Tag Archives: spring sewing

Sew Over Ageism – Sparky Top

The community brought together by the Sew Over 50 account on Instagram has amassed over 46,000 followers in a little less than 5 years. Their posts highlight garment sewists as well as bringing attention to the lack of representation of this age group, and seeking to gain visibility for this sizable group.

For March, the challenge was to sew patterns in which the pattern model is 45 years old or more. If you have a collection of patterns from the Big 4 companies – Simplicity, Butterick, McCalls, and Vogue – you likely won’t have a single pattern that qualifies for this challenge. Many of the independent pattern companies do better, although their patterns are sold mostly in pdf form, and do not rely on a single printed cover like the traditional patterns.

I own the Old Mexico pattern by Folkwear. The image is from their website.

These are 3 free patterns featuring mature models: Harper, a cardigan by Sinclair Patterns, Athina Top for wovens and the Mandy Boatneck Tee, both by Tessuti Patterns.

What do these models have in common? Gray hair! Gray hair is an obvious sign of maturity, and it can be hard to discern age from a photo without it. This is why gray haired models are used to represent the older woman, and why so many women dye their hair to look younger. We’re not all naturally gray, either, post fifty.

I decided to sew the Sparky Top from Designs by Heidi.

The model is the designer.

It’s an ambiguous photo as for age. I didn’t contact Heidi and ask her age, but I have a general idea of how old she is by reading her blog on WordPress, Designs By Heidi.

I was first attracted to the Sparky pattern because it was named after my dog. Well, Heidi’s dog, actually, if you want to get technical, ha. It’s a good name!

Last summer, I worked on a dress made from this beautiful rayon sarong, but I had problems with it and put it aside.

The Sparky pattern works well with combining fabrics, and I had a thrifted shirt in mind to combine with my already cut up sarong. The palm print is subtle, and reads like a solid light lilac from a distance. They go great together!

I didn’t use the serger at all in the construction, preferring to make flat felled seams for a clean finish. There are a lot of curves in the pattern, and the back panel is gathered. I shortened the length, and through careful placement, made use of the border print of the sarong. I had a problem with the top pulling to the back, with the shoulder seam sitting farther back than my shoulder. I’ve had this problem before without being able to solve it.

My Sparky top is lightweight, cool, and perfect for the spring and summer. I also made the well worn jeans in these photos a few years ago, and the denim is fading nicely. Since I usually only show newly made clothes, here is proof that I wear what I make.

Do you like seeing older models? I do. There has been an awareness of racial diversity and size diversity, and age diversity is another important consideration. I like pattern companies like Love Notions and Itch to Stitch that show their pattern testers as models for each pattern on their websites, so different body types as well as different ages are represented.

Many women have felt invisible and devalued as they age as society puts an emphasis on youth. Regardless of their accomplishments, women are judged by their looks. I was stunned by the stupidity of a host on the cable news station CNN who said women are in their prime in their 20s and 30s, and maybe into their 40s. The context was about a 51 year old woman, Nikki Haley, running for President of The United States. Since the age requirement for this position is 35 years old and there has never been a president younger than 42, his statement makes no sense and just shows his bias. Haley is absolutely in her prime, and is young for the job.

I started this blog 10 years ago writing about my sewing journey to discover my style post fifty. I am one woman among many, continuing to learn and create in our mature years, and I am visible.

Linen for Spring – Allegro Capris and ZW Shirt

I often sew with thrifted fabric so was excited to sew with two intentionally bought fabrics. Both are lovely linen blends – the blue is Kaufman Brussels Washer Linen/rayon in Chambray color and the stripe is linen/cotton. I love the yellow stripe amidst the blues.

The pants are the elastic waist Allegro pattern by Love Notions.

I had previously sewn a pair of shorts with this pattern, so I had already altered it quite a bit – the crotch extension, the rise, the pockets, and the length and width of the legs.

I made the Allegro pants with a narrower elastic waist, and without the drawstring. I also made them a cropped length, with a deep cuff and a slit so the pants wouldn’t get “caught” on my calf when I sit. I used to wear pants as long as possible with platform sandals to look taller. I always thought I was too short to wear cropped pants, but I quite like them. The fit is excellent. I could use a few more pairs of pants like these.

