Helen’s Closet Patterns Gilbert Top

Monday September 21, 2020

2 Gilbert Tops

I’ve been wanting to add a tie front button up top to my wardrobe, and when Helen’s Closet Patterns announced their Gilbert Top, it seemed like a good pattern to try. It’s described as “a button up shirt with a camp-style collar and a relaxed fit. View A has short sleeves and a tie-front. It is slightly cropped but still very comfortable with mid to high-rise bottoms. View B has long bell sleeves and a longer length, perfect for tucking into high-waisted pants.” Here’s the drawings (view B on the left, view A on the right):

Helen's Closet Patterns Gilbert Top

I hesitated because the sleeves didn’t look like they would fit under my cardigans, and I’m trying to make a wardrobe that I can wear year round. But very quickly after the pattern release, Helen posted a hack to make a sleeveless shirt and I was sold.

I’ve now made the top twice, once with the tie and once without. In the photo at the top of the post, the one on the left is a polyester viscose woven and the navy on the right is Kaufman Brussels Washer Linen Blend.

The instructions are thorough and the illustrations good, and both tops went together without a hitch. There are a number of steps to alter the pattern to make it sleeveless, but Helen’s instructions carefully walk you through what you need to do. Because there were so many alterations, I made a mock-up before cutting into my good fabric.

From the size chart, I would have made a size 6 (I’m B:35 W:29 H:40, 5’3″ tall). But Helen suggested sizing down for a more fitted shirt for the sleeveless version, so I made a size 4 after doing some flat pattern measurements and comparing the pattern to other button-ups I’ve made.

My pattern alterations:

  1. Brought in the shoulder seam 3/4″
  2. Altered the angle of the shoulder seam 1/4″
  3. Helen suggests shaping the armscye edge of the shirt back, and I used her measurements, but in my muslin/test garment, I found I had to shape a bit more (a total of almost 1/2″) to deal with my pointy shoulder blades
  4. She also suggests raising the armscye, which I tried, but in my muslin found I had to take the extra fabric out.
  5. Raised the bust dart 1/2″
  6. In my muslin, I found the first button too low. Also I wanted to be able to button the shirt all the way to the top, so I used 5 buttons rather than 3. If I made the tie version again, I’d have to figure out what to do with the bottom button, it’s too close to the ties, as you can see in the photo at the top.
  7. The pattern is drafted for someone 5’6″. For the tied top, I didn’t shorted the top. For the black/grey stripe, I did a 1-1/4″ hem rather than a 5/8″ hem.

I’m really pleased with my tops. They will both get a lot of wear. And I have earmarked some more fabric for another one with the tie front.

Work From Home Module Sew-along Plans

Thursday September 17, 2020

This past winter I really enjoyed planning and sewing for “the great module sew along” challenge on Instagram. The challenge was to sew a small capsule wardrobe of 3 tops, 2 bottoms and a topper in 6 weeks. You can see my plans here and the clothes I made here.

Whitney (TomKatStitchery on youtube and @tomkatstitcherycarmel on instagram) is hosting another challenge this fall, with the theme “Work from Home”. You can see what others are making on Instagram with the hashtag #wfhmodulesewalong.

While the theme is perfect for the pandemic and everyone staying home, I’ve worked out of my house most of my career, and even though I could wear pajamas all day, I’ve found that I’m much happier and productive if I dress in the morning as if I’m going to meet someone for lunch or coffee. I’ve been trying to build a wardrobe that I can wear most of the year — sleeveless tops for summer that I can layer with a cardigan or light jacket in spring & fall. Skirts and cropped pants that I can wear either barelegged or with tights & boots. So my plans look a bit summery, even though this is autumn sewing. But I have several cardigans, jackets and scarves to coordinate with my selections that will take me, hopefully, through winter.

