Archive for November 2012

Casual chic festive capsule – tops

November 24, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving to those in the US who start their festive wear needs this week. Here in the UK we have to wait ’til Christmas 😀

These are casual partying clothes for the 2012 winter holidays, from Eileen Fisher’s Holiday Tool Kit.

Eileen Fisher

Some quite easy makes for a relaxed special occasion capsule.
As usual this got much too long, so I’ve made 2 parts : this on the tops and pants, and a later piece on the dresses (here).

So, what about patterns ? The tops are all based on the casual dartless block. But if you’re full in front, you may want to add a dart.
Some lengthening or shortening of pattern pieces needed to match the inspiration (even a couple of changed necklines), but otherwise the patterns are straightforward.

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Velvet cowl neck box top

Eileen Fisher

What Eileen Fisher calls a ‘box top’ is like a poncho with side seams, very wide.
This one is about hip length.
And has about elbow length sleeves. With the very generous size, the side seams and armholes come about half way down the upper arm.

The key to party wear here is to make everyday over-sized casual styles in special fabrics.

The indoor poncho-like McCall’s 6603 has about these proportions. Make the collar on View A (upper left) continuous and wider, and use the lower left sleeves.


Or there’s the Sewing Workshop Hudson top – in your usual size or one larger, and shorten the sleeves.


If you prefer something less dramatically sized, there’s Butterick 5816, with a choice of cowl or draped necks.


If you prefer a close fit, here’s a cowl neck knit top from Katherine Tilton, Vogue 8793.


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Ballet neck boxy tunic in shiny knit

Eileen Fisher

A little narrower and longer than the previous top, but otherwise much the same. The sleeves also end at the elbow, but are longer because the body of the top is a narrower.

This is a shiny knit fabric, with a contrast texture rib band used for the sleeve cuffs.
I think this would work just as well in a heavy satin fabric. Perhaps crepe backed satin so you can use the contrast.

There are multi-fabric versions of a shape like this in new Butterick 5855.


Or use another size of the previous pattern. This is still a style based on a casual dartless block.

Many casual wear patterns can easily be adapted for party wear simply by using party fabric, a party neckline, and elbow length sleeves.
Try one of these :

Katherine Tilton’s loose tunic for knits Vogue 8690 could look very different in shiny fabric with a ballet neckline.


Cutting Line Designs 2×4 includes both necklines.


Have a look at my post on stylish sweatshirts for more pattern options.

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Jewel neck merino knit tunic, yarn with a bit of shine

Eileen Fisher

Upper thigh length, with over-wrist long sleeves.
A conventional tunic in silhouette. Still a dartless shape, but not so oversized.
Raglan sleeves. Difficult to see on the photos, but the sleeves have an inset strip of slightly more open weave fabric which runs from neckline to wrist.

For a pattern, possibly lengthen Butterick 5679 View C and omit the side pocket section.


Or Kwik Sew 3954 is another raglan sleeve choice, this one with fitted upper body and flare below, if that’s better for your body shape.


– – –

More designer patterns for tops

Not exact copies of the inspiration but in similar style.
From wider to narrower :

Katherine Tilton’s Vogue 8748 big shirt for wovens is even more over-sized, with ‘armhole’ seams at elbow level.
Many variants possible. Omit the cuffs and/ or the collar. Close the front opening, and add your most flattering party neckline.


Loose fitting knit tunics from Alice + Olivia, Vogue 1261. With raglan, fitted and cut-on sleeves, choice of necklines and hem shapes – just the thing.


Or slimmer-fit knit tunics from Katherine Tilton Vogue 8817 with interesting seam detail and fabric combining.


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Slim pants in ponte doubleknit

Large tops are best worn with slimmer pants, so your clothes don’t make you look gigantic. Make the tops long enough to cover your hips, so you can wear pant legs slimmed as far as they will go for you, without worrying about what’s happening at hip level ! My lumpy legs are not good in tight fitting leggings, but slimmer pants are possible.

For stretch knits, you might use McCall’s 6173 View A. Use an elastic waist if you prefer – no one’s going to see it under these tops.


If you prefer stretch woven for pants, there’s Melissa Watson’s McCall’s 6405.


