Finished: My tunic top from a French sewing book

Tunic front - csews.com

Ta-daaaa! This is the tunic top I made from a French sewing book, Dressing chic: Vetements et accessoires, which I got for $6 from the Readers Bookstore at the San Francisco Public Library. The book has 18 patterns for garments and accessories – but it’s all in French, which I can’t really understand – despite a year of French in college. But it does have nice diagrams and the patterns aren’t very complicated so I decided I could figure it out.

I got some help via Instagram from @lakakills, who is French, and assured me that “les valeurs de coutre de 1 cm sont incluses” meant that a 1 cm seam allowance was included in the pattern pieces, and that “envers” referred to the wrong side of the fabric and “endroit” the right side. If you follow me on IG (@csews) you may recall seeing some of my WIP (work-in-progress) photos or this one below, which shows the book, the tunic as it appears in the book and the fabrics I was thinking of using.

Sewing book-tunic-fabric- csews.com

I decided to make this pattern because I liked the neckline and it looked like it would be simple to make; it only has 6 pattern pieces: front, back, sleeves, front inset, front and back facings. The sleeve head looks a little funny on the model wearing a hot pink version (see above) – oddly puffy – but I decided to take my chances. Plus it was a chance for me to do some stash busting (I’ve been participating in the Summer Stashbust 2014) and experiment with putting two prints together, something I don’t ordinarily do.

These are the two prints I decided to use – the top one is a print that I got at a Bay Area Sewists fabric swap; it was in the mystery fabric category. It’s very soft and drapey so I think it’s a woven rayon. The one on the bottom is a cotton remnant I got on sale last year at Britex Fabrics. This fabric is similar to the one I used for my Emery Dress. But this version was printed a slightly different cotton (not voile) and had a printing error. There was a misprint of the bubblegum pink detail in the center of the flower so I made that the “wrong” side of the fabric.

Print fabrics - csews.com

I usually do a small bust adjustment on bodices but I decided to leave the bust darts as is because the model looked rather slender so I thought the bust darts would be fine as is. I decided to take my chances and just make some flat pattern adjustments and hope it all worked out. The sizes are S, M, and L. Based on the measurements provided, I went with L, which has a bust (tour de poitrine) of 94/98 cm [about 38.5 inches at the largest], waist (tour de taille) of 74/78 cm [30 inches] and hip (tour de hanches) of 100/104 cm [41 inches].

So here are the adjustments I made based on the book’s measurements (or what I usually do with some indie patterns):

  • a slight wide shoulder adjustment – adding 1/4 inch (slightly less than 1 cm) – my usual
  • added 1 inch (2.54 cm) of ease to the bicep area of the sleeves using the method Sandra Betzina details in her book Fast Fit (I got a used copy at Half Price Books.)
  • added 4 inches(about 10 cm) to sleeve length – I didn’t like the sleeve length, not quite 3/4, plus I have long arms
  • added 3/8 inch (1 cm) to hip – I have wide hips

I figured out that I needed more ease in the bicep area by:

  1. looking at the model in the photo and seeing that she had skinny arms;
  2. holding the pattern piece against my arm and seeing that it gave me about an inch of ease; and
  3. comparing the measurement of my bicep circumference and the width of the upper part of the sleeve pattern piece.

I decided an extra inch of ease would be good. I followed Sandra’s instructions for a large bicep. I don’t have a large bicep but I decided that would be the easiest way for me to add ease to that part of the sleeve. I drew a line from the top center of the sleeve cap to the bottom edge. then I drew a perpendicular line where the sleeve cap begin to curve. I cut along those lines and then pulled the left and right sides apart until I had a 1-inch gap in the middle. She notes that the pieces along the horizontal lines will overlap slightly – and they do.

Sleeve pattern adjustment - bicep - csews.com

I taped the sleeve pieces to another piece of tracing paper, redrew my  grainline and the bottom sleeve edge so that it’s a straight edge again. If you don’t redraw the bottom edge, you’ll have a curving hem. Sandra says to add this amount to the sleeve cap, which I did but later discovered that I didn’t need to do that. She also advises to stay stitch along the entire sleeve cap, which I did.

I didn’t make any changes to the armscye of the front or back pattern pieces. I just eased the extra inch of sleeve cap when I attached the sleeve to the main body of the tunic.

Note on sleeve lengthening: I was lazy. I sliced the pattern piece about 1/3 up from the bottom, perpendicular to the grain. Then I lay my pattern pieces on my fabric and moved the two pieces apart by 4 inches, pinned them in place, making sure the grainline matched, and cut. I guess you could say I “trued” the piece as I cut.

