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Citron Mimi Blouse

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Here we find a second Mimi Blouse from Tilly and the Buttons’ Love at First Stitch. I am still in love with the Chelsea collar and the neat fit at the shoulders! This blouse was made with a cotton voile which is a much more summer-friendly fabric than flannel.

citron voile mimi blouse front

I love wearing and working with voile, but finding budget-friendly voile can be a trick. This pretentiously named fabric is “Bromley Voile Arbor Citron,” and it comprised my inaugural order from Fabric.com. Yes, I have surrendered to the siren call that is online fabric shopping. I love the range of fabrics available (especially apparel fabrics), and if you are careful, you can find quality fabrics in a price range that won’t break the bank. Yet at the same time, I find nothing can substitute for actually handling a fabric before purchasing it. Also, digging through actual piles of fabric is undeniably more fun than scrolling. My best advice is to get your hands on sample swatches whenever possible – it helps to know what you are getting into!

citron voile mimi blouse back

Still, I am gleefully happy with this voile – it was very reasonably priced, the pattern and colors are interesting, and the quality of the fabric is good. The buttons were originally intended for a different project, but they work nicely here with their simple shape. There were two extra buttons on hand, so I added them on to embellish the sleeves. Both the sleeves and the hem have two rows of top-stitching.

citron voile mimi blouse sleeve

Speaking of those troublesome sleeves…. With the other version of the Mimi blouse, the only fit issue was some tightness at the sleeve hem. For this version, I added two inches of width at the underarm seam and thus revealed that I still think more like a knitter than a seamstress at times. You see, modifying fullness at the seams is standard practice in knitting. Sometimes patterns use “full-fashion shaping” in which increases and decreases in the number of stitches are made deliberately visible, and I would say there has been more of this sort of design in the past decade or two. BUT for the most part, in knitting, shaping is concealed at seams whenever possible, simply because it is easier to add there and more discrete. Now when you are knitting, the fabric you are creating has built-in stretch. This means you do not need to be much concerned about additional fullness ending up in the right place – the garment adjusts to fit the body.

Here, have some silliness - this is getting technical

Here, have some silliness – this is getting technical

In sewing, you adjust fullness at the seams too, but as I have learned,  you need to be much more careful about how that fullness is distributed because even fabric with good drape does not behave the same way a stretch fabric will. All of which is to say, I added two inches of fullness to the sleeve hem at the underarm seam as drawn in this picture, and it was not a very good idea. The resulting sleeve tends to bunch up, and when I move my arms, the sleeves still feel a bit constricting despite the added fullness. It is not bad, but I over-analyze everything – why would I stop here?

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Now as I was adding width to the sleeve hem willy-nilly, I had a vague awareness that this was not the proper way to go about things. I read enough sewing blogs and old sewing books for fun that I really do know better. But on some level, I have never been entirely convinced that I needed to make adjustments for fit the way all those fussy diagrams suggested. I mean, all you need is the correct circumference on a garment at any given point on the body, right? Wrong. You can cheat some, but I am learning that woven fabric is not a particularly forgiving Overlady.DSCN2018

So instead I have altered the sleeve pattern piece using the “slash and spread” method. Typically, you would just slice the sleeve pattern vertically at the middle, but there is some complicated folding going on there that I do not want to mess with. Instead, I split the sleeve on either side of the folds and separated the bottom edges to add in the desired width. As you can see from the phantom sketching and the first pattern picture, you end up with a rather differently shaped pattern piece. You can see the final version below.

DSCN2019So now we all know what I should have done! The blouse fits well enough as it is that it’s not worth ripping out the sleeves to fix. The altered sleeve pattern will just have to wait with its brethren until the next time I make a Mimi blouse with short sleeves. I am toying with the idea of making a long-sleeved version first, possibly stealing the sleeve pattern from the Bruyère pattern? We shall see. In any case, I have plenty of projects lined up first, a dissertation to write, and a rather cheerful blouse to wear.

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?

Delphines and Lace

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Hello again friends! I have been falling behind on the intended posting schedule of one blog post each month. As I am currently fever-ridden and useless, a blog post seems the safest venue for any feeble attempts at writing. I am not going to admit how long it took me to string all of these words together, but you should be impressed. Sometimes when I have a fever I can’t figure out how to read.

hanging lace delphine

Here we have the Delphine Skirt from the book Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes. I have made several projects from these patterns, but most have yet to be blogged. The Delphine Skirt is a workhorse pattern – A-line, knee length, basic waistband. I made one out of purple uncut corduroy at the beginning of last summer, wore it frequently, but could not figure out what was bothering me about the fit. I loved the skirt, or at least I wanted to love it. It wasn’t until I saw a picture of the skirt and started making this lace version that I figured out the problem.

