A Modified Archer shirt by Sewing Tidbits

Anachronistic sewing – still stuck on Archer shirt

Dear readers,

I rarely manage to make-up the “trendy” sewing pattern at its trendy time. While you all finished your Alder shirt dresses, I still sew Archers. In addition, when Alder first came out, I could not wait to make it up, but now I am having second thoughts. A-line may not be that flattering on me after all.

Also, unrelated to this post, I wanted to thank all of you who shared their thoughts on my last post. It is definitely something I could talk about all day but I will spare you and only add 2 things :

  • Can you get more disappointing than this? This dress is in any big 4 catalogue, burda magazine and you can get a customized pattern by Lekala. What are you bringing to the cutting table? Apart from pulling at the bust. No, I’m not nice, I  know.
  • Hope for collaborative sewing exists. Lovely reader Miranda emailed me about this PR conversation that I had missed. Seeing how the community can engage in a project all together is heartwarming . I would not make that pattern because it’s not my style but it seems to appeal to many. My only regret is that the result of this awesome collaboration is yet another simple knit pattern for sale… BUT it should not detract from how great it is to witness all the contributions.

Now back to the shirt! Pictures are still from my Iphone, but for once the location is NOT my garden, YAY! My dog is therefore NOT in the background, (NAY?). I spent a week by Lake Atitlán in Guatemala (highly recommended) in August and I packed some garments to photograph on the beautiful terrace of the house we rented.

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Please note that this is not the pattern straight out of the printer. I was happy with my first version of the shirt (see my shirtdress version) but I want to create a TNT pattern for boyfriend shirts and I am glad to report that it is almost a success. To guide my fit alterations, I used a Banana Republic shirt I love. I measured elements like shoulder length, waist shaping, pocket placement, final length, etc. Beth’s post on Craftsy is timely as it is exactly what I did!

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Main fit alterations:

  • adding 3″ of overall length, and note that I am only 5’3″. But I like my shirts tucked in and I want to raise my arms without exposing skin.
  • Shortening the shoulder length by and adjusting the yoke accordingly

Archer alteration

  • Removing most of the sleeve ease at the underarm seam and reshaping the sleeve head a little (for an idea of how, you can check this post at Fashion-Incubator)
  • Further shaping the waist at the side seam
  • Shortening the sleeves

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I also tried to use more advanced sewing techniques, and I will do a detailed post. Some worked (tower placket, button placket, cuff construction) and some did not work at all (ouch, collar+stand). Sometimes, a “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” approach is best. I never had a problem with  stand collar construction before so why did I try to find a better way to do it? Don’t know… Some of my techniques required pattern alteration or drafting of extra pieces. Look out for the post next week soon!

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I am planning my next shirt with further alterations. The final pattern may have little to do with the original Archer but I still believe that it was a great start. It produces wearable garments from the first trial and can be altered easily. Next time, I want to tackle the collar & stand: the collar could be wider and the stand should close at a 90 degree angle (this is what I mean). I will also start adding darts to the back so it remains relaxed but more fitted. Finally, further shortening of the sleeves is necessary (creepy baby length arms, again), sad…

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I almost forgot to tell you that the fabric is one of the pieces I brought back from Paris last June. I found it at the cotton stand of Marché St Pierre. However, looking at the drape I guess some rayon is thrown in.

While I prepare my post on shirt construction, I would love to hear from you your favorite shirt making tutorials. I am familiar with the Archer Sew-along, Fashion-Incubator, Off the Cuff, Male Pattern Boldness and Sewing Square Walls but I may be missing on important ones! Please, fill me in!

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Grainline Studio Archer Shirt dress by Sewing Tidbits

Late Archer appreciation: it’s a shirt, it’s a dress, it’s a shirtdress!

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What, a new post??? I warned you, it’s going to be crazy blogging weeks with at least a post a week… It will be probably followed by the usual hiatus. Not because I haven’t been sewing (I have, 2 pencil skirts in one weekend, so proud!) but because I travel every 2 months so that usually put everything on hold. This time, I will be going back to NYC for 5 days (YAY!!! FRIENDS !!! DOUBLE YAY!!! MOOD FABRICS!!! TRIPLE YAY!!!) and then joining The Old Man) in Guatemala (3rd time now).

Now going to this dress, if you follow me on Pinterest, you know that I have a limited number but very pronounced obsessions (hum hum Miranda Kerr… hum hum). Among them you can count skinny jeans, pumps, shirts, maxi skirts, pencil skirts and SHIRTDRESSES. All these pretty much define how I dress on a daily basis.

I already made one last year but since then I started thinking about a dress that would be basically a long loose shirt. And what would be more perfect than Grainline Studio’s Archer pattern for that purpose ? That’s right, NOTHING!

Following the advice on Twitter from A Stitching Odyssey, I used size 0 for bust and waist and graded out to a 2 in the hips. In addition, to turn this shirt pattern into a dress I just added 10 inches below the hips area. I think it’s important to do the lengthening below the hip level other wise you end up elongating the curve between the waist and the hip. Other than that I did 0 alterations. Yes, you read well zero.Knowing me you could have expected a debauch of 1/4″ seam allowances, redrafting of the under collar, changing the button placket, etc. But, I wanted to follow the sewalong to the letter, so i did NONE of that, ET VOILA! I finished all seams with french seams, including the armholes (I recommend it, it’s really really nice).

