Choli Blouse Block Odyssey part 1

Back in July 2017 before I gave in to the middle age slump…


With so many beautiful choli blouse fabric in the Stash I really need to get some pattern block for choli blouse sorted. And I have in fact been working on it for ages. So much so that I now have way too many pattern pieces, muslins (wearable & not), & mug shots to confuse me never mind you…argh! Long story short, no cigar yet. But I have a hypothesis with 2 more pattern drafting approaches to test. On to the nitty gritty…


My 3 requirements for Choli Block:

  1. Bust support lift & shaping: Depending on the back neckline design, I may not be able to wear a regular bra with my choli. So built-in bust shaping / support would be nice. But it needs to work for woven fabric & not constrict breathing.
  2. Stay-put neckline: Allow low / open front & back neckline without the top falling off the shoulders
  3. Fitted sleeve mobility: Allow arms up & forward without excessive sleeve width & winged effect on short sleeves


Experiments based on
K. King moulage > top block

Since I already had a top block that seems to fit alright I thought I’d get better results using that as the basis for my draft rather than follow the relatively less personalised authentic Indian instructions. (Typical Westerner!)

Well, it didn’t work out so well.

Wearable Muslin 1 >
Gajiwara 7384 Wannabe Choli with home embroidery

  • I tried to raise my ageing bustline unsuccessfully. It was only like 1/2″ higher on my pattern. But I think my custom embroidery shrunk the pieces despite being stretch taut on a frame frame. And because I was worried about metallic embroidery thread being scratchy I didn’t extend the embroidery far enough into the seam allowance to allow me to let out at the shoulder seams. I ended up with some draglines in the upper bust area for my big day. (Did let out what I could afterwards. But there wasn’t much seam allowance to fix it entirely.)
  • Lowered neckline (aka unintentional off-the-shoulder look) wasn’t an issue in this version as I used the cross-back ties that one finds in many authentic Indian choli.
  • But limited sleeve mobility was an issue despite a moderately shallow cap. The bit that feels most restrictive was mid arm joint height, as if the cap area wasn’t wide enough.

Wearable Muslin 2 >
Nakkashi 5036 gold embroidered Choli

  • I had to tweak my personalised pattern to fit the ready-made embroidery, which is presumably shaped to work with standard Indian pattern-drafting. Eg the allowance for back waist dart is smaller than my back waist dart, so some of mine had to be pivoted to the back cut-out area. In other areas I had to twist the fabric slightly to fit my pattern, or even patch a bald area with embroidered scraps.
  • Bust & neckline not an issue here as I didn’t attempt to lift the bust & this design has a back cut-out rather than lowered neckline.
  • Sleeve mobility wasn’t too bad, but comfort was my main issue here. I made the cap even more shallow & wider to increase mobility & tapered the sleeve width more sharply to minimise the winged look. The result was the heavily embroidered underarm areas getting too close for comfort. I felt like I was holding something with my armpits! Again had to suffer through it for a friend’s wedding, but redid the sleeve increasing the cap height (by shortening the sleeve seam length) & removed as much embroidery from the area as I could. Wearable. But now the sleeve’s more restrictive. So I wouldn’t reach for it naturally.

After armscye alteration…

 

More muslins & research…

  • Stay-put lowered neckline:
    • Tried the instruction for lowered F&B neckline from K King’s Moulage book. It was a method devised by his Indian teacher. Didn’t work for me. Actually made the shoulders slip off even more easily. Maybe I didn’t follow the instruction correctly?
    • My patterns had the back neckline at shoulder blade width, but the muslin necklines all spread out more widely. Perhaps it was too much to ask the neckline to stay put at the shoulder blade peaks?
  • Sleeve mobility:
    • Tried cutting sleeve on the bias. Sleeve looked marginally less wrinkly, but made no noticeable difference to mobility nor decrease the winged look.
    • Tried on a me-made choli based on older bodice block for comparison & was surprised to find that it actually had better sleeve mobility without excess sleeve width & winged effect. I had thought the shoulder slope & sleeve cap fit was off on that version, causing excess fabric folds pointing to armpits & draglines from centres of neckline as if the sleeves were pulling the neckline outward. Comparing the latest sleeve draft to that choli (don’t have the pattern anymore) that earlier sleeve shape was actually closer to my immobile fitted sleeve – cap taller & narrower than my latest drafts…WTF!?!?!

