Crushed Bateau-neck Top, fait accompli

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It’s all over but the shoutin’ as they say, but first, the big reveal:
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I would have gotten a picture up sooner, but it took days for me to get in the mood to put on makeup.

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.)
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I was extremely nervous about cutting this beautiful wool from Janssens et Janssens in Paris. It is soft and light like cashmere, and stretchy like a knit, even though it’s woven.
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I eventually got up the guts, and did a layout like this to suit the one-sided, one-way print. It may look wasteful, but actually it leaves a big swath at the fold on the right to make a scarf.
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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…)
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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.

At this point, my project looked like this:

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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:
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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.
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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:
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.)

Bride of Frankenpattern and Muslin Madness

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Back home and settled in, my January project was to make a top that recreates the type of 1960s high “crushed boatneck” shown in the pattern on the left:

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Boy, I remember that “puffy bodice/straight skirt” look from the 60s. Yecch. But what I liked about the pattern was the high boatneck with small folds on the side, the French darts that start low on the side, and the 3/4 sleeves with two darts. Sleeve darts are something that need to make a comeback; they give woven sleeves such a nice shape.

I bought the pattern on Ebay to use with this gorgeous Italian wool that I picked up at Janssens et Janssens in Paris. I wish I could send you a swatch; it’s like buttah.

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The sequins are printed on, so it’s trompe l’oeil, which is French for either “fool the eye” or “impossible for Americans to pronounce”. Due to the one-sided, one-directional nature of the print, I knew I’d have to lay out and cut the pattern very carefully.

The pattern was too small for me, so I decided to use the bodice of the modern Vogue pattern 8615 (on the left of the photo above) as my “fitting shell.” That pattern has French darts as well (and not the dreaded princess seams), and it includes bodice pieces for different bust sizes. It also has a relatively small armscye and narrow sleeve, which is rare for modern patterns. It has received good reviews on patternreview.com (Reviews of Vogue 8615), and it makes a very cute retro-style dress.

I taped the Vogue pattern to some tracing paper, then put the vintage Butterick boatneck pattern on top to trace the neckline.

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After I was done tracing, it looked like this:

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Then I realized that since I was making a top, and not a dress, that I needed the pattern to extend below my waist. So I dragged out a muslin I made last year, when I was going through vintage Lutterloh hysteria. The weird world of Lutterloh deserves its own post, so I’ll elaborate in the future. But in the meantime, here’s a review of the Lutterloh top I made last year: (50s Lutterloh Top review)

So I put the Lutterloh muslin on top of the Frankenpattern I was creating and traced around the bottom, also adding the bottom of the dart.

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A heads up: when you’ve gone this far into pattern combining, you will lose all track of the notches and have to fake it.

I don’t have a picture of it, but when I made the Frankenpattern of the back, I added two waistline darts in the rear, and kept a couple of small shoulder darts from the original Butterick. Rear darts are another thing that should make a comeback; they really improve the fit.

For the sleeve, I used the top of the modern Vogue pattern, so the sleevecap would fit in the armscye, and then drew on the bottom of the sleeve from the vintage Butterick pattern, so I would get the curved shape and two darts.

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This is the point in my projects where I start wondering if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

Since the fabric I was using was so expensive and nervous-making, I did a full-out muslin at this point. I also wanted to have a muslin to use as a pattern in the future, since I adore the unique neckline and shaped sleeves.

Once again I used the technique outlined in Susan Khalje’s “Couture Dress” course on craftsy.com. I laid out the muslin on a large sheet of tracing paper, put the frankenpattern pieces on top, and marked the muslin with a tracing wheel.

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I hate doing muslins, hate ’em, until the very moment I put them on and think “boy, that has some fit issues…”

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I saw right away that I had constructed the two sides of the neckline differently (hard to tell without notches) and that the bust was tight. At that point I was so happy that I was only picking out the basted seams on a muslin and not messing with my delicate fabric. I adjusted the fit and liked what I saw.

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I really need to put on lipstick before I take these muslin selfies.

The last thing I do when I’m done fitting a muslin is to take a magic marker pen and mark both sides of each seamline and dart seam. That way when I take the muslin apart, I know exactly where the final seamline is.

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Now I felt so much better about cutting that fine, fine fabric. And I had a nice project for a snowy day in Boston.

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I’ll let you know how the top’s turning out in my next post. How’s your new year’s sewing going?