Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Easy" Chiffon Tunic


Last week at church I saw a a lady wearing a lovely, floaty, black chiffon tunic with rolled up sleeves held in place with buttoned tabs. She looked so classy and cool, I was immediately enamored and wanted to make my own. I still had quite a bit of black chiffon left over from my Girl on Fire dress, so I decided to give it a try. Um, yeah, totally distracted from my knit stashbusting quest. Forgive me, I have the attention span of a cat. That is, incredibly focused at times (usually on a nondescript spot on the wall), but also capable of being distracted by nothing.



No darts, oversized sleeves. 
I didn't really use a pattern -- just sketched out a large, oversized bodice with no darts, and added appropriately oversized sleeves -- since it was such a simple top. Or at least it was in theory. If I had been making this in a nice, well-behaved, non-slippery fabric, it would've gone together in less than an hour. But since chiffon is devilish like that, I took my time and employed a bunch of Andrea's tips for sewing chiffon. French seams everywhere (although I still need to get better at cutting very close to my stitch line so I don't get frayed bits sticking out of my seam!), narrow hems, new needle, and tape on my machine all made things go better than last time. Unfortunately, my chiffon is a weird crinkly kind, so it wouldn't hold a crease and starch didn't really help with the sewing. But! I persevered, went slowly, and in the end, I came out with a very wearable top. And despite the problems it gave me, the nice thing about the crinkly chiffon is that it almost functions as a stretch fabric. All the crinkles, when stretched out, help make this pullover top easy to, well, pull over. But when they're not being stretched, they crinkle back up and make the top look slimmer than it really is.


Besides forgetting what a headache it is to sew with chiffon, I'd also forgotten that setting in sleeves is a pain! And when the already-frustrating setting in process is exacerbated by the slipperiness and fraying of chiffon (and its inability to hold a pin!), well, let's just say that in the future I'll be sewing sleeves in flat if I can. Even after my best efforts, the sleeves are a bit more bubbly than I wanted them to be; let's just say it's a design element again, shall we? Besides, we've got the tabs and buttons on the sleeves as distractions!

You can see what I mean here about the crinkly texture of the chiffon. This made it a beast to work with. 

Summary:
Fabric: 1.5 yards 54" black crinkly polyester chiffon from Michael Levine Loft
Notions: Two gold buttons from one of those giant button grab bins at SAS Fabrics in Tucson
Techniques: Narrow hemming chiffon, French seams
Hours used: About four, curse that chiffon that requires sewing every seam twice, but refuses to hold a crease! And don't even talk to me about making bias tape out of crinkly shifty nightmares.
Will you make it again? If I find the right chiffon, and after I forget about how much work it is to sew with!
Total cost: Less than a dollar, what with leftover fabric and bulk buttons
Final thoughts: Even though I had some curse-worthy moments, I love the resulting look. Chiffon is so lovely and drapey, it almost makes up for itself. And really, what's better than seeing a garment on somebody, then going home and whipping one up yourself for a fraction of the cost? Seriously, the more I sew my own versions of RTW pieces, the more pleased with myself I am.

If we're going to take pictures at this time of the day, we have to go for the backlit sunflare-y shot. 

I realized while I was making this that not only have I not done zippers in forever, I've also not used a real commercial sewing pattern in over a month! Everything I've been making has been more or less pulled out of my head or from existing garments, which is quite fun. When I went to cut out the pattern pieces for the jacket I want to make, I found myself grumbling about the ridiculousness of choosing a size and marking darts and such. Does that ever happen to you, where you forget about what an ordeal it is to prep a new, untested pattern?

32 comments:

  1. Wow, this is fabulous! Lovely, in fact.

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  2. What a lovely top. I’m amazed by your ability to produce such nice garments from scratch, meaning not using a commercial pattern. Sounds like sewing chiffon is a pain… but it looks great!

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    1. Making garments without patterns is scary at first, but once you get the hang of how a 2D shape translates into a 3D garment, it is so fun not to have to rely on what's available commercially! Honestly, though, I only started doing it because I'm too stingy to pay for patterns, and because I want to instant gratification of being able to sew something up right away instead of waiting to find/buy a pattern. And chiffon *is* a pain, but the finished garment is so delightfully floaty...

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  3. I'm totally stealing this idea and making one of these in the near future....this is awesome and it looks gorgeous on you. :-)

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    1. Thanks! You should totally make one...they're so effortlessly elegant!

