Cabin Renovation: Henley Placket

One of my favorite things about designing patterns is the dialogue it creates between myself and sewists all over the world. I love hearing from you all!

One of my friends and former students got in touch recently about an idea she had for a pattern hack. She's made a few Cabins and loves them, but foresees some problems with functionality in her post pregnancy wardrobe: AKA needing better access for breastfeeding.

I'm a big fan of a henley shirt placket. I have quite a few in my wardrobe and while I don't need them for the aforementioned reason, I fully appreciate their functionality. So this pattern renovation is for everyone, but hopefully will be extra useful for new mamas.

I've created instructions and an extra pattern piece for this purpose!

Download the pattern hack instructions and pieces here!

First, a bit about my henley placket Cabin. I used a lovely silk I picked up at a discount fabric store I visited in Western Mass. You know, the kind with the bolts of fabric stacked to the ceiling on wooden shelves in a large industrial building, full of buried treasure to be discovered.

It was labeled as denim, but I suspected by the look and texture (and later confirmed with a burn test) that it was actually raw silk. The fabric itself has a wonderful drape but is quite dense. My seams proved extra bulky, so while I used the reverse of the fabric for a contrast placket and pockets, I opted for some quilting cotton to use for the neck and sleeve binding. I also finished the pockets with a serger, rather than creating the french seams that the pocket calls for.

I decided to use the selvedge of this fabric as a design detail, both on the placket and the hem of the dress.

Sometimes I like to wear a belt with Cabins for a more cinched waist, but a belt would get in the way with the placket alteration. I decided to add ribbon ties at the back waist. I had originally planned to make the ties from the silk fabric, but the bias tubes I made turned out too thick and stiff to use. Instead, I used 1/2" natural twill tape.  I still feel like a matching tie would look a bit better, but I'll sit on this one for a while before swapping it out. From the back, it kind of looks like I'm wearing a kitchen apron (not necessarily a bad thing). If you'd like to add ribbon or self fabric ties to your Cabin: Cut 2 ribbons/ties equal to your waist measurement (this is an estimation...you might want shorter ties and can adjust as necessary). When sewing your side seams, sandwich the end of each ribbon between your front and back pieces at the waistline notches.

For the placket itself, I went back and forth between what kind of closure I would use. Buttons seemed too busy, so I decided to keep it low profile and sew on some large snaps. I love snaps and feel like they never get to shine. In this case, I used bright red thread so they would pop when visible. I also considered adding the kind of snaps that you hammer in. I love those and have quite a few in my stash. I'll be thinking about them for future projects.

I also decided to use the selvedge as a detail. The hack instructions don't describe how to do this, but all you have to do is skip folding under the long edge of the left side of the placket piece while sewing.

You can add buttons to the placket instead of snaps and I've given a template for each in the pattern. For buttons, it shows the placement of three and for snaps, it shows the placement for two. You can add more snaps as desired, but two seemed to do it for me.

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As evidenced by the leaves, fall is most definitely in full swing. While I was able to take these pictures sweater-less in relatively minor discomfort (it was nice and sunny!) I definitely threw on a cardigan after pictures were done.

I hope you all enjoy this Cabin renovation and that it gives your pattern a little more mileage. If you ever have suggestions for pattern renovations, send them my way!

Introducing: A-Frame

I'd like to introduce you to the 2nd ever Blueprints For Sewing pattern: A-frame

The A-frame pattern includes two styles: A pencil skirt and an A-line. Both feature pockets as well as A shaped seaming, a great way to showcase coordinating fabrics (like the double sided cotton above). The pencil skirt also features a back kick pleat.

Development

When I originally started working on Blueprints For Sewing, I had devised a few garments with the plan to release them all at once. After scaling back to one pattern for the initial release, the A-frame skirt was on hold.

It started as a skirt that had the fullness of an a-line skirt, but fit more like a straight skirt. The idea was that it would be easier to ride a bike in, but still have a fairly straight silhouette. Eventually after some fine tuning, it became more of a traditional a-line skirt, but with a bias cut front panel to create more volume without too pronounced of an A shape.

I tend to be a pencil skirt kinda gal style-wise, so as a result I played around with taking the A-Frame concept and turning it into a straighter cut. I was very happy with the result and pursued the two skirt plan. It reminded me of those fantastic vintage patterns that featured multiple garments in the same envelope.

A traditional thatched a-frame in Portugal

A traditional thatched a-frame in Portugal

If you'd like to read a great book all about A-Frames, check out  A-frame  by  Chad Randl

If you'd like to read a great book all about A-Frames, check out A-frame by Chad Randl

The design itself was inspired by the A-frame house and its striking angular lines, not to mention its amazing marriage of leisure and style. The A-frame was easy to build and affordable too, a key player in the history of DIY culture. I feel like this skirt is similar in spirit: Fairly economical fabric-wise, easy to put together, unique and stylized while still being very wearable. I took inspiration from vintage patterns and clothing from the 1930's - 1960's and settled on two iconic silhouettes that span the time period. And of course, in the spirit of stylish utility, both styles include pockets. Read more about the A-frame's history in the story included with the pattern.

