Wednesday, July 19, 2006

James' summer shirt

Vogue 7457. Loose-fitting, pullover top has three lengths. A: front/back extend into above-elbow sleeves with slit (wrong side may show) and purchased drawstring. B: cap sleeves. B,C: stitched hem.

The instructions seemed straight forward but I did not follow them exactly. The top is really a test ground for things I learned (am still learning) from participating in Sarah Veblen's recent Understanding Sheer Fabrics Course on PR.

The pattern was very easy with not many seams. For a sheer, unlined top, I think lots of seams have the potential to spoil the flow of the garment.

The fabric is silk chiffon, purchased in Tokyo. Black with white man flowers - and expensive!

I bought this to make View A for me in a size 12-14, but then realised that View C would work for the, erm what shall we call it - home summer shirt - for James. So I bumped up the size to 18, added 4 inches to the length plus an extra one to the back. I also added nearly 2 inches to the arms. View C of this top is straight up and down so no womanly curves to remove from the pattern. [Next time could taper from the under arms by about an inch to the bottom of the shirt - this version is maybe a bit too baggy below the waist.]

I tried various sorts of seams. For bias binding I used some lovely deep red slightly sparkly looking Bemberg lining, which looks lovely either over or under the chiffon.

The neckline I did according to the instructions, but everything else was done differently, using some of the hundreds of sheer fabric techniques explained by Sarah in the class.

I didn't like the silk pattern of the fabric folded over on itself so I bound the shoulder seams with some bias strips. What I learnt there was that you have to be careful that the fabric is kept at the right tension while feeding it into the sewing machine. Because I didn't take care to stretch the chiffon a bit, these seams did become a bit tight. But I made up for this by stretching the sleeve edges like crazy (I was just playing about) and got rather an interesting effect. I'm calling it a feature.

Anyway, I decided that the fabric show-through was much less obvious for underarm and side seams, so for them I did a simple 4 step zigzag to stop the edges fraying.

Then we get to the bottom of the garment! The slits look quite nice with a binding. It was my husband who pointed out that I had to use a single piece of farbic to bind the slit to prevent it ripping at the top.

For the bottom hem I was faced with the same potential problem of fabric showing through. What I did was cut a bit of the bias lining fabric, stitch it on like a facing (right sides together) and then it becomes the filling in the fabric sandwich of the hem. I then slip stitched the hem, but I am thinking I might machine stitch across to increase the stability because I am wondering if this hem does rather highlight an error I made in the pattern adjustments. I should have cut the inch longer at the back but tapered the edges to the same length as the front. Instead I cut it an inch longer all the way across. When I first stitched the hem there was a large hill shape in the back hem, which looked three times as bad because the back piece and front piece were a different length at the side. The funny shape required is because of husband's large shoulder blades which pull up on either side of teh centre back. I realised this was my design error and I did improve it a bit when stitching the binding on the slits - I stretched the binding when stitching the back part and stretched the chiffon when stitching the front. As the picture above shows, the edges do now meet. Went for lunch at the local excellent Indian restaurant and the waitress had exactly the same problem at the back of her silky top, so now I don't feel so bad about it!

[Update: I folded the bottom hem in half again and then machine stitched. The extra thickness/stability does seem to have improved how it hangs, although of course the curve on the back hem remains.]

The main conclusion is, if you are a sheer fabric novice like me, choose a really really simple pattern like this one, or you might never finish the thing. This took me about 2.5 days solid fun!

Oh yes one other point. You may be wondering what possessed me to make a silk chiffon man-blouse for my husband. The reason is that he is a Scot living in a country with 35C 100% humidity summers. He refuses to wear anything on his top half while indoors at home. But this top is light enough that he will wear it (so far!) and I much much much prefer these elegant man-flowers to the sweaty alternative! Futhermore, inhabitants of England, currently being scorched by 37C temperatures, may like to take note that it really is OK to take off your woolley jumpers when it gets hot.


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