Archive for January 2011

Building and personalising your capsule

January 29, 2011

Here’s a possible basic group of co-ordinates : the whole ‘cheat sheet for getting dressed’ from Eileen Fisher’s Personal Shopper section for November to February 2011.


My previous post suggested patterns for these.

How could you build up to having a group of clothes like this ? (apart from making the whole thing rapidly in one Stitchers Guild SWAP 😀 ).
And how can you adapt it for yourself if this is not right for you ?

– – –

Building from season to season

If you’re just beginning to build a wardrobe of co-ordinates, you might start with the four items from Eileen Fisher’s early summer ‘system’ from last year (jacket, top, skirt, pants).

At the moment, Eileen Fisher’s Personal Shopper section has a simple ’Essentials’ group of 7 items. These could be basics for all seasons :
– tops : 1 camisole top, 1 cap sleeved top, 2 long sleeved tops.
– bottoms : 1 leggings, 2 pants,

If you’ve already got the skirts, pants and sleeveless tops from previous groupings, then all you need to add are some (flared) long sleeved tops, and a warmer (banded collar) jacket. See my previous post for pattern suggestions.

Louise Cutting in ‘Cutting through the clutter’ (in Booklets section) suggests a similar starter ‘weekend wardrobe’ of 7 items :
1 jacket,
2 short sleeved tops,
2 long sleeved tops,
2 pants.
For her ‘basic wardrobe’ she expands the 7 to 11 items by adding :
another jacket,
1 sleeveless top,
2 skirts.
Once you’ve got the basics, she suggests changing the fabrics to have clothes that look professional, dressy, or casual, suitable for travel or your climate.

– – –

How many items do you need for your minimum wardrobe ?

To extend the wardrobe building idea, there’s Elizabeth’s plan of making 6 items each season. This builds up to a wardrobe of 24 items which co-ordinate throughout the year. This scheme is used in seasonal sewalongs at Stitchers Guild.

Or go in the other direction and minimise the number of clothes. There are several ideas for using only 6 garments. Lisette is choosing from the same 6 items every day for 30 days. Her 6 items are : tee, shirt, cardi, pants, jeggings, dress. Or here’s a shopper’s diet idea that consists of : jacket, 2 shirts, tee, pants, jeans. It seems you’re allowed an infinite number of accessories, which does make it easier to produce different looks 😀

This idea could make you focus on multi-purpose garments. In her book “Sewing a Travel Wardrobe”, Kate Mathews describes a reversible top which can be worn inside out and back to front – and is made of 4 clearly different fabrics.

I think the economic issues are a bit more complex than ‘owning only 6 items will save the world’. Modern economies depend on people buying things they don’t need. But it’s an interesting exercise. If you were only allowed to dress from 6 items (not counting under- and outer-wear), which clothes would you choose?

And would 6 be the right number for you ? In winter I wear several layers together. I can imagine a month in mid-winter when I would wear all 6 items every day, just to keep warm. I don’t think that’s what’s intended with this idea 😀 You’re supposed to arrange things so people don’t notice you’re wearing the same things repeatedly.

Perhaps 10 or 12 items would be a better minimum for me. Early in my blogging I wrote about a tunic wardrobe and decided I need at least 10 items, 2 each of pants, shirt, thin sweater, thicker layer, vest. Then there’s my take on the Sewing Workshop layering wardrobe, which gets up to 8 items without duplicating function, 16 if you have two of each.

– – –

Start with simple basics

Eileen Fisher uses very simple shapes, but her clothes are luxurious because of the quality fabrics. (I’m assuming of course that we all do quality workmanship so I don’t need to mention it 😀 ) And there are many ways of making the same styles look different by using different fabrics, see my post on Kate Mathews’ wardrobe plans.

This approach to dressing uses simple basic shapes for bottoms and first layer tops. It’s the added over-layers which have more variety. In the Eileen Fisher capsules the jackets change the most each season. Of course the tops and bottoms are renewed in fabrics and details, but there’s not much change in the overall shape.

Though it is a mistake to think a basic shell top must necessarily be boring. Have a look at Shirley Adams Alternatives 500 series pattern 501, which includes nearly 30 ways of varying a shell by adding embellishments and seams. There are many other changes in another pattern, using different neckline shapes, collars, dart alterations, and wraps.

Alternatives pattern 501

I talked a bit about using a small group of basic patterns to build a co-ordinated wardrobe, in my post on reducing the number of garment shapes.

Although the jackets in the Eileen Fisher capsules do change in style each season, the previous season’s styles are current classics and not outdated. You can certainly continue to wear the cascade styles from Eileen Fisher’s early Summer 2010 capsule.

