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A return to my garment-making roots!

Princess seam top, Simplicity S8333 (pattern currently available), commercially purchased linen pants. Made on my beloved Janome M7 Continental, aka Albus the 2nd (after Albus Dumbledlore, the greatest wizard that ever lived)

It appears months have evaporated since I last wrote–at least I am keeping up with my newsletter! On a lark, and in my endless quest to always be learning and improving my sewing, I signed up for Garment Makers Question Time with Philippa Naylor. A little over a year ago I took a 2-hour online piecing workshop with her that was brilliant; even after decades of quilting I learned stuff. Since I’ve also started sewing clothes again, I decided to sign up–it is only $150 for a full year and let me tell you the value you get for the HOURS of detailed instruction each month is amazing. Students range from total newbies to garment making and sewing to those like me with decades of experiencing and we are ALL benefitting! Wish you could see what total newbies have accomplished in both fit and construction.

I made view C without the scallops on the sleeves and slightly altered the depth of the neckline. The white is inexpensive fabric for dyeing… I will likely un-sew the basting then dye the fabric for piecing and quilts. Especially in the bottom right photo above, notice that the upper bodice, above the full bust, is too roomy–the neckline folds out and lots of excess near the arms. Read on….this is why you make a toile/muslin/practice piece!

A “toile” is a sample garment made to refine the fit since patterns are made to an average shape and measurements and, let’s be honest here, NO ONE is exactly that fit. The first month in GMQT is to make an A-line dress. I have never worn one in my life and never will….but…. I made a simple dress with bodice and gathered skirt (that’s coming in next month’s newsletter–use the sign up box on the right of this page or at the bottom of the other pages on my website to subscribe).

While waiting for the fabric I wanted to use for the more fitted project (a delightfully soft linen from online), I came across this pattern on sale at Simplicity online. I LOVE square neck tops, and thought the practice of fitting a princess seam top would be useful. I bought some Rifle Paper Co. fabric at Fiddlehead Artisan Supply in Belfast, Maine, then worked up the muslin or toile (above right). The pattern is multi size so I can grade from one size to the next as needed. I have a broad back, and broad, square shoulders, so using what I learned from the not-yet-made-dress toile, I knew how to adjust for the shoulders so it was quick and easy. This pattern is the first I’ve ever bought which offers B, C, D and DD cup sizes. That meant I took the B and decreased (sigh).

I learned that to get the ideal bust fit in addition to full bust and high bust, you measure from the apex of the bust to the neck, to the shoulder and to the belly button. That means you can triangulate (measure) on the flat pattern piece and get the apex of the bust in EXACTLY the correct spot for a perfect fit. With a princess seam, the adjustment is so much easier than the slice-and-pivot stuff on a darted bodice: you just adjust the curve and seam depth on the side front piece (in my case trim away)! I left the bodice center front intact and didn’t change the design lines at all–the fitting was done from the side piece. Finally, I lowered the base of the square neckline about 5/8-3/4 of an inch. With those changes, the excess fullness in the first toile fitting above is eliminated.

I’ve always used fusible interfacing, but chose to try Philippa’s method of using cotton lawn, a soft, finely woven, lightweight cotton instead. You cut the cotton “interfacing” the same size as the facing, then sew right sides together on the bottom edge and turn right side out. No awkward 1/4″ to turn under–a perfect, smooth, lined facing that supports the neckline softly–probably better than fusible, and certainly nicer look and feel. In this image I have clipped the curves so the seam will lie flat. You can also see two lines of stitching and the understitching line.
The bodice is to the left, the facing and seam allowances to the right of the seamline in the photo above. Using my 1/4″ Acufeed HP foot and the single stitch HP throat plate, I ran the inside left edge of the foot next to the seam, which yields a perfect parallel line of “understitching” which is the line of sewing that secures the seam allowance to the facing. This process helps prevent the facing from trying to roll back outward and produces a beautiful flat facing.
Ta DAAAA! Look at that nice, flat facing, sharp inner corner, tidy understitching and smooth clean facing edge thanks to the interfacing as lining.
I used the Hong Kong finish, which is a first cousin to a single layer quilt binding, on the shoulder and princess seams. It is trickier to manage (nearly impossible) on the “J” curve of the side seam which extends to the cut-on short sleeves, where I just overcast the raw seam edges. I used a voile, a cotton every so slightly lighter than cotton lawn, for this finish. You cut a 1″ bias strip, sew it to the top of the seam allowance, wrap to the back, and then stitch in the ditch. The back side of the Hong Kong finish is a single flat layer, not double like a quilt binding, which reduces thickness. Because of the bias cut and tight weave, no worries about fraying, plus that side is hidden under the pressed-open seam allowance. I used the 1/4″ foot with the guide/flange on it for applying the bright lime green.

Also, here’s a link to a Facebook post with a brief video showing me using the M overcast edge foot on the Janome to finish the side seams.

To make this even more fun–see the sleeveless version in the pattern? I was watching Call the Midwives and in that episode Trixie was wearing that EXACT blouse style! What a hoot! And Fiddlehead (my favorite store!) has GINGHAM–it’s back! Hmmmmm…….

Now that it is snowing again… six inches expected… all I have to do is wait for warm weather!

One Response to “A return to my garment-making roots!”

  1. Janet Wright Says:

    Greetings from Friday Harbor. I am also taking Phillipa’s class–also took her quilting year. So many projects that I haven’t made my shift yet–going to make it a tunic instead. I love square necks also. I am going to get that pattern. I will have to lengthen it–tummy. You look great. I thought I was on your blog but I guess not. I get your newsletter. Lo ve your blouse. Let me know if you find any other square neck patterns. Janet