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Your choice of style and details

Would any of these tops make a good relaxed special occasion outfit for you ?
Or make all three tops and the pants for a holiday season capsule, covering most situations where you don’t need to be really dressed up. Add a long slim skirt or very full palazzo pants and you might manage many black-tie events too.

If you’d prefer to copy Eileen Fishers’ simple dresses, I have another post coming on them.

There’s a party clothes sew along at Stitchers Guild, if you’d like some other ideas !

These wide boxy shapes are definitely not everyone’s best shape or favourite style.
Perhaps you have other favourite casual patterns you could make in festive fabrics.
And clothes based on the casual dartless block are not fashionable “body con” party wear.
If you’re at your best in a more fitted styles with body shaping, there’s plenty of choice in the pattern catalogues.

If velvet and shine don’t make you happy but you do like variations in texture : lace, sequins, brocade, and touches of fake fur are current festive options.
Or these ‘this season’ prints can be good for parties : chinese, baroque, flowers on a dark background, computer generated abstracts.

Eileen Fisher uses a current berry shade of red, with black and grey. Happily if we make our own versions we can choose her shapes but aren’t limited to her colours. Especially if we have warm-toned personal colouring. Choose flattering colours that make you feel festive.

Remember Eileen Fisher clothes are usually very simple in cut. It’s the quality of the fabrics that makes them luxurious.

Enjoy whatever you make and wear for the holiday season 😀

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Links and patterns available November 2012

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Change muslin, acknowledge original ? – dartless pullover

November 17, 2012

I keep talking about getting a well fitting starter block, then using it as the basis for patterns. But what I find myself doing in real life is start from a basic commercial pattern, and alter that to fit and flatter. Then using that as the starting point for other versions.

I’ve found I have to do most of the fitting work anyway even if I use personalised drafting methods or fitting aids, which assume a more average body than mine (see my post on fitting aids). So I might as well work by getting the fit of a commercial pattern right, rather than drafting or using a fitting aid and then still having to make all the fitting changes.

So I wondered how much I should acknowledge the original commercial pattern. How many changes can I make before it no longer counts as the same pattern.  Would the original designer be aggrieved if I didn’t mention her, or insulted if I did  😀

Asked a question about this at Stitchers’ Guild, and got some interesting and wise replies.

I think there are two different goals of changing a pattern:
– deliberately use a pattern as the starting point for making a different design,
– alter a pattern to fit and flatter, and find you’ve made so many changes the result could count as a different style. But getting a different style was an incidental output of the process, not the intended outcome.

It’s this second process I’m commenting on here.

I have two clear examples, which I’ve come to different conclusions about. I wanted a version that fits well and looks good, and assumed I would make minor changes. But the original patterns I chose obviously aren’t good starting points for me, as nearly every proportion and curve of my version is different from the original. So it could count as a different pattern. This post is on a loose drop-shoulder dartless pullover top. Second post is on a raglan sleeve knit top.

– – –

A casual pullover top

Last year I did a lot of work on fit and flatter of a casual pullover top.  The most basic dartless top pattern has front and back armholes the same, which doesn’t give anywhere near a good result on my high round back and sloping shoulders. I added shoulder darts, changed shoulder slope, changed body and sleeve length and width (front and back not the same), changed shape of armhole and sleeve cap so they fit well, changed to a more flattering neckline for me.  The only thing unchanged was the parallel sides of the body ! 

My starting point was Taylor Made Designs Sew-Easy Shirt by Cindy Taylor Oates.


I think I could have started from several other commercial patterns (or drafted my own from the instructions at Burda Style) and had to make similar alterations.

Perhaps Cutting Line Designs Two x Four.


or The Sewing Workshop Hudson top.


Here’s the front of my version (white) compared with Cutting Line 2×4.


Look at the middle line of the commercial pattern. Well, mine is the same width at bust level !

Many people love this Cutting Line pattern and find it fits ‘out of the envelope’. But obviously my comfortable and well fitted armhole and neckline are different. (Yes, my version is drop shouldered on me 😀 )

There are many similar casual top styles. (For general comments on this type of casual ‘dartless’ block, see my post on them.) I decided my version is one of the large family of slightly drop-shoulder loose fitting top patterns, and I needn’t mention the original designer. Many people would acknowledge the starting point even for such a generic design. I would mention Cindy Taylor Oates if I used her piecing inspiration.

