Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Not Too Small Maria Blouse

I'd given up. It seemed my sister was really, truely, out of girl's patterns. Her wardrobe would have to be made using solely women's patterns from here on out. My little sister is growing up.

Now, growing up is a good thing. It's what children are supposed to do. But still, as I continue to sew her wardrobe it's been hard to say goodbye to the sweet little girl's patterns. So many fun designs, which she's now to big for! Women's patterns often seem boring by comparison. 

Then, just when I'd admitted defeat, thinking my days of sewing girl's patterns for my sister were over, a tester call for a girl's blouse pattern appeared. It was a sweet looking blouse, and I figured it probably only went up to a size 10, maybe a 12, but definitely not my sister's size. Upon checking the size chart, I was delighted to discover I was wrong! The pattern went up to size 14, which corresponded perfectly to my sister's measurements!

I applied to test the pattern, got accepted, and proceeded to sew up the most girly, ruffley, version of the blouse possible. (After checking with my sister to be sure she would actually wear such a garment, of course)

I showed my sister the pattern, and told her to go pick a fabric for it from my stash. After a bit of debating, she decided on this bird-print apparel cotton (left over from a blouse I made my mom once upon a time). She then went straight to my button stash and found some green buttons that matched the green birds perfectly. My sister has excellent taste when picking fabrics and notions!

This is the Maria Blouse pattern, by Suco by Susana. Not only does it come in a fantastic size range (3-14), it also has 4 different sleeve options (long, short, puffed, and ruffled), 2 different collar options (ruffle and peter pan), and 2 different bodice options (plain shirt, or peplum). So, had my sister thought herself too old for the ruffley version, I would have been able to make her a more grown-up looking blouse. However, I'm quite happy she can still appreciate ruffles! And Swings, she definitely still loves swings! (and I hope that doesn't change!)

The pattern is well drafted, going together easily with beautiful results. I already have plans to make my sister a few more garments from it. 

A blouse pattern, in my sister's size, with plenty of style options, and endless pattern hacking possibilities (I'm already thinking of making it into a dress!)? Yes, I will be using this pattern until my sister well and truly outgrows it! I only hope that day doesn't come too soon. (But, at the rate she's growing, that day might be tomorrow!)

*I received this pattern in exchange for testing it. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Making an 1890's Shirtwaist

I made myself an 1890s shirtwaist. I'd shared I planned to make one, when I wrote about my corset cover. Since then, I've actually finished it and it's appeared in two separate blog posts (the one about my apron, and the one about the belt), but I haven't actually told you how the shirtwaist came to be. So, I figured it was about time to share all those fun details.

Once I finished altering my 1890’s plaid wool skirt, a shirtwaist was the next logical project. A skirt can't be worn alone after all. First, I had to figure out what I wanted the shirtwaist to look like. Then I had to figure out a pattern. I already had the fabric, so once those first two steps were done, I just had to actually make the garment.

Several years ago I found a 2 yard piece of striped cotton shirting at a thrift store. It looked blue, but close up you could see the stripes were actually a rainbow of colors, and it was absolutely beautiful! I'd saved this fabric for the perfect project, and I decided the shirtwaist would be just that. In my thread stash I found 3 matching wooden spools of vintage cotton thread - in just the right shade of blue for the fabric! Pretty fabric, and strong vintage thread, I had my shirtwaist materials!

Picking the fabric was the easy part, settling on the design, however, was a bit more difficult. There were so many fun design elements to choose from! Pintucks, Cross-over bodice, or yoked bodice? Really puffed sleeves or only slightly puffed sleeves? What did I want? What was my fabric best suited to become? For a couple weeks I dithered and dathered on my design choice - at one point I even considered making two different shirtwaists so I wouldn't have to decide between so many fabulous choices - but eventually I found myself coming back to one design again and again. The yellow pin-tucked shirtwaist, in on the right side of this 1898 fashion plate, would be the basis for my shirtwaist.

With that finally decided on, it was time to figure out my pattern. I decided to drape it directly on my dress form. Pattern draping is a skill I'm not very practiced in yet, but something I'd love to become proficient in. As I had no patterns resembling this shirtwaist in my stash, I decided I might as well give draping a go. Thus, I pulled out some muslin and got to draping, pinning, tucking, and marking until I had half a shirtwaist staring back at me from the dress form. So far, so good.

I took that half a shirtwaist off my dress form, removed all the pins and tucks, and used it as a pattern to cut out a mock-up. 

The mock-up turned out quite well, and after a couple small adjustments, I felt ready to cut into my shirting fabric. Well, almost. I still had to figure out the sleeves.

