Costume College and a Charm Patterns Rita Blouse

A couple weeks ago I had a chance to attend Costume College for the very first time. Like many people I avoided attending for many years thinking I wasn’t good enough at sewing or that I wouldn’t fit in. I was WRONG on both counts. But mostly I have to thank my roommates Danelle and Kristine for letting me share their hotel room and being my buddies for the weekend. If they hadn’t included me, I’m sure I would have felt too intimidated to attend. Also thank you to Tanya for answering my hundreds of questions before I arrived. Now I can’t wait to go back next year!

What is Costume College? The most important part is the classes. They are all taught by volunteers and range from constructing weapons to learning to make a 16th century smock. I found the classes to be sort of hit or miss. I had some great teachers and some that were unprepared. Overall I found them to be informative and worth my time. In the evenings there were different themed events. You can dress in costume or not. You can dress to the theme or not. You can skip the events completely! I went to each event and had a great time. There are also lots of other things, a tea, a gala, a costume exhibit, a market place, etc.

Costume College was also totally overwhelming. I took zero photos. There are people everywhere and the costumes can be incredible. Far better than I can ever hope to achieve! But there is a wide range of sewing skills on display. I took a slip making class and found myself on the more advanced end even though I don’t think I’m an expert sewist. Not everyone makes a House of Worth reproduction out of silk. But I can see how on social media it looks like the costumes are all perfect. That’s just not the case in real life.

Anyways, I’ll share the two dresses I made for Costume College soon, but in the mean time here is a top I made to wear to the daytime classes.


Charm Patterns is a pretty new brand, but the owner, Gretchen has been writing a blog, books, and designing patterns for Butterick for the last few years. I own one of her books and a few Butterick patterns, but so far I had avoided her new pattern line. I love the look of her designs, but I do find them a little impractical and over the top for my everyday life. Plus her sizing isn’t very inclusive. Boo! But with Costume College a few days away I decided I really needed a blouse to go with my amazing hand painted Mexican skirt. Off I went to research downloadable options and the only one that seemed like it would really work was the Rita Blouse.

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It turned out really cute!!! The Rita Blouse has become pretty popular and I can see why. It was quick to assemble, quick to sew, and comes with cup sizing. For my 42 inch bust I picked a size 10DD, no FBA needed. I heard the waist is generous so even though my waist and hips put me at a size 14, I kind of ignored it. I cut the back as a straight 10 and the front midriff as a 12.

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The fit is pretty good, but not totally perfect. I used a fraction of the recommended elastic in the neckline and it still fits wide enough to show my bra straps. I need to put in minders, but haven’t done that yet. There is also too much fabric in the front right under my bust. The first photo looks pretty good, but this one below shows better that my Rita doesn’t fit snuggly and gives me kind of a low boob look.

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In order to meet my deadline I had to se fabric in stash. This ivory shirting is kind of like a gauze and I got it from a friend who was destashing some of their fabrics. All I know is it is 100% cotton, a tad bit stiff, and breathes super well.

Will I make more Ritas? Yes I probably will. I need to sew more tops and I have better suited fabrics in my stash. Right now I’m in navy twill hell making my daughters some new school uniforms, but the weather has been so warm that short sleeve tops will be needed through the fall. Plus I have a cute bird print rayon all washed and ready to sew up!

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Ottobre Norma Blouse and the Dress Like Your Grandma Challenge

 

This year I just barely managed to participate in the Dress Like Your Grandma challenge Tanya (of Mrs. Hughes fame) made into an annual event. I aspire to sew as many vintage patterns as Tanya manages to produce! Anyways, I didn’t have a ton of time available to tackle this look and so I’m not quite pleased with what I was able to put together.

My mom’s mom is on the left looking saucy and rocking those ankle strap shoes. I’m not sure when this was taken, but my grandmother’s always been a bit of a ball buster. Definitely not one of those soft and sweet grandmothers who bake cookies. She’s more likely to ask me when I’m going to lose weight and can I sneak her some Jack Daniels? But she loved my grandfather and they are so adorable in the photos from their youth. Based on their wedding year and the fashion in this picture I’m guessing this is when when they were dating. (Any idea mom?)

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Trying to find a blouse pattern like Grandma’s was really tough. I didn’t have time to draft my own and I didn’t see anything readily available to download. Ottobre Magazine sent me a couple magazines to try out so I flipped through the pages and found the Norma Blouse. It’s a really cute little 1940s style shirt with a yoke at the shoulders, gathers at the shoulders, and fish eye darts for some subtle shaping.