For the winter/spring challenge, my color palette was olive and black. For this one, I’m going to use rust and navy:

work from home sewing challenge color palette

Here’s my sewing plan:

  1. Top #1: self-drafted woven tank with a tie in rust-colored rayon.
  2. Top #2: Vogue 1027 wrap top (the pattern is for a dress, but I’m cropping it at my hip) in a cotton jersey
  3. Top #3: Vogue 9187 in a print rayon crepe
  4. Bottom #1: Tesutti Evie bias cut skirt in the same rust colored rayon as the first top
  5. Bottom #2: self-drafted cropped pants/culottes in navy linen.
  6. Topper: Vogue 7975 in a navy cotton jacquard.

The challenge runs from Sept 1 to Oct 31, so I’ll hopefully be back to report on my progress before then.

Lastly if, like me, you enjoy seeing how and what other people plan for sewing a capsule wardrobe, there’s another challenge running at the same time called #mybodymodel3x3. It’s a drawing challenge to design a capsule wardrobe using paper doll cut-outs of 9 garments: 3 tops, 3 bottoms and 3 layers.

Naughty Bobbin Patterns Cookie Knit Shirt

Thursday May 7, 2020

I think I would only were collared shirts, so I’ve made quite a few button-ups. But sewing them is fraught with challenges.

  1. getting the points on the collar to to be point-y, not round, and to match each other
  2. getting the collar stand and button placket to match vertically
  3. setting in the sleeves without puckers
  4. making a neat cuff placket
  5. making straight buttonholes
  6. getting the buttons sewn on in the right place

The Cookie Shirt from Naughty Bobbin Patterns is designed to be used with knits or stretch fabric and alleviates 2 of these challenges. The collar has a non-standard construction that make the points not a problem. And, as with a knit tee, the sleeves are set in flat, so no basting and crimping to get them into a too small round armhole.

My fabric choice — a stretch velvet — isn’t ideal. It’s thick and my sewing machine didn’t like sewing it, but I’m pleased with the finished shirt.

The pattern

The PDF-only pattern comes in sizes S to XL, bust 32″-46″. It is “a knit version of the classic button-down dress shirt…featuring full length sleeves into 2” cuffs and a looser fit through the body.” There is no sew-along and the instructions are terse, much like the instructions in Burda Magazine. I wouldn’t attempt this as my first button-up shirt.

According to the size chart, I should start with the small and grade to medium at the waist and large at the hips (I’m B35 W29 H39). There are no finished measurements. So I compared my TNT woven shirt pattern to the Cookie pattern and determined a small would be fine, and probably a bit too big. So there is a lot of ease, especially though the waist and hips.

The construction

I made 2 fitting alterations — based on my TNT woven pattern, I shortened the length 4 inches, and shortened the sleeve 1 inch. Next time I would un-shorten the sleeves. I also removed the lined back yoke, thus making the back one piece. I didn’t think I’d like the velvet against my back. My fabric is quite thick and I also thought it would make the shirt bulky.

As I mentioned above, the collar construction is non-standard. It’s one long piece and sewn like a neck band on a t-shirt. This is the pattern piece below. You sew the short ends together to make a back seam, fold it in half vertically and sew the curvy edges together. The points aren’t formed by a pivoted sewing line, so when you unfold the collar, there’s no poking and prodding to get crisp corners. I’m going to adapt this to my TNT woven pattern.

Most of the seam allowances are 3/8″, except for the collar stand and collar construction, where they are 1/4″. My sewing machine hated this tiny seam allowance with the stretch velvet — no amount of pins would keep the collar stand and the shirt aligned as I sewed them (I used my walking foot and a stretch needle). After unpicking several times, I resorted to wondertape and a bit of washable fabric glue to get the job done.

The one problem I had with the instructions was the continuous lap sleeve placket — they didn’t make sense to me. My TNT woven pattern uses this same placket (a bias strip sewn around a slit in the sleeve), so I pulled out the instructions for that pattern. Sew-a-holic has a tutorial for sewing this type of placket here.