The fabric has a texture. The pants feel dressier due to the linen fabric, but they’re also a little scratchy. I used a smooth cotton chambray for the inner waistband for comfort. The raw edges of the fabric unravel very easily. I was glad to be able to serge them and keep them neat.

I bought the striped fabric to sew the Zero Waste Cropped Shirt by Birgitta Helmersson. It is a pattern without pattern pieces and is designed to be sewn with a yard of fabric with a 57 inch width leaving no leftover fabric.

I made changes to the formula, adding length to the shirt by making the sleeves shorter. The sleeves are cut on the cross grain. I also cut off the selvedges of the fabric. The layout as written has a shirt length of 21 1/2 inches and a chest circumference of 47 inches. I sized down 2 inches.

After cutting out the shirt, you are left with a little semi-circle, two triangular pieces, and a large rectangle. The instructions have you use the pieces as facings. The large rectangle (not pictured) can be used as a large facing at the back of the shirt or as pockets. I elected to not use it as a facing as the shirt already has a deep hem.

I did use the other bits: the triangles covering part of the side seams, and the half-oval as a piece for the tag in the back neck.

My neck placket wasn’t long enough so I added a piece.

I made four buttonholes for my longer shirt. The buttonholes are easier to make with my new machine, so that’s a plus.

Because the shoulders are square cut, they stick out, and bunch up in the back. The neckband is awkward, as it’s higher than I like, and gapes around the neck. There is a strain on the top buttonhole, but I might have caused that problem by putting the buttonhole a little too high.

So what are my thoughts on “zero waste” patterns in general?

The pros: I was intrigued by the concept, and saw other makes of this shirt that I liked, so I bought the pattern. I like the clever design, the idea of getting the most use from your fabric, and not wasting paper. In the case of this shirt, I also like having a go-to pattern that uses only one yard of fabric. Although the pattern doesn’t come in different sizes (at the time I bought it, there are now two sizes), it does have instructions on making changes to the layout.

The cons: I use fabric wisely, but I think it’s gimmicky that every bit has to be used in one garment. I like to take a swatch to match for thread, and to practice buttonholes and thread tension. I also think a well fitted garment will be worn more than one with an awkward fit, and the whole point of being a home sewist is to make a garment more tailor-made than something I could buy off the rack. Rectangular pieces have their limitations.

Still, the shirt turned out pretty well. I just don’t know how much I’ll wear it.

I was especially eager to try my new pants with other tops. Here it is with the floral Phoenix blouse and as a summer look with my sleeveless Laundry Day Tee:

Floral Phoenix Blouse by Hey June

Flower power! This top reminds me of what I might have worn in the 70s.

This was the second year the Phoenix Blouse was on my Make Nine list, and I had the perfect fabric, so I sewed up this spring version out of season.

The description states: the Phoenix Blouse is a cute and casual boho style top in two views. View A features 3/4 length bell sleeves while View B is a flattering sleeveless style. Both view have a yoke with slit opening, front and back gathers, and a shaped back yoke. The pattern was designed for very lightweight fabrics that drape well. I chose to sew view A from a beautiful floral cotton lawn I bought at an estate sale in my neighborhood several years ago. There were about five plastic bins of fabric for $5 each that were duct taped closed. What a steal! I regret only buying one bin. Cotton lawns are hard to come by as a second hand fabric so I was very excited to sew with it. The piece of fabric was 40 inches selvedge to selvedge and 84 inches long. It’s a lovely vintage fabric, and now that I have the sewing chops to do it justice, the time has come for it to shine.

I cut a size 12 according to my high bust and hip measurements which gives me 4 inches of ease in the bust and 7 inches of ease in the hip. I could have easily sized down but decided not to as I’m embracing ease as I get older. The finished garment measurements are given to help you pick the size for the desired fit. I did a half inch full bust adjustment on the yoke and shortened the sleeves by 2 inches to keep them from being full length on me.

