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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.

The Blue Bruyère Dress

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When last our intrepid seamstress met the Bruyère Shirt on the sewing table, the cozy, plaid Bruyère Dress resulted. Today we find another Bruyère Dress, this time made in a blue cotton pique with a few modifications.

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In order to resolve the odd, no-woman’s land placement of the waist on the plaid version of this dress, I lengthened the waist band by one inch and lengthened the bodice itself by one inch as well. Arguably, it was only necessary to lengthen one of these, as lengthening either one or the other would have gotten the waistline on the dress to meet my actual, natural waist. Still, I wasn’t sure where everything would fall until the entire dress was together, and by then the look of the longer lines through the waist had grown on me.

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The lower waist did create one complication  – the waist pieces now extended long enough that they hit the top of my hips. Combined with the more tightly woven pique and some overly generous seam allowances, the waist on the dress was suddenly super snug and not particularly comfortable. This was partially remedied by using more narrow side seams, but the dress does still encourage good posture…

There is always more to learn when it comes to fitting, and next time I will remember to factor in the other dimensions when I adjust length.

The shirting fabric used in this dress is stiffer than in the flannel version and gives the dress a more polished look. It always amazes me how much a simple change in fabric can affect the outcome of a garment. This fabric and the buttons came from the now defunct PA Fabric Outlet (Why did you have to close???). The more tightly woven cotton pique made the sleeve cuffs and the collar much more crisp than in the soft, flannel version, which I think is an improvement.

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This dress hasn’t seen much wear yet as it is rather warm for the humid DC summer, but I suspect it will become a favorite when the weather cools.

Is it fall yet?

Plaid Pavot Jacket Part Two

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The plaid jacket is finished! And you cannot convince me that it is not the most beautiful jacket in existence. I am feeling ridiculously smug about this project, fair warning. It’s red! and plaid! and my obsessive compulsive heart is so happy that the plaid matches all over the place.

Plaid Pavot Lamp post

The pattern is the delightful Pavot Jacket from Deer and Doe, a small French pattern company. I was excited for a practical application for my French reading skills, but it turns out that sewing related terminology forms a tragic gap  in my French vocabulary. Fortunately, the instructions also come in English, though  I found them largely unnecessary. The construction is very straightforward, especially when compared to the concentration required to cut out the pattern so the plaids all match up.

Plaid Pavot Bridge

As for the design and fit of the pattern itself, the Pavot Jacket is practically perfect in every way (yes, even Mary Poppins endorses it). The jacket fit me well straight from the pattern, no adjustments. The jacket design is fitted without being binding; there is plenty of shoulder room; the pieces all ease together with no difficulty, and the design is flattering and feminine. My head is already mulling over all sorts of variations (collarless? winter weight? shorter? A DRESS?).

Plaid Pavot Shoulder

Do you see that sleeve cap? I usually hate any visible gathering at the shoulder, but it is subtle enough here that I don’t mind it. There were no real problems setting the sleeves in, but I am in no rush to ease sleeve caps made of canvas again anytime soon. I used three lines of basting when making the gathers, which gives you more control and I think makes all the difference.

Plaid Pavot Pocket

And there are well-placed, usefully spacious pockets! And did I mention the plaids matching? The plaids match on the side, and I didn’t even mean to do that. While I can abstractly recognize that I might be unreasonably excited about this development, sewing a side seam in which the bands of color suddenly all align is rather startling.

Plaid Pavot Back

This project is the first time I have used seam binding to finish the edges of my fabric, and I love it. Seam binding is a very lightweight ribbon material, about half an inch wide, which is folded over the raw edge of your fabric and stitched in place. Because it is so thin and flexible, it doesn’t add any bulk to the seam, and any edges that might fray are encased in the seam binding. The finish is so much cleaner and professional-looking than any finishing method I have used before, except for maybe french seams. There is a bit of a learning curve. I found the application tiresome and fussy at first, but once you get a feel for it, the seam binding goes on quickly.

Plaid Pavot Front

Still, this jacket was not without its challenges. Covered buttons were new to me, but they were really the only option here. How on earth would I find buttons that don’t clash with this fabric? The little button-covering kits are simple to use, but I had to resort to a hammer to get the back of the buttons to snap into place. Any sewing project that requires a hammer gets bonus points, right?

The greatest source of frustration here was the buttonholes, not the buttons themselves. The Babylock buttonhole function and I still aren’t seeing eye to eye (One-Step Buttonholes! cue the manic laughter). I dutifully pulled out the handbook, followed the directions precisely, and ended up with a massive, frightening knot of thread. Reread directions, repeat attempt, repeat results, etc. Through stubbornness and much trial and lots of error, I managed to turn out buttonholes by completely ignoring the directions. I’m not thrilled with the results, but they are serviceable. If you look closely at the picture below, you can see where I managed to rip the top of a buttonhole, which I then hand-stitched so it looks like an extra-large buttonhole. The fact that this mending made me start thinking I should just hand sew all my buttonholes suggests the full scope of my buttonhole frustrations.

Plaid Pavot Collar

I refuse to hand-sew all of my buttonholes from here on out. Back away from the crazy.

Many thanks to my parents for our picture-taking break during the visit to Frederick, MD. Have you ever been? It is definitely worth a visit. The morning was really much too cold and windy to be wearing a jacket this lightweight, but some excellent tea and my new jacket giddiness kept me warm. Don’t even talk to me about the six inches of snow that fell last night. Spring, where are you?

Plaid Pavot Jacket

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I don’t typically post about projects that are currently in-progress, but I am positively giddy about this one.

You might say that this particular sewing project began years ago when my mother started making these excellent bags out of IKEA fabric. I must confess that I do not own a store-bought bag/purse, unless you count my Trader Joe’s freezer bags. My mother spoils me terribly. You can see the bag she made me for Christmas below. It is adorable and practical and sturdy. Understandably, I fell in love with the orange and cream polka dots print, so I decided  this was it: this was the IKEA fabric for my coat.

IKEA fabric bag of wonder and glory

Of course, because the course of true love never did run smooth, when I got to IKEA in January, the store was entirely out of the orange and cream polka dot fabric except for the display sample hanging over the fabric area. After talking myself down from climbing on precarious shelving units to abscond with the sample (there wasn’t even a yard of fabric there, so reason prevailed), I looked around at the other options. The red, blue and green plaid that IKEA brought out at Christmas ultimately won out. Frankly, now that I have started piecing the coat together, I think it will see far more wear than an orange and cream coat ever would. I really do love red. The fabric is upholstery weight but still flexible and easy to sew.

Plaid Pavot in progress (back)

I have not really worked with a plaid before, and there is certainly a learning curve involved. Wisdom would have led me to read up on how to match plaids when cutting out patterns before beginning, so of course I didn’t. I did not realize until late in the process that because the plaid pattern is woven in the fabric instead of printed, the fabric is reversible. This is particularly important as this plaid is NOT symmetrical. I initially believed that I wouldn’t be able to get the two fronts, etc to mirror each other, but because the fabric is reversible, I could get a true match. I did end up cutting out some of the pattern pieces twice once I realized that the fabric was reversible. Now that I can see how nicely things align, I can’t believe I debated over it! I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the points where the plaids match without any additional effort or intent on my part.

Another post with the finished project will be soon to follow! And just in time, too, as the weather is warming up enough for a cheery Spring jacket.

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