I’ve never tried an Ottobre pattern before this, but the blouse turned out really nicely. Maybe a tad big in the shoulders, but I was trying not to do too many adjustments. Aside from blending sizes (44/48/50) I also did a full bust, sway back, and full bicep adjustment. I feel like I’ve been overly picky with fit lately and it was nice to just step away and accept the finished project instead of over analyzing it.

I also haven’t made a blouse in years. Or frankly anything with a button front. Unfortunately I probably need a touch more bust room, but otherwise I think I did a pretty good job making a professional looking shirt. I feel like my breasts look SO BIG in this and yet I probably do need to go down a size and do an even larger full bust adjustment.

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The Norma blouse was super easy to sew together. Ottobre sells magazines in English and that’s a big plus! I’m working on a project from another European magazine and it is just not as smooth trying to translate sewing terms.

The fabric for this blouse is the leftovers from the girls’ Baptism dresses and it was just perfect for a blouse. I’m really getting my money’s worth out of this purchase The Fabric Store. I still have even more!

So what do you think of the fit of this blouse? Does it look okay? Or is it worth narrowing the shoulders and doing an even bigger full bust adjustment? I think it is worth keeping this pattern and using it again. My husband said this is his favorite thing I’ve made in a long time and it is a pretty wonderful shirt.

 

Ngaio Blouse

I have a new favorite pattern! The Ngaio Blouse was released by Scroop Patterns in early May and it has quickly become my favorite item to wear to work. I’ve actually made two!

 

I have a full review on the Curvy Sewing Collective, but I wanted to say a few words here about the how it feels to wear this blouse.

The more I sew quality garments, the pickier I’ve become when it comes to buying patterns. Styles really need to stand out or be really easily hacked to fit my retro-ish style. Scroop patterns fit into the first category for me. The Ngaio Blouse is really really wearable and professional. It is feminine, but not juvenile and that is a really hard balance to find. I don’t want to feel like I’m wearing a costume to work.

Ngaio is also really easy to wear tucked in. The darts at the back hip keep the blouse neatly placed while leaving the perfect about of volume above the waist. No other blouse I’ve worn has stayed in place so nicely.

And they feel so wonderful. The white version is a cotton lawn and even though it is slightly tight through the shoulders, it wears well. I don’t remember the last time I owned a white blouse (maybe college?), but it is so very versatile. It even coordinates with this awesome, but never worn skirt I made last year.

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And I love the rayon version. This dusty lavender rayon batiste is light as air. I thought I’d lose my mind trying to cut out the pattern. Every breathe would move the fabric, but sewing it was super easy and it pressed perfectly.

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The Ngaio Blouse and Fantail skirt combination is now my equivalent of a power suit for important dates at work. It feels fantastic to be cool, put together, and have that little swish follow me while I walk. Perfect outfit.

And lastly, I wanted to give Leimomi Oakes a huge shout out for including a sleeveless and sleeved option for the Ngaio blouse. Not only did she include both options, but she provided a different armscye for each version. That attention to detail is something missing from a lot of patterns, both Indies and the Big 4. It is one of those touches that has me eagerly awaiting what comes next.

Wrap Top Fitting

Today I’m here to talk about the process of getting a pattern to fit how I prefer. On Monday I’ll have a full review of this pattern 1942 Two-Piece Dress  from Eva Dress Patterns posted on The Curvy Sewing Collective, but over here I’m writing about making muslins!

This pattern comes with sizes grouped together. So you can either get bust sizes 32-38 or 40-46. I purchased 40-46. For my first muslin I cut a size 40 for the shoulders graded into a 42 at the waist.

I thought this looked pretty promising over all. The shoulder cut in a bit closer than I wanted, but otherwise the big issue is the center front lines are no where close to meeting! I’d expected that over the bust was a bit surprised by the waist. I figured, no worries. I knew I was going to do a full bust adjustment, this just confirmed that was the right next step.

Ack! Okay, I did a 1.5 inch full bust adjustment to each side and now the center front lines aligned and the waist looked nice, but the blouse had too much length! Way too much! This is also how I saw the sleeve caps had tons of extra height.

I also saw how the back was much too long as well. Though this is a common issue I have with patterns.

