Friday, July 5, 2013

A Top Three Years in the Making


I've been going through my patterns in preparation for moving, sorting them and trying to figure out which I should donate because I'm unlikely to ever make them, wondering why I ever bought some others, and remembering how much I want to make a Sewaholic Cambie. In the process I came across the very first sewing pattern I ever bought: New Look 6939. At the time, I fell in love with the ruffled sleeves and the lack of darts, but somehow I hadn't sewn it or even cut the pattern pieces in the three years that it's been in my stash. I do remember that when I first opened up the instructions, I was intimidated by the underarm gussets, talk of understitching and slipstitching and finishing with bias tape, and so I promptly folded it back up and forgot about it...

...until now!

After all my historical sewing and other random projects, I was looking for an easy, modern top pattern to use with this floral rayon challis that I had in my stash, and NL6939 fit the bill. Of course, I was also slightly swayed by the fact that View C is illustrated in a floral print that's very similar to mine. It's a testimony to how far I've come that when I reread the directions yesterday, they seemed so easy and understandable! Cutting and sewing this top was fairly smooth sailing, minus a tiny bit of panic about fitting all my pattern pieces onto my available fabric. The pattern envelope calls for 1.125 yards of 60" fabric, while I only had 1 yard of 54" fabric. I ended up merging the underarm gussets with the main pattern pieces and scrapping my plans for making self-fabric bias tape; I don't think I've ever had so little fabric left at the end of a project.

I've mentioned before that I am loving tops that cover the butt. 
See? Covered! I also added a tiny reverse box pleat in the back to bring in some of the excess fabric. The back yoke is very, very wide; I will probably take some out of the center next time. 
A better look at the swoop in the hem. 

Besides understanding the instructions after three years of sewing experience, I was also able to make more educated decisions about fabric choice and appropriate techniques. Had I gone ahead and made this back when I bought the pattern, I probably would've chosen some slinky poly-charmeuse like the model photo, and then been frustrated with the slipping and fraying and difficulty pressing. I would've made up a too-large size 12 because that's what my measurements dictated, and I wouldn't have known what it meant when the pattern said there was an ease of seven inches (!!!). I wouldn't have known about French seams, interfacing, or had experience with making neat bias tape finishes. It would probably have taken me over a week, and resulted in a poorly made top full of bad memories. I'm glad I waited on this pattern (although I probably could've just waited a year and half), because now I know to use rayon challis as a compromise between drape and ease of sewing, I know about the ridiculous amounts of ease in Big 4 patterns and can size down/modify as necessary, I'm a pro at French seaming and narrow hems, and I'm a recent convert to quality interfacing. So, it only took three years, but now I have a cute top that was exactly what I envisioned, that I love and can be proud of.

I look so smug and self-satisfied. 
The insides are pretty too -- all raw edges enclosed!

Summary:
Fabric: 1 yard of 54" floral rayon challis from the stash, originally purchased a year and a half ago from SAS Fabrics in Hawthorne.
Notions: Rayon bias tape for the armhole finishing, also from the stash
Hours: Three (plus the additional 26,280 hours of incubation time!)
Will you make it again? I'd like to actually try the ruffle sleeves that attracted me to this pattern in the first place!
Total cost: $3
Final thoughts: This is a great top for summer -- nice and breezy, breathable, plus it's got the trendy high-low hem thing going on (without going overboard, like in this ridiculous RTW example). Since it's sleeveless, it'll be easy to transition into the fall with a cardigan. That's cake in my book!

Actually, now that I look at these pictures, I realize that the front yoke is really wide too...more modifications for next time!

Even though I've really enjoyed all the historical sewing I've been doing, it's been really lovely to sit down and whip up a modern top where I don't have to apologize for not sewing by hand, and I can work all the way through from start to finish without having to stop and research some more about where a seam is supposed to fall or where trim would make the most sense. And of course, it's nice to actually sew up my first pattern purchase!

Fellow sewasauruses, what was the first pattern you ever purchased, and did you use it right away? How was that experience for you? Does anyone else have a too-difficult first pattern purchase that they've been saving for some nebulous future date?

52 comments:

  1. Wow, that is *gorgeous*. I want one exactly like it! Nice job seeing the possibilities, I would never have even looked twice at that cheesy pattern envelope!

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    1. I know, right? Those pattern envelopes can be so off-putting! I'm surprised that I gave this pattern a second look, but I'm glad I did!

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  2. Cute! I'm glad your first pattern purchase was a pattern you still like and wanted to make - you clearly were smarter about patterns in the beginning than I was. All my early pattern purchases were chosen mostly because I liked the fabric the sample was made of in the envelope photo, and also they tended to be of the unflattering bell-shaped-sack dress variety. I so did not know what types of garments I should be making to suit my body type (but heck, I still don't really know that...but I know a bit better!)
    Anyway, welcome back to the delightfully easy modern sewing era!

