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Emily

how to: slanted pockets

I love pockets. I like having them in most of my garments for a lot of reasons, but I especially like them because they’re practical. For me, it’s worth the effort to include a pocket or two in most of my garments because I actually use them. Sometimes I slip my phone or my keys in my pockets if my hands are full, and there’s usually a lip gloss or chapstick hanging out in there too. Plus, isn’t there a “cool girl” vibe with pockets in womenswear? Guys get to stand around with their hands in their pockets looking all laid back and chill, why can’t we do the same thing?

There’s so many different types of pockets, so incorporating them into a project is not only easy, but it’s a fun challenge to think about what particular pocket would work best. Most of the pockets I make are hidden side seam pockets, but I really like patch pockets on shirtdresses and skirts and welt pockets on pants and tailored coats. I happen to really, really like slanted front pockets too, the subject of today’s post. Also called angled pockets or inserted seam pockets, this pocket is created by drawing a line from the waist to the side seam, which becomes the entry for the pocket. You see this type of pocket a lot on pants.

This is the slanted pocket on my linen pants, which you’ll see in more detail as soon as I finish a blouse to wear with them. Pattern is Vogue 8836, out-of-print.

I like this pocket design on unlined skirts because it’s a much cleaner look on the inside. With summer fast approaching (it was 90 degrees the other day, so maybe it’s already summer here?), I’m thinking about all the things on my list to make to stay comfortable this summer. Loose fitting and lightweight tops, linen everything, and unlined skirts are a few things I’m focused on right now. When I finally found the lemon print fabric of my dreams a few weeks ago, I bought enough for a couple of garments knowing one of them was going to be an unlined skirt. I will get so much use out of this skirt.

I wanted something relatively simple in design, but with a little flare and personality, so I went with Butterick 6129 again, after a successful first try with it back in January. Only this time, the pockets would be different. I made a quick change to the pattern for slanted front pockets, and just like that, I have a new summer skirt. (Definitely making this one in a couple more colors!)

The first version of this skirt, which will make my top ten list of projects for 2017, for sure.

So, to draft slanted front pockets, it’s as easy as drawing a line from the waistline to the side seam. You don’t want to come too far in on the waistline, and be careful to draw a line down to a point on the side seam that is neither too small nor too long. You want an opening that can accommodate your hand.

This is the front skirt pattern piece, before any changes. I came in from the waistline 1.5″, and drew a line approximately 8″ long, down to the side seam. (This is covered by the tape now, because I got ahead of myself and cut it off before taking a picture. Silly me.)

Then, draw the outline for your pocket. You couldn’t see my outline in the photo, so the blue line indicates where it is. My outline includes seam allowance of 1/4″.

Trace the outline you just drew, along with the waistline and side seams. This becomes the pocket itself, or entry/pocket pouch.

Then, the corner piece that was created when the entry point line was drafted gets cut off. Before doing this, add seam allowance. I always add 1/4″, because anything more will just get trimmed off.

Trace again for the pocket lining/backing piece.

This next step is important, especially if your skirt has design elements like pleats or gathers. In my case, there are four front pleats, so I folded them and taped them in place. Then, place your pocket pieces on top, matching at the side seams and adjust the waistline if necessary. This is called truing your pattern, and I needed to add about 1/8″ to my pocket pieces. It may not seam like much, but we always want matching pattern pieces so that nothing pulls or hangs in a weird way.

I always do this with the waistline facing me, which is why it may seem like this is upside down.

The arrow points to the small adjustment I made to the pocket so that it matched the waistline seam with the pleats folded.

With the pocket pieces taped in place, draw the grainline by marking a line parallel to center front.

Once the pieces are cut out, sew the lining pocket pieces to the skirt front.

Then, press the pocket lining away from the skirt. Then, fold it under the skirt, press, and topstitch.

Topstitched:

Now the pocket gets sewn to the pocket lining. Sew all the way around, then serge. You can also pink or use bias binding if you don’t have a serger. Or, if you’re feeling extra couture-y, cut these with a bigger seam allowance and sew the pockets together with a French seam. Press.

Sewn and serged:

Next, baste the pocket to the side seam

Then, serge the side seams of your skirt.

Sew the side seams and press open.

Finish the skirt as you normally would. The finished pocket will look like this:

Because this skirt isn’t lined, I used a little bias tape along the edge of the waistband lining. It’s certainly not necessary and it doesn’t serve any purpose, but it’s a nice detail that finishes that edge nicely. I sewed it to the waistband lining along the seam allowance and then hand sewed it along the waistline seam.

I’ve made quite a few skirts with slanted front pockets, and I’m excited to make a couple more for summer. I think a denim version is a must, as is a great basic like khaki or white. These three skirts are my own design, the ‘Louisa’ skirt.

making modifications: vogue 8745

I usually buy patterns for one of two reasons, and the longer I journey down this road of building a handmade wardrobe, the clearer that becomes. It seems that all of my projects so far this year fall into one of these categories. Sometimes, a commercial pattern just speaks to me in that I’m-so-perfect-for-you-take-me-home-and-sew-me-at-once kind of way, or I already have an idea in mind and I search and search and search until I find a pattern I can work with and modify it to match my vision. The tops in today’s post fall into the latter category. After dipping my toes in the trendy waters of off-the-shoulder tops and ruffles, I can safely say that I love both, so my desire to add more of them to my closet coupled with my genuine need for cute, versatile tops made this a challenge worth taking on. Only this time, I needed something that wasn’t off-the-shoulder.

