The Sassy Librarian Blouse – Craftsy Class

I bought my first Craftsy sewing class a while ago – the Sassy Librarian Blouse by Christine Haynes –  and finally downloaded the PDF pattern and began viewing the lessons in March. I was already a fan of Christine’s. I bought her book Chic & Simple Sewing back in 2009 and made several things from it. So I knew her Craftsy class would be a good buy – and it was – particularly because I was lucky to buy it when it was on sale but the class is still worth the current full price of $29.99 because you not only get the pattern but step-by-step instructions from Christine.

There are two views of this top – a sleeveless version with pin tucks and one with release pleats and sleeves.  But you can easily make your own variations of the two styles – put a collar on the sleeveless version or leave off the sleeves on the other one.

Sassy Librarian Blouse This was also my first PDF pattern. All of my previous experiences with sewing patterns have been with printed patterns from books, indie designers, or from the Big Four (Vogue, Simplicity, Butterick, McCalls). I had a lovely cotton voile that I got at Fabric Outlet in San Francisco last fall and I wanted to get sewing.

Taped together PDF pattern for the Sassy Librarian Blouse by Christine Haynes
Taped together PDF pattern for the Sassy Librarian Blouse by Christine Haynes

I didn’t like the thickness of the taped together pattern pieces so I decided to trace them on to pattern paper. I wrote about tracing this pattern in this post “A Review of Sewing Patterns I’ve Traced,”see the last few paragraphs. (Also, here’s a post on tracing “Tips on Tracing Sewing Patterns” that may be helpful to you.)

It was an interesting experience watching the video lessons. Christine takes you though every step of the making the top – from pinning and cutting your fabric to marking darts and pleats as well as topstitching and understitching. She offers plenty of useful tips along the way, talking about her own sewing experiences.

Ironing a bust dart over a ham
Ironing a bust dart over a ham

It was nice to see how she marked darts. I definitely learned some additional sewing techniques from her lessons, such as remembering to use my ham to iron the bust dart. I forget to use my ham sometimes!

Overall, the class was quite informative because Christine goes into great detail about construction and finishing, which will definitely make the finished blouse look great. She’s very detail-oriented and precise, offering excellent reminders of things to watch out for and things to avoid and why (i.e. don’t sew over pins or you could throw off the timing of your sewing machine).

You can see the three-step zig zag on this collar facing.
Understiching the facing. You can see the three-step zig zag on the right.

I learned about using the three-step zig zag stitch to finish my seams and facings. I never liked using the regular zig zag stitch because it tends to bunch up but I confess I never used the three-step zig zag. It works great! So thanks, Christine for mentioning that stitch!

My only problem with taking the class is that there are no written instructions so you have to watch each lesson. You can’t really skip ahead without missing something. There are a total of 12 lessons (not including the introduction) and each lesson is divided into anywhere from two to seven parts.

Each part is titled so it’s easy to go back to a section if you need to repeat the instructions or demonstration. For example, “Pattern and Cutting” is broken down into View One or Two, The Fabric, Pining the Pattern, Interfacing, and Cutting Out the Pieces and is 17:55 minutes long. The longest lesson is the Buttons and Bows – 39:35.

I used the Craftsy app on either my iPhone or the iPad as I watched the lessons. The class opens to where you last left the lesson so you don’t have to remember where you were – a handy function.

Occasionally I found myself getting impatient. Making this top took longer than I thought it would because it’s very stop and go: You watch part of a lesson, then you pin, sew, or iron, and then watch the next step, etc. I didn’t do the buttons until May – my incentive to finish was to wear it for Me Made May. I ended up wearing this top twice in May, once on Day 8 and the second time on Day 29.

The cool thing about Craftsy classes – especially if you buy a brand new class, is that you can interact with the instructor and other people taking the class. So if you get stuck or have any questions, you can get answers right away.

At a certain point, instructors are no longer answering questions but there is a discussion section in each Craftsy class and you can see what questions people posed in a particular lesson. So if you do have a question, you can just scroll through other people’s questions and see how the instructor answered them. And if you don’t find an answer, you can pose your question and other Craftsy members who made the top may reply to your query.

Also, as you’re watching a lesson and you want to make note of something, you can click on “Add Note” and then insert a note at the very moment in the video. Then the next time you make the top, you can go to your notes and see what you wrote. This is a nice feature.

Here’s what my finished top (View 1) looked like. I’m wearing a vintage wool beret:

Sassy Top - finished

I confess that I did NOT make a muslin. I was impatient. I just wanted to get going. However, I do have a smaller than average bust so I should have taken then into account before I cut my fabric. What I ended up doing was bringing in the side seams a little so it wouldn’t be too loose in that area.

When I make the top again, which I’m certain I will, I’ll make a real bust adjustment and give myself a little more ease in the hips.

My own variations on this top were that I made it sleeveless and I made covered buttons. Here’s my post about the covered buttons for this top: “Tutorial: Centering Fabric on a Covered Button.”

And here’s another photo of the top. I’m wearing another vintage wool beret. Berets seem to go well with this top.

Sassy top with grey beret

If you’ve made this pattern, let me know what your experience was like!

Book Review: ‘Alabama Studio Sewing + Design’ by Natalie Chanin

I recently checked out this great book on hand sewing from the public library: Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: A Guide to Hand-Sewing an Alabama Chanin Wardrobe by Natalie Chanin. It focuses on creating a hand-sewn wardrobe – yes, everything from bolero jackets and wraps to dresses and skirts of varying lengths – from cotton jersey fabric. The various pieces can be layered for a striking appearance or worn with a pair of jeans for a more casual look.

These are all designs from Alabama Chanin, where a hand-sewn and hand-embroidered tank top retails for more than $1,000. But you can make your own versions with this book!

The photos of the models wearing the clothes in this book are gorgeous. And there are nice illustrations of the various stretch stitches you can use when you are hand sewing.

A couple pages from ‘Alabama Studio Sewing + Design’

The author recommends using button craft thread for hand sewing because it’s one of the strongest threads. It’s made “with a polyester core surrounded by vary finely spun cotton yarn,” writes Chanin.

I was so enamored of the clothes in this library book that I went ahead and ordered it from Amazon (and paid sales tax for the first time on an Amazon-purchased book – yes, California’s online sales tax law went into effect last weekend). I can’t cut into the patterns that come with a library book because other people will be checking it out. So I just had to buy it.

Featured in the book & available to buy on Alabama Chanin’s website

What makes the clothes unique is the appliqué work, beading, stencils, and embroidering. The stencils and various designs for embroidering and beading are all provided in the book along with patterns for the various clothes. You can also purchase the stencils from Alabama Chanin’s store. Cutting out the stencils yourself is certainly time-consuming so you may want to spring for a stencil if you intend to reuse it or just want to spare yourself the tediousness of cutting out the designs.

I was so inspired that when I saw that the Fabric Outlet in San Francisco was having a sale this week (everything 40 percent off!), I went shopping for some black cotton jersey. I also picked up several spools of button thread. I’m not sure if I’m going to hand sew the entire thing – my zigzag stitch on my sewing machine may be employed for this endeavor. But I’m certainly going to give it serious consideration.

I’ll be sure to post about what I make from this book. Though it may take a l-o-o-o-ng time because of the hand sewing!

Chuleenan Svetvilas