Zip front jacket designed with Sure-Fit Designs Shirt Kit

When I cleaned out my closet and dresser a few months ago I discovered an old zip up jacket that had a broken zipper, frayed edges, and many stains. But I couldn’t part with it — when I found it, it quickly became a staple again because it’s so easy and comfortable.

After completing the exercises in The Curated Closet, a replacement for this tattered old standby was high on my list of things to make. Using the Sure-Fit Designs Shirt Kit and my personal blueprint, I drew up a pattern based on my ready-to-wear version.

It came together really well, except for when I topstitched the hem band seam allowance down with the triple stretch stitch. I haven’t had much luck with that stitch on knit fabrics because it tends to ruffle the fabric.

wearing my handmade zip up jacket on our Grand Tetons-Yellowstone 2017 trip
Wearing my jacket at Schwabacher’s Landing at Grand Teton National Park

I finished it just in time to wear on our trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. It was perfect for the temperatures up there and I wore it almost every day! It’s super comfortable and I love the fabric.

Adjustments for next time

  • Reduce the size of the pattern so it’s not quite so loose
  • Skip the topstitching around the hem band
  • Make the hem band smaller so it cinches closer to my body
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Classic striped tee designed with Sure-Fit Designs Dress Kit

striped long sleeve tee designed with Sure-Fit Designs dress kit

I have a serious love of striped tees. Since I prefer comfy clothes, I end up with a lot of tees (both long and short sleeve) and the stripes help add more personality than solid fabrics. Navy and soft white are my favorite pairing, and while I have plenty of those in my closet they all have some issues.

One has amazing fabric and details like brass buttons on the shoulders, but it’s too snug and the neckline is too broad. Another is nearly perfect, with some solid color blocking and 3/4 length sleeves but the shoulders are weird and the neck gapes. The one that fits the best has been worn so much that it has stains and holes.

So once I got started with my Sure-Fit Designs Dress Kit a Breton-style top was high on my list of priorities. My inspiration was a top that Winona Ryder wore in Girl, Interrupted. It’s pretty much perfection.

I don’t normally care for a crew neck in tees, but I wanted to give it a try because it’s so cute on Ryder in the movie. And typically my crew necks are on sporty, promotional tees so this would be a different animal. I was happy with how it turned out!

Yikes, you can really see my sloping right shoulder in this photo!

I used Glenda’s instructions for removing the bust-fitting dart in the Dress Kit. For the neckline, I made a facing out of navy knit, sewed it on with the lightning stitch for stretch, and topstitched it in place with a twin needle. The bottom has a curved hem, inspired by this Pin that demonstrates a flattering hemline for tops when your hip measurement is quite a bit longer than your waist.

Next time, I need to make a few small adjustments to my SFD blueprint:

  • The length is a little short, possibly because my measurement from neck to waist was off. I’ll need to lower the waistline and add some to the hemline as well.
  • Shoulders have been an ongoing issue with fitting, but I think the shoulder seam is just a little bit too long here. Shortening that at the shoulder point maybe 1/4″ should help.
  • Definitely need to try this with a boatneck! Hopefully I have enough fabric left to do a shorter sleeve version with this alternative neckline style.
  • There’s probably something I can do about those folds going from underarm to neck…the Sure-Fit Designs Facebook group may be able to help with that.
short sleeve scoop neck tee with rounded hem

Short sleeve scoop neck tee

After I made a long sleeve scoop neck tee from a pattern I drafted from a ready-to-wear tee, I was so happy with it that I knew there would be more of them in my future. And all of a sudden, it’s 100°. Meaning it’s time to make a short-sleeve version of it.

For a more polished look, I like a longer, slimmer short sleeve that comes almost to the elbow. I’ve also been wanting to do a rounded hem on the bottom, inspired by a tee in my closet that has a flattering rounded hem but is a little too small.

Process notes

  • used pattern from long sleeve scoop neck tee and constructed in the same manner
  • shortened sleeve length to match the boatneck tee drafted from my J.Crew top
  • rounded hem based on a tee from my closet
  • used red and white striped knit fabric

Results

Love it! It came together relatively quickly once the pieces were cut out. Eventually I want to get to the point of using the serger for the arm/side seams once the sleeves are attached.

