Shirt shifts

When I was finishing my sister’s and my dresses, my sewing brain was scheming on summer projects. As I’ve gotten a bit obsessed with altering patterns over the past couple of years, the possibilities felt even more numerous/tantalizing. So a few weeks after the wedding wrapped up, when it was as hot as blazes, I made good on one of those ideas and sewed a couple of shift dresses based on McCall’s 6436 shirt pattern. | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

The pattern seemed like a good shift candidate because of the bust/back darts and the body-skimming fit. The shirt hit the widest point of my hips, so I was able to extend the side seams and square off the hem. I added extra ease through the hips just in case, but found I’d removed it all by the end of fitting. I was working with a light-weight stretch denim, previously sewn up as pants.

This dress has a split hem that’s 1″ longer in the back, a bound neckline, and an exposed zip back closure that would be too short for a non-stretch fabric. | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

Even though I’m in love with this dress and wear it multiple times a week, I can acknowledge its faults; the fabric doesn’t press particularly well – I can’t seem to steam out those dart bubbles – and my zipper insertion caused waves. And fit-wise, there are some lines in the front, I’m getting some pooling in the low back, and I think the back darts could use some work towards the top.

Getting close but not quite achieving a good fit triples the likelihood I’ll make another version immediately. I dove directly into my second version. To contrast the first, I chose the loudest fabric in my stash, a quilting cotton (!) bought as a souvenir from my trip to Kauai.

This was the best picture of the front of the dress… | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

I think everything lays much more nicely in this version, even though I wear the denim version 10x more. I raised the neckline a bit and cut the armholes in further. I’m still seeing some mild lines from bust to hip – is this just shift dress territory, or is there alteration I can make? Maybe one of those crazy darts I see on 60s shift patterns?

Not sure what I’m doing here… | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

I think I could stand to make a bit more of a swayback adjustment, but the back is much improved. I added a center back seam on this version, which helped me squeeze this dress out of 2 yards of 44″ fabric. | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

I underlined with a cotton lawn and used a neckline facing instead of binding. | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

I also used another one of my grandma’s spectacular buttons and made a thread loop from embroidery floss. | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

Here’s a gratuitous shot – I just like how nonplussed I look while wearing this festive print.

Overall, I would call this pattern mutation very wearable. I am realizing just how much I neglect fitting my back, though, especially below the arm holes. Do you have any techniques for fitting your own back?

Further adventures with shoulder fitting

Goodness, it’s been awhile! Since I last blogged in late February, I started a new job. It’s actually with the same company and team that I left when I wrote this post, but it feels very different and exciting. Nathan and I are working hard to practice what we enjoyed so much when we were both not working – cooking for ourselves, getting enough exercise, and being mindful while I embrace this new, decidedly full-time job.

I’ve been sewing steadily (if a little less frequently) over the past couple of months. Shortly before my post on shoulders, I had started experimenting with fit on a buttoned shirt pattern I’d made a couple of times in 2011 and 2012, McCall’s 6436. Armed with a working diagnosis of my shoulder fit – rather broad, a few degrees shy of completely square, and slightly forward – I decided to revisit it. | McCall's 6436 | McCall's 6436

You saw this first iteration a couple of times in my post about jeans – a sleeveless swiss-dot shirt. When I made it, I was trying out a couple of theories: that I could trace one pattern size as long as I made a major SBA, and that I could adjust for my square, forward shoulders by adding 1/2″ to the outside of the back shoulder seam. It was pretty flattering but I found myself taking shocking amounts of ease from the side seams. (I use the finished measurements when I work with patterns, so normally I’m not surprised by the amount of ease.)

After some wear, I realized the neck was huge – an issue I’d never encountered. | McCall's 6436

Well, I went back to fix my pattern and realized I’d forgotten to subtract out some seam allowance when I converted it into French(ish) placket. The horror! I did take a little more width from the bust, but not nearly as much as I thought I needed to. For my second try, I wanted to try a new variation with a bias-bound neckline. I also cautiously threw sleeves into the mix and cut into some lovely cotton-linen from Sanae. | McCall's 6436 | McCall's 6436

I have very nascent understanding about how sleeves are drafted (although Ikat Bag’s post – holy cow, what a revelation – and the Fit For Real People book have been helping). After removing some width from the bust and raising the arm scye, the sleeves were much too upright and tight (probably also due to the fact that the bodice of this pattern is supposed to work with sleeves and without and I made some adjustments based on the sleeveless version). I used FFRP’s “Very Large Arms” adjustment and it worked perfectly. I’m actually ambivalent on the appearance of the sleeves, but I think they fit pretty well for a first try. And just look at this shoulder seam! Never have I beheld its like on my person. | McCall's 6436

So overall, mistakes aside, I’m excited to say that the fit adjustments I made on this shirt have become my new standards – at least until I learn enough to become dissatisfied with them! (Isn’t that just the way it is with sewing? I love it.) I’ve also started adding 1″ wide seam allowance to any shoulder seams just for good measure; it’s so little fabric but it can make such a huge difference to the fit for me.

I did muslin a bodice for my matron (!) of honor dress using these adjustments and the fit was nearly perfect. Yes, I was shocked. I’m still not sure I believe Fit For Real People when they say that all Big 4, Simplicity and Burda blocks are exactly the same, but I will say that I’ve had success with my two-pattern sample. I did find it surprising that I was able to use one pattern size to get the shoulder fit I wanted, especially after seeing I would need to go up many sizes in the two pattern brands that provide shoulder fit information – Marfy and Style Arc.

