Refashion: Men's Button Down Shirt to Women's Fitted Blouse

Back in November I participated in Pattern Review's Surprise Sewing Bee. I didn't make it past the second round (ah well) but I got a lot out of the projects I completed. The first one was my hardware a-line skirt, blogged about here. In the second challenge, we had to take 1-5 men's button-down shirts and refashion them into a garment for an adult. You can see all the projects here - very inspiring!

I used this challenge to motivate myself to finish three goals. The first was to finally finish fitting my bodice muslin from Vogue 1004 fitting pattern. CHECK! The second was to create a basic pattern for one of my favorite RTW blouses that I've worn and loved for at least 10 years. CHECK! And the third was to do something with the men's shirt I took out of the Goodwill bag two years ago (it was too pretty to donate). CHECK!

My inspiration blouse was one I purchased at Anthropologie at least 10 years ago, probably on sale. So it's now well worth whatever money I paid for it as it has had plenty of wear and is now a pattern.

I improved the original fit by lowering the waist band to sit at my natural waist (approx 1" lower than the original). I didn't do pintucks for the PR garment because it would have looked funny with the stripes.

For the garment above, I traced the front pattern so that I didn't have to cut it
on the fold - this helped me maneuver around the button placket.

The original bodice has bust and waist darts in front and back darts; I rotated the waist dart and incorporated it into the front yoke and incorporated the shoulder darts into the back yoke. In order to get the most out of the button placket, I reduced the seam allowance to 3/8". I wanted to give the look of a flat fell seam at the yokes, so I serged the raw edges and added topstitching. I finished the neck and arm openings with single fold bias tape turned to the inside and topstitched (again, to give the flavor of topstitched flat fell seams).  I added some gathering to the front bodice (at the yoke seam) in order to keep the top fitted and to make it more feminine. I also mirrored the bodice gathering in the front and back peplum. I finished the raw edges of the waistband with bias strips and stitched it on top of the bodice at the waist seam, folding under the short ends at the button placket. Not seen in these photos is that I added another button just above the waistband.

While I got knocked out of the round, I'm really happy with the top. I won't be able to wear it much until Spring, but I'm glad to know it's there waiting for me!

Clockwise: Back, Front, ancient bias tape, leftovers, waistband detail.

I've got a long overdue wedding dress refashion up next. Thanks for stopping by!


Vogue 1377 & Unexpected Joy

This project started as a blanket, a wool cape, a silk suit, and various scraps from various projects.

My client, Alice, brought me the blanket back in August along with a copy of Vogue 1377 and asked me to make her a coat. At the muslin fitting, she brought the cape and suit and added it to the pile of materials. 

Crazy muslin
This project definitely came with some challenges: ridiculously thick fabric (did I mention I was cutting out a blanket?), a dizzying number of pattern pieces, welt pockets, hammered snaps, overlays, decorative stitching, an enormous amount of ease, flat fell seams (sewing through not one, not two, but three or four layers of wool blanket), and heavy lifting (by the end, the coat almost weighed too much to stay in the machine). I had to make a map before cutting it out so that I didn't get lost. 

Cutting out piece #7 from the wool cape. If you look closely you can
see my label so that I cut it from the correct fabric.

I've struggled with an anxious awareness of time when I am sewing for others. Getting things done on time, being efficient with time so that I don't waste hours (the ones I'm charging for and the ones I don't), squeezing in time between drop off/pick up/after school activities/teaching/my own meetings. This project brought me some peace with time.

Front laid out after cutting.

And Back.
This anxiety gets in the way of experiencing the joy of what I'm going. Most projects I do for others give me joy at the end - the pleasure of pleasing someone else, the satisfaction of bragging on social media, the gratification of earning every penny in the check I receive when I hand it over. But is sometimes feels like I can only enjoy the joy for a minute before the race begins again. This one gave me joy at almost every step along the way.

Who doesn't have fun with hammers?
Why? I think in part because it was the right blend of challenge and ease. I sewed some seams and tackled a decorative overlay. I sewed some seams and figured out where and how to hammer some snaps. I sewed a collar and created welt pockets. 

Some of the joy also came from the design. I don't love this coat design for myself. I experienced no envy when I handed it off to Alice. But I got giddy at certain points along the way with how things came together. Giddy with learning something new and thinking about where else I might apply it, giddy at the cleverness and humor in certain design elements.

Blanket label. Decorative stitching on overlay.

Pocket right side

Pocket wrong side
And maybe just because I let the joy wash over me. I was challenged enough to have to set aside my anxiety about time in order to fully concentrate. I knew it would take a lot of time, my estimate reflected that, and then I could just be in the doing. By the time I was midway through the project, I was having too much fun to worry.

I always thank clients for bringing me work. The money I earn that helps me contribute financially to my family comes from that work. And I love solving problems (riddles, patterns, mysteries) and my work generally involves a lot of that. My gratitude for this project went way beyond the money part of it, and the problem solving games it involved. It made me happy. 

*For the nitty gritty review of Vogue 1377, please see my review here.


New Bag for STITCH Winter 2014

I have been wanting to learn to sew with leather for some time now, and purchased and watched Kenneth King's Leather 101 video from PatternReview.com in anticipation of finding a project. I then proposed a leather bag for the Stitch Winter 2014 issue, and when they accepted my proposal I had to step up and do it. Like how I cornered myself into trying something new?

Here it is in the magazine spread. And if any of you are contemplating sewing with leather, definitely give it a try. There are some specific techniques you will need to learn, but once you know them, the actual sewing isn't hard. Not sewing-with-chiffon hard anyway.

My favorite tips:

  • Use a walking foot (this worked better for me than a Teflon foot)
  • Tie thread ends instead of back stitching at the beginning/ends of seams
  • Long stitch length
  • Glue is your friend!!
  • Consider overlapping seams instead of sewing RST

I'm still learning how to topstitch over uneven areas - tricky!

I really want to highlight the gorgeous hardware on this bag as it didn't come out very well in the magazine shots. In full disclosure, I got this hardware for free since it would appear in a magazine article. But I plan to purchase some for my next version of this bag (mustard denim & burgundy leather, yeah baby). It's everything I like in bag hardware: beautiful finish, lots of size/shape options, and solid (nothing flimsy about these - they will outlive the bag and get used again, I'm sure!). You can find them at Buckleguy.com. Here's what I used:

1.5" Antique Brass Double Loop Slider

1.5" Antique Brass Swivel Bolt Snap and 3/4" Antique Brass O-Ring

The denim is from Indygo Junction's Crossroads Denim Collection. They have a whole bunch of delicious colors!

Photo source

And it still makes me giddy to see my name in print!

I have a couple more completed leather bag projects that I can't reveal yet. Can you tell I'm now hooked on sewing with leather?

What about you? Have you ever cornered yourself into learning something new? And have you been bitten by the leather bug yet?


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