Fit

A-Frame can be a great wardrobe staple. The pencil skirt features a snug fit, but not too snug. A common misconception about pencil skirts is that they should be super tight. If you've ever had big horizontal wrinkles on your skirt or had it ride up to your waist while you walk, you've been wearing a too-tight skirt. (However, stretch fabric skirts can fit tightly without these problems). So this pencil skirt is more of a straight skirt and while snug fitting is not skin tight. Stay tuned for some tutorials to further 'pencil' your skirt.

The a-line skirt really only relies on one measurement: Your waist. The a-line shape will fit a variety of hip sizes, locations, and proportions nicely (there's a reason the a-line skirt is considered the most flattering skirt style.) The a-line A-Frame grazes your hips and continues to flare outward, but doesn't have an overly pronounced shape.

The pattern includes instructions for proportion alterations as well as length adjustment. Along with cutting layouts, detailed sewing instructions, and tips, it includes instructions for sewing a lapped zipper. Lapped zippers are often seen in vintage clothing, have a great look, and are often easier to install than invisible zippers.

The pattern cover illustration was created by Andrea Sherrill Evans, who will be featured later in the week in an interview. Stay tuned for that later this week!

To celebrate, from now until midnight EST Friday June 12th, A-Frame and Cabin will be 20% off! Use the coupon code NEWPATTERN15 at checkout.



A Week of Peeks

The launch day of the latest BFS patterns is drawing closer! I'll be in California visiting family and have decided to use to the week to share more and more details about the new patterns until their launch the 2nd week of June!

This old drive in theater is somewhere on the coast between San Fransisco and Santa Barbara, though I can't remember where.

This old drive in theater is somewhere on the coast between San Fransisco and Santa Barbara, though I can't remember where.

I'll be spending a lot of time along the CA coast which seemed like a fun place to take some photographs of the new patterns! I grew up in California and I can't deny that it is quite beautiful. I take most of my photos in the New England country, so I'm keen on the idea of a 'location' for photographing the new pattern. I may have to wait until returning to Boston for the Saltbox photos - not a lot of colonial houses in the bay area...at least I don't think so. Too bad the next pattern isn't a Victorian!

Today I'll start by sharing some small changes I've made to the new pattern that I hope you all will appreciate!

One thing that I kept noticing when I visited shops that carried Cabin was that the tab closure didn't hold up well to the rough retail life of a sewing pattern. Nearly every 'display' copy had suffered some damage. Investigating other patterns showed that nearly all tabs tended to suffer the same fate. I like a nice neat little package, so some sort of closure was a must.

My printer suggested a low profile velcro - they have a lot of sample booklets using the same cover stock that close with velcro and they hold up quite well. I've seen some other patterns that include velcro in the past, so I know it's not a new idea. I also thought of having a sticker to close the folder that was resealable...like what you use on a bag of rice.

In the end, after testing both I decided that the velcro would be the way to go. It held up to 50+ openings and closings.  I'm sure it will be a drag to individually put velcro onto each envelope but I'm prepared to make it happen. My own labor is free, right? ;)

I also used a new method to create the illustrations for this pattern. I love the look of hand drawn, but I also feel like more technical or line-based illustrations don't communicate dimension, making certain instructions hard to understand. I used real construction photographs as a base, but drew the images by hand. Hopefully it achieves a nice balance.

The overall cover design - blue monochromatic - will be the same, but I'm looking forward to showing you the illustration for this cover. It feels kindred to the Cabin cover, but in a completely different style. Later in the week I'll be sharing an interview with the illustrator.

Last but not least, one of the major changes will be to my pattern production. I am a firm believer in the value of paper in hand, but at the same time creating printed patterns involved a lot of up front costs that can be tough on a small business.

I will still be creating printed patterns but I will also be releasing a PDF only companion pattern with each printed release as a way to keep my business more sustainable and balance out the printed pattern costs. Obviously with time, if a demand arises for printed versions of these patterns I'll do my best to make them happen. But for now I like the idea of a digital complement piece to my main pattern, and that where Saltbox was born.

I can't wait to show you these patterns during the week! They should be ready to ship by the week of June 8th and I'm beyond excited!

Be sure to follow @blueprintsforsewing on Instagram to see daily reveals of the new patterns! (and join our mailing list to get the scoop on upcoming sales *wink wink*)

February and March

Today's blog post is a brief and scattered one, but hopefully fun. I've been hard at work on the new BFS pattern which has taken up quite a lot of my mental energy.

