Winter wardrobe fix, part 1: Simple sewn tops

Winter wardrobe fix, part 1: Simple sewn tops

There’s been some turmoil going on in my home life the past few months that I haven’t really been talking about publicly — health issues with my husband that are finally (hopefully) being resolved thanks to surgery last week — but that means we have basically still not moved into our house. If you only saw the kitchen, you would think somebody lived there (albeit someone who apparently likes bare walls) but if you peered into what we call My Room, you’d think there were squatters in the house. When we moved to Nashville, we didn’t actually move to Nashville but to a town outside of town where the rents are dirt cheap and we were able to get enough space that Bob would have his painting studio in the daylight basement and I would have a room where my sewing machine could be out 24/7. Living the dream! Until … squatterville. The other thing keeping me from putting the room together and to use is that I haven’t had time to give any thought to how to furnish and organize it. But with things turning around finally, I was doing stuff around the house Sunday and a lightbulb went on over my head. Suddenly I could see the room all laid out, and immediately ordered my favorite industrial shelves and a worktable (happy early birthday/Christmas to me!) to use as a cutting table and for blocking. Now all I need is a table for the sewing machine itself (or a dining table so I can commandeer the table we’re currently eating on). And I’m fantasizing about a serger, but I’ll have to win the lottery first.

So my early New Year’s resolution, which I’ve been talking about on and off here for awhile, is to really learn to sew. I learned very young and do it rarely and have forgotten almost everything I ever knew. So I want to start from scratch. As much as I truly need sweaters right now, I just can’t bring myself to buy them, and it will take me awhile to knit the handful I need. Plus who doesn’t love a sweatshirt? So I have two immediate projects in mind for as soon as I get myself organized:

TOP: You may recall I bought the new Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt pattern on my Seattle trip last month. I’d love to make it in a nice heavy fleece, but I’ve also been pondering a fancier version. I bought this gem from J.Crew recently, a glorified sweatshirt in boiled wool, and I could not love it more. Shortly after that, Purl Soho added some exquisite-looking boiled wool to the shop, and along came Linden. Seems like fate, no? Except there’s the matter of the price tag on that wool — and the fear of cutting into it. But I’m not giving up on the idea.

BOTTOM: Then just last week on the Purl Bee appeared the Sewn Raglan Shirt pattern — designed for woven fabrics, with a little gathered neckline. I love it, and am picturing it in a nice flannel. Because there’s no end of how much flannel I want in my closet.


40 thoughts on “Winter wardrobe fix, part 1: Simple sewn tops

  1. I will following your progress with much interest as I am also learning how to sew, basically from scratch. I don’t feel ready to try a garment yet, but this Purl Bee pattern also caught my eye. Here’s to sewing! All my sewing friends keep telling me it is easier and quicker than knitting. For the moment I seriously doubt that.

  2. I think all of us are wanting to get involved with making our wardrobe a little more personal, if you know what I mean. I have found the tutorials on Grainlinestudio very helpful. I wish you would share more info on that worktable. It sounds like something we all could use.

  3. That sweatshirt with that wool makes me want to learn how to sew even more! Machine on my x-mas list!! Hope you find the nerve to cut, can’t wait to see it.

  4. From the land of “not today~maybe in a year” comes the story of my serger. The Brother 1034D, of which is still IN THE BOX from December 2013. Le sigh. At any rate, it came to me for under $200 and has LOADS of info and tuts on the interwebs, so don’t let a high price tag stop you. Also, some trusty zigzag on your regular machine will work until then. Colette patterns has a great book out “Sewing with Knits”. It looks to be fabulous but I can’t rightly see it from the dust accumulation. :)
    Happy sewing!

  5. I am a very experienced home sewer, but never really was brave enough to tackle knits. Run, do not walk, to Craftsy and get Marcy and Katherine Tilton’s tutorial on sewing knits. You even get a free pattern! They walk you through the steps and because of the Craftsy interface, you can ask questions and get answers as you go.

  6. Wishing your husband all good health, Karen.

    As for sewing, my latest efforts are silk tees. A lot like the square boxy tops that Eileen Fisher sells for beaucoup bucks and look good with everything. I wash the silk (mostly charmeuse and crepe) beforehand (and thus forever after), and make clean french seams. Two of them have keyhole openings that can be worn in front or back. For those I used a modified version of a very simple McCalls pattern. Also had fun cutting up a handprinted silk scarf and piecing it with ivory silk for a more whimsical, floaty tank version.

    I like that Purl Soho top…. very pretty shape. Look forward to seeing your version.

  7. I know that lightbulb going off phenomenon when it comes to arranging stuff. I now have a large table for cutting and blocking and a re-purposed desk where I can leave my sewing mating set up in what used to be the home of the never used treadmill;)

    The Coletterie website is a trove of tips, patterns, and tutorials for beautiful, simple sewing. They have a new on-line magazine–Seamwork-that is just beautiful. You can read it for free, or subscribe and get the patterns.

  8. My jump to sewing with a machine (from knitting) was completely eye opening. My first go, I made a lap duvet (purl bee pattern) in an afternoon. AN AFTERNOON!! It would have taken me months to knit an afghan. I’ve been hooked ever since. So good for quick gratification, and very practical items. I am looking forward to following your journey though, as I haven’t ventured into garments yet.

  9. As a sewer, my suggestion to a beginner would be making the bottom on in flannel first. Boiled wool or a fleece makes a thicker seam that can be more difficult to work with. The boiled wool will be easier to work with then a fleece.

  10. Hope your husband feels well soon.
    I have to much many transitions going on at the moment to try and tackle sewing. So I’ll just look at these tops and dream…

  11. Hoping Bob is on the mend. Thinking good thoughts for him!
    I am very tempted with sewing – adding that to my craft obsession. I don’t have a place for a machine so when you highlighted DryGoods Design (in my city, of all things) my temptation has skyrocketed! I’ll keep you posted if you keep us posted in your efforts.

    • I took a class at Dry Goods Design and it was super wonderful. I have some sewing experience but had never sewn with knits before – the class was fun and worth my time. One of the good things about DGD is that they teach about fit, so there is a much better chance the thing you make might actually be wearable Not always the case with sewing – trust me. Even if you don’t take a class, their fabric and supplies are worth your time.

  12. Hope your hubs doing better and you know, if you ever get stuck with a sewing question I’ve got you covered ;) I always say, nothing in sewing is actually hard, it’s just a matter of taking slow steps and practicing. The “harder” patterns are just more basic things piled on top of each other.

  13. Yikes! Accidentally hit “Enter” on my tablet! More carefully this time:

    Cracking up and commiserating at the similarities: Major cross-country move combined with paring down belongings to bare minimum? Check. Major health issues requiring procedures and surgery? Check.

    And now sewing. Just three weeks ago, at dinner at friends’, I suddenly inherited a perfectly good basic sewing machine. Carried it home that night. Immediately signed up for a class and finished my first-ever sewing project, a simple tote bag, last night. Can’t wait for next week’s pillow-cover class.

    I haven’t turned my back in knitting, though. My under-the-radar, faux-Amanda-men’s-sweater KAL (Jared Flood’s Cobblestone) is 90% complete. My first sweater, almost ready to wear.

    So, all my best to your husband and his health, and all my best to you for expanding your craft skills and repertoire.


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