The fabric is something synthetic that I found here in Port-au-Prince, I would go for something like rayon. Actually, The Old Man found it and made me buy it. He is EXTREMELY proud of it, so every time I got a compliment for the dress, he is beaming (men..). As much as I like to contradict him, I have to admit that it’s nice to wear, easy to wash and to iron. I already used the remnants to make one of the pencil skirts mentioned above. But of course it will probably take me an additional 2 months to blog about those.

So anyway, I did not make it on time for the Archer Appreciation month launched by Lucky Lucille and Miss Crayola Creepy back in December (part of my love/hate relationship with sewalongs) but I really love this dress. It’s a great option for these days when you have nothing to wear! I have a white 23mm silk crepe in my stash that is screaming to be made into something similar to this very popular pinterest picture… I may remove 3/4″ to the shoulder length though, because they are dropping a bit.

Have a great day everybody, I will finish this post with a gratuitous picture of where I was last weekend, this is  Ile-a-Vache, an island in the South of Haiti.

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Franken-Pattern Making for faster/better sewing

If you are not familiar with the concept of Franken-Pattern Making (you can read about it here and here, unfortunately the original post from Sew-4-fun is no longer accessible), it consists of using sewing patterns for the design details only and mix them with a pattern you already know fits well (your personal blocks/TNT patterns if you want). It’s actually very close (if not the same) to what Carolyn does with her Pattern Sandwich method. It particularly suits my sewing style because 1/ my sewing time is limited and 2/ I don’t always have the courage to make a muslin. I also tend to spend a lot of time on the pattern. Taking classes at FIT (draping and patternmaking) really taught me patience when it comes to working on the pattern.  I remember reading one day on Fashion Incubator that you could break up time like this :

1 hour of pattern making, 1/2 hour of cutting, 1/4 hour of actual sewing.

It was enlightening! I drafted blocks in the past, trust me! I started early, by the time I was 15 I decided that pattern companies had it all wrong (haha, teenage overconfidence… I also thought that sleeves were stupid because they could not fit in armholes, STUPID SLEEVES!). As a result I got books and I started drafting, some of the result were TERRIBLE (this was my first book, not good…), some were good (with this book, this one, or this one). But at the end of the day, where are those drafts ? I DON’T EVEN KNOW!! I spent looooong  hours making them and turning them into usable patterns. I want to start from something that is already a pattern!

I said it before, I believe that Lekala patterns are particularly suited to play the role of starting blocks (haha, pun intended) or be used for a Focus on Fit approach, because :

  1. I’m very happy with the fit of the made to measure feature. It fits almost perfectly without alterations
  2. They have a wide range of styles, so I can start from something already close to what I want
  3. They are relatively cheap, they don’t add much to the overall cost of the project.
  4. I can print them with or without seam allowances. If I’m going to do a lot of changes I prefer to have none.

But let’s take a practical case so that I can explain myself better!

For Thanksgiving, amazing Jen of Grainline Studio organized a sale. I really admire the level of professionalism she brings to home-sewing patterns but I only made the Scout tee in the past. After seeing all the praise on her work (specially Archer), I decided to go ahead and purchase the Portside Travel Set, the Archer shirt, the Maritime shorts and the Moss mini skirt. Over the last few weeks I came to the conclusion that a short chambray skirt was THE basic that I was missing. To be with fair, I have this type of thoughts quite often, sometimes it’s legitimate (a white shirtdess, black slacks, a pencil skirt, etc.), sometimes it’s more questionable (a shiny midi skirt, leather shorts…). Anyway, my heart is currently set on a chambray mini skirt so I. NEED. ONE. NOW. The technical drawing of the Moss skirt is exactly what I want, but after looking at the size chart and Pattern Review, I know that there are very little chances that this pattern fits me right out of the enveloppe printer. My hips are size 4 and my waist is size 0…

So I  went on a search on the Lekala website, looking for something as close as possible. I set my heart on number 5430.

Lekala 5430
Grainline Studio - Moss Skirt
Grainline Studio – Moss Skirt

A comparison of the 2 drawings shows the design changes that I’m going to make to the Lekala pattern. But in addition, I like to embed construction in my pattern as much as possible. This means often changing the zipper parts, reducing seam allowances, etc. For this case, I settled on the following changes:

Design :

  1. eliminate the back dart for a yoke
  2. chop off the top of the waistband
  3. and add a back seam

Construction

  1. The Seam Allowances are dependent on the type of Seam Finish. I will serge and topstitche all visible seams on the inside. This means 1/2″. The seam between the skirt and the waistband will be encased so I will use 3/8″. But the top seam of the waistband will be only 1/4 to eliminate the need for grading it later. Hem will be double-folder : 3/4″and 1/2″.
  2. Pockets : i read how pleased people were with the pockets being attached to CF on the Moss skirt and how deep they are so I want to keep this feature BUT I also liked the 1 piece pocket bag from the Jedediah shorts by Thread Theory I just completed so I will incorporate that too!
  3. Fly zipper : I know everybody has it’s favorite technique, and people seems to feel very strongly about them. My best fly zipper of all times (and it was not only luck since I used it several times) was completed using this amazing book : Design Room Techniques by Laurel Hoffman. I know it’s pricey but it’s worth every penny. I promise!! Otherwise, I think this one by Notes from a Mad Housewife looks great too!

