Monday, February 4, 2013

Sewing Project: Kimono-style shirt

In Heather Ross's book, Weekend Sewing (another library find!), she features a dress made with a kimono-style sleeve. I made the dress and was slightly obsessed in love with kimono sleeves for a while. Fewer pattern pieces? No sewing in sleeves?! Yes please!!

Using my finished kimono dress as a base, I drafted a pattern for a kimono sleeve top. The dress was huge (remember my husband's complaint about bagginess?!) and I only had one yard for the shirt, so it challenged me to be efficient and not make something with a slouchy fit.

Fabric from Girl Charlee

The fabric is a kelly green and white striped cotton/rayon/spandex jersey from Girl Charlee. It's very soft and drapey, and isn't see-through at all. It didn't curl much, so it was very easy to work with (even with my walking foot on the fritz...). I've worn this shirt a lot since I finished it. It's comfy and nicer than a bland softball tshirt! However, it did present some challenges since I was working without a real pattern. Why was I working without a pattern? Oddly enough, I did have a hard time finding a knit pattern for a kimono sleeve blouse. Also, at the time, I was reading Cal Patch's book, Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified. LOVE this book. My birthday is next month if anybody needs any ideas. The book definitely inspired me to try my hand at pattern drafting. I learned a lot from this attempt. Like that buying patterns is a lot easier sometimes haha! 

Once I had the bodice constructed, I was kind of stuck. I wasn't sure how I wanted to finish the neckline or the sleeves. I let some ideas mull around in my head for a few days before I decided on a cuff for the sleeves instead of just hemming them.

I didn't make the cuff super tight. Maybe if it had been a long sleeved shirt I would have, so that I could push my sleeves up, but with a short sleeve it doesn't matter much. Let those biceps breathe, I always say. To make the cuff, I just measured around my sleeve opening for the length (plus seam allowance) and then picked a random amount for the width and doubled it. I sewed the short ends together and then folded the cuff in half. Placing it RST with the sleeve I then sewed the two together.

The neckline is where I learned a lot about what NOT to do. It was constructed in the exact same way as the cuff. Sadly, an arm cuff and a neckline are not the same. That seems obvious now that I say it out loud, but sometimes you gotta make mistakes to learn even obvious ideas! Once it was attached, I realized the binding was way too loose. It flopped around like a saggy waistband. I got to that point in the project and got very frustrated. I set the shirt aside and let it linger in my thoughts as I fell asleep at night, torturing me and whispering "make it work" in my brain. But not in a nice Tim Gunn voice, it was a creepy mean girls kind of taunt.

Cal Patch to the rescue! While flipping through her book a few days later, one of her shirt variations caught my eye. A drawstring top! What genius! 

My neckline binding is about an inch tall and it was a tube, since I had doubled it over like the arm cuff. (A floppy tube.) Plenty of room to make it into a drawstring casing. All I did was cut the stitching in the back and insert a long strip of leftover fabric into the tube. I pulled it tight until my neckline was no longer floppy. Once I was happy with the look, I sewed the ends together and then closed up the binding again. 

It's hard to describe how excited I was about my successful problem-solving. I think I even babbled about it to my husband, who had no idea what I was talking about. But he's a smart man and he knew enough to pull out the "smile and nod". 

After this project, it was a while before I drafted anymore of my own patterns. Maybe if Cal Patch's book shows up on my bday that will change, but for now goodness knows I've got plenty of "real" patterns to work through!

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