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A bunch of Ts

Not much interesting sewing happening here lately. I still feel exhausted & low from last two years’ craziness. To keep Meaning-Of-Life questions at bay, I tried to keep myself distracted by replacing boring basics in the wardrobe & made a bunch of easy-ish T-shirts that refine my stretch blocks.

Dartless 0-ease Knit Block designs:

Dartless 0-ease Knit Block (+Set-In Sleeve)

1. Envelope neckline T with set-in sleeves

This is a straight replacement for a couple of RTW Ts that I wore to death. The pattern is essentially my Camden Town Kids Wannabe top minus the puff over-sleeves & the funky hem. I also tighten up a bit at the side seams since the cotton (+lycra?) knit I used for this version moulds to the body better, so can take on a body-con shape without draglines – unlike the totally artificial fibre fabric I used for the previous top.

2. Shawl neckline T with set-in sleeves

This is a wearable muslin for a T that was planned for Fall-Winter 2014 SWAP. Yes, 2+ year late. But it’s a classic silhouette. So who cares right? I could have reused the altered Vogue 2980 which I made back in 2012. But I was hoping to improve the fit at the bust & the back neckline by using my own Blocks.

For the shawl collar I used V2980 as a guide to shaping the pattern using my own Blocks. I cut the collar as an extension to the back piece rather than a separate piece – my fabric stinginess won the day again! But I ended up having to stabilise (with bias tape) & stitch down the facing side of the collar extension along what would have been the shoulder-neckline seam. 6 vs half-dozen blah blah [roll eyes].

As for the shawl pleating at the side seams, I tried to minimise bulk by pleating only the top layer (ie not the facing layer).

Like my take on V2980 I again added a shelf bra (this time with double layer of stretch net), with elastics at both the bottom of the shelf bra &  its seam with the front neckline.

The initial result was a bit disappointing. The main problem was a gapping front neckline: I didn’t account for hollow at the chest that affects the fit of a lowered neckline. I also ended the shawl pleating too high up at the side seams. This resulted in the pleating being barely visible & the shawl not overlapping the front neckline enough, thus exacerbating the wide gapping neckline problem. To fix this I tried redoing the armscye – side seam: I narrowed the front neckline (cross-front width) slightly at the armhole, and reduced the depths of the pleats a bit so the shawl can end lower at the side seams (bustline now). It’s a bit better now. But I’m still not 100% sure I’ve cracked this silhouette.

3. Strappy T

This – along with a matching skirt – was actually an afterthought tagged on while making T #6 below. But as it’s based on the set-in sleeve block let’s talk about it first. It started with liking the fabric swatch combination. Unfortunately the result didn’t turn out like my doodle promised. The contrast band end up more wrinkly than planned. And my short straight figure just doesn’t do my doodle any justice. Last but not least, my attempt at built-in bust support with a darted shelf bra (as suggested by defunct Pattern School instruction for a Tankini) left an unsightly visible seaming bump. So a bit meh.

Raglan Dartless 0-ease Knit Block designs:

Raglan Dartless 0-ease Knit Block

4. Raglan short-sleeve T

This 2-bird 1-stone T attempted to use up the last scrap of cotton (+lycra?) knit from 1 above & retest my tweaked Raglan Dartless Knit Block at the same time (Test 3 in my previous Raglan Knit Block post). I had problem with the armholes feeling too tight – riding up against the armpit – despite the Block being derived from a set-in sleeve version which fitted fine. So I tried simply lowering the armpit a little bit. It’s been a while since I made the tweak, so I wanted to test the fit again in this forgiving cotton knit. No luck. Wearable, but the armpit is still a tad too close for comfort & the bodice still rides up slightly. The neckline is also a bit smaller – sit higher than I thought it would.

It’s good enough to wear, but not successful enough to make again.