Pretty much everything else went together easily. For the hem, I used double sided fusible stay tape , just as I would on a knit tee. I attached it before I sewed up the sides of the shirt, leaving on the paper. After sewing in the sleeves and closing up the sides, I removed the paper, folded the hem up, using the edge of the stay tape as a guide, and ironed it down. I hand-sewed the hem, as I didn’t like top-stitching in the velvet.

The finished shirt

The finished shirt was really big in the front. I wore it for a day and knew I wouldn’t wear it again. There was too much fabric in front to properly tuck in the shirt and, untucked, cold air kept coming up the front. So I knew I had to make it sit closer to my body.

I took the sides in at the waist about 3/4″ on each side. That helped some but not enough. So I resorted to fish-eye darts on the front, starting below my bust, maximum at the waist, and ending at the hem. I was hesitant to put in the darts as the fabric was tricky to iron well. I put a piece of scrap velvet under the shirt when ironing and used a press cloth, but I wasn’t all that successful in getting the darts to lie flat.

Below, on the left is no darts. On the right, darts. I’m pleased with my shirt. But next time I’d use a thinner knit.

#thegreatmodulesewalong reveal

Monday March 23, 2020

Here is my entry for the #thegreatmodulesewalong challenge — 6 garments (3 tops, 2 bottoms and a topper) that all coordinate.

What I made

  1. Black wool jersey turtleneck (True Bias Nikko)
  2. Olive green wool jersey turtleneck (True Bias Nikko)
  3. Silk chiffon button-up (vogue 8772) [blog post here ]
  4. Ultra suede skirt (hack of new look 6106) [blog post here ]
  5. Black wool flannel cropped pants (Deer & Doe Narcisse)
  6. Olive boiled wool cropped jacket (Decades of Style 3’s a Charm)


left: Olive turtleneck, Boiled wool jacket, Black pants. center: Black turtleneck, suede skirt. right: Silk chiffon blouse, black pants

left: Black turtleneck, suede skirt. center: Silk chiffon blouse, suede skirt. right: Olive turtleneck, suede skirt, boiled wool jacket

A few comments

My biggest conundrum making this capsule was that not all olive greens go together. Actually mostly they don’t. My original plan for 2 of the tops was to use a plaid button-up I already had in my closet and some striped flannel for a second button-up. But they looked really mismatched with the jacket. I decided to substitute in a black turtleneck from a wool jersey I already had in my stash. But I had to scramble to find an appropriate fabric for my third top, as I really wanted a print. I finally found something at Mood Fabric.

I’ve worn the jacket quite a bit. It’s got a dart at the elbow, which makes the sleeves really comfortable. It’s almost like a knit cardigan. It’s such a success I’ve bought fabric to make another one.

The challenge was really fun. I didn’t get side-tracked, as I have with my Fall-Winter sewing plans, because there was a dead-line as well as lots of inspiration on Instagram.

Thanks to the hosts, Whitney (TomKatStitchery on youtube and @tomkatstitcherycarmel on instagram) and Carla (Stay Stitching on youtube and @carlamayfield5 on instagram).

Vogue 8322 review

Friday March 20, 2020

One of the garments in my Fall/Winter sewing plans is a navy blouse. I was going to use a pattern I’ve made several times before, Vogue 8772, a fitted button-up with collar & collar stand. But when I was cleaning up my sewing space, I discovered a forgotten half-done toile for a button-up with a v-neck and one-piece (camp) collar. I tried to remember why I had abandoned it — and tried it on to see how it fit.

The pattern is described on the package as a long sleeve, princess seam shirt with straight or stylized front hem. View A: snap front closure, topstitched along front opening and neck edges. View B: pointed collar variation, buttoned cuff. View C: front button closure. View C: standing collar, flared sleeve. Here’s the pattern, and my toile was for view B. ( Here are the reviews on pattern review.)

I tried on the toile and saw that although I’d cut my usual Vogue pattern size (12), the chest was much too big across the front and the shoulders were too wide. I fiddled with the princess seams until I got that sorted out, took the blouse apart and made the pattern changes.