At this point I was frustrated. I’d done what you should do to add room for the bust, but it didn’t work out like I’d planned. I almost quit. Then I went to an online sewing forum through Ravelry and asked for feedback on how I should proceed.

The consensus seemed to be that I should go back to version 1 and rethink how to add width. I studied the shoulder pleats and figured out where the bust apex was on the original pattern. Then made the decision to gasp! just add the width at the side seams.

I think it worked out pretty darn well.

Instead of grading the pattern from size 40-42 between the bust and waist, I went ahead and traced off a size 42 for the entire front piece along the side seam. Then for the side with the tie I traced the neckline starting with a size 20 at the shoulder and a size 46 at the tie. This still didn’t add enough width, so I also slash and spread the pattern by 1 inch. To accommodate the slash and spread as well as the too wide shoulders I added 2 pleats to the shoulders.

As you can see now the tie actually reaches fully to the side seam as in the original pattern envelope art!

Lastly I tossed my sleeve pattern piece with the large bicep adjustment and traced the size 40 sleeve cap with size 42 bicep.

Is the finished blouse perfect? Nope. But it fits a lot better than either of my muslins.

The sleeves are a bit long. So next time I’ll take some length out above the elbow pleats. But that is such a minor alteration to make compared to the other fit issues! To be fair I did not muslin the longer sleeves, so totally my own fault!

The fashion fabric is some lovely Swiss dot voile I picked up at Michael Levine’s during the same visit when I bought the pink/purple plaid used to make my Dahlia dress. It is so soft and light and lovely to wear. Just enough to provide nice coverage on a warm day.

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This project felt like a lot of work, but I am overall happy with how it turned out! I’m not making a lot of pieces right now, so it feels good to slow down and embrace the process.

Art Deco Separates

My love affair with separates continues! And mostly it is thanks to the patterns from Sewaholic! Having skirt patterns pre-drafted to a pear shape is making my life so much easier! I have many pretty blouse patterns I’ve never made because finding commercially made skirts is so frustrating! I’ve tried making skirts too, but the all too often looked homemade. This is the year I change that trend.

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This is the Gabriola skirt. You might not recognize it because the pattern is for a maxi length skirt and its supposed to be made with a drapey fabric. But I like to make things my own, so I hacked a ton of length off the bottom and made it in denim. Rules? What rules?

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And because my goal is to make my skirts appear less homemade I put in an exposed metal zipper. It is not my best zipper installation of all time, but it looks pretty good. Then I top stitched every single seam. And I love the lines of the skirt! It reminds me so much of those 1920s and 1930s bias cut dresses!

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Here is where you can see the combination of denim and this front point isn’t perfect. But whatever. Most women seem to think leggings are appropriate to wear out on public, so I’ll forgive a few oddly draping spots in my skirts. Still way way way better than anything I’ve seen in a store in many many years.

And I’ve wanted a jean skirt for quite a while. Summer at my job is very very casual and heck even during the year a dark denim skirt wouldn’t be out of place. So I picked up this fabric at JoAnn’s on sale figuring I could use it for another Hollyburn skirt. But recently I’ve really enjoyed wearing skirts that fit closer through the hip. It seems more flattering to my shape. That’s when I decided to go for the Gabriola instead.

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The blouse is also new! It is Jennifer Lauren’s Afternoon Blouse and another lovely nod to retro shapes. The hardest part of this pattern is taping all the pieces together! Sigh, I love a printed pattern so much more than a pdf, but this pattern kept calling to me, so I took the plunge. So glad I did. Jennifer currently drafts her patterns for a D cup, so I cut a straight size 18 and it worked perfectly. Plenty of room in the cut on sleeves (so rare for me) and I’m happy with the fit for a casual summer blouse. The fabric is from the collection London Calling from Robert Kaufman. I’m pretty sure I bought it to make the girls something, but too bad. Mine now.

I’m tempted to make the dress version, but I can’t decide if it will just end up looking like a tent. I’d say I should try it for a weekend dress, but I have plenty of those already. I think I’ll ponder a little longer.

Really I like both of these pieces a lot and I know they will get plenty of use once our weather warms again (its only in the high 60s right now). I have some striped chambray set aside for another skirt and some Liberty of London yardage for another blouse. I’ll get to them eventually.

And hey! The outfit even gets a thumbs up from Charlie!

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