5. Tweaked again Raglan T muslin 1

This time I tried adding length to both the raglan bodice & sleeve about mid-way up the armscye. This does seem to work better comfort-wise. But as the fabric I’ve used for this one – thin cotton jersey & lightweight power mesh – are both quite stretchy anyway, I won’t call this tweak a success just yet.

The design was inspired by Clio & Phineas’ cool cat V8670 Raglan T made with Alexander McQueen pima cotton jersey. I really lusted after one of my own. Then I was gifted the gothic looking black & red print by Giselle of London Dressmaker Meet-up Group. When shopping my stash for muslin victim I thought this might just about capture the spirit of Clio’s cool cat Raglan T. And I’m quite chaffed with the result, even though I haven’t got anything to wear it with.

6. Tweaked again Raglan T muslin 2

Exact same pattern as T #5 above. Wanted to test the pattern on a different knit. This time a less malleable artificial fibre knit. The very same fabric I’ve made a raglan T in before – Burda 2010-02-112. I got way too much of this fabric that was on sale, & that older raglan T is getting a bit tatty. Just the chance to replace & test my tweaked Raglan Block at the same time. Gosh I love my 2-4-1s!!!

To jazz this up I again turned to gold stamping/painting Queen B on the back, swarm of worker bees on the front, & barcodes at the wrists. Unfortunately my initial attempt resulted in a poorly positioned worker bee on the front bodice. For a moment I thought I’d just own it like a proper feminist should. But I chickened out & invited more bees to disguised the mistake. I don’t like the resulting mess of a print as much, but hopefully it’ll make the T more wearable.

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Stripy Westwood Wannabe T

Moving swiftly on, here’s my self-drafted Vivienne Westwood Wannabe 3/4-sleeved cowl-neck T made from the same bamboo striped jersey.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

WORN WITH: 1 Burda 2011-08-121 pencil skirt; 2 TopShop mullet skirt; 3 TopShop Martha jeans; 4 Refashioned RTW mullet skirt;

The Inspiration & Pattern

Inspiration:

I had enough of this limp & not-fit-for-a-Breton-T stripe jersey left to make another garment. As I wasn’t inspired, I just went for a long sleeve variation of the same old cowl neck fitted top idea. Figuring out how to add sleeves to Vogue 1282 would be more effort than I want to spend. So I picked another Vivienne Westwood design that looked easily achievable using any fitted Knit Blocks:

Vivinne Westwood stripy T

Vivinne Westwood stripy T

Block Used:

0 ease Fitted Darted0-ease Stable Knits Darted Fitted Top Block (Bodice & Sleeve)

Design Changes Made

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  • Front Cowl:
    • Pivoted side bust dart to shoulder so the dart allowance could be incorporated into the cowl drape.
    • Cut & spread the Front Bodice to create cowl drapes. I chose to do this from underbust up & to split the amount into separate rows of cut-n-spread because I thought this will give me cowl drape while retaining a fitted silhouette.
    • For more exaggerated drapes I added pleats to the shoulder seam & to minimise the risk of boob exposure I tapered the neckline back to a narrower width. For a more natural looking drape, I prefer to cut extra fabric & drape the cowl on Q, my dress form. I don’t like it when such drapes are too even / symmetrical. The extra fabric extends up from shoulder-armscye points, then across a bit above the shoulder-neck points. After draping the pleats I wanted, the excess fabric was trimmed to pleated shoulder seam + seam allowance.
    • Back neckline I was going to lower & maintain the neck curve. But I got lazy & went for straight line with cut on facing…because the Vogue 1282 top I was sewing at the same time had the same back neckline treatment. In retrospect, I should have used a binding like in my Burda 2013-12-119 top. It would have been cleaner & less chance of a facing flipping out on me.
  • Front bottom drape: This is essentially an unstitched dart.
    • After deciding where the bottom of the drape will be on the right side seam (ie the dart point), I folded the paper across to form one leg of the dart, then bring this up to where the top of the drape will be on the left side seam (ie the other leg of the dart). Across because you can see in the original design the fold line is almost parallel to a line of stripe.
    • Then I trace the rest of the Block below the fold.
  • Shorten to desired lengths:
    • Bodice to a couple inches above full hip, Sleeves to 3/4 length.
    • I made the hems straight to make it easier to sew a wider hem. But this meant the hem at the side seam could look weirdly pointy. So I reshaped the back side seams slightly to get closer to a right angle to the hemline. This also helps with the right side steam stripe matching as the unstitched dart modified the angle of the side seam blow the “dart point”.

