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Bright Red Bicycle Blouse

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Hello again friends!


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.


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.

DSCN3177 (2)

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.


The fabric for this blouse is a Robert Kaufman denim that I picked up from 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.


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.



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.

Vogue 1440

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 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.

Vogue 1440

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.

Vogue 1440

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.

Vogue 1440

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.

Testing, Testing Vogue 1423

I always enjoy looking at new patterns when the big pattern companies put out their seasonal collections. It is entertaining to see the alternately terrifying and terrific styles and poses and fabric choices they come up with. This fall, I was immediately fascinated by Vogue 1423. It has a nice, classic shape with seriously complicated cut-outs at the neckline. The overall lines of the dress – the slight a-line skirt, the princess seams and the short sleeves – are all things I like in a dress, but the crazy neckline had me fascinated.V1423

While I have had the pattern for a month or two now, I kept waiting for the internet to supply me with someone else who had tackled this dress. I wasn’t completely sure that taking this project on was a good idea, and I am completely okay with spoilers as to where the particularly tricky parts of  a pattern can be found. At this point in time, however, Google search continues to fail me in this regard. With some extra free time over Christmas Break, I present to you a muslin of Vogue 1423.

Behold, the socks of great dignity

Behold, the socks of great dignity

It actually fits without adjustment to the pattern which is a real shock. I worried that the shoulders or the bodice wouldn’t fit correctly because I have no desire to make substantial modifications to a bodice this complicated. I wore the muslin around my parents’ house for a couple hours quite comfortably. I think I will use 1/2 inch seams rather than 5/8 inch seams around the waist area to accommodate the lining. It fits correctly as-is, but a touch more ease will be preferable with the additional layer of fabric.DSCN0892

There are lots of seams and pieces to match up in this pattern, but the pieces match up and ease well. The most important thing is to be very precise with your markings and seam lines. I was a touch lazy in sewing exact seam allowance at a few spots in this muslin, no more than usual, but enough to make things sloppy when precision matters. Figuring out where the pattern requires real exactness now will hopefully save some frustration when I make the “real” version of this dress. To be honest, I expected this pattern to be more difficult to make.


This muslin is made in clearance fabric in a blah shade of beige that wrinkles easily. I’m still debating over what fabric to use for this dress, but it might be some mystery synthetic-blend suiting in a dark brown. We shall see!

Bridesmaid Deconstructed, Vogue 7798

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What is the perfect skirt?

The answer to such a question is, of course, highly subjective. Yet certain qualities would likely be desirable to a substantial segment of skirt-wearers: comfort, versatility, and aesthetic appeal. Does the skirt fit correctly without unduly restricting movement? Does it work well with a variety of clothing combinations and for a variety of settings? Does it look appealing on a hanger? on the person wearing it? Does it, through some arcane means, confer upon the wearer the suspicion that they are in fact wearing the platonic ideal of skirts? Different skirt-wearers will undoubtedly come to different conclusions about such questions depending on the skirt involved.

But folks, I think I’ve found my perfect skirt.


Last time, by applying scissors to my bridesmaid dress, I ended up with a strapless top and a pile of fabric. My primary goal for that pile of fabric was a skirt which maintained the charm of all those yards of swishing chiffon. At the same time, I was hesitant to duplicate the ruffles that I so disliked in the strapless top.

My first thought was to make a two layered skirt – the bottom layer a simple, straight skirt and the top layer gathered chiffon, but not so tightly gathered as in the bridesmaid dress. This would have involved making the pattern up as I went along and quite a bit of trial and error to get the gathers just right. But that approach would involve math, measuring and alot of luck, and frankly, I had never worked with anything remotely as slippery as chiffon before. It’s a squirmy beast to cut out and to sew with, and while I love a sewing experiment, they tend to come out better when there are fewer variables in play.

Vogue 7798: surprisingly excellent casual skirt

Vogue 7798: surprise casual skirt

This was when my Mom suggested Vogue 7798, a pattern that had been languishing in my parent’s basement since 2003. For whatever reason, it had never been made up despite being a perfectly respectable set of dressy separates. I will admit, I looked at my mother like she was crazy – wasn’t the goal to NOT end up with a formal, floor-length skirt? But she was, as she so often is, perfectly correct. The skirt pattern was made with precisely this kind of dressy fabric in mind, it had layers built into the pattern already, and it was easily hacked off at the knees for a much more casual and functional look.

The skirt has a narrow waist band and nice lines, despite its bland appearance on the pattern picture front. I used the pattern pieces, but completely ignored the directions (that’s a shock). I kept the center back seam of the skirt from the bridesmaid dress because that made one less seam to sew. Of course, this left a bit of a challenge for figuring out what to do with the center back zipper. What I ended up doing for the zipper finish was a centered standard zippper in the bottom layer and a rolled edging to the top layer of chiffon. I did that bit by hand and learned as I went – it’s not the prettiest, but it is serviceable.DSCN3561I will confess that I used a… nontraditional approach to hemming this skirt. As you can see above, I finished everything else in the skirt before hemming it, which is pretty standard. The wildly uneven bottom edge came about from my insane method for cutting across the bottom of the pattern pieces. When I was cutting out the skirt pieces, I got frustrated working with the slippery lining fabric and the chiffon. It just kept moving every time I cut it! By the time I got to the bottom of the skirt pieces, I was so annoyed that I guesstimated the length of the skirt and just quickly cut straight across (a word to the wise: Don’t Do This At Home). You can see the varied resulting lengths in the picture above. In order to fix my mess, I needed to true the hem. You get the most accurate results for a straight and even hemline by putting on the skirt or dress in question and having someone else measure and mark a consistent distance from the floor.

measuring hemsI took the lazy but practical approach of measuring and marking an even length from the waistband. You end up with nearly the same result with much less fuss. The hem itself was just each layer folded over twice and stitched down, as narrowly as possible. I think my slightly uneven hem is actually an asset in this skirt. It shows off the layers and gives the skirt more movement.


Having worn it a time or two, I am still pleased as punch with the result. The skirt has great lines and hits a middle ground between a full A-line skirt and a narrow pencil skirt. I think you could cut off the skirt in this pattern at pretty much any length and still get a nice result. It is comfortable and not restrictive, but it still feels neat and sleek. I will admit that I have already made up this pattern in a polka dot fabric and it is similarly delightful (more on that later).


The skirt doesn’t need a slip, what with the layers, but it isn’t very wearable with stockings. This skirt will be seeing the outside of my closet much more when it warms up.

DSCN3638Bridesmaid Dress Reinvention Part Two: Success. One more adventure to come! There is one more layer of dress lining to use up and more pictures of green clothing in a green room on a gray day to squint at. Stay tuned!

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