Final First Draft!

I found myself alone for the weekend, perfect time to rest the coat and try to draft the blouses floating through my imagination.

First I had to dig out the sloper I made and adjust the shoulders.  I decided to move the shoulder seam forward 5/8″ due to my inexpert measuring.  Then I had to add length to the sloper- to the hip.  Simple enough.

Of course, then I felt myself ready to tackle this:

Bah.  The pleats act as bust darts, overlapped and sewn at the neck.  I like the billowing 3/4 sleeves, and want to learn to draft fitted garments for knits.  A beginner mistake, too much too soon.  I still want it, but I have to be patient and build my skills.  I planned to use my green bamboo knit for the top. 

I turned to the inspiration sent me by Sarah at Color Kitten:

Ahh-dorable.  Cut on sleeves, deep pleats, cute and ladylike but still casual?  Check check check.  It’s a McCall’s dating from 1949-1950.  I want to keep experimenting with vintage cuts/knit fabrics.  Perfect opportunity.

I used my sloper (zero ease) and this diagram to make a cut on sleeve pattern:

I think this would work well with a TNT t-shirt pattern.  Cut off the seam allowances, viola.  I taped my pieces together, adjusting carefully, and then laid a piece of polytrace over the whole thing to trace.  Very simple.

I taped the front pattern piece to my table.  Drafting uses a lot of polytrace or whatever you use for patterns.  My abortive first attempt and the second shirt used up nearly 5 yards of the stuff, probably due to my own ignorance, but still.

Anyway, I taped the original pattern to the table.

I then drew several lines across the pattern piece for the tucks, perpendicular to the CF.  The picture has 7, I went for 8 (a Fibonacci number, I can’t help myself).  I started by drawing a line right across the fullest part of my bust.  I knew I would need some sort of dart, I figured I would tuck it behind a pleat.  Then I moved up to the neckline until I started running out of room, then went down until I had 8 lines.

Then I threw another piece of polytrace over the top of my master pattern.  I matched up the CF lines.

I decided a 1/2″ tuck with a 1″ spacer would suffice.  I drew a line over the line on my master pattern, then drew a dashed line 1″ below it.  Then I moved my pattern up until the dashed line met the first solid line on the pattern underneath.

Then I drew another solid line 1 1/2″ below that, and a dashed line 1″ below that.  Etc etc.  I find it very hard to explain, but suffice to say I could have done a cut and spread to get the extra 1″ needed for each pleat but was too lazy.  I cut and spread and traced in one step.

Then I brought the dashed lines up behind the solid lines and pinned.  Finally, I traced the edges perfectly according to my first draft of the cut on sleeve front and cut it.  When I released the pleats, the front looked like this:

Time to muslin!  I have some dis-gusting polyester polo shirt fabric that I could never imagine using for anything other than the purpose I put it to.  It feels so gross, and the needle has a hard time poking through it.  I think it is intended for some sort of sports uniform:

What?  It looks like a shirt?!  Does anyone look good in that kind of fabric?  I think not.  Maybe these excessively manly men:

Changes to the muslin:
  1. Bring shoulder forward more to sit on top of actual shoulder.  Marked and measured 1 1/8″
  2. Lengthen sleeves
  3. Nip in front waist, let out back waist
  4. Do something about the wrinkles that all point to the bust

I used another piece of bamboo for the shirt.  This piece is rather blue, though the camera picks up purple.

Hey hey!  The fit isn’t perfect, but light years beyond any other t-shirt I ever owned.  For the muslin, I painstakingly marked all the lines.  Sucker.

The bamboo takes a crease well.  I snipped the edges of the fabric at the solid and dashed lines.  I brought the snip marks together, steamed a crease, and sewed it in place,  1/2″ from the crease.  That made quick work of the pleats.  No time consuming lines to draw on knit that shrinks away from my ruler and chalk.

Two pieces, no sleeves, goes together in about an hour.  I used a regular straight stitch throughout.  My swatches showed that the plain straight stitch looked the best and held up with no popping because the fabric doesn’t stretch a great deal.

 The day I fit my lower back flawlessly in knit is the day I weep for worlds conquered.  I consider this a vast improvement on my RTW t-shirts and also a decent drafting benchmark.   I christen* this the Sarah top, thanks for the inspiration and encouragement!

See how the pleats around my bust come together?  I snuck two little darts behind the pleats and stitched over the existing stitching to secure them in place.  The shirt effectively cups my curves, very comfortable.  I feel I cheated a little; I would rather take care of all the issues through working on the pattern, not fix and trim and pin as I sew.  I know I’ll get there eventually.

This will be a great summer top, good for medium casual.  Granted, it doesn’t completely cover my arms for decent sun protection but it covers more than a tank top.   I’ll test drive the anti-bacterial properties of the bamboo.  If it makes it through the summer with no sweat stink, I will be one ecstatic seamstress.

Thoughts on the use of knits for vintage cuts?   I feel drawn to dabble more.  As I made this, I had a sudden fear that it did not look late 40’s inspired, but rather an awkward 80’s throwback.

Then I thought who the hell cares?  I like the peachskin-firm-mid-weight-stretch fabric, I like the pleats, the shirt is utterly bespoke in every way and the color looks good on me.  What more can a girl ask for in a shirt?

Edit: The bamboo seems to grow.  I’m not entirely sure if this is the way that bamboo knits usually behave, or if it is due to the weight of my pleats.  I’ll wash it and decide if I should  take up the shoulder seams.  My carefully placed bust darts now sit a few inches below.  Lame.

Next on the block (while I’m still home alone for the weekend):  Burda pants in black organic cotton.

*My clothes feel like an extension of me. I make them strong, I make them tough, I make them durable, and I make them exactly to my own specifications. I name each garment because I put so much of myself into making it. My clothes are well taken care of, and last for a long time.


  1. it is SO CUTE!! congrats. I was a little worried by the shiny manly one….but the final one is great. And you've restored by faith in knits-for-vintage; I finished up a top in my UFO pile and UGH. The knit fabric turned the cute 1940s top into something like a….hospital gown! awful! I think it is a combo of the print and the foe binding. and the fabric being cruddy. I may give it another shot.finally, I came across this tailor's blog today, there are some entries on warm-climate tailoring, and it's interesting in general.

  2. Thanks.I really like the English Cut, such a wealth of information. I'm thinking that part of the trick to making vintage work in knits is to have no wearing ease. I'm sure the pleated blouse was, well, blousy. My bolero was for a 32" bust, when I usually start from a 34" bust and do a FBA on top of that. Zero ease. Even with zero ease my t-shirt is a little biggish, but I don't want to go into negative ease territory just yet.

  3. I think you are right. The pattern I used actually called for wool jersey as an option to wovens, so I just made it as is. But I think zero ease will look better to modern eyes at least.

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