Catch-up #1: Sutton Blouses

So, wow, it’s been another long while since my last post, and I feel like a very lazy, bad blogger. It seems like every time I post, I say some version of this.

It’s not like I haven’t been sewing–I really have! I’ve sewn A LOT since my last post, and some of it has even been for ‘real life’ rather than my historical dress-up activities, so there’s plenty to post here.

Still, I think I want to start with something slightly older than a year, since they have become staples of my wardrobe and a Tried-and-True (TNT) pattern for me: the True Bias Sutton Blouse.

I really love this style, how easy, comfortable and chic the top looks. I like the kimono-style sleeves and the shoulder yoke, which makes mixing fabrics easy. The back inverted pleat ensures plenty of movement. I love that the yoke is French seamed to give a clean finish, and the seam finish on the side seams gives a great finish, too. I really love how the instructions are written and the fact that the neckline finish–usually the toughest part–is done almost immediately to get it out of the way, and it works really well. Although, I needed a longer bias strip than the pattern provided. The only fitting change I made was to lengthen below the bust apex area to accommodate my longer bust curve. That’s it. It’s so roomy I didn’t bother with anything else.

These blouses are fantastic to wear under a blazer with skinny jeans. I love the layered, relaxed look they give to this kind of outfit, with their loose silhouette, luxurious fabrics, and the hems that peek from under the back of a blazer.

Version 1:

For my first version, I used a silk broadcloth in a really cool shattered plaid/marbled print that I got as a 1 1/8 yard remnant; this was for the main body. Since there wasn’t enough for the body and yoke pieces, the yoke is a cotton/acrylic lace with very little stretch. And yes, blue and black are mixed together in this top. I used a bias-cut hand-dyed silk ribbon for the bias facing.

TrueBias Sutton1

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Version 2:

This one is in a lightweight silk jacquard, deep black. I shortened the length from my first version slightly. Otherwise, none, not even for my normal fitting issues because it’s such a loose fit they don’t really show up. I used a bias strip of the fabric to finish the neckline.



Version 3 and 4:

Both in hand-dyed/painted silk charmeuses. Version 3 has a solid-color contrast silk charmeuse yoke. Bias strips of the blouse fabrics finish the necklines. But I lost the photos I took of version 4 in a hard drive crash a while ago, so I’ll have to take new ones.



Version 5: 

Version 5 is currently a UFO, and has been for nearly 2 years now! I got really distracted by other projects. It’s a lovely hammered silk charmeuse in ivory. My goal is to finish it before this winter ends, as these tops are ideal for the winter/spring transition (and for fall!).

Variation: a shift dress

A couple years ago, I made the Sutton Blouse into a shift dress that … well, basically looks like a brown paper bag. I call it my paper bag dress, in fact. But it’s very comfortable and breezy and great for hot, sticky summers, as it’s made from a beige linen/rayon blend (with a gold Lurex thread). It has the same shape/silhouette as the blouse, the same high-low hem, it’s just longer–about knee length. However, I don’t like exposing my knees (hello, work-pony physique), so for any future versions–and I do want to make some–the front hem will be lengthened to match the back. The wrinkles from sitting all day in this dress pull the front hem up even more so it looks way too short. But really, the hem falls to just above the knee.

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Well, that’s catch-up post #1.

Finished photos of my Upton Party Dress

Finished photos of my Upton Party Dress


My Night Blooming Garden Upton dress worn both on my birthday and at my friend’s wedding. I love how it turned out, and I’m going to be making more! Hand-dyed and -painted silk shantung, lined in cotton lawn. (pay no attention to those faceless people behind me) Photo by Kelsey Christian.

Wow,  it’s been way too long between finishing this dress and posting final photos of it. Crazy pants! Well, there was a wedding (to which I wore the dress), and it got all sweaty from the ALL NIGHT DANCING!–and then it had to be washed (yes I wash silk), and then packed for a move, and I figured why press it when it was just going to be stuffed into a Spacebag? So it didn’t get pressed until a few days ago, and then I had to wait a few days to put it on and get photos. I am nothing if not a procrastinator.


Anyway, here are photos and final thoughts on my Night Blooming Garden Dress from the Cashmerette Upton dress pattern.


Another shot of my birthday/party dress. Not the best angle, I didn’t have time to do my hair before the wedding what with all the running around to help out, and there are some fit issues apparent, but all in all, I felt great in my dress.