The fit is great, and the rounded hem is a keeper. I could see going shorter with the sleeve, maybe something like this or shorter with a slight curve.

Update: After wearing this top a few times, I see that it could be a little longer, so I’ll try adding 1″ length to it next time. The scoop neck could also be smoothed out at the sides — it angles too sharply at the front center.

short sleeve scoop neck tee with rounded hem

blue knit drawstring shorts drafted from ready to wear

Knit drawstring shorts drafted from ready to wear

PATTERN

I drafted my own pattern from a pair of knit drawstring shorts (originally used for a linen pair) using the skills I learned in Steffani Lincecum’s fantastic Craftsy class Pattern Drafting from Ready-to-Wear.

Project features

  • self-drafted pattern
  • drawstring with casing
  • front patch pockets
  • twin needle on knit fabric

Process notes

Results

I keep forgetting that with knits, I don’t need to make the waist the same measurement as my hip measurement, so these are a little big around the waist. But with the drawstring it’s not a big deal.

blue knit drawstring shorts drafted from ready to wear

I learned a lesson about cotton twill tape: cut to length after washing and drying! My string shrank so much that I can only make a tiny bow at the waist.

The construction went really well, which I’m happy about. And the fit is relatively good, too. The only thing I’m not wild about is the color, but it was what I found at the remnants and mill-end store, so it is what it is ;)

neckline detail on red and white scoop neck tee

Long sleeve scoop neck tee

I’ve been meaning to make some copies of my Loft long sleeve scoop neck tees for ages. I picked up several of them a few years ago, and for some reason they’ve all developed little holes in the front, around the area where the waistband of jeans would rub. They’re such a wonderful wardrobe staple, and drafting a pattern from them for my stash is a no-brainer.

red and white scoop neck long sleeve tee

Process notes

  • used red and white striped knit fabric
  • moved shoulder forward 1/2 in.
  • modified the shoulder slope to be a little flatter in the top-back, and sharper in the top-front
  • constructed with lightning bolt stitch, 2.0 width & 3.5 length
  • neckline:
    1. did not use tricot interfacing at neckline
    2. stay stitched at scant 3/8″
    3. cut single fold collar band 1 1/2 in. x 34 in. and pressed in half
    4. stitched collar band, right sides together, raw edges aligned
    5. top stitched seam allowances towards shirt, using stretch twin needle.

Results

red and white scoop neck long sleeve teeAbsolutely thrilled with how this tee turned out! The shoulder is great, the length is good for regular pants (not so much leggings), and the scoop is a great size.

I’d love to turn this into a short sleeve tee as well, but with a curved shape at the bottom instead of straight across. I’m hoping that makes it look more feminine and not so unisex.

I think this sleeve will be a good model for my knit pattern block.

Boatneck long sleeve tee in navy

One of my favorite tees is a hip-length black and white striped tissue tee with 3/4 sleeves and a boatneck from Loft. It’s a great fit — roomy enough to be super comfy, yet slim enough to look polished. For this project, I drafted a pattern from it and sewed it up in a nice, soft, navy knit.

navy boatneck long sleeve tee

Process notes

  • lengthened 3/4 sleeve by 5 in., bringing it to a full wrist length
  • 7 in. width at wrist end of sleeve pattern
  • neckline:
    1. neckline is constructed to include the shoulder seams right in the boatneck shaping
    2. for binding cut (2) pieces of same fabric 1 5/8 in. x 20 in.
    3. fused 1/2 in. wide tricot interfacing along neckline
    4. stay stitched at 3/8 in.
    5. aligned binding along the stay stitch line and stitched 1/2 in. from it
    6. trimmed off 3/8 in. (most of tricot interfacing got trimmed off)
    7. turned binding to inside and topstitched with stretch twin needle
    8. slightly overlapped shoulder areas and top stitched together
  • used 5/8 in. seam allowance to join arms, but 1/2 in. at side seam
  • added side vents

Results

I got lucky with this fabric — it’s very comfortable with a nicely balanced amount of stretch. We’ll see how it wears. I got it at the mill ends and remnants store where fabric content is unknown.