WordPress recently told me what was most active in my blog during 2010. There’s that Butterick 5472 wardrobe with the cascade jacket I suggested for copying Eileen Fisher’s version. Out of all the patterns I’ve given links to, this is the pattern that the most people wanted to know more about.


– – –

Your own needs

The more serious question is : does the Eileen Fisher capsule suit your needs ? your body shape, your lifestyle, your personal style ?

Simplify the EF capsule to :
1 jacket
2 long sleeved tops
3 sleeveless tops
3 pants or leggings
3 skirts.

What about the general types and numbers of each item ?
Not much good for people who like dresses or jumper dresses.
And I would have no use for so many skirts, while some people rarely wear pants.
I’d like some vests instead, for more warmth ! (and for the same reason I rarely need a sleeveless top).
People who need power dressing may prefer more jackets rather than tunic tops.

What about the style elements of each item ?
I use shirt-blouses for my first layer rather than sleeveless tops (there are a couple of soft shirts on the main Eileen Fisher site).
And I haven’t got the legs to look good in skin-tight pants and short skirts.
Also in winter I want a jacket that fastens up to the neck, for warmth.
Many people would not feel happy in the generally longer styles.
People with waists might prefer their tops and jackets more fitted.
People who are larger above the waist than below may not look good in flared styles.
As I have a pear body shape, I need a bit of flare. But I need to be careful with styles which use flare as a style element, as I really need upper body emphasis.
Power dressing is easiest with a more structured jacket (though at work I used the highest quality to achieve a power effect with an unstructured style).
And many people like more structured styles anyway.

There are two interesting strands at Stitchers Guild which show what different ideas people have about their ideal minimum garments :
Your tried n true patterns, and why
What constitutes a classic wardrobe

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Your own style

What’s the core style for your most basic most useful wardrobe items ?
Perhaps the last thing you enjoy wearing is plain tees, skirts and pants without any added style elements 😀 If you rarely wear jackets or added layers, you’ll want some of your tops and bottoms to be ‘statement pieces’.

It’s certainly much easier to follow someone else’s capsule suggestion. If you’d like a similar group of co-ordinates though not Eileen Fisher styles, you have to find a way to cut down on the almost infinite possibilities.

It’s an advantage of using independent patterns. The Big 4 try to cater for all tastes, which some people find confusing. It’s simpler to choose one pattern you really like, from an independent. Then pick the rest of the pattern group from the same designer. They’re likely to be in the same style. Choose patterns with potential for easy changes to sleeve and body length and neckline/ collar. I’ve already talked about some sources of independent patterns, both well established and more recent.

If you don’t want to work your way through all the companies individually, start from a retailer who lists patterns by type of garment. Here are some sources for jackets :
The Sewing Place (230 jacket patterns ! And they don’t even sell the Big 4.)
Nancy’s Notions
Craft Connection

Find a pattern you like. Get the pattern company name from the pattern envelope photo, and search for them so you can see their whole pattern line. Most pattern companies sell their patterns on-line now.

– – –

Some of us would find it a relaxing relief to have a wardrobe devised for us. The Big4 pattern companies suggest wardrobe patterns. Most style books include wardrobe plans. For me they give pleasure and food for thought, though I’ve never wanted to follow one of them exactly. But by thinking how to change them so they suit me better, I learn about my own needs and likes.

There are also many ideas for building a wardrobe of co-ordinates. The simplest is Endless Combinations. Just check that everything you make or buy goes with at least 2 items you already have, love wearing and find flattering.

Despite knowing their limitations, I haven’t been able to resist suggesting several capsules with different styles. This all went on too long so that has become a separate post. . .

Good Fortune for your own choices, about how many clothes you have, as well as what styles, colours, and shapes they are 😀

– – –

Patterns and links available January 2011

New season patterns, January 2011

January 22, 2011

It’s the time for looking at the runway shows, and being reminded how little relevance they have for those of us who live happily without media attention or vast wealth. Exciting, fun, creative, beautiful – yes. But not much guidance about what to wear to do the shopping or in the office.

So it’s good that there are stylish current patterns.

– – –

Special occasions

I feel the same distance from the new dress patterns at Vogue and McCall’s. I’d be unlikely to wear these styles even as a wedding guest or for a special summer party, which I rarely go to. Vogue has a stunning group of designer dresses. And McCall’s dress patterns have edgy trendy details. As I don’t wear them, I’m not the best person to comment on short barely-covered dresses.