How are your fit experiments coming along? Any revelations about fitting shoulders or any other body parts?

The Fifth Week: MMM ’12

I just realized that I’d mis-labled week four’s update as another week three until I started writing this post! I was trapped in time!

This, my friends, is week five of Me-Made-May 2012.

Day 27: Wearing my flannel shirt; Nathan took this photo at Macrina in Seattle, probably my favorite bakery cafe.

Thanks to Nathan for the awesome photo!

Day 28: Heading off to brunch in my Burda sleeveless blouse – probably my most re-worn item, clocking in at three times – thrifted jacket, jeans and… new Frye sandals.

I can’t remember if I shared my clothing consumption goals here on crab & bee but I decided last year that going forward, I would make my clothes or buy them thrifted. New purchases would be for emergencies only. Shoes, I would aim for 0-2 pairs of new ones. Considering I got married and started a new job with much higher sartorial standards than my old job, I’m ok with the fact that I purchased 3 pairs last year; one for my wedding, and two that were suitable for both walking and work. When I do buy a new pair, they really need to last and be easily repaired, and so far I’ve had decent luck with Frye.

Day 29: My trusty shibori scarf worn with a newish refashion! It’s almost cheating to call the dress a refashion since I just removed some very doofy looking pockets from the skirt part. Funny how very small details can ruin a garment. I wonder if that’s why it ended up in the thrift store?

Day 30: Just a simple black tee made of black wool jersey. One of my goals this year is to get better at sewing with knits, especially since I’ve mostly encountered them doing refashions. Also wearing a pair of thrifted jeans and my very useful wedding shoes!

Day 31: I made it! Part of the flickr group decided to thank Zoe for all of her hard work organizing and maintaining this challenge by making signs and, if possible, celebrating her vintage/nautical/boldly colored style. I was able to procure two self-mades that fit the bill, the new Burda sleeveless blouse and one of my Simplicity 2451 clones in bright blue denim. I wouldn’t have thought to pair these two pieces, but I felt very sprightly and happy all day!

Maybe I’m just tired after all my outfit documentation, but I’m not really sure what new things I learned this challenge except for that I feel proud of how far I’ve come since Me-Made-March ’11! I ran out of steam to sew new things mid-month but now that it’s over, I’m raring to go.

The First Week: MMM ’12

Without furher adieu, here are my outfits from last week! For those not in the know, I took a pledge to wear at least one self-made item for every day of May as part of So, Zo..‘s Me-Made-May 2012 challenge.

Day 1: Red bustier, never before blogged! I love, love, love this shirt. I used thrifted red quilting cotton gifted to me by the lovely and thrifty Elizabeth of La Vida Desconocida and McCall’s 6325. I have another one in blue-grey stretch denim that will undoubtedly be making an appearance this month.

Day 2: Black 2451 (I’ve used this pattern so much that it’s synonymous with the word “skirt”). I made this one last year right before Me-Made-March 2011. I’ve seen a lot of great skirts using this pattern in the MMM community!

Day 3: Wooly grey sleeveless cardigan, based on Butterick 5528. I’ve had this gorgeous fabric sitting around for nearly a year, and I’m so glad to have put it to good use. I’ll admit to creating this piece in haste. I’ll need to watch myself this month to make sure I don’t put too much pressure on myself to churn out new things. Ideally, this month is a lovely way to measure my progress as a sewist and to savor the garments I’ve put so much time and effort into creating, and I’d really like to focus on that rather than turning my apartment into a sweatshop.

Day 4: My persimmon shirt had her day in the sun (er, the rain). I originally blogged this project here and probably wear it 2-3 times a month. It’s just such a mood-lifter. I’m starting to see signs of tearing around the darts, however, which was NOT a mood-lifter. Is that just what can happen with voile? I’m going to widen the pattern a bit when I use it next.

Day 5: Sunny Saturday! I made this project towards the end of MMM ’11 last year and have been thoroughly enjoying it. The fabric from a full skirt with a tiny waist purchased at the thrift store and I had just enough fabric to squeeze out a shirt. I love the over-sized geometric shapes.

Day 6: the first accessory to make an appearance! Awhile back, I found a piece of silk I’d dyed while working for a textile artist. All it needed was hemming to become this incredibly vibrant scarf. I used string to to bind pinched bits of the fabric to make the circular patterns.

Learnings so far: It seems I have a preponderance of red/oranges and bright blues in my self-made wardrobe. This is probably a good thing as I tend buy neutral greys and muted blues at the thrift store. I’m feeling a distinct lack of pants in my self-made wardrobe, although I’m not sure how much of a problem it is outside of the MMM world!

That’s all for this week; I’m starting my Minoru jacket (eek!) and also have a new dress to share!

Slow sewin’ flannel

Friends, I’ve completed another project! Lady Flannel here was unique because I allowed myself to sew it slowly. (In the past I’ve shunned all company, food, and water in order to finish a project quickly.)

Without further ado, here it is! My plaid flannel shirt.

I used McCall’s 6436 and would totally use it again. I graded out an extra size through the hips and skipped the back darts (which I thought would look corny with the plaid pattern). I think next time I would skip the grading as well.

I liked this pattern and really liked working slowly. I’m going to try and do that for a lot of my projects. It eliminated a lot of the hasty mistakes I tend to make, and I was never burnt out.