Friday, November 22, 2013

Fabric choices and a Tunic style Renfrew

Do you think some people have an extra-special talent for choosing fabrics? I do. We all have those garments where pattern, style and fabric are a marriage made in heaven. Sadly we also suffer through the opposite were the fabric is fighting us all the way and the end result shows it. A trip around the sewing blogisphere shows so many creative uses of interesting fabrics. I find lots of inspiration and occasionally a desire to copy outright.
Do you start with the fabric or the pattern? For me it mostly starts with the pattern, I am more attracted to shapes and techniques and then I find the fabric in the color family that I like.
Currently I am making a few garments for someone who had already purchased the fabric and her choices got me thinking about it. This is unusual as most often I work with a sewing client from the beginning to choose both the style and the fabric. In this case I think she has a real eye for choosing interesting and beautiful fabrics and the results have been a good stretch for my creativity.

She wanted a top made from a textured sweater knit and described a "drapey turtleneck type top". Which made me laugh a bit because I had been so wanting to get the Sewaholic Renfrew top pattern and that is why I made a few test versions last month before cutting into her lovely fabrics. By the way, all her fabrics were purchased at Stone Mountain in Berkeley.
Here is her Renfrew top, which I lengthened to be more of a tunic as she requested.
First a close up of this interesting fabric, very Missoni-like don't you think?

Renfrew fabric tunic

Renfrew tunic
A few sewing details. I put a strip of knit fusible interfacing along the hems and then turned up about one inch and stitched. I lengthened the top about 5 inches? something like that, as much as the yardage would allow. I sewed this on the standard sewing maching, straight stitch and then after it was put together I serged the seam allowances. I don't like to serge things before they are sewn together, I think it distorts the pieces. 

The item that I sewed first from her stack of fabrics was this dress made of silk duppioni. I have kind of a love-hate relationship with silk duppioni fabric, the colors are fantastic, it does press beautifully but the dress/design needs to fit perfectly and the pattern needs to be a good one as there is no fudging the seams or easing sections like you can with a nice malleable wool. 
This plaid fabric really scared me, I was actually kind of shocked when she pulled it out of the bag and said she wanted a dress. I think this looks much better as worn rather than on the dress form, the warm bronze and coral colors give the wearer a golden glow and it is very pretty. 

Anne dress front
Anne dress back

Some sewing details, I used New Look 6643 which is my favorite basic sheath dress pattern. I made a muslin for fit, ended up lowering all the darts by about 3/4" and then made full pattern pieces (both sides of the front and back) so I could lay the full pattern pieces on the single layer of fabric and hopefully match the plaids everywhere. One thing to note when making a dress with plaid, if you have bust darts at that side seam, you must match below the dart. I recall I jumper I made in junior high where I carefully matched at the top of the side seam and then cried when I sewed it up and saw my mistake. Good learning lesson!

Anne side dress match             Anne dress bust dart

My last interesting project for her will be a 3-piece outfit (if yardage allows). The sheer embroidered silk will be a floaty jacket and the silk charmeuse will be a pajama style pant and sleeveless tank.
I plan to line the pants and tank with bemberg rayon. It is interesting how the design on the sheer fabric shows more when contrasted with the darker grey silk.
grey silks2
Here is the pattern I am using for the jacket. I like the style of this but the pattern has turned out to be very problematic but I have finally succeded in making a muslin that fits nicely. So this weekend will be all about sewing silk.
Vogue8089 jacket

In garden news I impulsively bought bags of daffodils and tulips the other day - I cannot resist the colors on the packages - so those will need to be stuck in the ground. Then I will be on squirrel watch. Last year I read that the brown papery layer on tulip bulbs are like potato chips for squirrels and they find them irresistible. Nature, a constant battle even in suburbia.

Happy weekend sewing,  Beth


  1. Oooh love the cowl top and the shift dress. Very pretty fabrics! I agree some people just have the knack of picking amazing fabrics that just work.