Now to the fit problems–they’re minor, but they exist, and I want to fix them for the next versions. First: there’s some gaping/bubbling at the front armscye. Definitely visible in the photo above. I think it’s due to the shape of the shoulder strap’s seam. It’s a bit V shaped, probably to accommodate those who are a bit fleshier in the shoulder than I am. Easy fix: just level out that seam.


Armscye gap is gappy.


Second: It was probably a mistake to do no length adjustment through the torso. It’s not bad as-is, but it would be better if it sat a tad higher. I wanted it to sit at my natural waist, and it’s very close, but since my back waist is higher than the front (thank you, high/full hips), shaving off 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch from the bodice’s waist seam will likely be a better fit while keeping the waistband at my actual waist. The pattern is designed for this to sit a bit higher than the waist.


Squishing the waist upwards a bit. Yeah, I like this better.


And I think fixing the bodice length will also fix the bit of bubbling at the center mid-back that I’m getting, too. You can see it where the zipper bubbles out a bit. Without my high hip pressing up on that back waistband, this will probably hang more smoothly.


Just a bit bubbly at mid-back.


If I ever end up wearing this to another fancy event, I’ll probably wear a torso shaper thing under it, because once food hits my belly–out it goes! A little control never hurts. I am a firm believer in the benefits of shapewear. Not every day, or for every occasion, but sometimes.

It was so much fun wearing this dress to dance all night to a killer playlist in a beautiful venue with so many wonderful friends and acquaintances (and strangers)!


No, no–I’m not angry–just killin’ it on the dance floor with everyone else. Admire my dress, dancing peons! Too bad I don’t remember what song was playing. Photo by Kelsey Christian.


I love how the dress’s skirt swishes!




Now, about this whole washing silk thing. It is totally possible, totally safe (presuming you’ve prepared your fabric correctly before sewing the garment–always pre-wash/clean the way you intend to clean the garment), and totally easy. Large mesh laundry bag. Gentle cycle. Cold water to prevent releasing any dyes. Baby shampoo. Yes, baby shampoo. Silk is protein, like hair. Baby shampoo is very gentle and doesn’t contain a lot of extra gunk that’ll mess up the fabric. Plus it smells really nice when it comes out of the wash. Better than a baby, even. You could substitute a textile detergent like Synthrapol, but that stuff smells chemically. Or use Woolite or something similar. But I stick with baby shampoo. Then just hang or lay flat to dry and press with a hot iron on a steam setting. Good as new!

I treat ALL of my silks this way: habotai, charmeuse, dupioni (unless the shimmer and crispness is really important for the project), shantung. *I probably wouldn’t treat silk taffeta like this, however, because it would ruin the finish, reduce the crisp hand and the fabric’s sheen, and probably soften it to the point that you’d no longer hear the ‘scroop’ sound as it moves.*

Anyway, thanks for looking and reading!


French designer jacket project update

French designer jacket project update

It’s actually not so hard to believe that this Chanel-style jacket project has been sitting on the shelf for, hmmm, let’s see… just about 1 year! It’s complicated and ambitious. I don’t need it, but I would like to someday make it. The planning is done so there’s nothing but grinding work ahead.

Nevertheless, some progress has been made quite recently (read: this week). And all because the Chanel Jacket Club at work is now going to do a personal fitting session with the designer of the pattern we’ve all chosen to work with. Yay! This is too good of an opportunity to pass up. Fitting was always going to be the most painful part of the process.

But before I get into that further, there’s been a change. The Claire Shaeffer-designed pattern for Vogue that I was going to use (with its, like, 50-bajillion pattern pieces) was so overwhelming that I couldn’t even make myself cut out the pattern pieces. Then the club decided it would be better to make our first designer jackets with a simpler pattern, so we switched to this one designed for Susan Khalje’s Classic French Jacket web video class:


Susan is a Threads magazine contributing editor and couture expert. She collaborated on the design of her pattern with a well-known fashion draper in Paris.

It has fewer moving pieces than the Vogue pattern and the princess seam goes into the shoulder, not the neckline, which will make bust adjustments easier. It’s designed without an overlapping closure in front; instead the jacket edges meet at center front and close with hooks and eyes. I’ll have to hack it to create a front button placket and a stand collar, because I still want those features. However, the rest of the work on this jacket, particularly fitting, promises to be surprisingly simpler than I expected.