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A far from tidy muslin – new armhole and sleeve cap

Perhaps some of you are like me, and daunted and amazed by the pristine muslins people show in their blogs. So here is part of the armhole development for my personal sloppy top pattern.


Made using swedish tracing paper, which I love – trace the pattern and mark out a sewable trial garment in one step ! A little stiff and no ‘give’, so not for testing draped or bias designs. Many people prefer to use fabric, but my first trial of a pattern is usually far from a good fit, and this is excellent for showing all the sags and strains.

Here’s a comparison of sleeve caps, my muslin and the original. My version is the final one of several as I looked for a way to match sleeve cap to new armhole. Compare with the middle original line.


(I didn’t discover a magic method for developing a sleeve cap – involved a lot of reading, guesswork, and trying things out.)

Obviously big changes to armhole and sleeve needed to get a good look on me.
Two main changes :
– a higher more fitted and scooped out armhole, which usually needs a taller sleeve cap,
– front and back armholes and sleeve cap different. The usual casual drop-shoulder pattern, with front and back armholes and sleeve cap the same, doesn’t fit well on my rounded shoulders.

– – –

A few general thoughts on muslin making

I consider the ‘muslin’ is a working tool, and I like seeing evidence of the alteration steps I’ve gone through. Other people greatly prefer tidiness. Some people make a new muslin each time they change the fitting pattern. That approach I confess would drive me wild with boredom.

An interesting process, especially now I’ve done enough pattern work to be happy with slashing and spreading and generally altering. In the confident expectation it is possible to get there in the end !

Not a feeling I got from working with ‘easy fit’ tools of any type. I definitely didn’t enjoy my initial stages of learning to fit, as ‘easy’ fitting aids didn’t work for me, and much-recommended fitting texts didn’t include the guidance I needed. I had the same lack of success with pattern making software, and with the personal slopers produced from drafting instructions in pattern making books. I felt lost and confused. All these people telling me their method produced marvellous results – and on me it looked terrible. . .

Now I have Liechty & Co’s Fitting and Pattern Alteration book, I know that all those ‘easy’ methods which claim to work for everyone actually only deal with about a quarter of all fitting issues. I know more about what I’m doing, and expect to experiment rather than get it right first time.

It’s certainly very rewarding when things transform from lumpy mess to sleek and flattering 😀 I still remember my delighted amazement when for the first time the CF lines on two sides of a pattern fell neatly together all the way down without any pulling and tugging on my part ! Or the first time I made a high round back adjustment, and the back fell down smoothly from the shoulders. . . We sewers do have simple joys 😀

It was also exciting to find this sort of boxy top doesn’t have to look bad on me – I’m so used to that from RTW I thought it was part of the style !

Well this has turned out to be more about muslins than attributing the origin of the design. . .

Good Luck to all who need to make so many changes to a pattern just to get it to look good 😀

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Patterns and links available November 2012

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Where do you like your outfit variety ?

November 10, 2012

Do you like each of your garments to have a different style ? Or perhaps you wear mainly similar styles, but in different colours or textures ?

Janice of The Vivienne Files suggested a simple wardrobe as unnoticed background to interesting accessories. Here’s her post, and my post on patterns for it. This wardrobe has :
A very small range of colours : mainly white to black, and denim blue.
A very small range of surfaces : all smooth solids.
A very small range of fabrications : cashmere knits, broadcloth, denim.
A very small range of shapes : close fit knits, crew neck tees, shirts, slim pants.
And only one overall clothes style : very casual.

Minimum variety in the style elements of these clothes – though the general idea of this ‘creative’ style is not minimalism at all, as there is a lot of emphasis on noticeable and individual accessories.

Of course you haven’t got to use minimum style elements in your clothes for a small wardrobe. Here’s some of the usual ways of adding variety.

Colour and surface

Janice chose white, grey, black/ tan/ chambray and denim blues for colour.
All in smooth fine textures and solid colours.

In general, use your own best dark and light neutrals to copy this idea.
Or of course use only dark or only light, if that works best for you.
Black and chambray-denim blue aren’t flattering colours for me. My basic neutrals are white, grey, tan.

