Category Archives: 2009/5-11 Sleeveless Shell

Fitting the Sleeveless Shell

My fabric is cotton sheeting. Yes sheets purchased from the local department store. It’s not high quality sheeting either. More like lawn or voile.  I made the purchase thinking this fabric would make excellent summer shirts which would then protect me from the intense summer sun or the equally excessive summer air conditioning experienced in most stores and public buildings.   What’s interesting to me, besides the delightful print and gorgeous colors, is that this fabric would be considered inferior for sheeting, but  excellent for my original intent of summer shirts and a few other garments. I’ve learned that just because one person calls a particular fabric crap or trash, it doesn’t mean I can’t consider it for use in my garments. (BTW, quilters would also consider this  fabric a waste of money).  Today I’m using it to fit Otto 5/2009 Style #11, the sleeveless blouse.

I placed the pattern cross grain because I liked the way the print dominated in that direction.  Let me say, I have a healthy appreciation for placing the fabric on grain. I do understand that using alternate grain placements can create beautiful garments which are wearable without issue or can create a really really hot mess.  The key is understanding how the fabric will behave once the garment is completed. My experience has been that I will have few if any issues for having chosen to highlight the print by my use of the cross grain. Still it’s something to consider, should things go wrong.

The fabric is a cotton polyester blend. I like blends. I think I get the best of both fibers. In this case I’m expecting a cooling summer garment that resists wrinkling and is easy to launder and press (iron). I’m the idiot that likes to press the wrinkles out of my garments before wearing them. DH says my issue is that I love pressing.  I say, I prefer the way garments look without wrinkles.  But I have once again detoured into unnecessary territory.

I cut my fabrics, marked the darts and then immediately applied fusible stay tape to the armscyes and necklines of both front and back; and only on the back shoulders. I most often use this fusible tape on the shoulders of knits.  I used it this time on these critical curved areas because I wanted to avoid stretching them during the fitting process but I dislike stay-stitching. In fact, I’ve had the experience of stay-stitching distorting my pattern piece.

I stitched the shoulder and bust darts. When I stitched the front and back fisheye darts, I limited the depth to 1/8″.  The fisheye darts are like an interior pin tuck. They tell me where the darts are supposed to be and then during fitting I can increase their depth as needed. I serged the center back seam. I was tickled to see this seam.  In my past I would have eliminated the center back seam by placing the pattern on the fold. These days I appreciate the fit opportunity provided by a center back seam.  I was surprised by the combination of  a center back seam and the back neck darts. However, I have lots of faith in Otto and proceeded with the pattern as drafted.

I pressed the darts and trimmed only the back neck darts with my pinking blade. Those back neck darts are unusually deep. That concerns me. Fortunately, I  had the presence of mind to align the pattern and back (with darts sewn) and then take a picture.

I was pleased to see that as I expected, the shoulder area was appreciably changed by those darts.

I basted the shoulder and side seams and then slipped it on for a quick first look.

(Note:  I did not plan on center back closure of zip, buttons or anything else. I assumed that wide neckline would easily slip over my head. Worse yet, I didn’t even look at the pattern instructions and can’t tell anyone if they should plan on a zipper or something else.)

I was totally shocked by this first fitting (shown above)

I was expecting maybe errors because of the square shoulder line. To my disgust the front neckline gaps needing at least 1″ removed. The shoulder point is flying 1/2″ in the air as well as revealing my bra strap. The bust dart is far too high and short. Not really showing here, but the fisheye darts are also 1″ too high but the waist portion and hip shaping falls appropriately. There are wrinkles under the armscye but I have excess ease beneath the arm.

But I thought, “first things first”. In my IT career and IRL, I’ve noticed that I can correct the obvious error and many small glitches just disappear.  I’m always puzzled but I can live with this. So I rip out the side seams that were basted with 4mm stitches and then rip out the bust darts and 1″ of the top of each fish eye dart.  The darts were sewn with a 2.5mm stitch. That’s the length my HV Ruby recommends for light weight fabric. Frankly the placement of bust darts is rarely a problem for me. I have the average “B” cup in the average place on the female body. I cannot remember a time when I had to move the bust dart. Since this was such an obvious issue, I fixed the bust darts, shortened the fisheye darts and took more pics.

Now I’m absolutely just staring at the second set of pictures. There is so much wrong. There is so much to correct. I don’t know where to begin.


5/2009 #11 Sleeveless Shell

My summer uniform consists of shorts and knit tank tops. In the last few years, I’ve been making an effort to use more of my stash which includes lots of lovely wovens. I find that for summer, the sleeveless shell is an ideal alternative to a knit tank top. My fit has changed slightly this year, so I’ve chosen to make Style #11 from issue 5/2009  because I think it’s an excellent basic, sleeveless shell.

Why not just use the Vintage Blouse pattern which has a fit a I love? More than one reason. The most prominent is that simply leaving out the sleeve will not produce a garment which fits well under the arms and across the chest.  A sleeveless top/dress needs the side seam raised under the arm and a slightly tighter fit through out the armscye. Otherwise, the armscye gaps and reveals underwear and doesn’t feel all that comfortable. A sleeve stabilizes and indeed requires the extra ease which is typically included for the sleeved top. The other top reason to trace a new pattern, is that I deliberately fit the Vintage blouse to be roomy. I prefer my sleeveless shell to skim all the lumps but fit closely.

This shell, #11 issue 5/2009, has an interesting rounded-square neckline. The neckline is lower than a jewel which is fine, desirable even for summer weather. The trick is to make sure it hugs the body and does not gap.

It also has front and back waist darts, the horizontal bust dart and a back neckline dart. I’m concerned about the squared shoulder. My shoulders are definitely sloped. However the pattern shoulder is narrow, about 2″, and the back neckline dart could change the angle of the shoulder.

Note to self, photo the shoulder before and after dart is sewn.

I usually get a good fit by tracing the size 38 for shoulders and neckline, 40 for armscyes, and 46 on the side seams. However, I kind of want this to fit closely and decided to trace 44 at the bust and 46 for waist and hip.  I compared the traced pattern pieces with the Vintage blouse and decided to add 5/8 to the width for fit insurance.

I made my 1″ BWL as usual. When comparing with the Vintage Blouse, which is a terrific length for me, I discovered that this would raise the waist and hip shaping but would be much to short for my personal preferences.  I added 2.5″ length at the hem. I was pleased to note that the #11 side seam was 1/2″ higher at the underarm  than the Vintage Blouse.

I did not trace the facings. I consider it a great possibility that I will need to tweak the neckline which will completely invalidate the facings as drafted.  I also think it is just as easy to cut the facings using the pattern pieces. Yes I know the facings should be about 1/8″ smaller so that they will roll to the inside. First off, most of the time I don’t even use facings. I prefer bindings. For those times that I need facings, I think it’s very easy to trim the extra 1/8″. As in, no big deal. I just do it.

Here’s the real beauty of this pattern, for me. I also need to refit my tank top pattern. The size selections and fit adjustments I make for this pattern, will be the same when I make the knit tank top pattern #1, 2/2007. That’s because Otto’s block and sizing is very consistent. The only pattern to give me any problems was the Perfect Blouse  #4, 5/2009.  That pattern had significant changes to the armscye, shoulder slope and ease. This pattern seems only to have a worry spot of the shoulder slope.