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Mustard and Navy Blue Polka Dots

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Have you ever had an outfit which was so delightful you wanted to wear it every single day? But because it is so much fun to wear, you instead saved it for days that would be “worthy” of it? I find myself doing that with my mustard sleeveless blouse and navy and white polka dot skirt. After all, I wouldn’t want to waste mustard and navy blue polka dots on an average day. These lovelies have been finished and in use for some time, but are only now making it to the blog because pictures were pending.

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The skirt is the remarkable Vogue 7798 which I used when reinventing my bridesmaid dress into a skirt here. Making the skirt again has proven the pattern to be both reliable and versatile. The polka dot fabric is a polyester with a bit of texture to it, so it is stiffer than the fabric used in the green skirt, but it is still quite drapey. I suspect that fabric with a fluid drape is essential with this pattern. I cut the top layer to be two inches shorter than the bottom layer and finished both layers with narrow hems. This gives the hems some visual interest which might otherwise be missing when both layers of the skirt come from the same fabric. I was uncertain about how to install the zipper, but ended up just doing a standard lapped zipper with both layers of polka dot fabric held together. The fabric is thin enough and non-slippery enough that I didn’t have any problems setting the zipper in this way or with sewing with it in general.

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The end result is a great skirt which, like a good pair of jeans, works with nearly anything. The navy blue polka dots are more versatile than the lovely but unusual bridesmaid green. I have found the green skirt a challenge when looking for color combinations that don’t make me cringe. There are few rather gorgeous ways to pair it, but the green is definitely not a neutral. Despite the polka dots, the neutral navy of this skirt makes getting dressed in the morning quick and simple.

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The mustard blouse was started at the height of my bow blouse phase. It is the blouse from Simplicity 2154, a set of 60s reproduction patterns including the blouse, a jacket and a skirt pattern. Initially, the blouse fit strangely because I made it a size too big. It then hibernated until there was time to take it in. Some blouses can be worn oversized without a problem, but between the bright color, the collar and the bow, there was just too much going on to be wearable. Also? sleeveless blouses are much more comfortable when they actually fit properly.

The blouse includes a number of finishing details which I suspect are relics of what was more standard sewing practice in the ’60s. Instead of the expected armhole facing, the armholes and neck edge are finished with a bias strip folded in half, attached like a facing and then stitched down for a much cleaner finish. The side zipper opens to the bottom of the blouse, which is again unusual in modern patterns, but makes the blouse easier to get in and out of. The bow itself and the little button closure at the back of the neck all combine to make a fine garment with sharp details. I learned several new finishing techniques while making this blouse.

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Following the pattern instructions to the letter (which I rarely do) proved highly rewarding in this case. The only real change I made aside from alterations for fit was leaving out the interfacing on the bow. The interfacing is what makes fabric stiff enough to hold a shape, as it does in the collar, but I wanted a drapey bow. By sewing the bow without first applying interfacing to the fabric, the bow looks softer and a bit less conspicuous than it would be otherwise.

The blouse is made from a mustard polished cotton, a thin but crisp cotton fabric. Polished cotton is a bit shiny from how it is processed, which is where the fabric get its name. The fabric for both the blouse and the skirt came from a wholesale fabric warehouse in Allentown, PA. Nick of Time Textiles’ website is here . They do most of their sales in huge quantities online, but my mother and I stopped by the warehouse on a whim last summer. You can purchase fabric in person and in smaller quantities, but they definitely prefer larger amounts. I think we ended up getting ten yards of both fabrics, as well as some others.

Visiting the warehouse was… an adventure. Mom and I had no idea what we were getting into and picked a swelteringly hot summer afternoon to visit. It turned out that the fabric was all on the third floor of a large, un-air-conditioned warehouse, which was reachable only by climbing some impressively steep stairs. We wandered around a warren of massive bolts of fabric, slightly freaked out, until we got to the main office. There are racks and racks of fabric samples which represent the full contents of the warehouse, and, after sorting out what you would like, you request the fabric and quantity desired and someone retrieves and cuts it for you. Everyone was friendly and helpful, but it is definitely not the place for the faint of heart or the inexperienced sewers. Also, I would avoid visiting on a hot summer day as it is difficult to make fabric decisions when your brain is cooking. But if you are feeling adventurous, I would definitely recommend a visit – they have high quality fabrics at great prices.

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May has been busy and this Summer promises more of the same, but I have been binge-sewing since the semester ended. There is a seasonably irrelevant sweater finished and at least one more sleeveless blouse ahead. Stay tuned!

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