When we last left Julie, the project was in this state: (for details on how I made this muslin from a three-part frankenpattern, check out this post.)
The construction went smoothly, and I thought I was going to be revealing this wonderful way to insert sleeves by stretching a bias strip of fabric over the sleeve cap to shape it before you insert the sleeve. I learned about it on this tutorial: (When I saw how fast that woman sews, I knew I had a lot to learn…)
The sleeve cap turned out like this, but when I went to put it in the sleeve, the cap wasn’t tight enough and the gathering was uneven, so I had to put in a row of basting to tighten it anyway. I tried it for both sleeves in the exterior and the lining, and really didn’t get the hang of it. I think I’ll go back to Susan Khalje’s method of putting three rows of basting in the seam allowance and then gathering, which gives you a nice even cap to insert.
I also got my recently-purchased (on Ebay) Bernina Bernette 20 back from the shop with a new motor (live and learn) and decided to get out of the 1950s by attempting blind hemming, which was a huge mistake on this delicate fabric. The machine worked fine, but the stitching pulled the fabric sideways, so that the print suddenly veered to the right at the bottom. I was too traumatize to take a picture, and ended taking out the stitching and catch-stitching by hand.
Lesson learned (again): if you’re going to mess around with couture-level fabrics, don’t take shortcuts.
Boy, did I want to just finish those seams and forget about making the lining. But I knew it was a mistake, because the lining would elevate it from home-sewing to haute couture(ish). Then this happened:
And I did not want to cut that lining. So I started blogging about every little thing I could think of. I went to two events where I had planned to wear the top, wearing Chanel jacket #2 by default instead. (The Boston Symphony playing Ravel on a Friday afternoon, the perfect antidote to the snow. And Brian Stokes Mitchell absolutely nailing about 30 Broadway show-stoppers in a row at Harvard’s legendary Sanders Theater. Here’s a link to Mitchell’s new album: (Brian Stokes Mitchell’s “Simply Broadway” album). Get it, and you can belt out “The Impossible Dream” during your next frustrating sewing project.
But I finally got over it, and cut and assembled the lining out of black silk crepe de chine, which is the way to go if you can swing it. Actually I found this fabric for maybe $4/yard on the silk table of “Sew-fisticated” in Cambridge, one of those old-school sewing shops with really good prices and nice, knowledgeable staff.
I put together the lining, and finished the seams with my super-sharp Kai pinking shears. I’ve been looking at vintage retail garments, and have seen that on many of them the only finish on the seams is pinking, like this, and sometimes a line of straight stitching on the seam allowance as well. It made me remember that instead of having a lining in our clothing in the 50s and 60s, we always wore full slips like this:
Unfortunately, none of us looked like Elizabeth Taylor in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” But the slips kept the scratchy seams off of our bodies and made the dresses more opaque.
My mom also had to wear a girdle, stockings, pointy bra and heels as she stood in front of a blackboard teaching high school English all day long. I think her happiest time was when she embraced feminism, put on a pantsuit with low heels, and chopped off her high-maintenance hair-do.
Where was I? I had catch-stitched down the neckline, sleeve edges and hem of the exterior fabric, so I attached the lining to those edges using small fell-stitches. It was so worth taking the time to do that part by hand.
Here’s a look at the back, where I used shoulder darts and back darts to give it some shape. Even though I wanted a loose 60s-style fit, I didn’t want it to look like a box. The muslin process helped me fit it for my short waist and sway back. There are French darts in the front and two darts in each sleeve, which really help when you work with a woven. And lastly, I like the smaller armscye from this pattern. I think that the large armscye has ruined the fit of modern American fashion, and it’s a pet peeve of mine.
This is a close up of the little tuck that’s in each shoulder seam. It gives the neckline some drape, but doesn’t make it hang down like a cowl-neck top. You could probably fake this by taking a bateau-neck pattern, extending the front shoulder seam, and then making a tuck.
When I finished, I had spent 35-40 hours on the project, and probably close to $200 on the fabric and patterns. But where would I find something as high-end as this in a store, that fit me? Max Mara boxy bateau tops made from Italian wool are more than $600. Loro Piana sweaters are $1,800. It was definitely worth investing the time and money into this top, as I will probably wear it for 10 years at least, then hand it down to someone else. And I’ll reuse the pattern a lot, too.
What are you working on? Clothes for spring? (Or fall, if you’re “Down Under”?). I’ll be heading to Southern California next week, where I hope to take you all on a trip through the L.A. Mood Fabrics mega-store! (And wear my new top, finally, out to dinner with friends.)