This project convinced me to create a new category for my projects sorting that I called Salvage. From time to time I find myself embarking on salvage operations with some of my projects. More often than not the problems are completely self inflicted – I might make a relatively small mistake early in the process correcting which turns into an entire operation with hours and hours spent on it. This project was exactly that. Good news though is that I managed to save the project and to complete this top, so all is good in the end. But let me share with you what happened this time.
Normally I would not start a new project before finishing the one at hand. Another peculiarity I have is being incapable of throwing away leftover fabrics even if I do not like them all that much. So even with those (luckily rare) unloved projects I’d usually struggle up to the very end until somehow completing them. This project, or actually, the series of projects, is in exactly that category – not too loved, however must-be-finished.
Last year I purchased 4 meters of black twill suiting. Bought so much because the fabric was on sale and I figured that there can’t be any harm in buying a lot of black wool – I must find loads of projects to use it up for. Apparently, there is a good reason why we buy different fabrics for different projects – sewing stuff out of the same fabric may become really boring. But I did not know that then.
I had bought this colorful embroidered silk organza like two years ago and figured that plain black fabric would complement my fancy embroidered fabric very well. And it did! Last December I made a really beautiful Festive Christmas dress out of this duo. Was hugely proud of that project and really enjoyed it. However eventually it became clear that my new dress was not too comfortable. Wool was doing its job just fine, however those sheer parts of organza were letting too much air in, and so I felt cold in that dress regardless. Moreover, the dress is a bit too posh to go to the office, and there are not too many other occasions to wear it.
When this winter came, before embarking on multiple jacket projects I have lined up, I promised myself to deal with this black-ginkgo situation. There were a bit less than 2 meters of main wool fabric left after the dress project and a relatively small piece of embroidered organza. So it was clear that organza will have to again go into sleeves, whereas for the black fabric I was planning pants and top. It was far from certain if I was going to be able to squeeze two garments out of less than 2 meters of main fabric. Clearly that was about to be determined after I chose patterns for those two garments and laid pattern pieces onto the fabric.
I have never made pants. Even though I wear pants much more often than dresses, and even though I have a hard time purchasing pants at RTW because due to my body proportions they end up too tight around my shins, somehow the necessity to sew pants had not quite occurred to me up until now. I must have been avoiding confronting pants as it seemed complex and unnecessarily unpleasant type of project. Maybe I am all wrong and I will absolutely enjoy making pants, however for now I did everything I could to procrastinate starting pants project 🙂
Anyhow, pants were conceived first, I had to pick the pattern and did quite a research trying to determine which of those zillion of pants designs out there would fit me the best. At first I had chosen Just patterns Tatjana trousers, bought the pattern, cut it, and then became doubtful. Then I abruptly changed my mind and settled on one of Burda pants designs. This one has the zip closure at the side instead of proper front closure – perhaps I was dreading zipper installation process the most. When I laid pants pattern pieces on to the fabric, it became clear that I would have enough leftover fabric for the top. And so the pattern for the top had to be found, too.
Here I was not too careful. For simplicity purposes I decided to reuse the pattern I had used before. Arguably I needed just the main blocks and was planning to adjust pattern pieces accordingly. So I needed front, back and the top of the sleeve, essentially only the sleeve head. After a bit of deliberation I chose one of McCall’s patterns I used for one of my first tops ever – it was the butterfly top that can be seen in the featured picture of my previous post. The main problem with this butterfly top was that being very inexperienced as I was back then, I cut the pattern in too small a size – I cut it in size 6, whereas normally I would later cut other McCall’s patterns in size 8 or even 10. However, this time around I thought I’d be able to compensate for too small size by just reducing seam allowances and thus making the garment wider. It was not a good idea, I should not do this ever again!
And so I finally reached the point that both garments’ pattern pieces were cut out of black fabric and I turned to embroidered organza to go ahead and cut sleeves for the top. In order to do that I had to draft sleeves first because original sleeves were short. So I traced the sleeve head off of the McCall’s pattern and then just arbitrarily drew the sides of the sleeve pattern piece. I tried to measure the circumference of the sleeve of one of my dresses, however eventually ended up concluding that those sleeves were perhaps a touch too wide, so narrowed the pattern piece down a bit. I did not think this through all that well, but it became obvious only later.
So there I was seemingly ready to cut my sleeves. And boom, my leftover piece of embroidered organza was too short for full length sleeves. I was like – “now what?”. Tried to manipulate paper pattern pieces on the fabric one way or another, but without much success. What was more problematic, there was not enough black fabric either to just cut those sleeves out of it. I googled “statement sleeves” trying to find ideas for joining two fabrics in some sort of an interesting way for fancier sleeves, but did not find anything worth a shot. And so I decided to cut my sleeves short and figure out later what kind of cuff could be made to lengthen them. Provided that my dress made out of the same fabrics felt cold due to transparent organza, I decided to line sleeves this time.