I knew I wanted a top with a ruffle along the neckline, but I didn’t want a messy ruffle. All these tops we’re seeing with elastic around the neckline are super cute (and, hello, I made three of them last month), but not all fabrics are suited for that particular design element. That’s a lot of fabric in one area, and I wanted something cleaner. Oddly enough, I couldn’t find a pattern that wasn’t off-the-shoulder or that didn’t have elastic around the neckline. I also can’t find a pattern for a one shoulder top that doesn’t go underneath the opposite arm, but that’s a topic for next month . . .

Eventually, during a McCall’s out-of-print sale a few weeks back, I found a pattern I could work with. I liked the ruffle and the semi-fitted bodice, and I knew I could leave off the sleeves and shorten it a little and it would be the exact top I had in mind. The pattern suggests very lightweight fabrics like chiffon and crepe de chine, but I knew that linen and lightweight cotton shirting would also work. The pattern also instructs you to fully line the top, but I ignored that and opted for bias tape at the neck and armhole edges instead.

I got to work right away making the front ruffle one piece instead of two. It was as easy as matching the front ruffle piece to the front bodice piece and drawing a new center front line.

Here, I’ve placed the ruffle piece on top of the front bodice piece, matching the circle on the neckline at center front. The lower blue arrow in the photo points to the center front line on the bodice piece, which is what I want the ruffle to match.

I re-drew the center front line on the ruffle piece by tracing the center front from the bodice pattern piece. The pink hash marks on the ruffle pattern indicate that that line is no longer part of the pattern and can be cut off.

And now the center front matches on both the ruffle and the bodice. The same result could have been achieved by slashing and spreading the ruffle piece just enough to push the center front to its new position, but it didn’t need to be adjusted that much to justify that much trouble.

Originally, I planned to have a double ruffle on this top, but opted for a single layer in the end because the additional layer was redundant and a little distracting. I did cut it out for the muslin, however, and noticed that the smaller pattern piece overlapped the fold of my fabric. If this happens to you, it’s an easy fix. Simple remove some of the fullness from the pattern piece so that it doesn’t overlap your fabric.

Here, you can see the pattern piece overlapping the fold of my fabric when center front is pinned down.

Now, cut the pattern to but not through the neckline edge of the pattern piece. I always like to do this in more than one spot so that my adjustments are evenly spaced out.

To remove some of the fullness from the pattern, overlap the paper and tape it down, keeping an eye on the side seam of the pattern piece. Once it’s been adjusted, it will look like this, and it shouldn’t overlap the fold of the fabric. You may need to true the neckline and hem edges of the pattern pieces. Because this pattern piece is so full, it won’t be terrible affected by the fullness we removed.

I added seam allowance at center back so I could cut two of the back bodice pieces instead of cutting it on the fold (which is a huge waste of fabric). I shortened the top by 2″, but made no other changes. This top is a dream to sew. It’s one of those easy projects we all like to work on every once in a while!

I had just enough green gingham left over from this dress project for this top, and I also wanted to make it in white and blue. I found the white cotton shirting at Hobby Lobby (they have a couple great fabrics this season!), and the blue pinstripe shirting came from JoAnn. They’re getting a lot of new, pretty shirtings in for spring, which I think is fantastic.

This top checks all the boxes for me because it goes with so many things. It’s comfy and cute with jeans and wedges or it can just as easily be tucked into a skirt or high-waisted pants (you know I love tucking things in). I also love how it looks with this maxi skirt I’ve had for ages. I wear maxi skirts, a lightweight blouse, and a hat all the time in the summer. Now I’m looking forward to making a few new maxi skirts!

I found this skirt at Ann Taylor a couple years ago, and I’ve worn it so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve paired just about everything with it: button up shirts, tees, sweaters, silk blouses, and cardigans. Loving how this sweet blue top looks with it!

I started making this skirt a year and a half ago, and it sat in my alterations closet for ages because it eventually became too big for me. Just last week, I finally took it in, so it’s ready to go (yay!). I used a muted pale pink heavy cotton twill to make it. It’s a full circle, and I like my circle skirts one of two ways: light as air and wonderfully floaty, or substantial enough to “stand up” on their own and look like a big circle skirt is supposed to look. For more information on making a circle skirt pattern for yourself, see this post from last fall.

One thing I really love about this top is that even though there’s no sleeves on it, the ruffle acts as the sleeve. It’s a creative way to not only stay cool in summer, but to cover your arms if you want.

And for a more work appropriate look, keep traditional color combinations in mind. I say it all the time, but that rule still applies to a lot of conservative workplaces. I absolutely love that I can put this top with a pretty pink skirt for a lovely, ladylike outfit and turn around and put it with some tailored black trousers and be ready for a meeting some other grown up function where bopping in wearing lace or a big pink skirt might not be the best idea.

