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!


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?