The trickiest part was how to attach the contrasting fabric inset and the facing to the front pattern piece. I stared at the diagrams and eventually determined that I had to arrange my pattern pieces in this order:

  1. Front body wrong side up
  2. Front facing wrong side down
  3. Inset right side down, 1/4-inch pressed around edged

and then sew the tunic slit opening by sewing as close to the center line in a very tight U shape. I’m sewing through all three pieces. In this photo, you can barely see the facing because the right side is up and the interfacing side is against the main body. But you can see a slight white edge around the facing. On this, my “wrong” side of the fabric, you can  see the pink centers of the flowers and the interfacing on the inset piece.

Inset piece

The next steps were to sew the bust darts, flip the front inset (my contrasting fabric) to the front, attach the front and back shoulders and facings. Then I flipped the front inset to the right side, and pin the facing to the front and back pieces like so.

Tunic facing - csews.com

The next step was to topstich along the neckline and around the edged of the contrasting fabric inset. I decided to hand stitch with black button craft thread. Here’s a detail of the front left side of the inset.

Top stitching by hand - csews.com

Then I eased the sleeves in place and sewed the side seams – from sleeve edge down the sides, stopping a few inches from bottom. I tried it on to see how it fit and the bust was fine, the sleeve ease was fine, but the sleeve cap was screwy. The very top sort of puffed up about an inch (a couple of centimeters) above my shoulder but the fabric wasn’t stiff so it was like a deflated late 19th Century blouse. Picture this without the pouf:

19th century blouse - puff sleeves

I immediately took it off ripped out the stitches along the very top of the sleeve cap where the weirdness began and ended, then I just took my scissors and cut off that excess. I sewed a new line of stay stitching, plus a line of ease, pinned and reattached. That  quick fix worked! So I took the piece I cut off, lay it on the other sleeve as my guide to cut the excess off and finished that sleeve.

All that was left was to hem the sleeves and bottom. The bottom of the side seams are open (see photo below) so I had to press and fold the seam allowance of there and machine topstiched. Then I hand sewed the hems.

Tunic - right hem detail - csews.com

And here are some more photos. It was a breezy and very sunny day. I think this is one of the few photos that show my red shoes so that’s why I’m including it – even though my hair is blowing in my face. 😉

Tunic and red shoes - csews.com

Here’s another side view.

Tunic - Left side - csews.com

And a closer shot of the front.

Tunic Front - csews.com

And the sleeves. I didn’t have enough of the navy fabric for the sleeves so that’s how I ended up with  contrasting sleeves. You can see here how the fabric nicely drapes.

Sleeve detail - csews.com

The tunic would probably look better with slimmer pants instead of these wide-leg jeans.

Tunic - front view - csews.com

There are no darts in the back and it’s kinda poufs out there – not so attractive, eh?

Tunic - left back detail

I grabbed this belt before I left the apartment but maybe a skinny belt would be better.

Tunic belted - front - csews.com

Or maybe it doesn’t need to be belted. The back looks OK here.

Tunic - back view - csews.com

I’m happy with this tunic – my wearable muslin. Plus one fabric was free (via a fabric swap) and the other I got for less than $10. I used thread I already had and I spent a few dollars on some lightweight woven interfacing. I think my total costs were around $10 to make this. The only thing I would change is that I didn’t really need a wide shoulder adjustment. I think the pattern was drafted to have a sloping shoulder look.

Have you made any wearable muslins? Or are they only possible with simple patterns?

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Finished: My Red Anna Dress

Red Anna Dress - By Hand London - sewing pattern - csews.com

I made a red Anna Dress! This is the second project I made as part of my summer stashbusting mission. Yep – I’m participating in Summer Stashbust 2014. My first project was The Trench. I seem to be making stuff from fabric I’ve had for a couple of years. Well, that’s not exactly true. I bought the solid red fabric – Robert Kauffman Radiance, a cotton-silk sateen, from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley last month. So it’s really not a stashbust fabric but it has a very nice hand that went well with my fabric. This cotton-silk blend is super shiny on one side and more of a matte finish but with a slight sheen on the other side, which went well with my print. I used the more matte side as the “right” side of my fabric.

Stashbust 2014 - red circle fabric - csews.com - C Sews
Robert Kauffman Radiance on left, stash fabric on right

[Confession: The stashbust challenge goes from June 21 to Sept. 21. But I wasn’t paying attention to the cutoff date and I bought this solid red fabric a day after the challenge started. Ooops!]