The first thing I noticed after trying it on was that the back shoulder need reshaping with a gentler slope to account for my forward sloping shoulders. But I do like how the boatneck works on this pattern, with a smoother overlap compared to my pattern drafted from my J. Crew tee.

The shaping along the sides and the overall length are good, although the bottom hem wants to flip up. This might be because of the side vents.

Next time, I’d lengthen the sleeves by 1/2 to 1 in., and adjust that shoulder curve. The adjustments are minor — overall it’s a winner.

Black knit lounge pants (not quite yoga)

After sewing another Coco, I moved over to some personal sewing projects drafted from ready to wear. I have several patterns in my pattern stash from this technique. (It’s hard for me to pick a favorite Craftsy class, but Pattern Drafting from Ready-to-Wear is so great because of the versatility of the skills learned.) There’s a lounge pant drafted from Gap yoga pants blended with a lycra Nike workout pant, a hip-length boatneck tee with 3/4 sleeves from Loft, and long sleeve scoop neck tee from Loft.

I’ve had better success making garments from this type of pattern — vs. using one from the big pattern companies. I know the original fits, and I’m able to make some fit refinements when making the pattern.

Pants have proven tricky for me to get right. Not the construction, but the fit. I don’t have a basic pant block that fits yet, so each project is another learning experience in pants fitting. The learning continues with this pair.

Process notes

  • used black rib knit fabric
  • after constructing, went back and trimmed a bit off the inside seam at the crotch
  • the front and back leg lengths don’t match — need to research this more
  • used elastic instead of drawstring

Results

They’re not terrible, but there are definitely some fitting areas I want to address. The front rise is too long, and the legs are too wide. I wanted something a touch looser than the original yoga pant, but this was too far. And the waistband needs to be taken in more to achieve more of a slim fit. They hang pretty well in the back though.

If I can muster the patience, making a pants block that fits right would be an excellent step. Between One, Pattern Many Looks: Pants and this blog post about pants fitting, I could make real progress in this area.

funnel neck detail on Coco top

Pique Coco top with funnel neck and cuffs

Between Christmas and New Year’s, I took some time off of my Oxford Dogma making to indulge in some personal sewing. On my list were:

  1. a Coco top
  2. lounge pants
  3. long sleeve boatneck tee
  4. long sleeve scoop neck tee
  5. chambray button down shirt

First, my new Coco

Many months ago I bought some dark blue pique knit fabric, and have been wanting to make a Coco with it. This time with the funnel neck collar, 3/4 length sleeves, and cuffs (my Pinterest inspiration). And a good length for wearing with leggings.

navy pique Coco with funnel neck and cuffs

Process notes

  • funnel neck
  • 3/4 sleeve with cuff
  • lengthened 1 in. at lengthen/shorten line
  • used size 3, tapering to size 2 from waist down
  • used lightweight twill tape for shoulder stabilizing (next time: align 3/8 in. from cut edge on shoulder seams)
  • joining stitch: 75/11 stretch needle, with zig zag stitch set to 1.5 stitch width & 2.0 stitch length
  • top stitching: stretch twin needle, 3.5 stitch length

Results

So cute! I love the timeless yet mod look.  I like this longer sleeve better than the short sleeve on me — the short sleeve is more blunt and boxy, and the longer sleeve seems more graceful.

And as I was hoping, this Coco looks great with leggings and slim pants.

boatneck tee drafted from ready to wear

Boatneck tee drafted from ready-to-wear

contrast yoke boatneck tee from JCrew painter tee | amylamp.com

original ready to wear boatneck tee
The J.Crew boatneck tee that I used as a source

There’s one short-sleeve tee in my wardrobe that I depend on as my go-to tee. It’s a boatneck tee from J.Crew from several years ago with sleeves that come just above the elbow, a flattering shape, interesting overlapping shoulder construction with buttons, and the perfect color. Whenever I put it on I feel more put together yet still comfy and casual. It works with all of my pants and shorts, it’s not too thick or too thin.