No accent colours in this wardrobe, as the clothes are background ! All the accent is in the accessories. You may be the opposite, dislike neutral clothes and have a closet full of colour 😀

And what about fabrication ? Imogen Lamport at Inside-Out Style has an interesting piece on changing the level for refinement of your clothes from casual to formal by changing the quality of the fabrics.

And what about tonal variations around a main colour, or variations in print, texture, embellishment and trims ?
Even in my minimum wardrobe, I would be unhappy without cream/ oyster/ caramel. . . nubbly textures. . . low contrast prints. . . a little embroidery or lace. . . a small ruffle. . . subtle deviations from classic style elements. . .

I may wear mainly simple styles in light neutral colours, but I keep thinking of ways of adding inherent interest to these simple clothes. I’m a happy scarves and bags person, with a few brooches/ pins and bangles – but my accessory choices are not attention-grabbing.
My style comes between ‘all the interest in accessories’ and ‘all the interest in the clothes’.

What type of minimalism ?

Perhaps you like the idea of a small unobtrusive wardrobe with few style elements – but not this particular version.
Would you like more elegant basics ? The simplest designer lines, made in quiet high quality fabrics and no denim. (This is a version of the idea that I would be happier with 😀 )

Perhaps use some of the patterns with minimum style elements from
Cutting Line Designs,
Loes Hinse,

Variety of shape and style elements

Janice’s ‘common wardrobe’ has 3 very similar tees, 3 very similar shirts, 3 very similar pants. Slight differences in colour and fabric. Plus 3 knits with the same fit, colour and texture. That makes these clothes easy to interchange and co-ordinate into ‘background’ outfits.

As I’m not such an accessories person, I go along more with Judith Rasband’s idea (Wardrobe strategies for women – excellent, ignore the awful cover photo). If you only have a small number of blouses etc., then you want them to be as different as possible in colour, fabric and style (while still co-ordinating with your other wardrobe capsule items). So you can get very different looking outfits from your small number of clothes.

But that’s a different strategy for wardrobe building and getting interesting outfits than the accessories based approach.

And – if you like variety/ interest in your clothes rather than your accessories – which clothes ? Many wardrobe plans have equal numbers of tops, bottoms, and layers, but that isn’t right for me. My bottoms (pants) are ‘background’ and I have few of them. In winter I wear lots of layers. My tops can hardly be seen, so are simple basics. But I love variety in my pullover tunics, vests and loose jackets.

Looking at the key patterns I picked out before thinking about this topic, most of the variety is in the neck area, to draw attention to my face. And high necks are essential for warmth. I would be disappointed if I was only allowed one pattern for each of my layers 😀

Here is what’s currently on my desk top for inspiration and pondering :

McCall’s 6606 shirt, Sewing Workshop Hudson top
Vogue 2779 pants, Wiksten Tova top
Wiksten Tank top (worn as over-layer), Craftsy Sewing with Knits Hoodie

Vogue 8838 vest, Sewing Workshop Deja Vu wrap, Indygo Junction Origami wrap
Loes Hinse Boat neck top, Butterick 5789 View D jacket
Loes Hinse Cowl neck top, Burda 506E parka

(I focussed on easy patterns when I chose these.)

And which style elements do you vary ? The interest in my clothes is not just in the layers. It’s particularly in the neckline/ collar, which draws attention to my face. You may like style elements to draw attention to your bust, waist, rear view, hands, legs. . .

How much variety do you like ? and what type ?

The simplest possible clothes as a background for accessories – good for a travel wardrobe, as scarves and jewellery don’t take room to pack. But perhaps minimalism in clothes is not a good everyday style for you.

Which clothes do you like to have a wide variety of ?
Or can you be happy with just a few different styles ?
And what sort of variety do you like ?
– shape,
– closeness of fit,
– style,
– colour,
– texture (inherent in fabric, or in the way fabric is used such a ruching, tucks),
– weave,
– print,
– embellishment,
– fibre,
– style elements such as collars, cuffs, added seam lines.

What are your personal favourites to add to this list ?
What would you be unhappy without, even in the smallest capsule wardrobe 😀

Of course you haven’t got to be so analytic. Just notice what you like to wear. I think like this because it helps me understand why most wardrobe plans don’t work for me.