Then I cut out the pattern in my fashion fabric — a blue silk noil. It’s a pretty straight-forward sew. The collar is one piece, which is much easier than one with a collar stand, so the tricky bits were setting the sleeves and the button holes. On the front there’s a facing from center front to the princess seam which is hand-sewn to the seam allowance. That might have been the hardest part, getting the sewing smooth in that area. I clipped the seam allowance and cut it down to about 1/4″, but it still has a bit of wiggle in the seam just above my bust.

My big mistake was putting the button holes on the wrong side, but I doubt anyone but me will notice.

The V is a bit low, and if I was to make the blouse again I would figure out how to raise it up and inch or so.

My husband took several pictures, but this was the only one in focus, as I tried to get my hair to stay out of my face.

Vogue 8772 in silk chiffon

Friday March 13, 2020

This is my third and final top for the Great Module Sewalong.

This is my sixth time making Vogue 8772 but the first using silk. Here’s the pattern. I’ve made view D with both long sleeves and no sleeves.

Vogue 8772

And here’s the fabric — a silk chiffon from Mood Fabrics.

The silk is quite thin, but soft and flow-y. In a recent Threads Magazine, there’s an article on using liquid stabilizers to treat unstable fabrics before you cut them out. One suggested stabilizer is PerfectSew. So I bought a bottle to test it out.

The Threads article says:

  1. wash & dry the fabric
  2. dip the fabric into the stabilizer and get it all wet (more on this below)
  3. roll the wet fabric in a towel to remove excess
  4. dry the fabric flat, arranging it so the grainline is straight and the fabric lies as smooth as possible.
  5. when it’s dry, iron the fabric and it’s ready to cut & sew up.
  6. after sewing, wash the finished garment by machine to get all the stabilizer out

I laid out several plastic garbage bags on the floor, and dried the wet fabric on top, as I didn’t have a surface large enough to lay the fabric flat.

But how much stabilizer to use? And the instructions on the bottle suggest diluting it if using it on garment fabric (rather than to do embroidery). But how much to dilute?

The only thing I could find on-line was a blog post by the Confident Stitch, which suggested 2 parts stabilizer to 1 part water. I tried this on a small piece of my fabric and the result was really stiff. I tried again with 1 part stabilizer to 3 parts water, and liked the results much better. The fabric was stiff but still had some drape, like a light-weight cotton.

As a happy coincidence, as I was preparing my fabric the Love To Sew Podcast had an episode on sewing with delicate fabrics. They suggested using a new micro-tex needle as well as cleaning my machine before I began sewing, so I did both those things.

Sewing the blouse wasn’t any different than the other versions I’ve made with less shifty fabric, yeah! And, bonus, I had the perfect shade of green buttons. They blend in really well so you don’t really see them.

Here’s the blouse, worn with one of the bottoms for my module.

New Look 6106 skirt with pocket hack

Tuesday March 3, 2020

The New Look 6106 skirt is one of the bottoms I’ve made for the Great Module Sewalong.

I’ve made this skirt several times, but decided quickly I didn’t like the pockets. I couldn’t get them to lie flat but the real problem was they didn’t accommodate my iphone. Here’s the pattern.

I made the skirt without the pockets, but missed them. Then I saw a Vogue sewing pattern of a Rachel Comey skirt with pockets in a horizontal seam in the front of the skirt.

Vogue 1247

It’s Vogue 1247, unfortunately out of print, but lots and lots of sewists have made it and blogged about it. There are many photos of how the pockets are attached — for instance this post by Diary of a Chainstitcher.

Here’s what I did to modify the pattern:

Here’s the first one I made, as a test, using a decor corduroy fabric remnant I got at Joann. As I look at the picture, I probably should have moved the pockets down a bit, but in reality I only use them for my phone, not my hands!

