A shift into neutral and a grainline mystery

Every time I make some kind of pronouncement – like “Hey, I’m into sewing colorful fabrics now!” – I seem to go out of my way to defy myself. Well, it’s happened again. No sooner had I written that post did I sew a string of neutral projects.

The evidence is quite damning:

In addition to these nine (!) projects, I sewed a couple of grey pieces in March. One is a total success and the other a total failure that I could use some input on.

First up – the success! These pants are sewn up in a thick linen woven using Vogue 8909.

crabandbee.com | Vogue 8909 grey linen pants

I’ve sewn the pattern up three times before, blogged only once as part of a tiger costume.

This time, I shifted the front seams in by another inch and added 2″ of ease to the hips in the rear. I like my hip ease. I’d also shortened the rise by 1″ in an earlier iteration (and as you can see, they are by no means low-rise even after the alteration.)


I also lowered the back yoke line by 1″. These are my dream lounge pants, but nice enough (I think? I hope?) to wear to my casual-ish desk job.

And now, the fail: a longline cardigan based on McCall’s 6886.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6886 long-line cardigan pattern hack

To be clear, I think the pattern was a good choice for this project. I altered McCall’s 6886 to include a front opening and a low v-neck. I also think these photos of the cardigan look GREAT.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6886 long-line cardigan pattern hack

The fail is due to the fabric. I washed this 100% wool sweater knit on cold, and dried it in the machine. (Worth noting: I am cavalier with most fabrics. For a pre-wash, I machine wash and dry almost everything except coatings and lace. I baby my fabrics later by minimizing washings and line-drying, but I like to minimize surprises if a piece accidentally gets thrown in the wash.) No unexpected shrinkage, BUT the grainline shifted dramatically. The horizontal striations were now at a jaunty angle. After consulting with the fabric seller, I had mostly straightened it by dampening it and blocking it. So I cut and sewed it and was happy with it. As I wore it, the side seams began to skew but not so terribly that I wouldn’t wear it.

But, as time went on, the fabric relaxed, especially in the arm scye. Back it went into the washer/dryer, after which the side seams skewed dramatically to the point where the buttons now form a diagonal line across my front. Not only that, but the button band edges now form a very ripply fold.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6886 long-line cardigan pattern hack

I’m not here to blame the seller, because I think every fabric care suggestion would tell me not to put wool sweater knit into a washer or dryer. But, I am curious – is this sweater knit intrinsically off-grain or did I make it so?

I have a yard or so left, and my thought is to sew something leaving the striations slanted and let the fabric do what it wants to do. I see quite a few RTW garments do that, so while it’s not my favorite look, I wouldn’t be conspicuous and the fabric wouldn’t go to waste.

Lastly, I shall leave you with a bonus project – the black tank I’m wearing with both of these grey projects!

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6886 black viscose tank top

It’s another McCall’s 6886 in black viscose, bringing my neutral sewing total up to twelve pieces. It’s quickly become one of my most-worn pieces as my two black RTW tanks (purchased in 2008 and 2011) disintegrate. I love the drape of the fabric.

Thanks for stopping by, and please do share any knowledge you might have about knit fabric grainlines!


Solar-Lunar panels

I’ve been having a major Rebecca Taylor moment. Now there’s a designer who knows her way around both yokes and gathers. I bought one of her newer Vogue patterns, 1367, and wanted to try a sleeveless wearable muslin before using it to mimic an Isabel Marant design I’ve been taken with for a few years.

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1367

The yoke is three different pieces (front, back, and shoulders), which affords some opportunity for fun piecing.

I chose coated metallic linen for the front and back (fabric last seen here) with textured hot pink silk shoulders (fabric from SCRAP). The gathered bodice fabric is an organic-cotton hemp scrap left over from a quilt for my new nephew.

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1367

The instructions suggest sewing the neck binding to the inside and turning it out and top-stitching. Maybe this is for aesthetic reasons, but it sounded like a recipe for a sloppy-looking finish! I did the opposite. I did follow the top-stitching instructions, however.

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1367

I also bound the armholes with 3/8″ SA after shaving off 1/4″ (since they were designed for sleeves and the corners meet up with the sleeves quite precisely.)