This month I decided to try something new that's been a long time coming. If you guys can believe it, I've basically never done any quilting! Last summer I made up a patchwork bag sample for JP Knit & Stitch with some of their newly arrived fabric and it undeniably piqued my interest.

My first quilting/piecing project. Not actually 'quilted', just patchwork made into a bag. Here's the process (can't find image of the finished piece) but the pattern is great and you can find it here:  http://blog.misusu.co/p/archive/diy-projects-quilted-diamond-tote-bag/

My first quilting/piecing project. Not actually 'quilted', just patchwork made into a bag. Here's the process (can't find image of the finished piece) but the pattern is great and you can find it here: http://blog.misusu.co/p/archive/diy-projects-quilted-diamond-tote-bag/

I've been very inspired lately by Carolyn Friedlander's house quilts, as well as her general philosophy about sewing (savor each stitch!) Plus the domestic architecture connection is undeniable.

I've always been into house portraits and so I thought I'd try out some quilting with that in mind. At first, I was set to plan out a very elaborate paper pieced project, but the precision of it had me a bit turned off (I love overly technical things, but I needed a respite from pattern making at the time). A friend suggested I go the 'improvisational piecing' route, using my pattern as a guide. Though it's not finished yet, I'm pretty pleased with the result and I LOVED the process! Not sure what the final product will be, but I'm enjoying every bit!

Here's my house about 50% complete (still have some yard, a 2nd chimney, driveway, and garden to complete). I used a combo of new FQ's and scraps, including some prints from Friedlander's Doe line and the Denise Schmidt 'goth feedsack' leftover from my refashion rescue! I love using up scraps! The plan was to also do a portrait of our former condo and make throw pillows, but the improv method resulted in a much bigger panel than what would work for a pillow, so I'll have to go back to the drawing board. Lap quilt? Wall hanging? Eurosham? Table runner?

I'm excited to continue on this path and show you all the result. Any maybe even do some actual quilting to go with my patchwork!

I've also been teaching like mad! This month had me teaching a workshop for sewing Cabin, a few 1 day learn-to-sew crash courses, 2 sections of a long form clothing construction open workshop, an intro to clothing design class, and a shorter intermediate sewing open workshop. Next month I'm excited to teach a Learn to Sew with Knits workshop, where students will be making a sweatshirt using the greatly admired Linden Sweatshirt by Grainline Studios.

Here's a sample I made up in some french terry, aka the comfiest vintage-feeling sweatshirt material ever. I like the grainline pattern, though in the next one I make for myself, I'm omitting the bottom band in favor of a twin-needle hem, shortening the sleeves, and using a wider neck band.

Here's a sample I made up in some french terry, aka the comfiest vintage-feeling sweatshirt material ever. I like the grainline pattern, though in the next one I make for myself, I'm omitting the bottom band in favor of a twin-needle hem, shortening the sleeves, and using a wider neck band.

I love teaching and every time I work with students I learn more about how sewing works for different people, how different clothes fit different bodies, and how to prioritize time and skill when working with a range of student skill levels. My students are definitely my most valuable resource in building my skills and developing my business and I appreciate them tremendously.

I'm not ready to reveal the new pattern quite yet, but I'll let you in on the nitty gritty details of putting it together. I'm also excited work with a broader cross-section of pattern testers this time around. (Want to test a future blueprints pattern? Sign up for our mailing list...it's where I put out the call for testers!)

Flat fellin' on a Cabin sample!

Flat fellin' on a Cabin sample!

Nitty is the fact that the pattern has a lot of pieces, since it features two variations on the same item but without sharing pieces (the original intention, but the technical end of that didn't work too well). Gritty is the work that goes into grading patterns without special software. In fact, after grading two patterns on the computer, I think I may hand grade the next pattern and have digitizing be nearly the last step. I'm by and far very computer literate, but keeping track of layers and versions and if I deleted something by accident is a drag. I think hand grading may make more sense in the long run...

I'm pretty pleased with how Cabin turned out, but as my first pattern, there was a big learning curve. There are definitely some things I wish I would have done differently and tiny errors I wish I could go back and tweak. I have to remind myself that there's always room for improvement. I had to build my whole process and make decisions about all aspects of the pattern.

Cabin is sort of like my very wearable muslin of how I want my patterns to be. It's not perfect - though I doubt any pattern can be perfect - but it works and has been fun for many people to sew. I've already decided on some small changes to layout and format for the next pattern, though it will still have the same feeling as the first.

Any suggestions or things you'd like to see in the next pattern?

Have you every done any improv piecing?

