Monday, September 21, 2009

Sewing Workshop - Bells Shirt

I made my first Sewing Workshop pattern! Well, the first one I can remember anyway. Years ago, when Marcy Tilton owned it, I attended many SW classes and events. Back then, Sandra Betzina often gave talks/classes there and I attended most of those, as well their designer sales (drool). Those were the days. :) After Linda Lee bought it, I attended a few events, but dropped out of sight soon after because I had my first child and stopped sewing for myself. This was (I believe) before the patterns were available.

Not long ago, I tried on a top that I just loved in RTW. Several people in the store commented how flattering it was on me, and this was in a puckered white fabric! However, it didn't fit me through the bust and was over $300, so I passed. I was so surprised when I saw the Bells and Whistles pattern – the Whistles top was identical to that boutique top! Identical!! Woot!

I had a fabric I wanted to sew into the Whistles pattern. This fabric puzzles me. I had been eyeing it in the store and it looked like shibori at first glance. However, I noticed a small hang tag on the roll that said "faux shibori" and, on closer inspection, I realized it was a seersucker fabric. It sure looks like a real shibori though, except for the seersucker part. Even the center of the motifs have a radial pucker like you would expect – it's different than the seersucker pucker. By the time I decided to buy this fabric, there was only a bit more than two yards left, and the little "faux shibori" tag had fallen off the roll.

Unfortunately, 2 yards is nowhere near enough to make the Whistles shirt, and a friend of mine told me that I should use it for Bells, which I hadn't really considered, as it's so much more fitted, shorter, and I wasn't sure I liked the style of the sleeve. Besides, I didn't have enough fabric for Bells either. It calls for 2.5 yards of 60" fabric and I had 2 yards (plus three or four inches) of 53" wide fabric (after washing). That doesn't even include the whopping big FBA (full bust adjustment) I needed to add (plus lengthening the 3 front bands to accommodate the FBA).

Nevertheless, I decided it was the shirt I wanted for this special fabric and I would make it work. It was the most challenging cutting job I've had in awhile, but I was able to manage it by cutting several pieces cross-grain. I cut out each piece single thickness to take advantage of crowding the pattern pieces as much as possible. It took forever to cut and mark all the pieces, but I was determined.

I cut out a large, based on my upper bust measurement and added 6" with the FBA. I lengthened the pattern slightly (I cut an XXL in length). I removed fullness at the hip. When I started to put the top together I realized it needed a LOT of fitting. I managed to put the bust dart one inch too low so I had to readjust that, which caused problems at the side seams, but luckily the top had extra ease so I could accommodate that. Then I realized that there was undesirable (for me) hip fullness added to the front edges of the top, not just the side seams, which I had removed at the pattern stage. So, I took another 2.5 inches from the bottom of the right front and about 5/8" from the bottom of the left front (before adding the bands). I tapered this to nothing at the waistline. I have freakishly small hips and a freakishly large waist, compared to patterns, anyway. :) I also left off the back darts.

It's been years since I've sewn a tailored shirt, but, other than my fitting issues, this one went together well. There were so many pattern pieces. There are two front pieces because it's asymmetric. There are three pattern pieces for the three front bands. And there are four different pattern pieces for the sleeves, as well as the back (one piece) and collar (two pieces). That's twelve pattern pieces for one shirt. Oh, wait, that doesn't count the decorative piece on the left shoulder. I left that off because my fabric was so busy, but that makes it thirteen pattern pieces total. :)

I added more topstitching than the pattern calls for. I topstitched the 3 front bands as well as the collar and the cuffs and sleeve bands. The pattern says that the interfacing is optional. I left it out because I still haven't bought any. (Note to self, buy interfacing) This fabric has a lot of body, though, so I felt I could get away with it. I am glad it's not in the bands, and only time (and repeated washings) will tell if I am sorry I didn't put it in the collar or sleeve cuff/bands, but so far, I am happy with it.

Floating placket buttoned:

Floating placket hanging loose:

Now that it's finished? I love love love this top, both the design and the fit. I just love that funky floating band that you can wear any way you like, and I love that the left and front bands extend below the shirt, with its flattering shirttail hem. I can't even remember the last time I wore a woven shirt that didn't ride up in the front. I'm not used to a well fitting blouse. :) Will I make it again? Yeah, probably, but not right away. I still want to make that Whistles pattern and I think I have a fabric that will work, though it's more subdued. I hope Whistles doesn't have as many pattern pieces as I hate tracing those off. :)