Style Arc Susan Top (Knit T-Shirt)

The Style Arc Susan shirt is a simple knit t-shirt pattern to sew up quickly. I chose this t-shirt pattern because Style Arc sewing patterns are apparently supposed to come in sizes that fit a real person better than the patterns from the big-4 pattern companies. So that’s a big plus for this independent sewing pattern company. Although I am a novice, I have made enough failed muslins to know that so far the big-4 patterns do not fit me AT ALL. I suspect this t-shirt pattern has to be one of the simplest designs that Style Arc makes– just what I was looking for.

Susan Top Sewing Pattern
Susan Top Sewing Pattern

I am happy to say that this pattern actually fits me. Of course since I used a stretch jersey knit fabric, the odds were in my favor. I used the cheapest knit jersey fabric I could get my hands on.

The pattern itself was great. It was printed on very nice paper, which is so much better than the awful tissue paper that regular patterns are printed on. The instructions are minimal at best. You will need some experience sewing to understand these patterns. It was a single size pattern, so don’t plan on grading between different sizes. You will need to make custom fitting adjustments on Style Arc patterns to make the sewing pattern match your measurements.

Everything would have been fine, but I faced a lot of technical difficulties that ultimately make this project a FAIL. Big surprise there! My problem was sewing this thin jersey fabric with my sewing machine. The thin jersey fabric kept getting sucked into my sewing machine despite my use of lower tension settings, my walking food, tissue paper as stabilizer, wash away stabilizer, and jersey needles. Ultimately, the fabric was beyond saving and this turned into a practice project.

Next time I suppose I will just try my serger first, and skip the sewing machine as much as possible for knit fabric. But that entails 2 hours of testing serger tension settings– boring! And then I will need a way to cleanly hem knit fabric in the future. Ugh, now I want a Coverstitch Machine. 3 Hours Past (which is affiliated with Cake Patterns) has a post all about stabilizers and sewing on knits which will hopefully help me since I don’t have a coverstitch machine!

I switched to using my serger midway through the project. Even though the tension was not perfectly balanced, it was a million times better than my sewing machine. Actually I am very happy to find a starting point for my tension settings for serging knit jersey.

  • Starting point tension settings for Brother 1034d Serger (Thin Knit Jersey): 3 thread overlock, 4, –, 5.5, 4.3 and a stitch width of 4.7.
  • I found the neckline a bit wide for my taste, which made me feel a little over exposed. I will bring it up and in next time
  • Oops, I forgot to cut the sleeves as mirror images, so one of them is sewn wrong side out. Learning experience.
  • 3 Thread Overlock tension settings: 4, --, 5.5, 4.3.
    3 Thread Overlock tension settings: 4, –, 5.5, 4.3. (That’s left needle 4, right needle not threaded, upper looper 5.5, and lower looper 4.3) (Brother 1034d serger on thin jersey fabric)
    Brother Serger 1034d Machine Settings for thin jersey. (differential feed, stitch length and stitch width).
    Brother Serger 1034d Machine Settings for thin jersey. Differential feed: 1 (default setting); Stitch length: 3 (default setting), Stitch Width/ cutting distance : 4.7.
    3 Thread overlock stitching on thin jersey
    3 Thread overlock stitching on thin jersey. Not too bad!

    I plan on making this t shirt AGAIN with a different fabric or possibly trying a fusible interfacing for the neckline, hem and wrists. Sew There Tammy made a couple of Style Arc Susan tops that she was happy with. Hopefully I will too someday soon!

Colette Sorbetto Top: Variations

My latest project has been my “real” versions of the Colette Sorbetto Top. My Sorbetto Muslin was good practice for sewing this blouse. I am so happy I made this free download sewing pattern! The Sorbetto top is a cute (and easy!) vintage style blouse. As a beginning sewer, the Sorbetto Top is fun to sew because it was a successful project that also taught me some new sewing skills. Plus its basic design is sort of a blank slate so you can customize the top with fun variations for different looks and styles.

Colette Sorbetto Variation with Bias Tape on the Pleat
Colette Sorbetto Variation with Bias Tape on the Pleat. Sort of like piping?

I think that the Sorbetto top is my first actually wearable, non-embarrassing garment sewing project. I even customized the top with my own variations: one version has buttons and my other version has bias tape on the box pleat. My second version also has the armhole bias tape hidden inside of the blouse, since I didn’t want the top to be too busy. Both tops were made from lightweight cotton lawn or voile for a nice drape.

Colette Sorbetto Top in Grey Swiss Dot with Buttons
Colette Sorbetto Top in Grey Swiss Dot with Buttons
Colette Sorbetto Alternate Version: Bias Tape
Colette Sorbetto Alternate Version: Bias Tape (piping?)