I have some ideas for a few more tops and blouses, both with and without ruffles, so I’m looking forward to tackling those projects in the coming weeks. For now, I’ll be taking a little break from all the tops and pouring some energy into a few new dresses and skirts. You could say that this latest round of blouses has me “topped off” in that department. Ha!

Have a great weekend!

PS: I made my own single fold bias tape for the gingham and blue tops, and I used pre-made white bias tape on the white blouse. Ran out of fabric to make my own!

how to: line a sleeveless dress

One of my favorite classes in college was the senior capstone course called mass marketing. It was the class where all of the skills we had learned came together, and we were required to design, produce, and present a six-piece ready-to-wear collection. The focus was on knowing your target market, identifying your customer, and designing a spring or fall collection to meet her needs. Spec and cost sheets were part of the final presentation, along with full color sketches, a marketing plan, and styled photos, and we learned about industry standards in manufacturing and pattern making, sourcing, and the elements of a successful collection. It was one of the most stressful semesters of my college years, but it was definitely the most fun. I loved every second of that class.

A couple of us had lined, sleeveless dresses in our collections and questions came up about how to close the armholes. I remember very vividly one student exclaiming that she knew how to do it and all you had to do was open up the shoulder seam and . . . this was the point that I looked over at my professor (my absolute favorite teacher who knew everything) and saw her sort of roll her eyes and say, “No, no, no. That’s not the proper way to do it.” Class was over at this point and we all had to be elsewhere, so my professor told me she’d call me the following morning and explain it to me.

So there I was the next morning, which happened to be a Saturday, sitting on my living room floor finishing up some hand sewing and watching a cooking show on PBS when my phone rings. My professor, who to this day remains the best seamstress and biggest source of fashion knowledge I’ve ever known, explained to me how to line a sleeveless dress in about five minutes. I did it later that afternoon, and have done it since hundreds of times.

This tutorial shows you this method. I’ve never seen it explained this way in commercial patterns, so I hope this is helpful. Sleeveless dresses are such a big part of our wardrobes in spring and summer, so why not know how to make these garments truly shine?

(Quick note before we get started: by this step in the process of lining a dress, I have already attached the lining to the neck and understitched it, and the skirt lining has not been attached to the bodice lining. I like to do this after the armholes are closed.)

Firt step. In this photo, we’re looking at the right shoulder seam on this dress. You can see the raw edges of the armhole on the right.

Fold the armhole seam allowances under and hold in place. It’s alright if what you pinch isn’t exact, we’ll get precise once we get underneath.

Putting your hand into the dress, pinch the seam allowances that we just folded under. Your hand is sandwiched between the lining and the fashion fabric.

Here, a different angle showing me holding the seam allowances together.

Still pinching the seam allowances, carefully pull the seam allowances towards you and turn it wrong sides out. This is when we can re-match the shoulder seams if things got wonky as they got turned. So, now I’m holding the shoulder seam allowances, right sides together.

Carefully sew the armholes closed, using whatever seam allowance you have in this area. You can pin as you go, or just match your notches along the way. I usually keep an eye on my notches and pin the side seams together as I get closer. Sew all the way around the armhole. It may get tricky around the shoulders if you have a narrow shoulder seam, so be mindful that a shoulder seam 1.5″ or narrower will be a challenge. I’ve got about 4″ at the shoulders on this dress, so it was a breeze.

I like to backstitch at the shoulder and side seam for a little extra strength in those spots. The arrow in the photo points to the front armhole notch, which I’ve made sure matches the notch on the lining underneath.

Once you’ve sewn all the way around, trim the excess seam allowances down to 1/4″.

Clip the seam allowance about every 5/8″. This step is essential because it’s what allows the armhole to spread properly once it’s turned right sides out.

The armhole will look like this after it is sewn.

Then, press and understitch the armhole just like you would understitch any other area. And remember, if your shoulder seam is narrow you may not be able to understitch all the way up to the shoulder so just go as far as you can. (This step is shown on a different dress.)

As for your pattern, there are a couple of easy adjustments you can make to ensure that the lining “rolls under” correctly. Lining pieces shouldn’t be exact copies of pattern pieces, they should be trimmed in some areas so that they remain hidden from the right side. This example shows a simple sleeveless fitted bodice. Keep in mind that different designs may require additional adjustments.

Begin by tracing the bodice pieces to make a copy. This copy will become the lining.

Around the armhole, trim off 1/8″, grading down to nothing at the side seam. Repeat for the back.

You can see the difference with the lining pattern on top of the bodice pattern.

Trim off 1/8″ from the waistline. Repeat for the back.

Again, this shows you the difference in the two patterns when the lining is placed on top.

A full view:

And that’s it! Let me know if you have any questions!

This is the sleeveless dress from my senior collection. This dress is umpteen layers of various silks with an empire bodice and boning in the side seams, an inner belt, a ruffle that took forever, and a sash belt. After a few tweaks to the design, I’d make this again in a heartbeat!