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Mimi Blouse in Plaid

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In my previous post, I talked about some gray flannel plaid fabric – cozy, lightweight and loosely woven. All of those qualities make it a delight to wear and suitable for clothing that can be worn into warmer weather than is typical with flannel. Of course, those lightweight, loosely woven qualities that make it comfortable in a wide range of temperatures also make the flannel miserable to work with, particularly when your cutting surface is an uneven, carpeted floor. Surprisingly, the carpet pile makes it easier to slide the scissors along without disturbing the fabric, but flannel sticks to carpet like the Dickens.

Also, there is the Mostly Benevolent Overlord to contend with…

What can I say? Cutting out sewing projects is always an adventure.

The end result of this particular sewing adventure is a short-sleeved blouse with an unusual Chelsea collar and gathered sleeves. The easy fit makes this blouse breezy in the DC heat but also works neatly tucked into a skirt. The pattern for the Mimi Blouse comes from Tilly and the Buttons book, Love at First Stitch. I continue to be impressed by the patterns from this book – the designs are clean and stylish, easy to wear, and fun to make. The pattern directions are admirably clear and helpfully illustrated with extra attention given to potentially new sewing tasks and techniques. I am slowly sewing my way through all the patterns in the book.

plaid mimi blouse 1

According to the fitting charts, I am between two sizes, but because of the Mimi Blouse’s generous cut, I chose the smaller size. I’m very happy with the fit. The only issue I ran into was that the sleeves were rather too tight around the bicep – a perpetual problem for me. To solve this problem, I simply made a very narrow sleeve seam and did not reinforce the hem facing, but I would definitely widen the hem on any subsequent Mimi blouses. The blouse is wearable, but the sleeves are still more snug than I would prefer.

plaid mimi blouse 3

The folded sleeves are interesting, but I can’t decide whether I love the unusual and flattering collar shape or the soft gathers at the shoulder more. Really, I just love the way this garment sits and drapes from the shoulders. Shoulders can be tricky to fit, but they make such a huge difference in how an entire garment hangs.

plaid mimi blouse 2

The pattern book suggests a number of variations, and given how comfortable and wearable this blouse is, I can see many Mimi blouses in my sewing future. Perhaps, after making up some short sleeve versions, I might try for a long-sleeved one? I am currently very charmed by the paired button arrangement on this version, and of course, matching plaids brings me more satisfaction than is entirely seemly.

plaid mimi blouse 4

… or is that seamly?

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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