This was also my first time successfully sewing buttons on anything. It was actually really easy using the zig-zag stitch setting and my satin sewing foot. I am definitely not afraid of sewing on buttons anymore. Button holes are a different matter…

Buttons Sewn on to the Colette Sorbetto Top
Variation of the Colette Sorbetto Top: Buttons!

I made my own bias tape with my new bias tape maker to sew on the button Sorbetto top because I wanted a clean, un-fussy look. I used the tutorial on Coletterie to make the custom bias tape, it it worked great! However, I did have a problem with the fabric shifting as I was trying to cut it, leading to sloppy strips of fabric. I solved this problem by making spray stabilizer using Sulky Solvy Water Soluble Stabilizer Roll. The solvy spray really helped and I am glad I have it on hand now.

I even serged the inside seams for a clean and durable finish. I still have a lot to learn about serging though. The serger is so much faster than overcasting the edge! But fiddling with the tensions is annoying… I need to finish my Online Beginner Serging Class! After all, I love my exposed zipper bag!

Changes and alterations I made to the Colette Sorbetto Top:

  • I added two inches at the waist to lengthen the top.
  • I used hem tape at the bottom of the top, which also helped to lengthen the top.
  • One Sorbetto top had the bias tape for the arm holes on the inside, not showing on the outside.
  • My Sorbetto Top Variations were adding buttons and adding bias tape on the box pleat as a sort of piping detail.
  • Next time I will consider moving the bust dart down 1 inch as that may make for a better fit, according to pattern review.
  • I serged the inside seams for a clean finish.
Colette Sorbetto Vintage Style Blouse Sewing Pattern.
Colette Sorbetto Vintage Style Blouse Sewing Pattern with My Variations: Buttons and bias tape sort of piping.
colette sorbetto free sewing pattern download piping detail
I used Bias tape as an accent detail on the Colette Sorbetto Top center pleat

Maternity T-Shirt Refashion

Project: DIY maternity t-shirt
Cost: Price of shirt + elastic
Supplies: Loose T-shirt, matching thread, 1/4″ knit non-roll elastic

Well world, I am now 22 weeks pregnant (over half way through!) and I am looking starting to show. And by ‘show’ I mean that I look pretty chubby. No cute baby bump for me yet, just bloat. I feel like the only woman in history who has ever felt like this. My weight gain is on track, so what is up? DON’T JUDGE ME!

pregnant belly
Not me

My sewing activities came to an abrupt halt due to 1) exhaustion, and 2) loss of motivation due to said chub. Let me tell you, the sad lack of cute maternity sewing patterns does not help inspire me. Why do they want pregnant women to look so bad? I feel oppressed!

Unfortunately, the few cute pregnancy sewing patterns I have found online are out of stock, and it appears that they will stay out of print for the duration of my pregnancy. Come on, fire up the presses and print up those patterns before an entirely new human being is formed in utero! Megan Nielsen designed some contemporary and flattering maternity patterns, but they are all unavailable on her website (and apparently through resellers too).

The alternatives to new maternity sewing patterns are maternity pattern alterations and maternity refashion sewing projects. Both of these are challenging to me as a novice sewer!

I decided that my first pregnancy sewing project would be a t-shirt refashion. By adding ruching to the sides of a large t-shirt I will add shape and comfort to a boxy, unflattering shirt. The idea for this project came from Homemade by Jill. I found that Sew Like My Mom had a very helpful tutorial. However, it was essential for me to subtract 3 inches from the length of elastic she used in order for me to get a ruching effect. (So, measure 4 inches from the armpit seam and 2.5 inches from the bottom of the shirt, and subtract 3. Cut this amount of elastic, but beware that maybe different kinds of elastic need different adjustments). I would love to try to alter the waist of some jeans some time like she did.

Maternity T-Shirt with side ruching
22 Weeks pregnant and nothing to wear!

I needed more guidance on how to sew ruching with elastic. WhatTheCraft.com had a helpful elastic ruching tutorial.As in the tutorials, I decided to sew on the elastic to the sides of the shirt while it is stretched out.  I had some problems getting the shirt/elastic to move through the machine.  I have several unsightly thread balls in the shirt.  They are never coming out.

Sewing the elastic was super annoying.  Ripping it out was worse. If you are not pregnant, you may need a drink afterwards.

Elastic for rouched sides in a maternity t-shirt
1/4″ Inch elastic added to sides for ruching

Verdict:  This project has lots of potential if you have a shirt that is already flattering in the chest and shoulders, and if you know how to sew elastic.  I  used again with a women’s large t-shirt. Once I adjusted the length of the elastic needed, I was pretty happy with the results. I think a cute semi-fitted pregnancy look is the way to go, instead of the circus tent look. I think I might need to look for a longer style shirt in the near future.