For people who don’t wear dresses but want to look ‘dressy’ : high waisted wide legged pants and boleros are ‘current’, as in Vogue 8717.


If you need to cheer up the little black dress that someone talked you into, there are good shrugs from Elizabeth Gillett NYC Vogue 8721


In your most flattering colours. Unless of course you’re one of the lucky people who really do look your best in black 😀

– – –

Casual tops and bottoms

Well, what if we just want to feel good when shopping ?

Vogue 8710 has a couple of tees with added interest from Katherine Tilton.


Vogue 8707 is a hook sided top.


Many recent flared top patterns have this hook shaped side seam. The extra fabric swirls attractively as you move. But this draws attention to your hips. So I think this for people who want to look as if they’ve got more hips, not for those who’ve already got too much. . .

If you’d prefer something fitted and for woven fabric, there’s this raglan shirt blouse, McCall’s 6286


Or for a fitted sleeve there’s McCall’s 6285. Though who on earth decided a yoke, top-stitched princess seams, band collar and curved hem are Easy ! What an effective way to distress beginners.


Vogue 8712 (left) is a pant pattern from Marcy Tilton. A wide legged style that tapers rapidly at the ankle just makes me look dumpy, though I know many people love it.


Also many people like this Vogue 8711 draped skirt (right). Sadly it’s only for people can show off less bulgy hips, a flatter stomach and prettier knees than mine !

– – –

Casual layers

It’s a good season for people who like shirt jackets.

Vogue 8716 (left) has a high collar, fitted sleeves, and yokes with gathers. All flattering style elements for me.

Vogue 8708 (right) is another big shirt, but the flat collar and cut on sleeves aren’t best for me. I expect there are many people with different bodies from mine who will prefer this one.


Marcy Tilton has a flared designer version in Vogue 8709. Perhaps that loose lower strip is not a good idea for the large of hip 😀


Shirt and pants in the same fabric (or print) is current.

For another way of adding a layer, there are some interesting vests in Vogue 8713.


And for trendy knit layers there’’s McCall’s 6288 by Rebecca Turbow.


– – –

More serious and responsible

Two summary points about jackets in the collections. One is there are many collarless jackets, perhaps worn with collared tops. Nearly all the current wardrobe patterns have collared jackets over collarless tops. That doesn’t work well for me. With my long head and neck, I like a raised neckline whether or not I have a jacket on. So I’m pleased to see collarless over collared coming back.

Vogue has a couple of ‘peplum’ jackets in their Custom Fit range. Good opportunities for fitting the top.

Vogue 8714 has front princess seams and pattern pieces for 4 cup sizes. A waist level seam makes it easier to fit my bigger lower half with high hips. Though I need darts in a peplum, or it would just stick straight out from my waist.
And this pattern has back shoulder darts and a CB seam. So the first steps have been done if you need back shaping alterations.


Vogue 8715 is a peplum jacket wardrobe with similar fitting help. This time with above waist seam.
And those are the best style of pants for me !


Although some high seams look good on me, I would need several fish-eye darts to get the lower front portion of this jacket to fit well over my indented waist moving out rapidly to high hips. The previous jacket looks easier to fit for my particular shape.

The second key point about jackets this season is that most are blazers. Many patterns already available.

If you prefer something more structured and closely fitted, there’s a trendy slim shape by Melissa Watson for Palmer-Pletsch, McCall’s 6294.


And I’m a sucker for pieced jackets. There’s a new one from Nancy Zieman, McCall’s 6293.


You have a choice between narrow or wide lapels on your blazer.

Double breasted nearly shoulder-wide lapel ‘trench’ style is current in dresses, jackets and coats. There’s a jacket in Simplicity 2256. High waist seam again, but this time with fitting seams below, so usable by a wider range of body types.


– – –

So there are plenty of arty/ classic/ relaxed/ soft/ trendy options for looking good this season. There are more patterns I want to comment on but this got too long.

Colours : McCall’s go for strong pink, denim blue, slightly yellowed green, and rust-tan neutrals. Pantone also mention silvered palest pink and mid grey as neutrals. Does that cater for Winter, Summer, Spring, Autumn colourings, and the grey haired ?

Whatever your choice, enjoy what you wear this Spring 😀

– – –

Patterns and links available January 2011

Update your capsule wardrobe

January 15, 2011

Update your basic capsule of stylish casuals for the winter. I’m getting to this a bit late ! but these are ‘transitional’ styles.

In the current Personal Shopper section of the Eileen Fisher site, there’s a .pdf of styles for November to February 2011. This includes a “Cheat Sheet for getting dressed” with 12 items. A basic wardrobe of co-ordinates.