The instructions are excellent, and the finishing is beautiful with double yokes and the burrito method providing a clean finish. Instead of the french seams suggested by the pattern, I elected to finish the side seams with flat fell seams. Gathering is a sewing technique featured in this pattern. Besides the gathering under the yokes, the sleeve caps are also gently gathered. Two rows of basting stitches are sewn, the threads are pulled to gather, and then the seam is sewn between the two rows of gathers. I used to make the mistake of sewing the seam below the two lines of stitching, but my technique and understanding has improved. Below is the curvy shape of the bell sleeve.

The fullness of the sleeve makes it very dramatic to wear.

I had fun showing the sleeves off with my poses, but they also look good when my arms are by my sides.

I love the back gathers and the shape of the yoke.

I hemmed by machine, but think a hand sewn hem, and even a hand rolled hem on the sleeves, would be nice in this light fabric. I intend to sew new pants to wear with the blouse by next spring. I would also make this blouse again with short sleeves, even though they’re not provided.

The phoenix blouse is a lovely pattern, is very enjoyable to sew, and I look forward to wearing this light, floaty top for years to come.

Combining Prints Sewing Challenge

For March I took part in the sewing challenge sponsored by the Instagram group Sew Over 50. It was called “pattern mixing”, #so50patternmixing. At first I didn’t even understand what that meant. The challenge was to combine two or more prints in a garment. I have combined a print with a solid, but have never thought to use multiple prints – that sounded a bit loud and overly busy to me. Actually, it can be bold or subtle.

I have many times been drawn to a fantastic print, but not all prints are wearable to me. I wouldn’t want to wear skulls or dancing hippos. I came across an excellent blog post by 7 Pine Design on “Sewing Prints Versus Solids”. Prints are marketed to the home sewing customer, who tend to be drawn to them. I find it hard to pick out prints for clothes, especially from online photos. I’ve learned that stripes, dots, gingham, and plaids are safer to stick with. I have mixed feelings about florals; some I like, some can have a dated look.

One of my sewing goals for the year is to explore creativity, so I set aside my sewing queue: challenge accepted! Once I decided to take part, I added two conditions of my own – I would use only fabric odds and ends instead of yardage, and it would have to result in an item I would actually wear. It was fun looking through all my fabric and thinking of possibilities.

I paired a thrifted floral piece with an odd shaped gingham piece left over from pants and shorts I made previously. The floral had bleeding I had to work around.

I used my pillowcase top as a prototype to make a boxy top from my Maya pattern. I flat felled the gingham strips on either side of the floral and made two panels that I cut my front and back from.

The small scale gingham reads like a solid from a distance, so this is a subtle use of two prints. I changed the neckline to a v-neck which I have never sewn before. I drafted a v neck facing, but I didn’t make the v deep enough.

I was inspired to sew a second item!

I used an Instagram tutorial by @merrileeboniface and shared on the Sew Over 50 page for making a robe from a vintage flat sheet, and adding a second fabric as an accent. I found a forgotten fitted twin sheet at the bottom of my own linen closet, and combined it with the leftover lavender gingham I bought at an estate sale for $1 and previously made a shirt with, and estate sale 100% cotton rick-rack. The slide below is from the tutorial.

tutorial and photo by Merrilee Boniface

I was using a different size sheet so I used the length I had to make a longer robe. I made the sleeves 4 inches shorter, partly by taking some width off the sides, as this is a drop shoulder pattern. I have short arms, and these sleeves with the pretty trim aren’t made to be rolled up.

I got out my vintage daisy bowls from the 1970s for this photo shoot. I was surprised to find they were made in Italy. America is not the only country to no longer manufacture many items anymore.

It’s a pretty robe for patio lounge wear, and to have breakfast in.

Below are photos of the belt, the inseam pocket, the hanging loop, and the belt loop and a peek at the pocket from the right side.

I became aware that vintage sheets are sold on EBay and Etsy, are very collectible, and are used for various sewing projects. The sheet I used was made in the USA by Cannon and is called Daisy Delight. The Cannon Mills Company was an American textile manufacturing company based in Kannapolis, North Carolina, that mainly produced towels and bed sheets. Founded in 1887 by James William Cannon the company remained family owned until 1982, then was sold to another company that went bankrupt in 2003. Below are the front and back of the label.