You can see the fabric pooling at the small of my back in the purple skirt – the zipper even buckles! This was mostly tolerable in the soft corduroy, but the stiff lace and underlining of the second skirt was much less forgiving. To fix the problem on both skirts, I pinched out the excess fabric at the bottom of the waistband and re-sewed the waistband seams. I ended up taking out two inches of length at the center back and easing it out to nothing at the side seams. This did shorten the length at the back on these skirts, but I plan to add length there on any future skirts. In any case, you can see in the picture of the lace skirt that the back is not noticeably shorter, and the fit is much more comfortable for the swayback adjustment.

lace delphine back hanger

The fabric combination on the lace skirt is so pretty I sometimes hesitate to wear it. This is, of course, rather silly as the lace outer layer is a sturdy polyester lace and the under layer is cream cotton broadcloth: both substantial and washable. I cut out the pattern pieces for both layers and then basted the lace and cotton layers together around the edges of each pattern piece. When sewing the skirt together, the combined lace-and-cotton pieces functioned as if they were one piece of fabric. The edges were all finished with rayon bias seam binding. I had planned to hand-stitch the hem, but I found that the lace was complex enough that machine stitching was not noticeable from the outside. Also unnoticeable from the outside? wrinkles in the underlayer! This skirt is basically wrinkle-proof, and I love it.

I’m excited about the lace skirt in particular this summer. It has been a nicely dramatic winter white option, but I think it will pair well with all sorts of brightly colored t-shirts and blouses. The fit on this skirt still needs some perfecting, but I have some warm brown wool twill that will eventually make an awesome Delphine Skirt.

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Lilou dress and Lazy alterations

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The pattern for this darling dress comes from Tilly and the Buttons book, Love at First Stitch. This post is not a book review, though I may write one at some point. (My academic brain actually wants to write an annotated bibliography of sewing resources which might be my nerdiest idea ever.) I will confess that my summer sewing was entirely spent with patterns from this excellent little book, and I have loved each one I’ve worked with so far. If Love at First Stitch had been around when I first started sewing, I never would have panicked and run away to hide among skeins of wool.

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This is the Lilou Dress, made with only small alterations for fitting reasons. The fabric is a dark blue, finely woven cotton that I picked up in the clearance section at G Street Fabrics. While this dress was definitely an experiment to test run the pattern, I was shocked by how nice this fabric is as I worked with it. It’s practically silky, doesn’t wrinkle unduly, and the drape is an even balance of crisp and fluid. I want yards and yards of it in every color. But the quality of the fabric pushed me to finish what was meant to be a wearable muslin very carefully and even to add embellishments.

I wanted to do something clean and subtle to enhance the prosaic expanse of dark blue. I dithered between embroidery and all sorts of beading ideas before settling on simply duplicating the lower portion of the neckline with seed beads. I have literally zero experience with sewing beads on fabric (case in point – I bought three vials of seed beads and maybe used an eighth of one) but at least knew enough to pick up a special beading needle. Sewing the beads on in sets of three got weirdly addictive.

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I am between sizes, so I went with the larger one and used an inch seam allowance at the center back. The fitting problem wasn’t initially apparent, but I really should have raised the waist on the bodice by an inch. As the zipper was already installed and the lining stitched down, I remedied this problem the lazy way by shortening the shoulder straps. All things considered, maybe I should have made the next size down?

To demonstrate the Macgyvered straps: I began with the nicely finished shoulder strap, unpicked the seam, slid the front strap into the back strap, and hand stitched it in place on both sides of the strap with teeny, tiny stitches. It’s not the best solution as this approach can make the fit wonky in other ways, but it is serviceable.

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The Lilou Dress falls in my favorite category of sewing projects: classic silhouettes with interesting details and room for variation. The nicest feature of this pattern is the arrangement of the pleats which align with the darts in the bodice. Next time I make a pleated skirt, I may just add a waistband to the skirt from this pattern. The bodice is fully lined, which, my goodness, I had no idea how much more comfortable a lined bodice would be. It adds a couple more steps, but I am slowly finding that meticulously finishing makes for a more comfortable and longer lasting garment. Gusty sigh. This must be what it’s like being a grown-up.

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