Easy Does It

Let me start by saying: I have sewn myself a clown shirt.

It was unintentional, I assure you.  I set out to make an Alma blouse (one of Sewaholic’s new fall patterns, but if you’re reading a sewing blog, you probably already knew that!).  It looked sweet enough (I have a dearth of “romantic” garments in my closet, and sometimes, I really just feel like I’d like to wear something along those lines, but have nothing…so this blouse could potentially fill that gap!).  And I really liked their Crescent Skirt pattern, so I figured this wouldn’t be super difficult.  Plus (and this is really what sealed the deal), I found this really cute grey fabric with little red mushrooms all over it that seemed like it would make a very cute blouse.

I decided to actually make a proper muslin this time, since for one, I don’t really trust darts (I never seem to get them lined up properly on the first try) and for two, I’m still a bit unsure of my shirt sewing skills, and this one has a collar and facings and sleeves and a side zip oh my.  So a practice run was in order, especially since I knew I’d probably need to add a couple inches.  But in the spirit of making a useful object, I opted to use some stretch poplin in a nice bright turquoise from my stash.  (What’s that?  Using fabric I already own?!?  What what what?!)  I figured the stretch would be nice in case I accidentally made it a touch too small, it might still be salvagable.  Ha.  Not a problem in the slightest, as I’ll explain momentarily.

So I whipped out my trusty measuring tape and measured myself and decided to add a few inches to the largest size.  7 inches in the bust, actually, and 10 around the waist/hips area.  It seemed like a lot to add (considering I only added like 6 inches to the crescent skirt, and that fits pretty loosely (room for tucking in sweaters, I guess?), and these patterns are supposed to account for pear-shaped-ness really well) but I went with it anyhow.

Can anybody spot colossal mistake number one?  You, in the back!  Yes?  Indeed.  I mistook the body measurements on the size guide for finished garment measurements.  So I added waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much width to the pattern pieces.  Which is super unfortunate, because I followed these really awesome instructions from Casey’s Elegant Musings for grading up, which were way better than my usual slash-shoulder-to-hem-method (which usually makes the shoulders and underarms too big), and this post from Colette patterns for unevenly grading just the hips.  I learned so much!  And put it to use!  And was so, so wrong.  Ah, assumptions.

So I graded up the front and the back, and then remembered I also needed to enlarge the collar to fit the slightly wider neckline.  Easy peasy.  Took forever, but I had a Vampire Diaries marathon running in the background, so I didn’t really mind!

Anyhow, I sewed up the shirt following the instructions.  The only hitch was the collar + facings.  I really hate facings.  I’m not 100% sure they’re necessary, and they always seem to want to stick straight up, even if I under-stitch them.  Grrrr.  The darts (even the diamond-shaped ones!) were pretty easy (but I forgot to move the darts over after grading, so they weren’t really in the right place).  I also decided since it was just a muslin, and since the fabric has some stretch, that I would skip the zipper and just sew the side-seams shut.  I’d want some looseness anyhow for wearing so I could, you know, sit down and move and whatnot, so if I couldn’t get into it in stretch poplin without a zipper, I’d have problems when I used my real fabric.  (This was actually a great decision…you’ll see why).

So then I tried the muslin on.  It was miles too big.  A bit short, and a good fistful of extra fabric at each side-seam.  And the shoulders were a bit too wide.  I’m beginning to think I have somewhat narrow shoulders, because I had an extra inch and a half hanging over, and that’s about what I had added during my grading adventures.  But folks, the really distressing part: the collar.  I made view B with the swoopy Peter-pan-ish collar.  But instead of being a dainty little collar, it is HUGE.  Like 4 inches tall at the swoopy bits in the center front.  And on a bright turquoise shirt that’s four miles too wide, it was too much.  It was over the top.  My very helpful husband told me all I needed was a yellow flower that secretly squirted water at people.  So helpful, honey, thanks.

Oh, and the sleeves were really poofy like pretty pretty princess gown sleeves, because the sleeves are a bit gathered at the cap, but the shoulders were too long, so instead of having nicely gathered sleeves, I had comical Cinderella’s ballgown sleeves that stood up an inch or so from the shoulder seam.  And a collar that begged for a trick flower.  Sigh.

I took the side seams in by 2 inches on each side, and the shirt actually fit pretty well in the front then.  The darts were way too far to the sides, though.  I think the back darts could have been a bit deeper as it seemed to have a bunch of extra fabric in the center back, but again, the darts were way off to the sides, so maybe better dart placement would address that.

Here’s a picture of the offending shirt from the front:

And the back:

See what I mean about the collar and the shoulders?  Ack.  But the shirt is comfy.  I think I might make it with the shorter sleeves, though, as I liked it much better without the longer sleeves (plus, I’ll probably end up wearing it under a cardigan for the next several months, anyhow!)

I think I’ll need to re-do my grading though.  I thought about trying to transfer the changes to my existing graded pattern, but that just makes my head hurt.  So I will start over.  Sigh.  But this time, since I took out 8 inches overall (2 inches on each side, front and back, that makes 8 total, right?), I’ll just add maybe 2 inches to the existing pattern and see what that gets me. And of course, I’m going to do another muslin.  I’m a little scared to cut into my “good” fabric till I know I’ve gotten it right.

I also still want to have the curved collar going on, but I might just scale that down so it’s more like an inch at the widest.

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