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Every time I have made a shirt or blouse for myself, something was off with the front width across the upper chest.  I could never figure out how to fix it until I tried out the Sure-fit Designs system.  I made a bodice blueprint  and used it to alter my favorite blouse pattern.  I ended up with the best fitting shoulders and front I have ever produced.  So hurray for Sure-Fit, totally worth the money.  After this success, I tried several other adjustments, one for a forward shoulder and one rolling the sleeve forward a bit.  That seems to have worked, too, and then I tried changing the darts to a princess seam, also very nice.  I spent the whole week my husband was away on a business trip playing with patterns trying different necklines and sleeves and hems.  Time to stop playing with paper and start sewing.

DSC01348My first try was a heavy chambray or very light-weight denim.  This one has regular darts which are in the perfect position thanks to Sure-Fit, though they are now hidden by the pockets.  All the seams were topstitched, and the sleeve cap seam is flat felled.

DSC01347Having decided that the neckline could be lowered a bit, I made yet another front pattern and adjusted the collar and stand patterns to fit.  This next blouse will have 3/4-length sleeves and a collar and stand.  Here it is waiting for attention:

DSC01345The ultimate goal is to make not only shirts but some lightweight jackets in bright fabrics like these:

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The key is to use a simple shape with beautiful fabrics.  If you have lovely jackets, you can just pop on jeans and a tank or T-shirt with a jacket on top and you are all set.

Blue Shirt

The first new work shirt for A is done.  She was home for the 4th of July holiday so we used the opportunity to fit the pattern to her liking.  She wanted the front of the shirt to be more fitted and shapely but also wanted the back to have enough room for the reaching she needs to do in her job as a scientist.  She also thought there was too much fabric in the sleeve caps, so I tried a new technique I had just read about to reduce the sleeve cap ease:
http://www.emmakespatterns.com/increasing-and-decreasing-sleeve-cap-ease-1/

I reduced the ease to somewhere between 3/4″ and 1″ total and it worked fine.  The sleeve was easier to sew and obviously fits the armhole better.

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DSC01334 The original pattern did not have a collar with a stand, so I used the pattern that came with my Sure Fit Design kit.  I liked the collar pattern very much since the collar seems to be just the right size for the look I wanted.

DSC01327I still have to raise the side dart about 1/2″,  but that will be for the next shirt.  For a muslin, this is very wearable, and I hope that the general public does not go around looking at people’s bust darts.

Now I am working on a chambray work shirt for me to test out my Sure Fit Designs drafted bodice.  It will be interesting seeing all those measurements I took put to use.

Shirt Archeology

Various ziplock bags with shirt pieces are starting to stack up around the sewing area.  My daughter, A, wanted some more work shirts, but it has been a long time since I made one. There is a TNT pattern for her in the pattern drawer, but since I was trying all sorts of things with the pattern, I didn’t remember which version was used for her favorite shirt.  I had made it into a princess-seam style with the princess seam coming from the armhole, then changed the princess seam line to the shoulder.  A says that the shoulder version came out too big which is puzzling since it is just the original well-fitting version with the darts moved around, but I cut out another one and will fit it on her when she visits next. The princess seams are much easier and faster to sew than all those darts in the original pattern.  In the meantime, I still couldn’t tell from all the assorted pattern pieces what version was used for the pink-striped shirt that is her favorite.  I ended up wasting a lot of time looking through various pattern envelopes and trying to remember what the pink shirt looked like. This is where the blog comes in handy because otherwise, would I have taken a picture of it?  After hunting up the picture, I can see that the shirt has the original darts:

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IMG_6391 I used the faced vent on the sleeve and now I can tell whether it was turned to the front or back.  I still think that the collar for this pattern looks too large for the shirt, so I am changing a few things (again).  This time the shirt will have the folded front band I like so much combined with a collar and stand. This does away with the facing.  My SureFit Designs birthday present came with a sheet of collar options, and it was really handy to use those instead of hunting through all my patterns and folding miles of pattern tissue.

Next up is the interfacing application and then it is time to start sewing.