Sadly, it won’t last forever.

Happily, I know how to draft a pattern from ready to wear.

boatneck tee drafted from ready to wear
My version of the boatneck tee, with side vent and contrast yoke

The previous patterns I’ve made from some of my favorite clothes have gone very well. The 3/4 sleeve white tee and linen drawstring shorts are not without room for improvement, but the fit is pretty good because I started with something off the rack that already fit. Fit has been my biggest challenge by far when it comes to sewing my own clothes.

Project features

  • knit binding on stabilized neckline
  • twin needle hemming
  • side vents
  • contrasting yoke
  • button detail on neckline

Process notes

  • used a reclaimed tee for the striped lower portion of the shirt
  • added a contrasting yoke
  • for the neckline, used techniques learned in Sewing on the Edgestabilized the neckline with fusible tricot and stay stitching, then sewed on the binding by aligning one raw edge with the stay stitching line, trimmed off the excess along the neckline, folded the binding over to the back, and topstitched in place with a twin needle.
  • flipped the sleeves around so the flatter slope was in the back and the sharper curve was in the front
  • added vents in the sides
  • even though the pattern was drafted for 3/8″ seam allowance, I reduced it to 1/4″ for closing up the sleeves/side seams because the striped fabric didn’t have much stretch

Results

I love this color combo! My only regret is that the striped fabric isn’t very stretchy, making the tee rather snug and difficult to put on. If the bottom were as stretchy as the top, it wouldn’t be a problem. I also used a straight stitch to attach the yoke to the bodice, which was a mistake. The first time I put it on, that seam ripped, so I had to go back and use a stretch stitch and pull out the original stitches.

The neckline finish is awesome, and I’d like to use that technique again — as long as it doesn’t need to stretch over my head. The boatneck worked fine, but since the fusible tricot prevents that edge from stretching it wouldn’t work if it were a typical crew neck. I think it’s going to be an improvement on the original tee because that one gaped at the back of the neck and this one appears to be sitting closely against the back of my neck nicely.

boatneck tee drafted from ready to wear
Neckband detail, with overlapping shoulder seam and button

Switching the sleeves from front to back appears to have worked just fine. It bunches up a little radiating from the under arm, which would be nice to remedy, but I haven’t yet found the trick to that.

Pipsqueak getting in the picture
Pipsqueak, dancing for attention while we were shooting the photo

Next time:

  • make the neckline binding 1/4″ wider
  • use a stretchier fabric or increase the size of the pattern to accommodate
  • attach yoke with stretch stitch
  • lower armhole at side seams about 1/4″
Sleeveless Coco top with contrast yoke

Another Sleeveless Coco with Contrast Yoke

For this Coco, I blended two sizes to improve the fit of a sleeveless version. Size 2 was too snug in the upper torso, and size 3 was too loose in the lower torso.

Pattern

Coco by Tilly and the Buttons

Process notes

  • used the contrast yoke alteration, with yoke made from thrift store t-shirt
  • blended size 3 from the base of the armscye up, and size 2 from that point down
  • trimmed 1/2 in. off the width of the hem on each pattern piece, reducing the flared hem by 2 in. total
  • self-fabric armscye facing

Results

After seeing how my last sleeveless Coco gaped at the armscye once I removed the facing to adjust the fit, I decided it would be a good idea to add that into the construction of this top. It helps polish the fit and finish enough that it’s worth the step.

Coco top with facing finish on armscye

I had to laugh once I put the finished top on — the area where I “blended” the two sizes at the underarm was quite prominent, not blended at all. The fabric pointed outward at the side seam because the the sharp curve I used. To fix it, I picked out some stitches at the top of the side seam and pinched it in, resewing that area. It improved the fit, but I lost patience and didn’t finish the topstitching of the armscye well. At some point that’ll need to be repaired, but in the mean time I get to enjoy a new sleeveless tee.

Since I’m using a thinner, stretchier jersey than the pattern recommends, there’s some neckline gaping going on. I may try a collar band next time to see if that helps.