I didn't feel confident draping the sleeves, so I decided to use a sleeve pattern from a 1980's Simplicity pattern instead. The pattern had close to the right look, I just altered it a bit to have a more 1890's shape, then proceeded to make 3 or 4 sleeve mock-ups until I was actually satisfied with the sleeve shape. That was a headache.

One sleeve mock-up was too puffy, another wasn't puffy enough, one had just the right amount of puff, but too high of a sleeve cap. Eventually, after a morning spent pattern drafting in my corset so I could do frequent fittings, I got the sleeves all sorted out and was ready to move on to the final project.

I cut out my fabric, then sewed the shirtwaist on the sewing machine with my vintage thread. As shirtwaists aren't lined garments, I used french seams throughout, as recommended in the book "Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques" (a wonderful Christmas present I received last year). A reprint of a 1906 dressmaking manuel, this book was a great help as I went about constructing my shirtwaist! It gave period directions for cuffs, sleeves, collars, buttons and buttonhole, among other things.

For maximum historical accuracy, I handsewed all the buttonholes. This took a couple weeks as, while not particularly hard, hand sewing buttonholes is not my favorite thing to do. Once all the button holes (18 in total, including sleeve cuffs) were done, I sewed on the buttons. In my stash I found a set of matching white china buttons - in just the perfect quantity!

With the last button sewn on, there was only one more thing I had to do to make my shirtwaist wearable - add a drawstring.

The back pleats are permanently stitched in place, but the front gathers are adjustable.

There is a casing a few inches above the hem of the shirtwaist, right about at waist level.

Through this is a threaded linen drawstring, which is pulled tight around the waist, gathering the front of the garment.

The drawstring is tied and the shirtwaist is then buttoned up. 

Thanks to the drawstring, if I ever decided to lace my corset a bit tighter or looser, the shirtwaist will still fit, no problem.

The same does not apply to skirts, however. If you lace your corset a bit too tight, you may need to employ a safety pin to hold that garment in place! Not that I know anything about that, of course. Good thing belts cover safety pins on waistbands!

So, with a wool skirt and cotton shirtwaist (and my new American Duchess button boots!) I have an excellent every day 1890's outfit!

Well, perhaps not an everyday outfit for me as I don't actually live in the 1890's. However, if I did, this would be the equivalent of jeans and a T-shirt, and I'm quite pleased with it!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Confident Summer Will Come

Spring took forever to come this year - we had snow three times in April! Then, when spring finally did come, the days sure warmed up in a hurry. Almost overnight the trees were covered in leaves and the spring flowers have all seemed to bloom at once! We went from wearing coats to wearing tank tops in under a week. Suddenly it was obvious my sister needed some warm weather clothes! Thus, when I had the opportunity to be part of the "Get Ready For Summer" blog tour, and make my sister a summer outfit, I took it!

When I agreed to be part of the blog tour I knew immediately what I wanted to make. My sister has outgrown just about every sundress she owns, so a sundress it would be! I had a floral knit sitting in my stash, just waiting for such a project. All I needed was a pattern.

The pattern was provided by Ellie and Mac Patterns. After a quick glance around their website, I found just the sundress pattern I was looking for. The junior's and women's Be Confident Dress has a tank-top style bodice and a full circle skirt with a hi-low hem. It looked like something my sister would enjoy wearing, while being quick and easy for me to make.

I was right on both accounts. In fact, the dress was almost too quick and easy to make, so I had to change it up a bit! I decided to bind the neck and arm holes, and also add an extra design detail while I was at it.

 Rather than cutting the back neckline according to the pattern, I decided to cut it as a V. Then I added ties to it. Just a little extra something to add a bit of detail to an otherwise basic dress.

Those ties fly out beautifully whenever my sister spins! Because, in a dress with a full circle skirt like this, how can you not spin? For that reason, a pair of shorts is a must under this dress :)

Now, when she's not spinning, the skirt is just about the perfect length - right above the knees in the front, and right below in the back. It suits the design, and the girl, perfectly. Unfortunately, this is the longest length included in the pattern for the dress. The pattern contains 7 different skirt lengths; tunic, mini, mid-thigh, petite, regular, tall, and taller. I wasn't sure what length to cut for my sister, but I knew I didn't want the dress to wind up too short! Thus, I cut the skirt out at the longest length, figuring it would be easier to cut fabric off later than add it on.

Well, it's a good thing I cut the skirt the length I did - because I didn't have to shorten it at all! My sister's still growing, and not all that tall yet, only 5'2". So, if I make this dress again for her once she grows a bit more, I'll probably have to add a bit of extra length to the skirt pattern. Thankfully, that's not too much of a problem - but it would be nice if "taller" were just a bit longer!