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    1. Oof, those sack dresses...do they look good on anyone? And I think you're pretty good now at figuring out what works for your body!

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  3. The first pattern I ever bought was a very simple 3/4 (or there abouts) circle skirt with straight waist band. I haven't used it in years but I still have - and wear - skirts made from it. Every single one from quilting cotton (correction, there's one made from a mysterious almost but not quite nylon coated cotton). It shows in that they all wrinkling horribly in this humid summer we're having but are cute and not horribly constructed.
    When I got my own machine I bought a couple of button-front patterns that have been languishing, just because I never wear button fronts so why make more?

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    1. That's so cool that you can still wear those first skirts! I'm totally with you on the button-front patterns. I have a bunch, too, but haven't made any either!

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  4. Gorgeous top. I love it. The fabric is to die for, too. I read your blog every time and I always mean to comment 'later', when I'm at home / on a normal computer etc. so i just want to say i love everything about your blog, your honesty, nae of humour and the great range of stuff you sew. And your output - you really must be well organised.
    Thanks!

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    1. Awww thanks, you're so sweet! And yes, I love this fabric...rayon challis is so deliciously soft and buttery, too!

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  5. The top turned out so cute! That fabric is especially pretty. :)

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    1. Thank you! I was actually inspired by your ikat Laurel top.

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  6. Love you in this top! It is super cute! What a lovely job! The hi/low hem is lovely.
    The first pattern I bought I made up several times BUT that's because my grandma helped my buy it and the first fabric. Then it was all I knew how to make so I made several times in many different fabrics.

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    1. I totally thought of you when I made the back hem low enough to cover the butt :) Us and our tunic-length love!

      That's so funny that you kept making that pattern because it's all you knew! I did the same with my first two dress patterns, too.

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  7. Oooooh this top is great! I really like the print - navy blue and floral is one of my all time faves. The swoop hem in the back is awesome - I would love to have this in my closet!

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    1. That's such a compliment, that you'd want this top in your closet! I really like that the navy tones down the frou-frou of all the flowers.

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  8. I love the floral print - so nice to see a navy background instead of black! It makes a really cute top! =)

    I have no idea what the first pattern I bought was because I started sewing so young. I do know that I still have some of the ones I bought in high school - some cut, others never touched. Of course, I now have nearly 600 and most are uncut because I trace what I use (unless I'm in a huge hurry for a last minute job).

    ~ Brooke

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    1. ZOMG, 600 patterns!! That is pretty incredible!

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  9. Adorable! But I still can't get over the 7 inches of ease....that seems a bit excessive, to say the least.

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    1. Right?? Who wears things with that much ease? It totally doesn't look like that from the model photo, too. So deceiving ;)

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  10. I'm dying over the fabric! Floral on a dark background?? Yes, please! Such a cute top, perfect for casual or dressing it up a bit.
    Hmmm, I think my first pattern was one of the big 4, retro style dresses. I cut it all out and never sewed it up. I don't even know what happened to the pattern or the pieces.

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    1. Ooh, those retro dresses...so tantalizing. I have several and only made up one of them. They just use so much fabric!

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  11. My first pattern was the Crepe dress from Colette Patterns, I sewed it up in a wearable muslin version, which worked quite well and was quite easy, but I haven't even made a real version yet after two years!
    Your top looks great!

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    1. I think after two years, we can promote the wearable muslin to a real dress :)

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  12. This is so lovely; feminine without being fussy. Isn't it great to find something like this and have a make that you love? I am not nearly on your level of experience, so this is really inspiring.

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    1. That's a great description -- feminine without the fuss! I think it's always gratifying to be able to make something real that's previously only been in one's head. Don't fret, you'll get there soon!

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  13. cute top, love the fabric, and love the swoop hem! i think one of the first patterns i bought and sewed was a pair of pants (fly and all). i could never find pants that were the right length (this was when i was in high school) so i made two pairs. i know i wore them... and have since given them away. now that i sew so much more, i wish i still had them out of curiosity!

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    1. Wow, that is awfully brazen of you -- fly pants for a first make!

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  14. I recently went throguh my patterns and now have a box of "what was I thinking" patterns that are all at least a decace old - before kids and gaining weight. I want to find them a good home...maybe in another ten or fifteen years when they maybe come back in style!
    Your top is great - stylish, cool, and beautiful on you. I look forward to seeing your version with the great sleeves!

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    1. Hah! "What was I thinking" patterns! I'm curious as to what goes into that category!

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  15. I love this top.

    I'm not sure if it's the first pattern I ever bought for myself, but I still have a dress pattern that I bought in high school that I have never made up. But I'm gonna, yessirree. It's a really classic pattern, so I should make it up this year. Only, without the shoulder pads.

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    1. Yeah, shoulder pads are kind of questionable...but you should totally sew it up otherwise!