That’s because when I made the muslin and tried it on, the bust apex level and waist level appear to be correct for my torso. This NEVER happens! (Well, unless it’s a petite-proportion pattern.) I don’t have any photos to prove this, so take my word for it. Some fitting changes will have to be made to the circumferences to accommodate my full bust, pudgy waist, and broad hips/bottom. The muslin ran long on me, too, hitting me about mid-thigh–which I actually really love! It looks much more modern than if it hit me mid-hip or upper hip as designed. I may want to make one to that shorter length, but for my first one, I’m going with the longer length. It’ll look killer with skinny jeans/leggings or tapered trousers. The sleeves were also too long and need some more circumference, but otherwise, the first muslin is a really good starting point.

What was not simple about this pattern, however, is that the sizing chart on the envelope gives the finished garment measurements–not body measurements–to choose your pattern size. This isn’t a bad way to do it, actually, because it makes it easier for you to decide how much ease you want to start with. But unfortunately, it is not explained anywhere on the pattern. There are no instructions at all, because it’s intended to work with Susan’s video class; but I don’t recall her mentioning the sizing system in her video, either. If she did and I missed it, my apologies, Susan!

Otherwise, the rest of the details of my jacket plans are the same. Same white-flecked black wool-blend fabric and charcoal-grey silk charmeuse for the lining. Same beautiful enameled pewter buttons with thistles on them. Same overall design concept.

chanel design 001

My design sketch. But now I’m thinking I’m going to extend the length to mid or upper thigh for a more modern look!

Now I can’t wait for my personal fitting so I can actually start making this jacket!


Night-blooming Garden Dress

My Upton dress party dress project is thisclose to finished! I installed the zipper and finished the back seams last night. All that’s left is two hems, hand stitching the lining’s waistline down, and adding a hook and eye to the top of the zipper opening. Here’s a preview of the finished dress, which I’ve dubbed the Night-blooming Garden Dress.


The color rendering in my sewing room is strange because the walls are lime-juice green.

Upton dress progress!

Holiday weekends can be lifesavers when it comes to making steady progress on projects. This Labor Day weekend I spent mostly in my sewing room working on my hand-printed Upton dress, and I made great progress. Which is good, because my friend’s wedding is next Sunday. Eek!

I did quite a bit of hand basting, rather unexpectedly. I hand basted all the bodice darts, because I suck at aligning dart legs without this special ladder basting I learned from Threads magazine. This technique works perfectly, and I use it every time I have to sew a dart.



Hand basting darts is tedious. But it works every time!

Assembling the bodice and the lining went pretty quickly after I got all 16–yes 16 (8 for the lining, 8 for the shell)–darts sewn. I’m not sure whether I like the method the Upton pattern uses for preventing the lining from rolling to the outside better than I like understitching, but it certainly was faster and it seems to do the trick just fine. The method, in case you’re wondering, is simply trimming the neckline and armscyes on the bodice lining by 1/16 inch so that the lining is a tad smaller in those spots and the outer shell rolls to the inside a bit.



You can see along the back neckline how the shell rolls just slightly to the inside because the lining is a smidge smaller. Loving that custom label, especially how it coordinates with my dress!


Sewing the side seams of the front and back together went okay, but could have been better. I’m pretty sure it’s my fault that the pattern is longer through the front along the side seam–by about 1/8 inch–because I graded out and lengthened the front a bit. That doesn’t sound like a lot of excess, but easing it into the back side seam, especially on the lining, was a pain. AND it made getting the waistband seams to align properly much harder, even though I basted the side seams before sewing! I had to redo the first side seam I sewed 3 times before the waistband seams aligned even close to properly. Apparently I suck at this, too. But the second side seam went much better and worked the first time. At least I learn.


Baste, baste, baste. It’s time-consuming, but so is ripping out seams and redoing them.


With the bodice prepped as far as the instructions have it to this point, I started on the skirt.


Skirt front section and its lining pleated together.


I made some additions here. The pattern is for an unlined skirt, but I wanted a bit of extra floof; plus I prefer lined skirts, especially if they’re full. I used the same cotton lawn as for the bodice lining. I pleated the lining and shell skirt sections together, after basting along the upper edges. I left about 1 inch free at the side seams, because the shell and lining side seams will be sewn separately to place the pockets between the layers. Once all 3 skirt sections were pleated, I sewed the lining side seams. Next the shell side seams and pockets will be sewn, then I’ll baste the final bit of shell and lining waistline together, and it’ll be ready to be set into the bodice.