And here’s the one I made for the module sewing challenge. The fabric is an olive ultra suede from Gorgeous Fabrics. I underlined it with silk organza, so the hem wouldn’t show (I hand stitched the hem to the organza rather than the ultra suede). The suede is a bit sponge-y and the side seems didn’t lie very flat, so I also catch-stitched the seam allowance to the organza, which made them behave much better. It’s also lined, so it won’t stick to my tights.


Monday February 24, 2020

At the end of November I put together my Fall/Winter sewing plans, excited to have pieces that would all work together. I made the first top — a True Bias Nikko Turtleneck — and realized that I needed them in all the colors. So I’ve used much of my sewing time doing just that, rather than making the other items in my list. I now have an olive turtleneck, as well as black, brown, paprika, and navy — all in heavy rotation.

I’ve made some progress with several of the other things on my list, but got stuck with a fitting failure on the pants I was hoping to make.

Then along came the Great Module Sew-along, an instagram challenge to make a small capsule wardrobe (3 tops, 2 bottoms and a topper) by the end of March. It’s hosted by Whitney (TomKatStitchery on youtube and @tomkatstitcherycarmel on instagram) and Carla (Stay Stitching on youtube and @carlamayfield5 on instagram). It’s been inspiring to watch what other sewists have planned to make, and are already making. I decided to join in, to give me a nudge to make more progress on my Fall/Winter plan.

I’m modifying my original plan a bit to fit into the challenge format. They are loose with the rules, so items you’ve already made are allowed. Here’s my fabric choices

Fabric choices for The Great Module Sewalong

From the top:

  1. Flannel for a button up (vogue 8772)
  2. Wool jersey for a turtleneck (True Bias Nikko)
  3. Flannel for another button up (vogue 8772)
  4. Ultra suede for a skirt (hack of new look 6106)
  5. Wool flannel bottom weight for pants (Deer & Doe narcisse)
  6. Boiled wool for a cropped jacket (Decades of Style 3’s a charm)

I’m a bit unsure of the fabric choices for the 2 button ups — the greens aren’t quite right and I don’t know if they’ll fit under the cropped jacket. But we’ll see…

And sketches I made of the (hopefully) resulting outfits.

Sketches of my six outfits for The Great Module Sewalong

Seamwork Elmira Wrap Sweater

Wednesday January 8, 2020

As part of my Fall/Winter sewing plans, I wanted to make a layer that wasn’t a standard button up cardigan. I have the Seamwork Elmira ballet wrap top pattern and decided to give it a try. The Elmira is a cropped, fitted ballet wrap with 3/4 sleeves and long ties. Two examples that got me interested in trying the pattern are Meg at Cookin’ & Craftin’ and Sewrendipity’s on instagram. You can see lots more examples on Instagram here.

I haven’t had much luck with Seamwork patterns in the past. Both woven pieces I attempted required a lot of fitting changes and I gave up on them. But this is a knit, so I thought it might be more forgiving. Most blog posts I read about the pattern didn’t mention fit issues, but before I cut into my expensive wool jersey, I tried out the pattern with some left-over ITY in my stash.

I made a few changes before I cut my fabric:
1) Lengthened it 2″ as it seemed awfully short
2) Lengthened the sleeves 2″
3) Shortened the ties.
4) The front of the wrap is 2 layers but the back is only one. The back neckline is just folded and stitched. Lots of other bloggers complained about this, so I made the back 2 layers as well.

Once I had the pieces cut out, I used some lightweight fusible interfacing on the shoulders and neckline so they wouldn’t stretch out.

The instructions were good and the construction straight-forward. I did most of the sewing on my serger.

Here’s the picture Seamwork uses to show off the Elmira. Mine looks very similar (except for the long ties), but if I was to make this again, I would go up a size, to to get more front coverage, like Meg does here.

Looking at all the Instagram examples, I think the wrap looks best over a dress. I’ve tried it with my turtleneck tucked and out, and I prefer the shirt out.