Oh, absolutely everything is black, except the jeans which are dark indigo. Well, let’s ignore that. . . happily we can choose our own best colours. Making everything out of the same fabric would certainly simplify things 😀 but Eileen Fisher adds interest by using both wovens and knits, with a wide variety of surface textures and fibre types.

– – –


Three slim skirts of different lengths

”ef1-11skirts” Eileen Fisher

Three pants of different widths : leggings, slim pants, jeans

” Eileen Fisher

Not much different from the skirts and pants in the Summer co-ordinates, which I’ve already talked about.

– – –

Sleeveless tops

Three sleeveless tops with narrow straps and different lengths

” Eileen Fisher

Again similar to the tops I talked about in the summer.

– – –

Tops with sleeves

And two sleeved long tunics for more warmth.

” Eileen Fisher

Flared and scoop necked, different amounts of flare and different length sleeves. A new pattern needed here.

One problem with mimicking these is the flare shape. A simple solution is to lengthen and flare a favourite top pattern.

Start from something like McCall’s 6244


But if you’d rather have the work done for you, there are some possibilities.

Vogue 8542 has dropped shoulders. Easier to co-ordinate if you level the hem.


Also for knits there’s raglan sleeved McCall’s 6205.

(the neck ring is separate)

While for wovens, there’s Butterick 5390


For more visual interest, there are several tops on the Eileen FIsher main site with draped necklines, and many patterns in that style. A recent one is Very Easy Vogue 8669


Not so convenient for layering under a jacket.

For an independent pattern, there are the striking Alex and Olive tops from The Sewing Workshop.


– – –


And one jacket.

”ef1-11cardi” Eileen Fisher

They’ve chosen a flared long cardigan with neckline band.
The text says it has a peplum, but that isn’t obvious from the drawing. A longer warmer version of one of the layers in the summer capsule.

Which is the most flattering longer length for you ? at low hip, or thigh ?

If you’re larger above the waist or the same size above and below, then the flared shape isn’t essential. And it’s easy to find patterns for straight sided cardigan jackets. Just add length to a shorter style.

Those of us who are larger of hip may need to start from a straight pattern and flare the side seams.

Also adjust the neck band to the right width and sewn down like the Eileen Fisher style, if need be and you prefer that look.

For a knit jacket pattern, there’s McCalls 6084


For an independent pattern, perhaps Christine Jonson’s Swing Jacket 519. Looks as if it would be fairly easy to simplify to a top. (Make the top a smaller size so the jacket will layer over it.)


There are several similar jackets in wardrobe patterns. Perhaps lengthen and flare the jacket pattern and alter the neck band. With small changes, these patterns could make a wardrobe quite like the Eileen Fisher one. Here are a couple for knits.

Butterick 5398


And from Nancy Zieman in McCall’s 6247


Or of course choose your own jacket style. It just needs to be long enough and wide enough and with big enough armholes, to layer comfortably over those long sleeved tops.

– – –

Perhaps the word ‘update’ is misleading. Although the specific patterns I’ve mentioned are recent, they’re current classics rather than trendy one-season-only designs.

If you would like some ‘of the moment’ details, UK In Style magazine February issue goes for :
– white blazers,
– smock tops,
– maxi dresses,
– wild floral ‘garden party’ fabrics,
– big stitch knits,
– lots of added fringe,
– platform sole shoes with -very- high heels.

And of course I have a whole lot to say about the Eileen Fisher capsule as a whole, and how well it meets personal needs. This got much too long, so I’ve made that a separate post.

And if you don’t like planning in detail ?!
Just clarify the spirit of your capsule, as a guiding light that protects you from going too far astray. . .
Whichever way you go :
Happy Wardrobe in the coming year 😀

– – –

Patterns and links available January 2011

Fast Jackets

January 8, 2011

Has the Stitchers’ Guild jackets sew along made it onto your list of Resolutions ?

Most people who hear the word ‘jacket’ immediately assume lengthy hours of advanced sewing skills are essential. Well, there are sewers who can make a tailored/ structured jacket in a month. And good for them.

But many jacket patterns don’t involve tailoring. They’re ‘dressmaker’ styles with no lining which need little more skill than making a top – often much less skill than making a shirt with band collar and proper sleeve placket. As my fabric stash consists mainly of miles of quilting cottons, I need to make casual jackets and shirt-jackets to use some of it up !

