knitting it flat. Most of the particulars of adaptations and the mechanics of how this thing will fit together will need to wait for a later post (once I figure it all out!). But for now, I will be giddily watching each cable crossing slowly form.

And here we can see the cat has settled in with no intentions of moving ever again. This peasant understand she only knits by the generous forbearance of her Cat Tyrant.

And here we can see the cat has settled into her new nest with no intentions of moving ever again. This peasant understands that she only knits by the generous forbearance of her Cat Tyrant.

A White Linen Blouse: Vogue 1440

Vogue 1440

Thanks for braving the drizzle to take pictures, Mom!

The Big Four pattern companies – Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity, and Vogue – release collections of new patterns several times throughout the year. Because I am a sewing nerd, I always enjoy looking through the new patterns, over-analyzing the designs, and figuring out unusual constructions (… and cringing at terrible fabric choices, etc). The first time I saw Vogue 1440, I barely noticed it. A sweater/jacket thing is the focus of the main picture of the pattern, and I’m just not that into sweater/jacket things. But once I took a good look at the line drawing for the sleeveless blouse, I was obsessed. Do you see that brilliant, perfect triangle yoke? Do you see it?? I am still excited over the unusual design elements in this top – the crisp collar that relaxes into a gracefully shaped, tunic length blouse and the solid, tailored yoke.

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With a pattern like this, though, the right fabric is absolutely essential to a wearable result. I knew I wanted a white blouse, but finding a shirting that was heavy enough to be opaque and drapey enough to work with the design was a puzzle. Linen always seems like a good idea. It is cool in summer heat and conjures images of lazy days and effortless dressing. Yet the reality of sewing linen is more often wrinkly (and not attractively so) and stiff and scratchy. It takes years to soften up linen properly, and I do not have that kind of patience. This is why I was pleased as punch to find the lovely Brussels Washer Linen on Fabric.com. It is mostly linen and has all of linen’s best qualities, but the rayon blend helps control the wrinkling, makes the fabric smooth and soft right away, and gives it fantastic drape. I have basically been looking for this specific fabric since I learned how to sew without knowing it.

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The only modification I made to the pattern was to take in the side seams considerably, maybe four inches in total? The fit is still roomy, which tells you how much I was swimming in it before. Vogue 1440 involves some unusual construction and lovely finishing details – I always learn something while sewing a Vogue pattern! The shaped hem is finished with a narrow bias facing which eases in beautifully (need to remember that trick), and there is a very polished hidden button placket.

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Of course, the yoke was the most exciting part, and sewing that bit wasn’t pretty. Just before making this blouse, I had been working with sewing patterns that fully spell out each step of construction, so I forgot that Vogue patterns assume a certain level of knowledge from their sewers (-ists?? seamstresses? seamsters? help!). Vogue patterns, at least the more advanced ones, tell you what to do, not necessarily how to do it. At one point when I was sewing in the yoke and the yoke facing, I thought I was looking at a how direction and not a what, so I wrestled with the pieces until I realized that my current interpretation of the directions required breaking all the known laws of physics. But fortunately, once I got my head on straight, the directions were clear enough to follow.

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This was a fun sewing project to puzzle together, and working with the Brussels Washer Linen was a pleasure. If I made this pattern again, I would move the top button about one inch north, but it is still very wearable as is.  I’m beyond thrilled with how this blouse came out, so I may stop with this one. If I ever do revisit Vogue 1440, I would definitely make it up in a color and maybe shorten it a bit. The tunic length was an unusual choice for me, especially for summer, but it is cute with jeans or khaki trousers and pairs nicely with an open cardigan. The blouse is beyond comfortable to wear and allows you full range of arm movement which I find very important. You never know when you might need to fly a kite or conduct an orchestra.

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