Seamwork Elmira wrap top, True Bias Nikko turtleneck, self-drafted pants

I’m glad I made this up in the ITY before committing to my plan of making it in my merino jersey. I’d rather have something a bit longer. Here are 2 other patterns I’m considering: the Cashmerette Appletop wrap top hack (below left) or the Trish Newbery wrap cardigan (below right).

Jalie Charlie Bomber Jacket

Wednesday January 1, 2020

Last spring I realized I needed a light-weight jacket to wear on my daily walk. I quickly decided to make Jalie’s Charlie Bomber Jacket, an unlined jacket with a zipper front, welt pockets and ribbing at the collar, cuff and waistband. The first one I made is a bit oversized and the sleeves are too long, but it’s perfect for its intended purpose. This fall, I made another one out of a quilted knit (above), as part of my fall/winter sewing plans. This one is meant for colder weather — it’s lined with micro-fleece. There’s a close-up below.

The Charlie Bomber is one of those patterns that looks more complicated that it is — I’m an “adventurous beginner” when it comes to garment sewing, and this was easy to construct, especially with their video tutorial. I’m glad I made the unlined version first — although the collar-to-zipper connection is pretty dodgy — it made the lined (& bagged) version easier to understand. There’s a Jalie blog post on lining the jacket here.

My only complaint about the pattern isn’t about the pattern itself or the instructions — it’s about the ribbing requirement. The pattern says you need 1/3 of a yard — but ribbing (especially the striped / multicolored ones) doesn’t come that way. It’s sold in strips. And I discovered the strips really aren’t long enough and need to be pieced (for an adult jacket). I guessed on my first ribbing order and bought 2 strips — not quite enough for the waistband, collar and cuffs — and I should have ordered 3. And you might ask, as I did, what width strip should be… you have to read the pattern to figure out it’s 6 inches.

Botani seems to sell the widest variety ribbing in the US (online, anyway). But as I looked at their offerings, I was baffled about what weight and fabric composition I should get for the solid black ribbing I was after. I own a ready-to-wear jacket with ribbing that is thick, soft and seems like a natural fiber — could I find something like that? Ah the problem of living in a city that has only a JoAnn! In the end I ordered several different kinds of ribbing from Botani, and when they arrived, used this cotton one.

Some notes about the pockets. First, the welt is formed from the pocket pouch fabric. So while I would have liked the inside of the pocket to be my fleece lining, it’s the not-so-cozy outer fabric. Second, while my iphone fits in the pocket, it doesn’t feel very secure as the pocket isn’t very deep. If I make another one, I would include an interior pocket in the lining.

I also got a very useful tip from the video tutorial. She has you baste the zipper to the jacket using a wide zig zag stitch at the edge, with part of the stitch on the fabric and a little off. I’ve since used this method to baste together the folded collar for a turtleneck before attaching it to the neckline. It effectively makes the collar one layer. Here’s a snap from the video showing what I mean:

My review:

Pattern Description: Bomber jacket for stable knits or stretch woven. Zippered front. Ribbing collar, cuffs and waistband. Welt pockets with the welt forming from the pocket pouch fabric. Forward shoulder seam.

Pattern Sizing: Jalie sizing, 27 sizes included, from 2 yr toddlers to women size 22.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, especially with the video tutorial. This was my first welt pocket and separating zipper installation, and I didn’t have any problems. I liked the new-to-me basting method for knit fabrics from the video.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Mostly likes. I would like deeper pockets, and I thought the info about ribbing was lacking (see above).

Fabric Used: Pre-quilted black stable knit for the body, micro-fleece for the body lining, and a rayon lining with a bit of stretch for the arms. (I thought it would be hard to get my arms into the sleeves with fleece.)

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I added a hang loop on inside back. I took 2 inches off the body and 1-1/2″ off the sleeves.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes and yes. If I make another one I would add an inside pocket for my phone. Also, I’d change the collar from ribbing to a standing collar for added warmth. This Pattern Review review talks about how she changed the collar to do just that.