Current Sewing Projects: Knit Blouses and Victorian Blazers, Oh My

I want so many things on my sewing table. Impossible things. Impractical things.

Camiknickers.

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Black tulle tutus and sunglasses and spring cool.

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To draft the perfect catsuit.

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But more than anything this week, I have been working on a Victorian style blazer. Something like this, but sleeker, more vampirey. This is a Burda jacket from the Hills are Alive or something about the sound of music, but my brain is taking it to a dark nuclear post-apocalyptic place. I loathe the running stitches and the pockets and the boxy fit, and I don’t like the position of the front bust darts either. So like this but not really like this at all except the high shoulder and the high-ish back neckline. *shrug* I also have been irritated in the past by the lack of seam allowance on Burda patterns, so I definitely won’t be buying this one. Just eyecandy. Also: do you think that’s really her hair, or is that a weave? It’s a serious hunk of hair there.

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My partner hates poofey shoulders. So of course those have to happen. Because like Lady Gaga, I’m a free b***h, baby, and I LIKE a little old timey high sleeve cap if it doesn’t poof vertically. I’m thinking a single button closure in the front, a shawl collar, with a high back neck. I’ll probably give it a go in denim waste fabric for now, saving my red herringbone suiting for when I get the fit right.

I’ve actually had a good sewing week–I tried using  a vest pattern to draft a bodice for a jacket, and used my 1880s sleeve from the recent tailored jacket attempt. The fit is nearly perfect, except for the shoulders. When I move my arms forward, it pulls on the front of my shoulder and on the back, along the edge of the scye near my scapula. All my reading of historical tailoring stuff has me wanting to try a new approach on my next attempt. They talk about getting armholes TIGHT, which seems to be sort of the opposite of the slash and spread suggestions I’m used to seeing and trying and failing miserably with. The idea, as I understand, is that the better the fit of the bodice, even–and maybe especially–in the armscye area, the more independent the sleeve movement will be from the more stationary bodice. Instead of lowering the armhole or adding more back ease and sacrificing the hard earned fit, I’m going to try adding more fabric to the bodice armhole, but not only in my usual vertical direction–I’m going to shift the side seam outward and slightly up. With my back being broad and somewhat rounded at the shoulder/scapula line, as well as slightly hunched forward, my back is taking up fabric from the sleeve and my shoulders/back extend in this weird diagonal way compared to the standard form. What I want to do is cover my entire back with the bodice, so that the ease in the sleeve isn’t used up by my back mass. If that makes sense. We’ll see!

I took my jacket attempt #1 and chalk lined it all up trying to figure out where to add. I even bought some hook and eye tape, since I haven’t gotten over my buttonhole aversion just yet. So drafting and cutting attempt 2 is my project for tonight!

Another thing to consider is sleeve pitch. Sleeve pitch, as I understand very roughly, is the sort of rotation of the sleeve in the scye. Most of the time the center top of the sleeve is aligned with the shoulder seam in the usual high position on top of the shoulder. But with stooped posture or forward shoulders or very erect postures, tailors *seem* from my reading to rotate the sleeve slightly within the scye to accomodate. This keeps the grainline in the right position relative to the arm. So with my shoulder being rotated forward maybe 10-15 degrees from standard (this would be set “high” in the tailoring parlance, I think), I might try rotating my sleeve forward to keep the hang correct. What I’m curious about in this case, though, is whether it matters at all that this might throw off the match up of underarm sleeves and side seams. Would one need to shift the underarm seam? In my case with the 1880s style two piece sleeve it doesn’t matter at all, though.

I’ve been branching out and sewing with knit fabrics quite a bit too. I resisted it for ages, seeing it as something like playing an electric guitar to sound good because your technique isn’t good enough to play acoustic. But the perfectionist in me loves the lack of fraying seam edges and the lazy instant gratification craver in me who has been sewing for three years with precious little wardrobe action to show for it ADORES the fact that I can sew up something quickly that forgives minor fitting issues. So far in the last two weeks I’ve made: two great fitting, exceedingly comfortable pairs of thongs (which I intend to make a pattern of to send out into the world soon!), a princess seamed scarf collared 1930s style blouse and another more Edwardian-ish high necked, poofy gathered sleeve blouse in a sleek, pretty ITY knit! Not gonna lie, I’m pretty stoked. That’s like a year’s worth of finished objects for me, and ALL self drafted. Someday, when I find a tripod, I’ll have to post pictures. It’s an incredible feeling to find that my spread-so-thin sewing attentions come together sometimes and actually produce something.

