Tag Archives: the sewing process

Making a Mess…

23 Jul

…out of matching stripes.

It’s my orange seersucker fabric, again. I only had a smallish piece, so I decided to make a top. But it’s stripes, so I wanted it to be interesting, which means bias, of course. Which is how I worked myself into a situation of squeezing a whole blouse worth of pattern onto less than a yard of fabric at angles positioned just right to match up all the stripes.

You can tell it doesn’t end well, already, right?  Oh, if only I could read my own ambitions as clearly, when starting projects, as I do when typing them up, afterwards!

I mean, it’s definitely okay: I did wear it out of the house.

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I chose the same “See and Sew” dress pattern I’d sewn up just recently, only cutting it off at the hip to make a top. (I find I don’t buy a lot of pattern tops…I quite often simply chop a dress pattern off and use the top, rather than find a whole other pattern for just a shirt.)

I wanted to use the pattern (and the center line seam) to make my stripes chevron around my body, making a “V” at both front and back. I was very careful: I even traced my fabric stripes onto the tissue paper, so that each time I turned the tissue to cut a second piece, I could match up my drawn lines to keep the stripes oriented just right.I was extra careful at the sleeves, remembering that the first time following that pattern, the pattern pieces run at an angled orientation that was contrary to what I thought, looking at the shape of the pieces. I had to pay special attention to the notches and markings to be clear where things were to go.

Which is where, in the sewing process, I had my first tip-off that things were not as planned: the stripes on the front shoulders lined up not parallel to those on the body, but perpendicular!  How did this happen?

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It turns out, the pieces cut “wrong” are the two back pieces: the largest ones of all! Where, in the front, the stripes make a “V”, I have that shape inverted, on the back side–and the side seams simply continue as matched diagonal stripes, instead of additional chevrons. And the backs are the biggest pieces, so although I had saved enough fabric to cut the sleeves again, if needed, it certainly wasn’t enough to start over again, with the backs!

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So I soldiered on, and worked with what I had, and used my messed-up-unpressed-bias tape from the other day to finish the edges (instead of lining it, as the dress pattern indicates.)  That part worked out well enough, I just pinned it fiercely.  And, as with the dress version, I removed 1″ from the top shoulder seams to lift the whole thing and make it hang better. And I omitted the vertical darts, thinking that for a top, a little more loose flow would be better than the more fitted shape of a dress.

Nonetheless, the fatal flaw of this top is not the failure to chevron: it’s the fit. 1″ removed from the top shoulder seam was not sufficient–I also took out another inch (retrofitting, picking off the bias tape and then painstakingly sewing it back on again) in the center back seam, when I discovered how it gaped, there. But even with all these inches here and there, the neckline is much too wide, and probably low, and just…baggy and wrong, all the way around.

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(I complain so much about the fit of off-the-rack clothing, and then look what I make, for myself! It’s like a hospital smock in orange plaid!)

It makes me think that this might be a problem with pattern and fit–I often size dress patterns by my bust and hip measurements, so this top is cut from the same size as my dress. But since I’m pear shaped* perhaps I’m doing it wrong. Maybe I should be selecting my pattern sizes for the fit through the shoulders, and then grading them out to another size to fit my waist and hips. Perhaps that would solve the “mess” of the overly blousey blouse.

At any rate, it was a perfect mess, to wear. I could pull it into place long enough to take a photo, but in the full motion of everyday life, I had shoulders falling off, bra straps exposed, parts riding up, other parts sagging this way and that. Unfortunately, this one’s going back on my pile of projects which still need some significant work, to make wearable.

* I know some people object to comparing people to fruit, but I personally think pears are pretty, and that it’s a fine descriptor of a phenomenon which requires no small attention, when dressmaking.

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