We are now on water restriction, but our allotment is enough to keep the garden going.  We are using some drought techniques I wanted to try, like planting in a furrow instead of on a raised bed so the water is channeled to the roots, using drip hoses, and reusing clean water from the house.  A lot of water is wasted waiting for the hot water to get to the faucet, so I run that water into a container and use it to water plants.  I also reuse water that I used to rinse off vegetables.  So far, so good.  We are picking basil, cucumbers, plums, and peaches right now.

DSC01303The garden is green but the lawn is brown.  Can’t eat the lawn, so it is last on the list.

DSC01304I am loving the raised planter my husband built for me.  It seems to need less watering, and the beans and basil are doing very well.  Lots of volunteer dill sprouted there too.

In between carrying around buckets of water, I have been making the ribbings of many sweaters:

Ribbings

Rib borders for future sweater cardigans

After the borders are knit by hand (because I like the way they look, and I think the hand-knit borders wear better) they are hung from the knitting machine needles and the rest of the sweater is knit very quickly.  The knitting machine I use the most was packed up during the recent work on the house, so I had to set it up again.  That’s all finished so time to get back to knitting and sewing.

In the sewing department, I finished up my first pattern using the Sure Fit Design system.  I have a shirt pattern I have used a lot, but I was never satisfied with the way it fit through the shoulders.  I used my SFD draft to alter the pattern and am very interested to see how it fits now.  I cut a shirt out of heavy chambray to test it out.

Spring Chores

Now that my machines are all ready for sewing, I am cutting out some tops and hemming some tablecloths.  We are in for a drought year, the pundits say, but we have had some really good rainstorms this winter, and our water supply isn’t as bad off as some counties, so I am going to go ahead with a small vegetable garden.  I’ve started my seeds:

DSC01106We are in the middle of a rainy week right now with another storm front supposed to pass through tomorrow.  Meanwhile, the poppies and roses are blooming.

DSC01110 DSC01109 The lavender and sage are blooming too.

DSC01111Our fruit trees are looking great, but the ancient camellia bush by the front door that was here when we moved in decades ago seems to have died over the winter.   Meanwhile, the rose bush out front has more roses on it than ever:

DSC01090Hoping for a rainy month ahead.

Sewing Machines

When I was taking care of an older relative a few years ago, I thought the time might come when I would need to stay overnight, so maybe it would be a good idea to have a sewing machine over there to give me something to do during the down times.  I found a nice Singer 404 in a thrift shop in Petaluma for only $35, with a cabinet.  That is a lovely solid metal machine:

DSC00991-001Well, now it is several years later and my sister mentioned wanting a vintage machine, so, since I already have a 301A that is very similar, I gave this one to her.  She lives upstate, so we had a lovely drive up there to take her the machine.  She has much more room for a machine in a cabinet than I have.

I have been thinking about my machines and how I really don’t know how they work, and every time something goes wrong I have to take them into the shop.  Around here the rate for a visit to the shop is at least $130.  That can put a dent in your budget very quickly.  I decided to learn a little more about my machines and how to do proper maintenance, including what lubricants and oils to use where.  I got a book about fixing vintage machines and looked up information on the internet.  I was especially interested in the Singer 401A information because I have one with a frozen cam stack with a cam stuck in it.  I learned that Tri-Flow is what professionals use:

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This is used in places your manual tells you to use sewing machine oil.

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This is used on gears and places where your manual tells you to use lubricant instead of oil.

So I tackled my first sewing machine fix.  I used the Tri-Flow, a hair dryer, and followed the advice of an excellent video I watched (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdaWx1gGZWg), and hurray, I got the stuck cam out, managed to get the stitch selectors working again, and all in all, felt proud of myself.

Turtle Bib

This turtle fabric was a lucky find in the remnant bin and is big enough to make several bibs.

DSC01060Sometimes it’s fun to make a bib that requires no fancy work like embroidery or applique and to just allow the cute fabric to speak for itself.  This fabric made up into a nice bib:

DSC01055I finished another grocery bag, but then the tension on my machine just stopped working, so I guess it is destined to visit the repairman.  I’ve been meaning to try out another one of my machines so now is the time.

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