I’m wearing it with the simple cap sleeved cotton jersey knit nightshirt that I made in 2019. It still looks good after hundreds of wears and washes.

This was a fun project to put on my Dritz dress form as I was sewing it. Most of the time I keep my sewing mannequin in the closet and don’t use it.

As I was sewing the robe, I realized I own many vintage items. I never thought much about their value, and that they are sought after by collectors. I use an iron with a cloth cord, my ironing board has a wooden top under the padding, and some of my kitchenware is old. I used to go to estate sales in my neighborhood, and buy more old things, but these sales are infrequent now. The older generation who came before me is gone, replaced by young families with babies and toddlers like when the neighborhood was built in the 1950s. Now I’m a part of the older generation, the vintage one. I hope the women who left behind fabric I later bought had already sewn many of the fabulous and useful items they had planned, and used most of their favorite fabrics. I am carrying on to do the same.

Spring Sewing – Classic Tee and New Look 6515

I’m ready to step into the warm, sunny days of spring!

I was looking forward to sewing a cool spring outfit from these two fabrics: a soft cotton double gauze and a floral slinky rayon/spandex knit. I sewed a tee and wide leg pants. They are also both on my “Make Nine” list for 2021.

The tee shirt is the Classic Tee from Love Notions.

I made the crew neck tee with short sleeves in size medium. My measurements put my bust in a size large and my hips in a size medium, so I printed the pattern with both sizes and compared it to other tees. I decided on the medium and am happy with the fit. Previously, I found this very stretchy fabric hard to sew with, but I wanted to try again with this simple pattern. I thought I wouldn’t have a problem with the fabric growing with a pattern with sleeves and a higher neck.

I sewed the seams with my serger, but I cautiously machine basted the neckband binding on before serging.

New Look 6515 is one of the patterns I bought off EBay last year.

I planned to make the pants full length and without the slit. I was sewing with the fabric known as double gauze for the first time. There are two layers tacked together. The fabric is called bubble gauze at Joann where I bought it with a gift certificate from a sweet friend. It is very soft, airy and crinkly textured, and sometimes used for baby items. (I have since found out there is a smooth type as well).

Oddly enough for someone who googles everything, I didn’t look up how to sew with double gauze. I decided to just go with my instinct. I thought it best to avoid ironing the fabric as much as possible to retain the texture. I read the opposite while looking up tips for sewing with double gauze while writing this post, that double gauze requires quite a bit of pressing. Okay, ha!

This fabric doesn’t have structure and is a little thin, so it isn’t especially suited to most pants. The suggested fabrics listed on the pattern envelope are batiks, chambray, cotton types, gauze, linen types, so it’s a match. I can also imagine these pants even more unstructured in a flowing rayon with a slit above the knee. They would almost look like a skirt.

I started with a size 16 which matched my hip size allowing for some ease. The finished hip measurement for each size is given on the pattern.

The waist is partially elasticized, and the legs are full so there is no fitting or shaping. I thought the legs were too wide on me, so I slimmed them down. Maybe I slimmed them down too much, but they still swish when I walk. The waistband has an interfaced flat section, and it is folded to make a double layer. The elastic is inserted into the one of the openings shown below, extends a bit into the flat section, and is tucked in and sewn down at each seam. I love this waistband!

The pants have seams down the middle of the front and back. I subbed an inset pocket for the inseam pocket provided with the pattern.

Mistake of the month: I was merrily zipping along serging the seam allowances and didn’t realize I was catching part of the pants. I did this on parts of 3 out of 4 panels. Luckily there were no holes and I was able to unpick them. I did this gently; the open weave makes the fabric fragile.

Both the tee and the pants were easy to sew, and I highly recommend the patterns. The tee will also go great with jeans and the pants with sleeveless tops. These pieces will be light enough for wearing in the summer to the grocery store, and if I ever go anyplace else. Actually, I feel optimistic about the summer, and these are happy clothes for going out.

I love the cool and fresh colors and textures of this outfit!