Now for the visual people out there, I took pictures of the process. First this is what a Lekala sheet looks like for a pattern without seam allowances :

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I started by drafting the yoke and closing the dart (TIP: close the dart first, which is not what I did on the picture below so I had to redraw my curve completely…)

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Then I added seam allowances on the back pieces and compared with the Moss pattern :

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My yoke is a lot curvier than the Moss one, which makes sense since I have a bigger hips/waist differential (please not that I should have aligned the straight grains before taking this picture)20131212-091210.jpg

The Waistband pieces have been modified to be thinner and to have the extension needed for the fly zipper. There for there are 2 pieces fro the front and one is longer than the other.

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For the front, I added seam allowances and drafted the zipper pieces from Laurel Hoffman’s book, using a 5″ zipper instead of 7″.

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Interstingly enough, it seams that although the back are almost exactly the same width, my Lekala is considerably larger in the front.

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The key of this zipper method is that right side and left side are NOT identical pattern pieces. I will remove 1/4″ on the one of the sides but only after cutting since I’m cutting double layer this time.

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A better view of the zipper set :

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Now the pockets : I did not change the pocket shape from the Lekala pattern as I find it close enough.

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But I redrafted the pocket bag, so that it’s deeper, it reachs the middle (Grainline Instructions) but it’s 1 full piece of contrasting fabric (I like to use muslin) to be folded and with “facings”  of self fabric (Thread Theory Style). The result is this :

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An essential step after all this work is to WALK ALL THE SEAMS and check/correct the notches. This is what will make your sewing really fast because everything will match seamlessly (haha, again).

For the fabric I had a very small leftover of chambray from an old old UFO (which I think I finally tossed). The limited amount of fabric will not allow extra for mistakes, all the more reasons to be extra careful with the pattern.

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As you can see on the picture below, I like to cut my waistbands with the grain parallel to the longer side. I think it makes them more stable. You can see all the fabric I have… It’s not much!!20131212-091322.jpg

I hope this process post was helpful, as I said in my blog anniversary post, I’m trying to bring more substantial content and not only final results pictures. So I would love to hear your thoughts about franken-patterns, fly zippers, etc. !!

Grainline Scout Tee Sewalong

Starting to write this post, I just realized that I think it is the first time that I actually sew a pattern from an independent sewing pattern company. I have been obsessed with them, mostly because this is something I have been thinking about doing since I was 14, but I never was fully into the styles and if I tempted the sizings are usually to big. In particular, I remember emailing one about there smallest bust measurement (maybe you can guess with one I’m talking about…) saying that it was a pity their smallest size was so big. I got a reply saying that I should do an SBA (Small Bust Adjustment). I was very disappointed because to me it felt like they did not understand their customers. Petite and Small in measurements women are always thought to be shapeless by the “curvier” people out there. I’m probably not going to make a lot of friends here but I never thought that curves were about measurements. Leaving in 4 different countries and continent in the last 4 years, I’ve seen shapes and shapelessness in every size and at every age !

Anyway… Maybe one day I’ll write the whole body image mandatory blogpost…

Going back to this pattern, I’ve been following Grainline Studio with a particular interest. I like a lot of things about Jen, her patterns and her designs and I was not disappointed making this one.

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This scout woven tee was made out of quilt cotton (GASP!) I bought 2 years ago when visiting Philadelphia. I know that a lot have been said about sewing with quilt cotton. I’m not one who would normally do it, it does not fit my wardrobe or my lifestyle. But once in a while, for a cute print, I allow myself to slip…. That same day in Philadelphia, I bought another piece of fabric that I used as soon as I was back in New York. TOTAL disaster!! I never wore it… Maybe one day I’ll show it on the blog and ask for advice on what I should do with it.

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With all the silk things, the leather and the coat making, sometimes I forget about how enjoyable it can be to make a SIMPLE pattern in an EASY fabric. The whole thing from taping the pattern to putting the final result on Instagram took me less than 3 hours!

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I made size 0 with no alterations and I was extremely pleased with the instructions : concise, clear and efficient. I serged the inside to practice my serging abilities (still VERY limited, I’m embarrassed to admit…).

I found the motivation to make it for the kollabora sewalong. I’m completely new to the kollabora community but it looks nice. However, I’m a bit hesitant to start uploading there as I am already struggling to find the time for the blog, Burdastyle and Pattern Review

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I’ve seen some very nice knit versions here and there and I’m willing to try (more practice with the serger…). I think I would change a few things to the pattern. First, the shoulder seam is funny, maybe you can see what I mean on this picture :

IMG_0769And for a knit, I would remove the ease of the sleeve and lengthen the bodice maybe 2 inches. What do you think ? Are you tired of the view of my balcony already ?