Thank goodness I still have 4 days to work on this dress!

September is National Sewing Month!

Wow, how did it get to be September already? Oh, the days pass one by one like grains of sand through an hourglass, you say? August 31 is inevitably followed by September 1? Well, dang. Who knew the calendar was so regular?!

What September means to me is a conglomeration of things: the official start of Fall and crisper weather (ahem, eventually); both my mother’s and my own birthdays (Virgo power!); and back-to-school wardrobe refreshing urges (even though I haven’t been in school for going on 20 years). Nowadays that last one induces an urgent drive to SEW. ALL. THE. THINGS.

Which is serendipitous, because September is also National Sewing Month, so I have plenty of excuse (like I need one) to spend my time sewing. It’s official. We should all be sewing!


National Sewing Month is sponsored by the Sewing & Craft Alliance and the American Sewing Guild. There’s really nothing organized about National Sewing Month, but you’ll probably see your favorite sewing publications and websites mention it throughout the month. The theme this year is “Sew for the experience of it,” which really just means (to me) “sew because you want to!”

This month should be very full of sewing and sewing-adjacent projects for me: finishing the dress to wear to my friend’s wedding (on my birthday!), finishing the sleeve adaptation for another friend’s wedding dress (’tis the season); making my first muslin for the Chanel Jacket Club; and finally finishing the muslin and cutting out a few renditions of the In-House Patterns Belle Blouse that’s been languishing on my cutting table for lo these many weeks because apparently I have no attention span. (That’s not really true; I have a very strong attention span. But occasionally I decide to take on a new project before finishing one already started.)

Happy National Sewing Month everyone!

Painting my Upton dress

For the past few days, I’ve been working on the surface design for my Cashmerette Upton dress, the one I’ll be wearing to a friend’s wedding in a couple weeks. At first I thought I could use the technique I call “shattered lace”–which is basically printing through lace with liquid dye. I really love the effect on a silk scarf I made during my work group’s holiday crafting party a few years ago. (Yeah, we do that kind of fun thing.) I want to do more of this. It would look great on a dress!


This silk habotai scarf was printed by spraying liquid dye through scraps of lace. I call the effect it creates “shattered lace” because that’s what it looks like to me.

Just not this one. I realized that this technique probably wouldn’t take well on shantung, or at least not as well as on habotai. So I purchased some pretty stencils, a large rubber stamp, and a set of Jacquard Lumiere and Textile paints, and tested out the effects on scraps of my silk shantung. I settled on one stencil and the stamp and started by printing the dress bodice sections. If it turned out horrible, I had enough leftover fabric to cut new bodice pieces. I cut the bodice sections from the fabric, pinned them to large sheets of paper to keep them stable, covered my dining room table with a huge plastic drop cloth, and got to work!


My fabric, before cutting and printing.


Printed bodice front.

I wasn’t sure at first whether I liked the effect, but it grew on me pretty quickly. Especially as I added metallic gold and metallic purple accents to the black print to give it more dimension. The design is very random and has kind of a hodgepodge appearance because of the branches with flowers and birds and then the large scattered blossoms of a different variety that in no way relate to the branches. This is the effect I would have wanted with the lace printing technique. I like the design a little more every time I look at it.



I really like how these back sections now seem to glow. That’s the splotchy dye-job, but now it almost looks like an intentional part of the surface design.


And just yesterday I realized that even if I had used the lace printing technique, there are no metallic liquid dyes. Duh. So I would have had to use some form of hand painting or printing/stamping anyway to do the metallic accents. Sigh. What a happy accident!

Jacquard’s textile paints are great because they don’t spread willly nilly (unless you’re using DyNaFlow), and they heat set very easily with a hot iron. Once a painted design is heat-set, the fabric is washable. This dress won’t be washed often, though, as it will remain a semi-special occasion garment.

Now that the bodice sections are done, I’m starting to work on the 4 skirt sections.


The right skirt back. The left one is similar. I might have gone a tad overboard, but it’s hard to know when to say “enough.”



Another view of the right skirt back (upside down) with the two back waistbands.