So, what about making some jackets really quickly ?
How about a jacket a day 😀

– – –

There are some jacket patterns which can be made in a few hours. Just the thing if you get to the end of a month and find you haven’t made anything at all 😀

I’ve already listed the Big 4 speedy jacket patterns which claim to take only a couple of hours sewing time. Three patterns for knits. For wovens, there are jackets all the way from casual cascade to formal notched collar. Even two quick outerwear jackets.

Since that post, McCall’s have added another 1-hour knit jackets pattern – McCall’s 6208.


There are also a few jackets among the speedy wardrobe patterns..

Make all those, to get you well on the way to a dozen jackets.

What about patterns from independent designers ? They rarely claim how long their patterns take to sew, but there are a few.

– – –

Textile Studio often do give sewing times for their simple stylish patterns. There are a couple of jackets (originally designed by Loes Hinse).

Capri jacket : 2-1/2 hours sewing time.


Shawl Collar jacket – also 2-1/2 hours.

I have the Florence jacket, said to take 2 hours to sew. Discontinued but still available from The Sewing Place.


– – –

CNT patterns also have a couple of timed jacket patterns.

One, no. 2401, is even called ‘Start after breakfast finish before lunch’ (though personally if I was matching stripes at the raglan seams I think I would take a bit longer than that. . .)


And they say their ‘A Little Somethin’ jacket’ no. 2501 is a 3-hour project. Slightly dropped shoulders, shawl collar.


– – –

Silhouette patterns don’t give specific sewing times on their site, but the instructions often suggest how many sessions you need. I have one quick one – no. 85 Sweater Wrap says it can be made in one session.


It isn’t obvious from the photo or line diagram, but this is a fun circular shape with added sleeves. Could be made without the sleeves, as a wrap vest. (Styling assumes it’s made with a serger, the seams show so need a good finish.)

– – –

Yvonne Porcella’s Cardigan Jacket from Project Sewing Workshop. Claims to be the ‘easiest jacket ever made’. Not so much so I suspect if you’re tempted to embellish 😀


(P.S. I now have this pattern. Yes, very easy if you know what you’re doing. But it would be polite to say the instructions are confused. No line diagrams to clarify the style options, nor suggested fabric layouts etc. Definitely not for beginners or for people who like clear instructions. If you only have 3 hours for a project, you’ll use them all on trying to understand this pattern.)

– – –

There are some minimal DIY patterns available online. I’ve decided in general not to review online patterns. But I can’t resist mentioning this one.

Watch Shirley Adams show how to make a jacket without using a pattern at all, and only 2 seams – in her Bog coat video. Make a fleece jacket in 10 minutes.

– – –

MacPhee Workshop patterns don’t give specific sewing times, but her patterns focus on quick techniques.

In particular, there are several jackets in the ‘It’s Magic’ section which have only one pattern piece. Her ‘Magic Coat’ no. 150 is a tidied-up version of the bog-coat. As is no. 154, ‘Night and Day’.

There’s also the ‘World’s Easiest Parka’ with 2 pattern pieces, in the Coats and Jackets section.

I would refer to these patterns more often, but the diagrams are so tiny they aren’t worth reproducing.

– – –

There are other Big 4 patterns which aren’t quite so quick, but don’t require complex skills. Though beware that most Very Easy Vogue patterns would be ranked Intermediate in difficulty by other people !

Look at the Butterick jackets section. There are about a dozen jackets labelled ‘Fast & Easy’

Or the Vogue jackets section. There are more than a dozen labelled ‘Very Easy Vogue’.

And there are about a dozen more jackets in the Very Easy Vogue Separates section.

– – –

What about going the other way and advancing your skills, but still on relatively quick projects. Perhaps working toward ultimate jacket making skills by doing some tailoring.

For quick tailoring, there’s the McCall’s 6172 Palmer-Pletsch blazer pattern, supported by the Palmer-Alto book ‘Jackets for Real People’. (P.S. There’s now also a DVD, Jackets for Real People.) This jacket is interfaced with fusibles. They claim it takes 8 hours sewing time (after practice !). Three lengths so you can get it right for your own proportions.


Tailored styles are not right for me. I’d be more likely to advance my skills by making a trench coat. Such as Silhouette patterns no. 1925 Barbara’s Trench. The instructions say that can be made in 3 sessions. Hah ! For me that would be more like 3 months 😀


– – –

These are just a few examples of what you could do if you want to go a more complex, though still quite quick, jacket making route. But there are so many quick and easy patterns, there’s no need to despair that you need to improve your sewing skills and take lots of time if you want to make several jackets in one year. And you have only got to make one jacket in the year to join the sew-along !

– – –

Patterns and links available January 2011