As ever, the aim is to enjoy your clothes and your sewing 😀

Links available November 2012, revised April 2021.

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Trendy Autumn Capsule 2012

November 3, 2012

What if I wanted some trendy clothes this autumn ?
I fell in love with the Cosy Fall Wish List suggested by The Blush Chronicles.

from The Blush Chronicles

Fairly easy to reproduce.
Of course use your own best colours.

I’ve added notes on :
– simple pattern combining when you can’t find exactly what you want,
– add-ons to take this from capsule to wardrobe,
– some other sources of wearable trendy inspiration for this winter.

– – –

Sweater top

Butterick 5679, View B.


Slim pants

Pair with the ubiquitous slim pants, such as Palmer-Pletsch McCall’s 6440.


Collarless biker jacket

Burda 03/2012-116.


Though I wouldn’t wear this in leather. Not for moral reasons, I’m just not happy in heavy stiffness.


With my rear, I don’t look good in a short fitted jacket and pants, so would add a long straight skirt. Use the best length for you. Wearable with both jacket and sweater.

Perhaps the one in Vogue 8841.



Butterick 5367, View A.


– – –

Cape coat – combining patterns

No pattern exactly the same as the inspiration. A bit of pattern work needed here.

There is a recently oop cape-sleeved coat pattern, Vogue 8678.


But there isn’t much of the year when I would be happy in a coat without full length sleeves !

So add some capelet pieces to a shoulder princess coat, as in the inspiration.
Perhaps start from Burda 7855.


Try a mock-up of the capelet pattern pieces to get the length and width you want, starting with a half circle. Or adapt from a cape style with shaped shoulder seam, such as Vogue 6776 (better for getting the cape hem on-grain).

The cape-coat inspiration is double breasted. One of the many advantages of a shoulder princess pattern is – it’s easy to adapt the centre front panel to different styles.

And the inspiration has a trench style collar.
So swap the notched collar and front opening of the Burda coat for something like McCall’s 5525, View D.


To combine the patterns – overlay the front pattern pieces and match up the shoulder seams and centre fronts.
Then trace the style elements you want.
Do the same with the back pattern pieces to check if the back neck shapes are different.
Straighten out the front edge and add more buttons, if you want your coat to close up to the neck.

Or simply use this trench style in dark fabric with military buttons for another of this season’s coat looks.

– – –

From capsule to wardrobe

First stage of additions. The coat and pants photos in the inspiration include :
– long sleeved knit top,
– print top (possibly a short sleeved blouse),
– vest.
Second stage of additions :
– long sleeved blouse/ shirt,
– second pair of pants – straight leg or boot-cut.
And a self-fabric strip for one of the blouses/ shirts so you have a bow-neck look.
All in basic shapes. Vary the surfaces and textures.

That makes :
3 layers (jacket, sweater, vest),
3 tops (long sleeved tee, long and short sleeved blouses).
3 bottoms (2 pants, 1 skirt).
1 coat.
10 garments in all. The 9 indoor clothes give about 40 outfits if they all co-ordinate.

Including accessories :

Haven’t mentioned the shoes 😀 That’s the one piece of the starter capsule that I already have, as flat ankle boots are a favourite of mine. Many people round here are wearing knee high boots with their slim pants. Add a dressier pair of shoes to increase the range of opportunities for wearing these clothes. You haven’t got to wear the current sky-high stiletto heels to look dressy. Try pretty ankle boots with medium heels. Or decorated ballet flats.

Add some indoor and outdoor scarves, a narrow waist belt, warm hat and gloves, favourite jewellery.
Well, that looks like an effective collection 😀

– – –

For easy-wear current looks in ‘modern classic’ style, see YouLookFab’s Pinterest board – copy many of these outfits using this wardrobe, and her comments on what she’s wearing this season.
And here’s a list of current items from StyleMakeover.

For a wide range of current styles, see Nancy Nix-Rice on wearable current trends and suggested outfits (no they’re not the pure classic styles which she uses to illustrate her wardrobe planning posts).
Next stage of additions : add blazer, cascade jacket, big top to your wardrobe, and you can mimic many of these outfits too.
Next additions : drape, cowl, turtleneck tops – and so on 😀

Enjoy the new season !

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Links and patterns available November 2012

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