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1367

You’ll have to take my word that the back hemline is also curved. This is what happens when you put a native Washingtonian in a hot car without AC and fully functioning windows.

Also, the back yoke seem was astoundingly wide, but – as I learned later – it’s probably because of the sharp angle of how the sleeve meets the bodice.

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1367

I suppose it goes without saying that I love this design. I try to buy patterns that are unique, and alter patterns I’ve already fitted to try new styles, but my weakness for yokes and gathers got the better of me. I probably could have hacked the Mathilde pattern to get this look, but since I’ve been back at a desk job, my sewing hours feel more precious. Spending a few dollars instead of hours sounded appealing.

And then there’s the Rebecca Taylor factor… I’m just really into her right now. Do you have a designer crush?


Kimonos and coats

After all that pantsing, I was ready for a dead simple project. I’d been considering making a kimono-like garment for awhile, and decided that the floaty Thakoon fabric (sold as cotton, but it’s got some major drape to  it) I’d bought last year would be perfect for the occasion.

crabandbee.com | kimono

I mostly used this tutorial and added a neck band for luxury and to break up the vertical-striped-ness of it all. I also went my own way with sleeve width – mine are huge! (I’m getting an R. Kelly vibe from this photo.)

crabandbee.com | kimono

I also made a white tank to with it, since the reason I’d delayed using this fabric was because the lighter color was cream. Wearing beige or cream colors near my face makes me look seasick. It had been a year or so since I chopped up my beloved, completely trashed, totally off-grain American Apparel tank to make into a pattern. Since I’d bought some white organic cotton jersey (with no elastic whatsoever, hooray!) it was time to replace it.

crabandbee.com | kimono

I used this knit binding method, which I really like. The neckline and armholes gaped a bit after sewing but shrunk up nicely after a wash and a dry. I love the bumpy texture that the binding has now!

crabandbee.com | kimono

After I finished these two pieces (which I’ve been wearing non-stop), I realized that I’d abandoned my coat project for far too long! Last we talked coats, I was considering a change to the View C collar. A couple of nights ago, I gave the new collar a try along with an SBA. Sooo much better!

photo 1 (1)

Question: what do you do if there isn’t a roll line included with your pattern?

I also decided to shorten the hem 7.5″. I’m a tall-ish person with average-to-short legs and anything past the knee tends to make me feel stumpy.

photo 2


I thought I was smiling…


I’m not sure I’m totally sold on this length, though – it’s better than the full length, but maybe I should play a bit more with it. I may shorten it 4-5 inches when I cut the pieces out and see how it looks in the real fabric.



I inherited some wool herringbone that I plan to dye over with a blueish charcoal color. It’s pretty lightweight, which doesn’t fulfill my original intention but may allow me to wear the coat into spring.

Next, I need to make decisions on interfacing and buttonhole type, as well as secure supplies. Oh yah, and learn some tailoring techniques…

A Hobbesian costume

crabandbee.com | tiger costume

I’m not usually a plan-ahead-for-Halloween kind of person, but I decided a whole two weeks in advance to sew myself up a tiger suit this year. Since I’m fairly practical, I have a hard time putting a lot into a one-night costume. My strategy for getting around my practicality was making separates that I would hopefully wear again.


Nathan got in on the fun as Calvin, which transformed my plain tiger into Hobbes. The man drew completely parallel Sharpie lines on his shirt!


I was hoping to make some sort of eared hat before my friend’s party on Friday, but ran out of time. Inspired by Sanae’s owl mask for her daughter, I sewed up a cloth mask before going out on Friday night. I also sewed a tail and basted it onto the back of my pants.

crabandbee.com | tiger mask

The mask turned out a little bit fox-esque. I may add whiskers and a white muzzle if I wear it again! Or I’ll create a mask that looks more like Hobbes.

crabandbee.com | tiger costume

I used Vogue 8909 to make my pants and By Hand London’s (free) Polly top. It was a bit risky sewing two patterns I’d never used before on a deadline, but they both turned out amazingly well. I cut out my size in the pants without any alterations; the only change I would make for next time is taking 1.5″ out of the front and back rise.