Introducing: Foursquare

While working on a couple of upcoming Blueprints For Sewing patterns I thought I would put together a treat for you all:

A free knitting pattern for a hat called Foursquare!

The backstory:

I've been sewing since I was approximately 12. I definitely did what could be called sewing at a younger age, but at 12 I got my first sewing machine and I never looked back. Knitting is a more recent passion. In high school I taught myself to crochet and decided my first project would be a bikini from a 1970s pattern.... In pink and black acrylic yarn. Luckily, it never came to fruition.

But the seed was planted! In freshman year of college, a girl in my dorm (who would go on to be a friend and roommate) taught me how to knit, among other things (like making mix tapes and vegan Mac & cheese ). I learned what I would later discover was called "continental" style. It took me a few months to realize I was twisting all of my stitches. I went through knitting (and crochet) spurts, but without much regularity. Later on in my college career, I made another two friends who became very close and were also knitters.

This was the first sweater (any maybe 4th object) I ever knit. I taught myself stranded colorwork and went to town plotting out a modernist house on graph paper (do you see a common theme here?). One sleeve is, indeed, longer than the other. The project took me 1.5 years from start to finish.

This was the first sweater (any maybe 4th object) I ever knit. I taught myself stranded colorwork and went to town plotting out a modernist house on graph paper (do you see a common theme here?). One sleeve is, indeed, longer than the other. The project took me 1.5 years from start to finish.

I'm not sure if this falls into the category of a 'personality type', but I'm a self teacher. I learn by doing things and I also learn by deviating from the given instructions. When I used to be in a band, I taught myself to play the drums by experimentation and improvisation and that continues to be the way I enjoy making music best. I have a hard time following a pattern or a recipe...I always end up 'improvising' certain elements, or making edits on the fly.

This is one of the reasons pattern making (in all areas) is so appealing to me. It speaks to my proclivities towards invention but allows me to create order as well. Don't get me wrong, I can follow a recipe and a pattern when I want or need to (though it requires self restraint!) but my natural mode is to deviate.

As I became a more facile knitter, I began doing what I've always done with sewing: Developing my own patterns, techniques, and habits.

As a sewing pattern designer primarily, I find knitting patterns to be a nice change of pace! So flat, so mathematical, so fit-flexible. I have a collection of home-grown knitting patterns in various states of completion and detail and I would like to begin sharing them with you all, starting with a beloved hat pattern.

Here's the back story:

I have this acrylic hat and I don’t know where I got it. It is machine knit, pilly, baggy, and after a winter’s worth of wear, gets very “stinky”. My husband actually calls it the “stinky hat”.

Whenever I wear this hat, I receive compliments. It drapes just so. The color - a fawn brown, the color of an old table, or the interior of a 1970’s motorhome. It frames my face in the most pleasing way.

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It’s so great that my husband decided that HE wanted to wear the stinky hat sometimes. Then, sometimes became often.

I decided I needed a more refined version of this stinky hat, so that I could bestow the original upon my him. What better yarn to use than Tosh Vintage? The color is similar, but more rich.

Here's the hat at Rock City, Chattanooga TN.

Here's the hat at Rock City, Chattanooga TN.

I don't like knitting ribbing, but I didn't want a hat with a rolled brim. I wanted something solid and flat, like the original.

For the pattern, I focused on perfecting the close fit and soft drape combo that the original provided. The decreases mimic the “tube-sewn-shut” crown of the original.

I knit this hat 2 years ago and wrote the pattern down as I went, which was good foresight on my part. It is still going strong and looking beautiful...thanks Madelinetosh! The hat photographed in the pattern is the original!

I decided I wanted to tie in the theme of home architecture to these patterns...a sort of sister knit accessory line to Blueprints. While this hat was not exactly inspired by its namesake architecture, the next few patterns definitely were.

I decided to name the hat after the American Foursquare, mostly for it's boxy shape and it's similarity in 'roof' construction: The crown of the hat and it's decreases look just like the pyramid shaped roof (a type of 'hipped' roof) on a foursquare.

This is a plan for a 'kit home' in the foursquare style and is a great example. For more fascinating house plans in different styles, check out  Antique Home Style , an amazing resource for these types of house plans and more (Image Source: http://www.antiquehomestyle.com)

This is a plan for a 'kit home' in the foursquare style and is a great example. For more fascinating house plans in different styles, check out Antique Home Style, an amazing resource for these types of house plans and more (Image Source: http://www.antiquehomestyle.com)

The building that gave the hat its name is a fairly ubiquitous sight across America, especially in the middle. My recent trip to Denver was filled with them, packed onto cute city blocks with all manner of decoration.

Here's a cool Foursquare in Denver

Here's a cool Foursquare in Denver

I hope you enjoy this pattern and that your Foursquare becomes your topper of choice! You can download this pattern on Ravelry.