I’ve had this print – large sort of ying/yang randomly placed circles of two shades of red on an off-white background for about three or four years. It’s a cotton lycra blend. I think I bought it because I liked the colors but I didn’t consider just how big those circles were and how overwhelming they’d be on a skirt. So it just languished in my stash. And when the stashbust challenge came up I looked at it again and realized it could work if I broke it up with a solid red fabric. The print wouldn’t be as overwhelming.

Sketch of color blocking - Anna Dress - csews.comSo I decided to make a color blocked Anna Dress, the oh-so-popular By Hand London pattern, with a solid red bodice and then alternating skirt panels. But I had to think about how that would work because there are three skirt panels in the front and four in the back.

I thought I could alternate the panels: print/solid/print/solid. But you can’t alternate all the panels when you have an odd number of panels. Two panels will need to be the same fabric. I made this sketch to figure it out.

For the front, I decided the center and would be solid red and the two side panels the circle print. For the back I would put the solid red on the sides and use the print for the two center panels. The letters on my sketch refer to the Anna pattern pieces.

I cut out my pattern pieces almost exactly as I had for my first Anna Dress, which I made for Sewing Indie Month, except that I added about an inch of length to the sleeves.

After I pressed the pleats/darts in the bodice, spraying a little water here and there, I saw that wet spots really showed up, which meant it wouldn’t look so great on a hot summer day. So after I posted a blurry photo on Instagram  (@csews) and asked folks for advice (line or not?), I decided I did need a lining. If I had thought about this earlier, I would have underlined and just sewed the pleats/darts into both pieces of fabric together. That’s what Heather of Handmade by Heather B did when she made her Tiki Goddess Anna Dress. I confess that I never really gave much thought to underlining until I read Seamstress Erin PhD’s post When to Underline Your Sewing. I’ve lined dresses and skirts but I haven’t underlined anything.

Because I already put the pleats/darts in the bodice, I couldn’t underline. So I cut another bodice but I didn’t add length to sleeves. Then I sewed the pleats/darts, and attached the two bodice pieces at the neckline. I put the shiny side of the fabric on the inside – it’s oh so soft and luxurious. But I sewed the side seams together like an underlining as you can see in the back view here. I did the same thing when I attached the skirt to the bodice as you can see here. I didn’t feel like hand stitching a lining to the waist. 😉

Anna Dress - Back view lining - By Hand London - csews.com

I hemmed the sleeves by folding the ends twice and hand stitching it to the lining, which was cut the same length as the pattern pieces. Here’s a view of the inside of the bodice. Check out that sleeve hem!

Anna Dress - By Hand London - Inside sleeve hem - csews.com

For this version I sewed french seams for the skirt panel pieces.

French seams - Anna Dress - By Hand London - csews.com

I tried to careful in sewing and pressing my french seams, hoping that my bodice seams would line up but they were slightly off in two spots so when I pinned I eased them as much as I could to line them up.

And here are more photos of the dress. I took a lot of photos so you can see the color blocking. I’m wearing my white straw hat, which I got at a consignment shop in Oakland a few years ago. I don’t wear it very much so it was fun to take it out of the hat box for this photo shoot.

Red Anna Dress - left - By Hand London - csews.com

Note on photography: Exposure and focus are tricky when you’re using a timer on a digital camera. I focused on the ivy and then had to experiment with my exposure settings to get the colors of the fabric to look right. The ivy is more in focus than I am. If you have any tips on timer photography, let me know.

Red Anna Dress - back - By Hand London pattern - csews.com

I also took photos wearing my vintage black straw and velvet hat so you can see my Peterham ribbon flower, which I made a while ago (oh the hand pleating!). As you can see this shade of red is one of my faves. I took these photos last Sunday. My hair isn’t this long any more though. I got about six inches lopped off yesterday. No more pony tail!

Red Anna Dress - back - By hand london - csews.com

I had problems installing the invisible zipper. For some reason my machine got stuck after I sewed a couple of inches down the zipper. So I ended up hand sewing the zipper in place, which kinda sucked because it’s a long zipper. It took me an evening in front of the television to finish sewing it. And my waist seam ended up being a tiny bit off in the back – about 1/16 of an inch. I wasn’t about to unpick all my hand stitches though. It’s in the back so I can live with it.

Red Anna Dress - back - By Hand London - csews.com

Red Anna Dress - right side - By Hand London - csews.com

Red Anna Dress - By Hand London - csews.com

Have you made any color blocked clothes? What did you make and what fabrics did you use?

BTW – If you’re a member of Bay Area Sewists and are coming to our fabric swap this Saturday, July 26, you can get about 1 1/4 yards of my red circle print fabric. I’m bringing it to the meetup. 🙂

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