To increase my chances of a good fit with the Polly top, I compared my taped-up printout with my altered Wiksten tank pattern to get a sense of the fit. Based on what I saw and the finished Polly measurements, I graded between a smaller size through the waist and then a larger for the hips. The only fit adjustment I ended up making was removing 3/8″ from the front and back of the inside shoulder seam – I think that would qualify as a square shoulder adjustment? I also added improvised cap sleeves for a tiny extra bit of warmth.

crabandbee.com | By Hand London Polly top

The tiger fabric was a black and white Michael Miller cotton (aptly named “Party Animal”) that I dyed orange with my curtains. It felt a bit thicker than what I expect of a quilting cotton and played really nicely with these patterns – no wrinkling or stiffness. I used the wrong side because I liked the subtler coloring better. The white fabric is the same linen as the top piece in my color blocked dress.

crabandbee.com | By Hand London Polly top

I had a great time on Halloween and I’ll admit to already wearing the Polly top out of costume twice since I finished it on Thursday. I just love it! You’d better believe those tiger pants are going out in public, too. I always think of Patti and Selma on the Simpsons when a costume piece makes its way into “regular rotation”.  Perhaps this has happened to you, intentionally or unintentionally?


Color trip

Last weekend, Nathan and I went to the eastern part of our state with a group of friends. For those of you not familiar with Washington State, it’s bifurcated by the Cascade mountain range. Western Washington (where I live, in Seattle) is very green and a completely different landscape from Eastern Washington. Eastern Washington reminds me of Central California, and it’s where a lot of our state’s crops are grown.

On our drive out, I wore a tank I made and dyed last month.  I used my Wiksten pattern as a base, but made a lot of changes. The straps are thinner, the chest and back are narrower, and I shortened and squared off the bottom hem because I already have a few longer woven tanks.


I crumpled up both sides of the bottom to make a loose v-shape, bound it with rubber bands and used a vibrant orange dye. With my Grainline Moss skirt, it was a great travel outfit aside from the wrinkles.

When we got back from our trip, I was incredibly pleased to find that my dahlias had bloomed! We had a plot in a community garden near our old place, but moved at kind of a weird time to fully take advantage of our new yard. I left all of our veggie starts in the garden for the next gardener, but couldn’t resist digging up the dahlia bulbs that had just started to peek out from the ground. I wasn’t sure if they’d flower after the trauma of being transplanted, but two out of the four plants are producing gorgeous flowers.


I hope you have a great (perhaps three-day) weekend!

Tank times

I spent a silly amount of time choosing a basic woven tank pattern. I passively waffled for a month trying to choose between Grainline’s Tiny Pocket Tank, the Wiksten tank and drafting my own from a RTW tank.

The Wiksten tank won out because the neckline and armholes looked low enough and I surmised that the lack of darts wouldn’t be problematic for someone of my  shape. I decided against drafting my own after a cost-benefit analysis; I’m guessing it would have taken me 2 hours to copy my tank (and another hour to find it), but $8.50 and a half hour to tape the PDF printouts together. A quick project should be a quick project!

I made a test tank and decided to lengthen the straps by 1/2″ in the front and back. Then, with great trepidation, I cut into the beautiful cotton/silk blend I bought from Stephanie’s stash. (I discovered her blog recently and scoured it in one long sitting. That’s when I discovered her “Shop My Stash” link. I had a GREAT experience buying fabric from her. Thanks, Stephanie!)


I did the dress version (although at my height, it’s more of a tunic). I’ve already worn it three times in a week.

My sister cracks me up

The silhouette is pretty billowy below the bust, but I think the ligher fabric drapes nicely enough to make it work without a belt. I did wear one when I wore it to work, along with a denim shirt.


My sis took these pictures of me, as one might have guessed because how nicely they turned out!

This also happened:


Since this is probably the face I make when I’m zoning out, it’s no wonder I’m usually the second-to-last person people sit next to on the bus. (The person talking audibly to themselves always wins). I don’t believe that women – or anybody – need to smile all the time. Just funny to catch a glimpse of how one might appear in the world!

Back to the Wiksten tank – I can already think of a few variations I want to make! Button plackets, color blocking, sleeves, collars… Do you have a favorite woven tank pattern?