After all this terribly long process of decision making and deliberation, I was finally ready to actually start sewing. And of course I was still dreading to go ahead with pants, so started with the top instead. It was funny because the top was supposed to be a leftover project, and now it turned into a leftover project of pants that were not even started! When first seams were made, I caught myself thinking – “ah, this should go fast, I’ve used this pattern before, I know it, that will be just a quick small project”. It was not to be!
First, darts got made, then neck facing was installed. I used 1 cm seam allowances everywhere instead of 1.5 cm. Thought it would be enough to compensate for too small size. Then time for sleeves came. Flat sleeve method had to be used as I wanted to attach lining in a way that would hide sleeve seams. This idea worked quite well, and the progress can be seen in the pictures below.
The first sounds of alarm started ringing when I tacked underarm and side seams and tried the garment on. EVERYTHING was tight around EVERYTHING. Shoulders were tight, upper part of the back was tight, sleeves were so tight that I was almost unable to bend my arm – and that’s for my left arm, so right sleeve must have been even worse. Sleeves’ tightness was amplified by the fact that this embroidered organza is quite sturdy, not at all giving in. I was standing there in front of the mirror distraught and thinking, “well, sh*t, what do I do now?”. Three options crossed my mind: a) throw it away and stop further time spending, a.k.a. “fail fast”in project management terms, b) finish as it is, make nice pictures, hang the top in the deep corner of the closet, c) try to save the project. I am not sewing for pictures or Instagram, conceptually option b was not even an option – if finished, the garment must be wearable. I decided to try and rescue the project.
Eventually I settled on doing two things. The first part of the plan was to try and remedy the tightness around the top of the the garment, I decided to rip center back seam and make seam allowance as narrow as possible, and the same with side seams. And second, for those troubled sleeves, I recalled the solution that one of experienced sewists described in her post and on IG some half a year ago. In my case applying her method meant to just open the underarm seam and sew in a narrow wedge / insert of main fabric. It was not too elegant solution, but at least it was some kind of a solution. All of that salvage work took me like 4 hours to complete – hours of unnecessary pain that could have easily been avoided had I chosen a proper pattern or drafted sleeves more attentively.
Since both sleeve layers – embroidered fabric and lining – were too narrow, I had to sew their edges together and only then insert the wedge. In other words, wedge seams are now exposed on the wrong side. They could only have been hidden had the lining was wide enough, but it was not the case. Eventually when all main body seams were redone with seam allowances reduced to bare minimum – something like 6 mm, the width of the overlocker seam, – and when wedges were in, I tried the garment on and had to conclude that it became so much more comfortable and probably wearable too. Light at the end of a tunnel started appearing.
The last fix to find was to attach something to compensate for sleeves being too short. At first I decided to try and install gathered cuffs. I cut double width on bias, gathered and concluded that it was far too bulky. So instead I decided to install a straight faux cuff, am defining it as faux because these cuffs are not closed in any way, they have open ends.
The last part of work was to decide on the length of the garment and hem it. For that I used catch stitch so that the seam would not be visible on the right side. After ironing the finished garment I finally was able to breathe a sigh of relief – not too enjoyable project was finally over.
For this project I needed small leftover pieces of two fabrics: black twill suiting that I bought at Fabworks online store and embroidered silk organza that I bought at The Fabric store online. The pattern hacked here was McCall’s M7542, however I changed it so much, that little reference to it remains in the actual garment. Other notions were: a bit of lining for sleeves, a bit of interfacing, one small button for the back closure (for those I use up spare buttons from RTW garments – have many single buttons in my box 🙂 ), and black thread. This top was made at the very end of November, it cost me 20 Eur.
When time came to find styling options for my new top and take few photos, I had a really hard time styling this top. It somehow feels dark – well, that shouldn’t be a surprise provided my initial choice of black fabric! Initially I had planned to wear it with those poor pants that I am yet to make, but this would mean me being all black from head to toe, and with my hair also being dark, this might turn into a grim looking situation. I don’t know, we shall see. Tried this top with denim jeans too, it did not make for a good look. Maybe a skirt would fit better, but I do not own any suitable skirts and overall almost never wear them. So all in all, the conclusion is that this one was probably my least favorite project ever. But at the very least I did what I had to do – finished it! Now I really hope that I will learn to enjoy it eventually.
Thanks for checking out this post and wish me luck with the pants!