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

  • Stripe-matching: See previous post about how I dealt with stripe matching in this PITA wiggly stripe fabric. It wasn’t possible to match the stripes 100% because of my pattern’s uneven front & back side seam heights. So I sacrificed the matching near the armpits – even going as far as letting the sleeve-bodice seam intersections not match. Somehow I managed to get a stripe going from the bodice to the sleeve in one armpit which I thought was rather neat. Too bad the other side was off a little bit. At the bodice hem, the left side seam draped area was never going to match. But on the right side I ended up trimming a bit of width off the hem & got the stripes to match pretty well.
  • Stablisation: Again, the back neckline & the armholes were stablised with fusible interfacing to fight the gravity-compliant tendency of this viscose jersey. As this is long-sleeved, the shoulder seams were also stablised so the extra weight of the sleeves won’t stretch out the shoulder seams over time.
  • Cowl: I’ve used the same technique on another VW inspired top. But this time it wasn’t so successful. The difference was the other top had a fitted lining which controlled the cowl drape. This top is unlined. So the extra width just wanted to spread & droop all over the place & get in the way of my forward arm movement, especially as my armscyes were all stablised & not stretchy. I ended up having to tack the drapes in place to maintain the folds. While the drapes still look a bit messy, at least the armsyces now feel comfortable & unrestrictive.

The Verdict

It’s an OK top. It’s one to slouch in rather than dress up in. It has just enough caffeine kick to keep me awake, but not enough to shout about.

There may be a little bit too much drape. My thin & droopy fabric doesn’t help. So it looks more sloppy than the VW original. I probably should have removed some width from the unstitched dart’s fold  so that it hugs the body there & are less likely to spread open. But I just wasn’t interested enough to want to fix this in the top since it already looks sloppy in the cowl area.

So a caffeinated slouchy top it shall remain. And no doubt get more wear than its dressier siblings!

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Aviator Cap & Convertible Mittens

Lastly, mopping up the too-big-to-trash scraps of the orange-black double-sided sweater knit are these experiments with an Aviator style hat & a pair of convertible mittens.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

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WORN WITH: 1 Self-drafted mock-wrap skirt, Burda 2015-10-109 sweater, Burda 2013-11-117 jacket;

 

The Cat-ear Aviator Cap

Inspirations, Design, & Pattern

I had collected a bunch of inspirations for Aviator style cap. There was even one planned in my SWAP Fall/Winter 2014, though for a different fabric. The Block shown below was actually developed for that, which of course I haven’t got around to make. So count this make as a wearable muslin? Although this is knit, and the other isn’t, so maybe not so insightful as a muslin. Hmmm…

I had originally considered Burda 2011-10-149 fur cap for that planned faux shearling aviator cap. But because my head is really flat in the crown, I was worried standard hat pattern won’t fit well. RTW hats tend to fly off easily. And a floppy fabric one that mold to the head might just show up my deficiency. So I made my own Block from flattened plastic wrap + clear tape head mold. I added back some extra room in the crown, but not as much as in a standard pattern, just enough to disguise my deficiency slightly.

So how I ended up with ears…Yes I do feel a bit silly wear this. But you frequently see young ones in London & East Asian women in cute knitted animal face hats. I guess ultimately I still have East Asian blood flowing in me. Excuses excuses. In any case I consulted Burda 2011-10-142 animal cap which is a similar hat for children, but ended up going with the Block I already have with added ears. After all this is suppose to be a muslin right?

