Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sewing: The TnT Quest

So when I last reported in, I had finished the lime green version of the HotPatterns Plain & Simple Princess Shirt. Since then, my sewing focus has been split between several patterns, all of which I hope to make parts of a wardrobe of "tried and true" (TnT) patterns.

The idea of TnTs is that, rather than chasing madly after every fascinating new pattern that comes along, you fit and test and perfect a smaller number of useful and reusable patterns. This way, your sewing projects have quite good odds of actually becoming wearable garments, rather than the usual fifty/fifty (or worse) odds of ending up as scraps.

That would be great. So why does this sound so boring? Something is clearly wrong with me. On principle, I want a nice little group of TnTs. But in practice, that Issey Miyake thing from the eighties, the one that I would probably never wear, just looks like so much more fun. And that Geoffrey Beene jacket that I wouldn't wear either. And the Folkwear Kinsale cloak. And... well, you get the idea. I guess I like the pattern equivalent of Comme des Garcons Garage.

OK, anyway, so far I'm working toward this fine and wholesome goal. Current TnT candidates include:

The Plain & Simple Princess Shirt: This is the one I used for the green shirt, and it seems to work just fine. I lengthened the sleeves, left the rest unchanged since the last round, and used the resulting pattern to cut out two white shirts, one in white Brussels Washer (a cotton/linen blend) and one in an inexpensive white cotton "shirting". The pseudo-shirting really doesn't feel like shirting; it's distinctly coarser than it should be and doesn't press at all well, and at the price I paid for it I have no business expecting anything nicer. Both shirts are coming along nicely, and I'm so bored with them, especially the cotton one, that I don't want to finish them.

This is a lesson that I keep learning and keep forgetting--don't pour valuable time into boring or cheap fabric. I'll force myself to finish them, but the cotton one isn't getting the expensive natural buttons I bought for it. (So there.) And then I may send off for handkerchief linen in fuchsia. Or that turquoise silk twill. Or the ruby red silk georgette. (So there again.) (OK, I'm not yet competent to sew the georgette, and I wouldn't wear it.) (OK, I might order it anyway.)

The Yoke Skirt: That weird one with all the architectural seams. I made a muslin, declared it too snug, added an inch on each side (a change that had to be made to six, count 'em, six pattern pieces) and am ready to finally cut the skirt in real fabric, probably a hunk of very lightweight denim. Well, technically, after messing with six pattern pieces, I really really really should make another muslin. Having met myself, I strongly suspect that I'm not going to do that.

Just to cause more trouble, I'm also considering trying to modify this skirt to have an elastic waist instead of a zipper. See, even the too-snug muslin pulled on without my un-safety-pinning the opening. And with an untucked shirt that falls three or so inches below my waist, an elastic-crinkled waist won't really be visible. And I hate putting in zippers. So... I'm indecisive. I'll probably baste the thing together in denim and baste in an elastic casing and see how it looks and decide then.

Next? The Princess FrankenDress. I got the Princess Shirt working, and I couldn't get a dress working, so I decided to combine the Princess Shirt with the HotPatterns Classix Nouveau Indispensable Dress. If you happened to look at the sketches for each pattern, you might ask: why would I take a dress that has a princess bodice with a notched collar, and replace it with a princess bodice with a notched collar? Because the original princess bodice is an armhole princess seam, that's why, and I fail miserably at fitting armhole princess seams. They seem to expect the, er, upper fullness to be in a very specific location, so that I can find myself laboriously adjusting things only to find that it's still half an inch off and that that half inch is noticeable. A shoulder princess seam is much more flexible about location.

So I combined the two and stitched up a very quick muslin in muslin, and it mostly fit, and Himself noted that I looked like a scary nurse in it, which is entirely correct and makes me think of the possibilities for scary nurse uniforms for Halloween. The skirt's a little shorter in back than in front, and my Sandra Betzina book claims you can fix that, so I'll give it a try; it would be nice if the hemline were naturally even enough to let me get away without doing the usual measure-the-hem-from-the-floor thing.

Then I need to find a fabric. I still can't tell if this pattern is going to have a Dorothy-in-the-barnyard vibe, or be more of a ladies'-lunch costume, and that determines the fabric. Chambray or silk? I'm probably going to aim for a middle ground and make it in lightweight linen in a fairly dark color (black? chocolate brown? navy? forest green? dark maroon?), something that I could wear with either garden gloves and Merrells, or a silk scarf and heels. OK, not heels; I don't wear heels, especially not in a season that has any risk whatsoever of ice on the ground. But girly flats and maybe even a silly brooch.

The HotPatterns Classix Nouveaux Dolman Blouse is a slightly dubious candidate for TnT status. The difficulty is that the dolman bodice-and-sleeve pieces are huge. When I extend the sleeves from the original elbow length to full length they get huger and can't be cut in folded fabric. I could add a seam somewhere, but that would disrupt the unbroken flow of the fabric. I already killed the pleats in the original pattern, because they broke the flow, too. Well, and they looked very eighties. Yes, this whole blouse wants to be very eighties--I saw Maddie Hayes wearing an almost identical blouse in Moonlighting just the other night--but I'm just not into that decade's fashion.

I wanted that unbroken flow because I was going to use this pattern for prints that I don't want to break up with seams. I suppose I could "match" those prints like people match stripes, but that starts to look like, y'know, work. On the other hand, the failed version of this shirt that I made was very comfortable, so I'm not ready to abandon it.

Next? Next? Maybe the HotPatterns Trouser Skirt. Maybe that Geoffrey Beene thing after all. There are all sorts of Sewing Workshop patterns I've never tried. Or I could actually sew more than one thing from each TnT. Like I'm supposed to. That is theoretically possible.

We'll see.


Image: Wikimedia Commons.


  1. I am currently making a "practice dress" before cutting the taffeta to make Bookworm's prom dress. I suppose you could call that "a muslin," but I'm not accomplished enough to use such a term.

    I'm also probably insane for attempting taffeta. Luckily, it is a fairly simple pattern, with only a few gathers and not much in the way of fitting, because I stink at that.

  2. Hey, Mals! Hey, making a prom dress in anything, much less taffeta, sounds a great deal more accomplished than I am.