Also, the weather is BEAUTIFUL here. I love it.

 

Happy weekend!

 

 

 

 

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Pattern Drafting: Basic Blouse for Forward Shoulder/Broad Back Fit

Over the last weekend, I decided to knuckle down and try drafting a pattern for a shirt from my own measurements. As I’d ranted previously, despite sewing something in the ballpark of 20 shirts over the last year from various patterns and with various modifications, nothing would end up fitting correctly without looking like a feed sack. So I consulted the Esther Pivnick Fundamentals of Patterndrafting book (freely available for download here) and proceeded to measure myself and fire down some synaptic pathways that have not been used since high school geometry. It was, essentially, a Klingon ritual of pain.

 

If I ever do it again I will a) draw actual lines on my body with a cheap eyeliner pencil so that there is no risk of measuring from different places and b) compile a worksheet to fill in measurements and label points for easier translation when actually drafting them. Hopefully no one catches me doing this because it might look a little too “it puts the lotion in the basket” for non sewers to understand. My measurements must have been a bit off, because the garment I ended up with was bigger than needed and didn’t really fit my midsection. The dart I ended up with in the front is, well, huge, which seems incorrect because my bust/waist/hip measurements are all within a few inches of 36, so there is almost no need for dart control to take in difference. BUT IT DID FIT MY SHOULDERS, which means IDGAF about having to redraft the waist.. I’m almost finished with the third test garment, which is a totally wearable buttondown blouse that allows for super fantastic happy funtime full motion of my arms. I can drive in it, I can raise my arms in it, I can EXERCISE in it (highly unlikely, but possible). Photos to come!

So here is what I learned about fitting a broad back and forward/curved shoulders:

-Adjust the angle of the shoulder seam on the front and the back bodice pieces. It’s easiest to lay them out so that they are butting up against each other at the shoulder seam. Adjust at the actual sewing line, not the seam allowance line, and add seam allowance back to your pattern pieces afterward. Consider the point where the shoulder seam meets the neck an anchor point. This does not change. The armhole also doesn’t change position. But the point at the end of the shoulder seam should be moved forward, usually just a small amount–for me about 1cm was perfect. Then redraw the shoulder seam line from the center anchor point to the end point on both the front and the back pattern piece. You’re essentially adding fabric to the back piece and subtracting it from the front. For me this makes the garment hang much better. But again, don’t move the armhole itself. Some things I’ve read have recommended shifting the curve of the sleeve pattern piece so that the sleeve cap ease is situated with the most fullness exactly over the ball of the shoulder, but I’ve found this adjustment to be unnecessary.

-Don’t mistakenly think broadening the shoulder seam and/or enlarging the armscye will add more freedom of movement. Been there, failed that. What you really need is to isolate the shoulder, which, almost counterintuitively, means the bodice comes high into the crook of the arm (think of what a gusset would cover). It also means the end of the shoulder seam should be behind the shoulder point, not quite on top of it. For me finding my shoulder point, subtracting about 3/4″, and angling the whole armhole back to meet this point made an enormous difference. It places the ball of the shoulder in a position to actually utilize the space in the sleeve cap to move.

-For the broad back/big shoulderblade area, I have in the past tried adding extra fabric at the lower third of the back and front armscye. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it works but looks a little more 1950s dolman sleeve than I would like. But this time, I adjusted the bodice. In the Pivnick instructions she points out that the point at the tip of the side bodice, where the bodice side seam meets the sleeve seam, can be extended out horizontally up to 1″ to allow for greater movement (with no necessary change to the sleeve pattern, as I understand it). I did this and blended it into the previous line of the side seam and it seems to have worked very well.

And now that I have a basic pattern that fits, with a bit more refining, I should have a basic block to use for experimentation and I may, just *maybe*, be coming out of my shirtmaking rut.