Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pattern Hack: Colour-Blocked Annie Cami

Hello, and a heartfelt thank you to everyone who took the time to leave some twin needle advice or links after my last post. May I just paraphrase Julia Child and say that people who sew really are the best kind of people! I've been having all kinds of fun playing, and think I've got it happening now. Thank you all!

I mentioned last time that I've been having a run of Not-Quite-Right makes. The shorts issues were all about fit (obviously!). The ones coming up are all fabric-related. This week's post is to do with finishing. Alliteration aside, it's starting to sound like a fairly demoralising series!

You know what, though? Even though I made a hash of the finishing with this one, I actually really like it. And for perspective's sake I went through some of my RTW stuff - even the higher end stuff has plenty of mismatched stripes, not-quite-aligned seams, etc. So I'm not going to beat myself up over it. :)

The pattern is Style Arc's Annie's Cami, which I used for my broderie refashioned top (here). I mentioned then that the bust dart was a little high on me; this time I decided to make that work in my favour by using it to make a colour-blocked version. The darker brown fabric is a delectable silk remnant (only 40cm) I found at The Fabric Store in Melbourne about a year ago, and I found a similarly textured eggshell-coloured silk that matched some time later.

This is one of the very few successful impulse fabric buys I've made. (The others, for the record, are the sublime teal silk-cotton I used for my Gathered Sundress, and the feather print chiffon that I made my kimono-shruggy thing from.) An epiphany: Impulse buys only work for me when I genuinely love the fabric. Not when I've seen someone else do something amazing with something similar, not when someone else talks me into it, not even when it's an amazing bargain. Only when I have a genuine "yes!" moment - and I've come to realise that those are actually a lot rarer than I thought they were.

This fabric is one of the most beautiful fabrics to wear that I've ever owned. The lighter, upper one is slightly heavier than the darker one, but I think that works well here since the top hangs from the shoulders. (Note to self: looking at the photos, I think I'll make it an inch or two longer in front next time.)

 Changes to the previous version:

  • Raising the neckline by 9cm. I wanted a larger fabric section for the upper block.
  • Keyhole opening at the back, bound with self-binding. I haven't been happy with the hook and eye closure of my last one; it's a little heavy for the fabric and tends to sag. This, in comparison, sits nicely.
  • High-low hem. I extended the back piece as far as the available fabric allowed. I like things to cover my backside. (Plus my favourite skinny jeans are almost fraying at the centre back seam and I'm not quite ready to tackle jeans sewing. Our little secret ;) )
  • Including the front pocket. I re-positioned it slightly so that it sat flush with the front horizontal seam.

My second rate finishing was not, I'm happy to report, the topstitching. I'm actually very pleased with my 1/16" work there. No, the issue arose because I didn't think through the construction steps. Since it was silk I thought french seams would be lovely. And they were - mostly. What I didn't take into account was that the seam allowances at the side openings had to be folded back and sewed in place. Discovery: this absolutely does not work with french seams! So the insides are a real mess at the opening point - they're just kind of ironed into submission and sewed till they were flat... Plus silk is sneaky and slippery. After the first wash I discovered I hadn't completely caught all the edges of the mitred corners of the hems in my stitching. Do you think I could iron those corners back into place? I could not. They're now a slightly warped 60 degrees corner rather than the traditional 90.... Not sure I can get away with calling that a design feature!

I've since read a fantastic tutorial on sewing with silk by The Little Tailoress. It's fantastic, like everything she does, and I'll be referring back to it every time I'm tempted by silk in the future :)

Keyhole opening with shell button from stash and a thread loop.

Topstitching. Happy me!

I mentioned the high bust dart working in my favour here - that's because using it to mark the colour blocking gave the top some subtle shaping.

On tracing paper I marked both the upper dart seam and 1cm down from this, and also where the bust dart finished (small cross on pattern), and 1cm below this.

I traced around the top of the bodice, then used a ruler to draw the new seam line and allowance using my marks. (Apologies for truly dreadful picture.)

I did the same thing to the new lower front, and ended up with two pieces that looked like this. You can see how the bust shaping is formed by that "wedge" at the side. Worked a treat!

On a side note, may I trouble you for some advice please? (Since you were all so helpful last time!)  I raised the front neckline by drawing in a curve I liked freehand. I've since been told that that's what a french curve is for. I've seen these in my local sewing supplies store, but haven't been really convinced they were an essential tool. Do you own one of these? Are they useful? More to the point, are they indispensable or do they just gather dust in Sad and Lonely State? I'm curious :)

Finally, it being that time of year again:

'I, Danielle, of One Small Stitch (, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '14. I endeavour to wear a handmade or refashioned item each day for the duration of May 2014. I will also attempt to wear two items for at least ten of these days.

I'm thinking that will help me gauge how I'm going in terms of wardrobe vs individual garment sewing. I think also in the weekly roundup posts I'll keep track of what I did / where I went each day, to give me a good idea of where the wardrobe gaps are. I know I really struggled last year on weekend home days!

Can't wait! Are you taking part in Me Made May this year?


  1. It looks just fab! I love that colour blocking effect and your pattern changes are so clever! That silk looks lush indeed! I've just finished my first proper silk project too, and just want to wear it all the time. I've got a kind of french curve that I think I got at spotty. It's clear plastic, with one end a rectangle, the other end curved. It has grid markings, plus inches and centimetres marked on it, plus button hole markings to help with spacing. I use it a lot - I do think the curve is quite helpful. I'd wait until spotty has a sale or does their 40% off vouchers and grab one. I can email you a pic if you like?

  2. Oh, thanks - that'd be great! Good to know it's useful; there's so much stuff out there that it can be hard to know what's worth investing in, huh?

  3. This is a very nice top, I love the color combo :)

  4. This is lovely! Really beautiful. The colour combination is really pretty, and I love what you did with the bust dart. Really clever! I too have found to my cost that side splits and French seams don't work!! :)

    I have a French curve, and I do use it a lot. I think primarily it's designed for pattern drafting, and I'm convinced that I use it incorrectly, however I do use it. It's helpful for redrawing necklines (or any curves, really), as you've suggested, but mostly it's just a useful curved ruler for tracing patterns. My freehand is very wonky and is not to be trusted! Even when tracing. I'm. to convinced it's *necessary* but I do find it useful.

    1. Stupid spellcheck! I'm *not* convinced it's necessary!

      PS this is the one I have:

  5. What a lovely top! Great idea to use colour blocking and the silk sounds lovely!
    I have a curved ruler (although I bought it at a stationary store and it was a lot cheaper than those "special" sewing ones) but I hardly ever use it. If you're confident that you can draw a curve by hand, I don't think it's a must.