Fabrics & Notions

Construction Notes

I thought my fabric was thick enough to go single layer. But when I made up the single layer I found the result too floppy & unstable. Oops. So I ended up scavenging for scraps big enough to double all pattern pieces. This mishap did allowed me to hide the seams of the Ears to the cap & the strips of interfacing I used to stabilize the cap circumference & edges. The construction is otherwise unremarkable – apart from the general problems I had with this fabric. The Ears were the first time I tried using Flatlock stitches on a dart. It didn’t come out too bad. So now I don’t have to convert darts into seams – eg princess seams in my reversible skirt – to get shaping when using Flatlock as my primary seaming technique.

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The Convertible Mittens

Inspirations, Design, & Pattern

The mittens are the equivalent of impulse purchase. I had never lust after one. But as it was cold outside, I couldn’t find my gloves, and there was enough scraps left, I thought why not. I settled on mittens because fingers seem too fiddly to sew well in my spongy fabric.

After Googling “mitten sewing patterns” & “convertible mitten sewing patterns” I cobbled together different ideas & made up my own pattern to fit my hands as you can see below. There are probably simpler patterns one can use. But I didn’t want a visible seam line on the back of my hand, so I had to add extra bits like the “Back of Hand Tab”. You may be less fussy if you make one yourself! :@)

 

1-pat-Mittens

Fabrics & Notions

  • Fabric: 2.5 yd Mohair/Acrylic/Nylon Double-sided sweater knit from NY Elegant Fabrics ($59.95/yd)
  • Notions: 1/8″ elastics.

Construction Notes

Construction would probably be easier on the sewing machine. But my overlocker challenged me to flatlock the whole thing & I accepted. OK, I did have to tidy a few bits with hand sewing, and the finishing is a bit on the rough side. But for what would have otherwise been scraps they’re now serviceable mittens for a season or two. So can’t complain.

2-steps-Mittens

The Verdict

Regardless of whether these accessories are your cup of tea, or even mine, it’s quite satisfying to use up all the scraps without having to take up quilting or crafting! The hat – minus the ears – will probably get made again, maybe with chin closures for better practicality, for I haven’t given up on those inspiration images just yet. The mittens probably no, for I prefer gloves. Even as convertibles, they’re not as useful (for using smartphones while keeping hands warm) as I’d hope, because I discovered I actually use my thumbs as well when smartphoning.

So that’s the end of this double-sided fabric. Next up, my second attempt in recent years to make a pair of trousers.

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Reversible Muppet Mock-Wrap Skirt

Let’s start with the one that actually sort of went according to plan shall we?

Style Shots & Mug Shots

WORN WITH: 1 Self-drafted raglan T-shirt; 2 Self-drafted ruched-bust T-shirt;

WORN WITH: 3 Zara blouse, Self-drafted detachable-sleeve jacket; 4 Burda 2015-10-109 sweater, Burda 2013-11-117 jacket, Self-drafted hat, Self-drafted mittens; 5 Self-drafted ruched-bust T-shirt, Burda 2013-11-117 jacket;

WORN WITH: 6 Burda 2013-02-121 Sweater; 7 Refashioned sweater; 8 Burda 2012-09-123 T-shirt;

The Inspiration, Design & Pattern

Inspiration & Design:

So this was supposed to be sewn for SWAP Fall/Winter 2014 . The starting point was the sweater knit. I was feeling rebellious & wanted biker chic…pencil skirt, front slit/vent, asymmetry, exposed zipper…AND reversible.  That was the vague idea. The devil was in the details. What exactly did I wanted & how can I make it happen. Here are some of the inspirations I collected…

- SWAP2014aw-1I ended up with this when I planned the SWAP – a princess line wrap pencil skirt with asymmetric hem. Princess line because to make it reversible with a single layer of fabric, I settled on flatlock seams & overlocked hems. And I then had to ruled out darts because I wasn’t sure they’d look good in my spongy fabric with flatlock seams. Wrap skirt because I ruled out simple side front slit as being too risqué.

When I actually started drafting the pattern this year, I was inspired by the reddish brown Reiss wrap skirt above to omit the princess line on the front overlap piece, and utilise the unsewn dart to exaggerate the asymmetry.

Block Used:

Princess Seam Pencil Skirt Block, which was derived from my 1-Dart Pencil Skirt Block.

