Keeping informed about fashion is compulsory if you sew. If you don’t, you could end up looking pretty weird. And not in a good way. Being able to make whatever you want can be a double sided sword. IMG_0129

Of course fashion is all about timing. What we must have today we very likely laughed at yesterday and will definitely sneer at tomorrow. It’s hard enough when we aim for the mainstream, but even more tricky if we want to be just a little off key, a little more individual. Funny how it has to be a recognisable ‘look’. If it is too far from the norm, but not legitimised by fitting into a certain defined trend, it becomes a costume. Take Princess Leia for instance. IMG_0130

If one person wears the side buns and the white dress, it is a costume. If lots of people do, it’s a fashion. Peculiar, isn’t it? Anyway, if you are a little adventurous and in search of a personal style, and don’t want to end up looking as if you are wearing a costume, Pinterest is a great resource. It helps find the style you like, refine your understanding of the components, calibrate your taste buds and analyse what works and what doesn’t. Not to mention that it is an endless source of inspiration. I have to say that Pinterest lifted my hand-made wardrobe to a new level and made me more content with what I have to wear than I have ever been. I think this is because I no longer browse the commercial pattern collections, restricted to choosing the best that is on offer. Instead I look at outfits on Pinterest that wow me and try to figure out how to make them. It doesn’t always work, but it works often enough. I am fortunate that I can be content with relatively few patterns and reuse them often. It saves a lot of time and frustration, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. After all, half the world runs around in jeans and tee-shirts. The pattern companies make money out of selling lots of patterns, not out of selling a few very good generic patterns that can be made over and over. Their business model is geared to people wanting to buy lots. What it means for the consumer is that you end up with hundreds of patterns in your drawers, but only use a fraction. Plus there is no style continuity, hence wardrobes are a jumble of bits and pieces with no coherence. If you are not sure what I mean, think of what an op shop or secondhand clothes shop looks like, as compared to an upmarket store, where the buyers have had the resources to carefully curate the season’s collection. IMG_0131 IMG_0132

Even when each individual garment is beautiful, without coherence, everything will look rather ordinary. Why, you ask, if you can only wear one outfit at a time? Because personal style is all the outfits you wear as a whole. You could not tell if someone has personal style from seeing only one of their outfits.

But to get back to finding something you love and trying to figure out how to make it, I recently saw this top.


I loved the look and happened to have a very similar piece of linen in my stash, but I wanted the top to be a bit longer. One of the privileges of being a sewist is that we can take something we like and fine tune it to our preferences. One of the many reasons, apart from sticker shock, why I will never go back to RTW. Here is my version of the top, albeit not as beautifully starched and ironed as the original. At least not yet, I may do it for the final photo when it’s finished. Call this one the ‘already worn for a few hours’ version.

pinstripe shirt

Apart from the increased length, is summer in Australia, and 3/4 sleeves are much more wearable, now and into autumn, than long ones. I cunningly made it so I can unpick the 3/4 cuffs, which will make the sleeves full length, and then put a shirt cuff on, if it becomes a favourite and I want to wear it into winter as well. My basis pattern was the Tessuti Fave Top, although with hindsight its trapezoid shape probably wasn’t the best choice. The original top must fit pretty closely across the hips, with side slits to the waist, so when the front pieces are pulled to cross over, the slit will open and form those nice pointy hems. At least that is how I think it works, but my brain is a bit geometry challenged and I am always happy to stand corrected.

With my version the sides are closed, and too wide to make the points, even if I should put in a slit. To achieve that, I would have to take out the width at the side. I rather like it as it is though, and taking out width is something I can always do later if I want. For the moment I will leave it as it is. Here is are some pics showing the changes I made to the fave top pattern. The first shows how to convert the sleeves to wrist length. If you look carefully, you can see the paper pattern on top of the white fabric. I used waste paper for the download, in case you are wondering.


This shows the shape of the front pieces extended to make them cross over. fronts

I was a bit over-enthusiastic at first and lengthened by 30cm at CF, which was too much, because it makes the top too wide at the neck, which will droop. It may do so in an attractive fashion, or it may not. I like the ‘set and forget’ type of garment, anything I have to fiddle with throughout the day won’t get worn much. So a 15cm front extension piece is enough, and I folded back the extra to the inside to make a cut on facing. I also narrowed the sides down a bit.

narrow down

The original does not have a collar piece, but just drapes into a cowl. Again this might drape the right way throughout the day, or it might have had to be arranged by a stylist for the photograph to look attractive, and will do its own thing when worn by a real person on a busy work day. I didn’t want to take the chance. So I made a straight rectangular collar that will be buttoned to stay nicely in place. I’m not quite finished yet and the collar is still only pinned, but you get the idea. I might write a PR review when I am completely done.