Pattern adjustments for next time (sleeveless version):

  • add 1/4″ to middle of back armscye
  • remove 1/4″ from lower section of front armscye
  • lower armscye 1/4″ at side seam
  • reduce sharp curve at side seam from where I blended sizes 2 and 3
Warm grey scoop neck tee detail

Wardrobe Architect Project: Fitted Scoop Neck Tee

For my first item in my Summer 2015 wardrobe project, I chose the fitted scoop neck tee with elbow-length sleeves.

Pattern

Scoop neck tee from Crafty’s Sewing with Knits: 5 Wardrobe Essentials class + banding technique from Sewing on the Edge: Finishing Techniques

Project features

  • working with slinky knit
  • fusible tricot and stay stitching around neckline
  • clean join on neck band
  • twin needle topstitching

Process notes

  • made size small, with elbow-length sleeves
  • curved in at the waistline, roughly following the Coco shaping
  • 3/8 in. wide band of fusible tricot cut the same shape as the neckline
  • 2 1/4 in. wide strip of fabric for neckline banding, about 4 in. longer than needed for neckline
  • used the default settings for lightning stitch to sew in the sleeves
  • for twin needle, set thread tension to 8 with 3.0 stitch length using straight stitch
  • 3/4 in. hem on bottom

Results

Warm grey scoop neck tee

I’m happy with my construction of this tee, but there are several things I don’t like about it:

  • the lightweight slinky knit isn’t great for a fitted tee because every little thing that isn’t smooth (like a bra for example) shows up more than I’d like
  • the fabric is too tight in the back and my shoulders are pulling on it
  • the arm holes are too small and the fabric is pulling there
  • there’s a lump at the upper back sleeve where the sleeve cap is too sharply curved

I love the clean join on the neck band. Waiting until after the banding is applied to finish the length seems was a nice experience, but the band was pulled a little too much and flops open a teeny bit. And stabilizing the neckline with tricot was an extra step but I do think it made the whole neckline process go more smoothly and the result is quite refined.

I’m still working on shoulder fit and am considering next steps. My two thoughts that I’m deciding between are:

  • go up a pattern size from the underarm to shoulder seam
  • or add 1/4 in. to the back armscye and sleeve back, adding 1 in. total to the finished back width, a forward shoulder adjustment, flatten out the curve at the upper back sleeve, sharpen the curve at the upper front of the sleeve

I also want to add 1/4 in. to back armscye and sleeve on the Coco size 3.

I’m determined to make this pattern work for me as a close-fitting knit torso sloper — after wearing it for a day, it was so comfortable and the neckline is really flattering.

Simplicity 2317 knit lounge shorts

Sewing Simplicity 2317 Lounge Shorts

Project features

  • elastic waistband
  • mock fly
  • stretch twin needle

Process notes

  • used contrast waistband from leftover thrift store t-shirt fabric
  • added 5/8 in. to the front and back pieces, increasing the overall circumference by 2 1/2 in.
  • used Wonder Tape on hem instead of pins
  • decreased hem allowance to 3/8 in.
  • increased thread tension to 7 when hemming with twin needle

Results

Simplicity 2317 knit lounge shorts
OK, once again I accidentally doubled my intended adjustment measurement. Grrr. So as a result, these are rather bulky around the waist. The hips and thighs do feel rather comfy though.

I was glad to get some experience with a front fly, even if it was a mock fly. That process is a bit mystifying to read about, and actually doing it helps clarify things. Initially I misunderstood the center seam instructions and sewed down the wrong line. Lucky for me it was just a basting stitch and easy to remove and restitch.

Increasing the thread tension to 7 with the twin needle helped a lot. The bobbin thread has a better zig zag, allowing more stretchability without pulling the thread out of the side seams. I want to try pushing it even more to see what happens. And (perhaps because I decreased the hem allowance so much) the hem wants to flip up, so in the future I would increase the length of the legs instead so I can sew higher up from the fold.

The next time I want to make knit shorts I’d like to try the yoga short pattern from Crafty’s Sewing with Knits class. But even higher on my list is the City Gym Shorts pattern. They look classically retro and fun.