Design Changes Made

  1. Eliminated CB seam & redistribute the dart allowance to Back Princess Seams & Side Seams.
  2. Reduced the ease at Back Princess Seams in the Hip area. The knit is puffy already. I might as well take advantage of its stretch property & go for a more streamlined silhouette, especially since I don’t have the booty to do that ease justice.
  3. Left Front is two-piece with a princess seam: 1 CF piece + 1 Side Front piece. This is the top flap when worn with black side out. As the flap closure will be a simple hook & bar at the waist, the flap edge on CF is extended straight up rather than curve along the waist dart so the flap will hang straight.
  4. Right Front is one-piece spanning 1 CF piece & 1 Side Front piece. This is the top flap when worn with orange side out. The flap closure on this side is the exposed zipper, which extends down to just below the hip. So the flap edge can incorporate the waist dart curve.
  5. The hem is raised all around from Left Front flap edge to Right Front side seam, then slopes down to create asymmetric hem in the front.
  6. To remove the gap in the waist created by the Right Front’s lack of waist dart, I pivoted it clockwise. I’m a bit fuzzy about the logic, but I think the dart wedge is moved to the hem (see the triangle formed by the thin red solid line & dotted line in the left bottom of the last pattern illustration above), but shows up as a slanted gap opening up from zipper bottom downward. Anyway, this pivot exaggerates the asymmetric hem further.
  7. 2-steps-d The OOPS: Originally the waist also had an asymmetric front created by step 7. But after I sewn the skirt up & tried it on, I changed my mind. It just didn’t work because my choice of overlocked waist edge, messy zipper stop finishing, and an initially over-tight petersham waist facing on the black side. The leveled black side waist looked better. So I redesign the waist to have level waistline on both orange & black sides by chopping off the blue bits in the pattern illustrations above.
  8. Finally, the seam allowances, urgh, the seam allowances. Most were straightforward once I decided on the seaming technique: For the flatlock seams I use 1/8″ seam allowances so that the 1/4″ flatlock stitches is centred on the seamline. The overlocked hems needed no hem allowances. The problem is the exposed zipper. This did my head in. How much to deduct for the width of the exposed zipper – ie where are the seams exactly. Then how much to add back for the seam allowance. How to do this so the transition to the vent looks tidy on the orange size & hides the zipper altogether on the black side. I ended up sticking to the 1/8″ SA for the Left Front princess seam, then moved the seam line on Right Front just over 1/4″ inward (towards CF) giving me this amount for the exposed zipper. I added back this amount for the seam allowance along the zipper, then 1/4″ hem allowance for the overlocked hem edge below the zipper.

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

Apart from the general sewing problems I had with this fabric, and the waistline design Oops mentioned above, the only other tricky bit is the zipper princess seam / vent. I wanted the zipper to be hidden on the black side, which means the tape had to be trim down to fit into the 1/4″ flatlock seam. I wasn’t confident I could flatlock this, especially as the overlocker’s foot is a bit wide. So I had to fake the flatlock alongside the zipper by overlocking the fabric pieces separately, then baste the CF + zipper + SF, then hand fell-stitch the fake flatlock in place on both the orange & black sides. The Left Front princess seam below the zipper I ended up flatlocking because I couldn’t be bothered to do more hand sewing than is necessary, and it’s neater by machine.

The rest are fairly straightforward & most of the steps are illustrated in the above construction photos. Not shown is the waist finishing. This is just tiny hem allowance turned to the black side & covered by the petersham ribbon which is fell-stitched in place along the top & bottom. It’s my standard skirt waist finishing for skirts without a waistband.

The Verdict

Well, MR isn’t a fan of the Muppet orange side. And I was tending to agree with him…until this photoshoot where I ended up having more fun & styling ideas for the orange side than the black side.

It’s also a really warm skirt. Maybe a tad too warm. Except from the exposed knee down. But when worn with tights the Front bunches up most ungracefully. Static perhaps? So I can’t really wear this until I make myself a half-slip.

And as we’re on the impractical / unearthy wavelength, please indulge me another hippy style shot, the result of mucking about with a new app on my phone called PicsArt.

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