  2. Your client has extremely good taste in fabric! I love both the top and the dress and can see how flattering the colors would be on someone. And even I forget to match stripes under the bustline sometimes, so thanks for the reminder!

  3. Such interesting fabrics. I love the sweater knit tunic. I'll look forward to seeing the 3 piece outfit.

  4. Beautiful work matching the plaid, just superb! Plaid terrifies me! Can't wait to see your last outfit.

  5. That plaid dress is beautiful. So simple and lovely. Thanks for the tip about matching the plaid below the bust dart. I will file that one away if I ever get brave enough to sew with plaids!

  6. What beautiful garments! I love the Renfrew, and I think the plaid dress is fantastic. To me, it looks great even on the dress form.

  7. Clients can really challenge us with their visions and fabric choices but you have risen to the occasion! Great tip in the matching of side seams with plaids and squares! I have made that Sandra Betzina pattern before. It fits OK. It will be dramatic with those fabrics...can't wait to see the progress!!!!

  8. Oh! that fabric on the tunic is amazing! And I love that shift dress. The colours are gorgeous. That new proyect looks very interesting!

  9. For your squirrel issue: put the bulbs in a "chicken wire" type box and bury the box. Plant grows thru the holes in the wire, yet they are protected from the squirrels eating them.
    I love the fabrics! Wish I had the form for the plaid dress. LOVELY!

  10. In the upper Midwest, they tell us to sprinkle cayenne pepper onto the bulb before replacing the top spoil to discourage these potato chip freaks!!!

  11. Both fabrics and garments are beautiful!

  12. They're all beautiful, but I LOVE that Renfrew. Great knit!
    I would totally wear that to shreds...
    :-) Chris

  13. I love the look of dupioni, and I love how easy it is to sew, but I've given up on it for the most part because it is so fragile. My seams shred within a year (though my last dupioni project I underlined in silk organza and it is doing ok--but it's not too fitted either). I do love those colors and the giant plaid!

  14. I love the fabrics chosen...lovely colors and the plaid is wonderful. Thanks for the tip about matching and darts. I have yet to try to match plaid but maybe next fall I will have time for a plaid jacket. Beautiful work-thanks for sharing it with all of us.

  15. I made a very similar cowl top out of that exact fabric. It is a Missoni knit and I did wear it to shreds! LOL

  16. Ohh, I love that Missoni-style Renfrew! It's a perfect marriage of fabric and pattern! I can see why you were afraid of that plaid duppioni, but it's looking great!

  17. I love the plaid duppioni dress. Simply gorgeous. I too find a lot of ideas on the various sewing blogs, and this time, I would love to copy your dress. I have the pattern but not the fabric. Did you interline the dress? If so what did you use for interlining and lining? You are such an inspiration to me and this would be a perfect dress for Christmas.

    1. HI ozviking, I lined the dress with ambiance bemberg rayon. for the neckline edge I put a piece of silk organza about 2 inches wide to maintain the neckline and then made the same dress pieces for the lining, and turned and understitched. so just lining, no underlining. I could see how this would be perfect for your holiday.

    2. Thank you so much Beth. You are a wonderful help for more novice seamstresses such as me. I have been following you for a long time and I am so grateful for everything you post - inspiration, technical details and tips.

  18. Both pieces are beautiful! She does have a gift for finding fabric. The dress is so elegant, and I imagine it must be stunning in real life on a real person. I am still a beginner, and pairing fabric to pattern has been one of my biggest sewing challenges. It doesn't matter how good your technique is if that pairing is wrong! I've started buying fabric first with only a vague idea of what it may become and then matching it with a pattern, and I've had a lot more success. Since I tend to only make basic wardrobe pieces it works for me!

  19. I think you have the Renfrew down to a science - I love this tunic version!! I'm on a tunic quest this fall, tired of jeans and wanting to wear leggings, what better than a tunic. This one is lovely.


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