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  16. Really, really cute! My first sewing pattern was purchased for a class, so I made it right away-- it's Butterick B5211, which is basically a sack with holes for your head and arms! My second pattern purchase was the Lisette Traveler dress, which I still haven't made! A shirtdress was a bit too ambitious for me, but I didn't know! Maybe it's time to give that one a spin.

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    1. I just looked up B5211, and yeah, sack with holes is right! I guess that makes sense, though, for a first class, since there's no fitting involved. I have the Traveler dress too, but I got it just recently.

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  17. 3 years in the making! Lol. This top is so cute. You're right, very breezy and summery, beautiful fabric as well. The first pattern I bought was Burda 7441 trousers. And, I am STILL working on them. They are rated a 4 out of 4 in difficulty and was a VERY BAD idea for a first time sewist! But, I just need to sort out the waistband and they will be finished.

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    1. Yikes, 4 out of 4, and with Burda instructions?! No wonder you're still working on them! But I'm pretty sure that when you finish them, they'll be awesome!

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  18. It looks really nice on you. True that to tackle some things you need to have some experience and the wait is worth it, like in this case.

    I also want to make a Cambie, but other projects got in the way. I'm crossing my fingers for this summer.

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    1. We need to make a Cambie pact! Otherwise mine will continue languishing into the next summer!

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  19. I don't know if you're like this but when I am in the midst of a project, I feel like I'm not making any progress. Almost none and it makes me a little down. But when I look back at what I accomplished the past week, month, year, or years, my perspective is completely different. It's positive and I feel accomplished. Weird, right?

    Question - I'm unfamiliar of rayon challis. What is it like? Are any garments always made with it that you can use as an example?

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    1. Having that long-range perspective is so important for any new skill! I think you're quite accomplished :)

      I'm not sure what kind of garments are typically made from rayon challis, so I'm afraid I can't really help you there! It's a pretty lightweight woven with a delicious drape that feels buttery soft against the skin, quite breathable and prone to creasing.

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  20. My first pattern was Simplicity 7308. It's a very basic skirt but at the time I was terrified to make it. The RTW blouse would be great if you were in Vegas and had a burning desire to run to a wedding chapel and get hitched. It has a wedding dress vibe.

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    1. Hah! Great use for that RTW top, because otherwise I don't know when it would ever be appropriate!

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  21. What a great top! Isn't it wonderful when you realize that your skills are able to take you anywhere you can imagine going or anything you can imagine making?!

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  22. I love that you finally made your first pattern! You certainly picked the perfect fabric. The first pattern I bought (and then made) was a 60's shift dress with 90 degree angles at the armholes instead of the regular curve. I was so incredibly confused by the armhole facings, and though I don't remember what I did I know it wasn't quite what the instructions indicated. I've been wanting to pull that pattern out again and see how hard it really is now that I know what I'm doing!

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    1. Errrr, what, 90-degree angles?! How...interesting. I think you should totally revisit that pattern!

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  23. Ah yes, the sewing learning curve. Proof that knowledge is power! This is gorgeous though - love the floral print and colours on you. There are some gorgeous variations in that pattern!

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    1. Indeed, knowledge is the power to create any garment you can think of! Almost.

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  24. Three years goes quickly. I keep relearning these skills and I've been sewing for a very long time.
    So really, you are a quick learner.
    I love how this style looks on you.

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    1. I think the great thing about sewing is that one is always learning -- things never get boring!

      I used to make zipper pouches all the time when I first started sewing, but when I made one earlier this year I had to relearn/rethink everything because I'd forgotten how to do it so that the raw edges are all hidden.

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  25. ALL the patterns I'd ever bought, up until about four months ago, were too difficult for me. Why did I keep buying patterns, you might ask? I kept thinking it was not my lack of skills, but that the patterns were too hard. If I could just find the perfect pattern for me... Now, I think I feel confident enough now to make most of them (none of them are all that complicated). It is a great feeling to understand all those directions finally. Oh, the (em)power(ment)!

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  26. This is pretty and I love the fabric so much - I'd love to have that in my stash but we don't get a lot of rayon anything down here!

    And as for old patterns - I have some patterns from about 15 odd years ago but I always remember the one that I got rid of years ago, with a scalloped neckline, thinking "ugh, I'll never like scallops again, what was I thinking! Then last year scallops starting showing up everywhere, and they grew on me, and I thought back to that discarded pattern with sadness, and then Lladybird made a gorgeous dress from the EXACT pattern! Lesson learned - I'm hoarding every pattern from now on!

    Ok, not all of them - I have just whittled a dozen out of my several hundred and put them in the reject pile. But I'm keeping the reject pile, just in case...

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Thank you for taking the time to tell me your thoughts! I appreciate reading them and I try to reply to most, if not all, comments, especially when they are questions. I ask that you keep your comments polite, and if you're a spammer, don't bother because your comment will just be deleted! Also, if you're commenting on a post that's more than two weeks old, it will be moderated.