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  4. fab top, super flattering. you're on fire with all this great work recently! totally inspiring--even more reasons i want to be like you :-)

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    1. Awww, you're too kind, Devra! I have been feeling slightly manic with all the ideas I've had recently; I blame the pressures of a stash so large that it threatens to escape the spare bedroom!

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  5. Man, I wish I could just make stuff up with no pattern... I'm happy to alter or frankenpattern, but I'm too scared to try free-handing. Hopefully someday I'll be as brave as you!

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    1. You can do it, Aleah! If you notice, most of my recent no-pattern makes are either knit, so there's room for error, or oversized, like this top, so fitting isn't as important. Give it a try; it's addicting!

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  6. It's lovely! Just the thing to make from your remnants, wasn't it? Yes, it certainly looks classy.
    Also, attention span of a cat? Totally.
    And I have not used a patetrn in ages. Commercial patetrn, I mean; I'm making my own. Draping and muslining those patterns and making mistakes is a lot of pain in the beginning, but in the end I'm left with patterns that fit me prefectly, so it's worth it.

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    1. Agreed, on it being worth it! Making your own patterns is so stimulating for me...it's like drinking coffee, but creatively instead of physically!

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  7. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your posts. You are so very talented. Also wanted to share something which amuses me. I have a 10 year old grandson who loves Lego and cats (dogs, too). He was here one day when I opened you blod and saw the Legos. Now he occasionally asks "What's the pretty lady who loves Legos and cats up to? Has she built anything lately? Are there any new pictures of Walnut?" Have a wonderful weekend and thanks so much for sharing. Regena in TN.

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    1. Regena, thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a lovely comment! Your grandson sounds delightful; unfortunately there's no space in our apartment right now for any new Legos!

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  8. Beautiful!! I know exactly what you mean about starting over with a new, untested pattern. I haven't done that in a while, and I'm really enjoying repeating what I know works well. It's amazing how much faster you can put together something when you have already done it before. Love your new blouse.

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    1. Thanks, and I'm glad you know what I mean about the TNT patterns! I mean, if it works, there's no reason to get a new one...

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  9. Very pretty! I know what you mean about the pins not staying when you are sewing a sheer fabric. I usually stab them through two or three times (like basting with each pin)and they hold a little better until you need to remove them.

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    1. Oooh, pin-basting, I'm totally doing that next time, but let's hope my pins are long enough!

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  10. i have read your blog for so long, and just now am realizing you life in san francisco, too! :) such a fun of your work - you keep me inspired to keep sewing.

    karen

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    1. Oh dear, I'm sorry to say I no longer live in SF! That was just for the summer, and now I'm back in SoCal. I will be back after this school year, hopefully!

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  11. Easy and Chiffon aren't words that I associated together but you make it seem so effortless! I love the look with the jeans, really dresses the jeans up! xx

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    1. Heh, I don't think I would put them together either, but I mean, the pattern only has three pieces...

      And yeah, I really just wanted a top to make my jeans look more dressy!

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  12. I am so loving these modern, chic separates you have been making lately! You are a becoming a really good designer!

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    1. It's a bit different from my usual print dresses, but I'm loving it too! Thanks!

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  13. First of all - love this! you look really chic and cool! I really like the sleeve detail, that's what really makes it special :)

    Secondly, TOTALLY relate... I think we become kind of like our cats, as they become like us somehow... in our house we have me and my man, and two cats... my man and the short haired cat are like twins, and me and the long hair are inseparable LOL. There are definite noticeable personality trait similarities LOL.

    Third, I hear ya on the french seams, and I'm so glad it's not just me. I always have those little frayed bits sticking out of mine when I sew on chiffon... it's embarrassing LOL

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    1. Oh, thank you for backing me up on becoming cat-like! And it relieves me to know that someone else has that problem with French seams!

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  14. Such a pretty top!! Why oh why did I not reread Andrea's post before killing myself with chiffon two nights ago? (or was it three?) I used french seams and finally got a semi decent narrow hem after trying like five times. It was a little ridiculous. My walking foot also helped. :) Now that I've worn it though, it sure does look pretty though I was pretty mad at the fabric.

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    1. Chiffon is so frustrating when you're learning to work with it, but the final product, assuming one perseveres, is totally worth it! I'm glad yours worked out!

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  15. I adore this - it is such a great way to showcase such wonderfully sheer fabric. I have been given some sheer silk & have been waiting for inspiration & I think I might borrow some of your ideas if that's OK?

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    1. Oh, please do steal ideas! That's what the internet is for, right?

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