All in all, this dress is cute, cool, and comfortable - and my sister loves it! What more could you ask for from a summer sundress?

I received the Be Confident Dress pattern for free in exchange for this blog post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Please visit all the wonderful bloggers on the Get Ready for Summer Sewing Patterns Blog Tour for some incredible inspirations.
  1. May 7th: Seams Sew Lo
  2. May 8th: Tenille's Thread
  3. May 9th: Seams Sew Lo
  4. May 10th: The Sewing Goatherd
  5. May 11th: Aurora Designs Fabrics
  6. May 14th: Our Play Place
  7. May 15th: Sewjourns
  8. May 16th: Aurora Designs Fabric
  9. May 17th: QuiltsbyJoann
  10. May 18th: Liviality
  11. May 19th: Momma You Can Make It
  12. May 21st: Margarita on the Ross
  13. May 22nd: Sewing Blue
  14. May 23rd: Kathy's Kwilts and More
  15. May 24th: Momma Newey's Makes
  16. May 25th: Jot Designs USA
  17. May 28th: The Scatty Sewer
  18. May 29th: Granma Texas Sews
  19. May 30th: Fee Bricolo
  20. May 31st: My Sewing Roots
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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Sewing Fun, Fabulous, Tunics

Have you ever seen something that is totally your style, but at the same point you're not sure if it's something you would actually wear? A testing call for a lovely tunic with pockets and a hanky-hem came across my my facebook feed. It was the Beltaine Fires Tunic by Mother Grimm Designs, and it totally sparked my interest.

Pockets, large, beautiful pockets, and a fun pointy hem, what could be better? These design elements were calling my name! But at the same point. . . tunic. I love the looks of tunics, but I never really wear them (probably because I haven't yet jumped on the "leggings as pants" train.) As I try not to make clothes for myself that I won't actually wear, I was about to pass on testing this pattern, despite the large fabulous pockets. Then I realized - I could test this pattern for my sister! She now fits in the smaller sizes of women's patterns and she's all about the tunics and leggings life!! I didn't have to pass on testing this pocketed, pointy- hemmed, goodness after all.

I applied to test the pattern, got accepted, then went shopping in my fabric stash. Thankfully, I had the perfect fabric already on hand. (I have two rules for myself when I apply to test patterns. 1 - I have to actually like the design and the final garment will have to be one I (or my sister) will actually wear. 2 - I ought to already have appropriate fabric in stash. I really need to shrink my stash! This second "rule" however, isn't exactly hard and fast.)

The pattern calls for knit fabrics with lots of stretch and drape, so from my stash I selected a dark brown, mystery synthetic, rib-type knit. To accent this, I found a pair of teal cotton/lycra sweatpants to harvest fabric from for the pockets, waistband, neckband, and bottom ruffle.

This pattern has several options, it can be made with a plain hem or a handkerchief hem, with or without pockets, with or without a waistband, and with or without a ruffle, or other trim, at the bottom. Also, it comes in 17 sizes (bust measurement 32"-57.5"), and three hight options (petite, regular, and tall.) As the hanky hem and pockets originally drew my attention to this design, those are the options I chose to test. I also opted to add trim at the bottom, just for fun, and proceeded to sew up the tunic in one afternoon. As, for the time being (it will probably change next week at the rate she's growing), my sister is only 5'2", I made the "petite" height option for her. The finished tunic fit splendidly, and she absolutely loved it, immediately requesting another just like it!

Well, I'd agreed to make at least two tunics during testing anyway, so making another was easily done. For the second tunic, we decided to do the hanky hem, pockets, and ruffle, just like the first, but skip the waistband on this one.

A few months ago, I made my sister a pair of black and red leggings with red heart patches on the knees, and I really wanted to make her a tunic to go with them! Thus, for the next tunic I picked fabrics with that goal in mind. 

From my stash I picked a gray and black knit jacquard. (At least that's what I think it is. It's a mystery knit from a thrift store that appears to have a high spandex content.) With black and red accents it would match the leggings perfectly!

Once this tunic was done, my sister loved it just as much as the first. But how could she not?

It has pockets, a ruffle, and a fun hemline - seems like a winning combination to me! 

Now, despite my initial hesitancy, after making this pattern for my sister and seeing all the other fabulous tunics made during testing, I want one for myself! So, I may have to get on that. I might just lengthen it a bit to be a dress :)

If this pattern interests you, it can be found here. It's on sale through 5/12/18 with the code BELTAINE25. I received this pattern for free in exchange for testing, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. I was under no obligation to write this blog post, I just really like this tunic and felt like sharing!