I am still wearing my regular jeans thanks to the good old hair tie trick or my Bella Band. The Bella Band is great because it is much more comfortable and it covers up the zipper on your pants so people do not constantly tell you that your zipper is undone.

Luv in the Mommyhood posted a very helpful list of maternity sewing projects that I want to try out!

Simplicity Sew Simple 1989 Dress… shortened to a top

Sewing success at last!

Simplicity 1989 Dress Pattern Shortened to a Shirt
Simplicity 1989 Dress Hemmed to a Top with Lisette Fabric

I am basically overjoyed to say that my most ambitious sewing project to date was not an abject failure!  My Simplicity Sew Simple 1989 dress pattern took many long hours, and yes I did bleed at one point, but I now have a piece of clothing that I made myself! Instead of a shift dress, I shortened the pattern to a long top.  I saw this dress on Sew My and since it looked great and featured a simple design I wanted to try to make it. I decided to make a shirt instead of a dress because I don’t wear dresses too often. For a top, I needed 2 yards of fabric. I used my new brown floral Lisette cotton sateen fabric. I had just enough… If you are tall or are making a larger size, buy more fabric.

I did make a practice version/ muslin before making this shift dress using better fabric.  I used some quilting cotton fabric I had to test out the construction process and the new techniques. Because this dress pattern features an extremely simple skirt and waist (with nothing to do but straightforward sewing and hemming), I only used the muslin to practice on the top half of the dress.  My muslin sewing practice was to try out three different sewing techniques I had never tried before.  I learned how to sew bias tape for the neckline, how to make bust darts, and how to sew sleeves.  I am super glad I made the muslin, because it helped me work out the kinks on the difficult parts (especially attaching the sleeves) and let me see that my chosen size would fit just fine. I did not slipstich anything because I don’t know how to do that and I was feeling overwhelmed.

How to Sew Bias Tape

Bias Tape
My bias tape application was not perfect but I am learning

Using bias tape for the dress neckline definitely had me confused.  The purpose of the bias tape on the neckline is to create a simple neckline hem that is not bulky or awkward. The single-fold bias tape also gives the neckline substance and structure so it stays up and in  place when you are wearing it.  This would be especially important for slippery or flimsy fabrics such as satin or polyester. As it is, the neck is quite wide so I am glad for this extra structure.

The tutorial on how to sew bias tape (single fold) by craftstylish.com really helped me.  I basically had no idea what bias tape was or how to sew it, and the Simplicity pattern instructions do not say. Thanks to this sewing project, I now feel pretty comfortable sewing on single-fold bias tape.  I even added extra bias tape to the project, as I sewed it on the sleeves too.

Easing in the Shirt Sleeves

Simplicity 1989 Sew Simple Dress Pattern
Look! Clothing!

I can’t lie. Attaching the sleeves to the shirt was a horrible horrible process.  Because the sleeves on this shirt have a wider circumference than the armhole opening (apparently those in the know call this the armscye) you have to slide the fabric of the arm along baste stitching in order to evenly distribute the extra length along the shoulder portion of the arm fabric.  In this way you are supposed to shorten the circumference of the sleeve where it attaches to the body (especially the shoulder), without creating puckers and tucks.  Once you have created evenly distributed tension, and you can’t see any weird tucks, you are ready to sew.  This is called easing in sleeves.  It is not easy at all.  It should be called difficulting in the sleeves.  (Ok, yes I know what ease means).

My sleeves didn’t turn out perfect, despite my best efforts.  Oh well. At least I jumped right in to a project that has sleeves, so I don’t have to be afraid to try it again. I wish I had seen this tutorial on setting in sleeves on Amanda’s Adventures in Sewing… next time I have to try easing in sleeves I will check here for tips.

Sewing Bust Darts

The bust seems didn’t come out perfectly even, but they are fine.  I don’t look misshapen or anything.  I think the large scale print of the fabric will hide a slight imperfection in this case.

And of course this dress (shirt) is quite loose fitting, so the bust darts aren’t on display.  They do give the dress some much needed shape though. Sewing a straight dart is straightforward, though my accuracy can’t be counted on at this point.  Coletterie.com has a dart tutorial that was clear and helpful.

And in conclusion…

I would definitely make this pattern again. I like the Simplicity Sew Simple pattern line, and I am going to look for an actual blouse pattern. Using this pattern to make a casual summer shirt would be perfect. I would love to sew the actual 1989 shift dress some time, but for now I will concentrate on shirts. I saw this dress on Sew Much Style, and I love the idea of using this dress pattern to make a little black dress– always a good standby.