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SewStylish Tunic

There’s  nothing like the phrase “month-long trip with one suitcase” for getting my attention, so I took one look at the “Comfy Cowl Top” article in the Winter 2010 SewStylish/Quick Stuff to Sew or Whatever — see note below and ran with it.

The idea is that the top in question (really a tunic), made in an interesting fabric, would work as a top layer, and equally well all by itself, covering a multitude of temperature/social situations.  Perfect!  I”d show you a picture of theirs, but I can’t find one online, and I’m not going to go through the hassle of scanning it.   Too bad — theirs is cute in a gold mesh.

I knew that I had just the right fabric for my version — A couple of years ago, I bought this light silk bouclé from Kashi at Metro Textile:

It was an unusual purchase for me (so bright!), but the colors were wonderful, so I couldn’t resist.  My mother-in-law also bought a length, which was quite adventuresome for her, as she leads an utterly monochromatic life, clotheswise.  The wonderful thing about this fabric was that it looked terrific on me (rosy skin tones) and just as wonderful on my  mother-in-law (for whom orange shades are most flattering).

My mother-in-law’s monochrome tendencies reasserted themselves once she got home, so I ended up buying her yardage, which meant that I had so much that I didn’t have to feel at all badly about experimenting with any of it!    So I took a yard, and washed it in the machine.  It’s the law in the Noile household:  silks must be washable.  Ditto for anything with which I travel.  This was the result:

A denser weave, deepened colors, and oooh-la-la!  I loved it, and quickly tossed another couple of yards into the machine.  (Delicate, of course, and cold water wash always.)

I was lucky that the fabric was wide to begin with, and that I had lots, because, of course, there was a bunch of shrinkage.  I have notes somewhere, but the loss was probably a good 15%, maybe even a little more.  If Kashi’s prices hadn’t been so reasonable, this tunic would never have seen life!

The SewStylish pattern is very simple, and there are only three pieces:  the front, the back, and the cowl.  You either scale it up by hand using graph paper, or you take it to a copy shop and get it enlarged by 800 per cent.   I didn’t bother to scale the cowl, as all you really need for a rectangle are the dimensions.  There’s a center back seam, which I’d just eliminate whenever possible; there’s no good reason for it if your fabric is wide enough to accommodate the piece.

Construction couldn’t be simpler:  Make the cowl; sew the center back seam; sew the shoulder seams (I added twill tape to limit stretching);

sew the side seams; finish the armholes; hem.  The instructions call for finishing the armholes with “Seams Great”, but I couldn’t figure out why I’d ever want to do that, so I settled for serging and turning the edge under, then hand-stitching so that nothing showed on the right side.  (I used four threads to serge; this is a very ravelly fabric, and that fourth thread was extra security.)

The result was kind of cool:

(Forgive my poor duct tape dummy — she’s lopsided, too big, and needs replacing.  Not to mention that I’ve not perfectly arranged the tunic, which isn’t helping.)

The tunic fit nicely, and it was a lot of fun to wear (lighter than a sweater, a really nifty shell on its own, goes with everything, etc.), but there was a problem.  Here’s a side view of the original version, which hints at what’s at issue.  (Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of the original back):

You can’t tell for sure in this picture, or in the one published in the magazine, but the back is voluminous — really, really full.  Too full by waaay too much to ignore.  It traveled the distance from “interesting” to “baffling”, so I made a radical change.  After the fact.  Which, of course, destroyed the structural integrity of the garment, but, hey, it’s not as if I had a choice.

Rather than pick stitches out of the tiny, tiny bouclé loops, I simply cut up the back, and took in a pie-shaped wedge, beginning at nothing where the center back met the cowl, and ending by removing a full five-and-a-half inches from each side of the center back.

The center back, of course, is supposed to be cut on grain.  Sigh.  I’m going to wear this around a bit in the privacy of my own home, and if I love it, I’ll make it all over again (I can probably salvage the cowl).  There’s a huge incentive for making it right:

It just happens to coordinate with every one of my Burda polos!  Next time, though, I’ll eliminate the center back seam completely (now that the pattern piece is narrower, that should work fine).  Others should beware the armholes — they look impossibly small on the pattern, but aren’t quite as small as they seem because the tunic falls off the shoulders, and arms exit lower than with a conventional armhole.  These fit perfectly on me (I wouldn’t want them bigger when wearing the tunic without a shirt underneath), but this would be worth checking, as I’m on the small side.

Other notes:

SewStylish seems to be having an identity crisis.  I almost missed this issue on the stands because “SewStylish” is nowhere in the header on the cover.  (It is in small print — “SewStylish.com” — on the lower edge of the cover, and on the spine, neither of which are visible when scanning hundreds of magazines in a rack.)

I went to the SewStylish website, but it’s an awful mess, and finding information about the current issue was an exercise in futility.  Except that I learned that this is Vol. 4, even though there’s nothing in the magazine that identifies it that way.  Which is too bad, because this issue is great, and it would be nice if it were more findable, on-line or in-store.  I’d call this a branding failure.

Categories: Adventure/Travel, Tops Tags:
  1. January 11th, 2011 at 08:55 | #1

    Love the felting and may give this a try! Could you please shoot me an e-mail at bunnypepatwildbluedotnet and sub the at with @ and the dot with.? Thanks so much. I have a simple question for you regards the DTD. Thanks again.

    • January 17th, 2011 at 09:29 | #2

      Bunny, I sent the email as requested. Please let me know if you didn’t get it. You can also send email to me: noile [at] noile [dot] net, replacing the bracketed words appropriately.

  2. January 6th, 2011 at 17:04 | #3

    I actually like the effect of the grainlines converging in the back, but if it makes it wear weird it’s not worth it. Gorgeous fabric! And it does seem like a great layering piece.

    • January 6th, 2011 at 17:48 | #4

      It does look sort of cool, Trena, but there’s something very wrong, structurally speaking, going on now. I’m seriously considering ripping the back out and replacing it with one cut properly, but waffling over whether 1) it will be worth the effort and 2) whether it will even be possible, given the nature of the boucle. I probably love the fabric enough to give it a shot; we’ll see.

  3. January 6th, 2011 at 10:32 | #5

    I love your footnote. I just happened to read this on the SewStylish/Threads website (which IS a mess!) I thought you’d find it funny. It seems there were probably complaints before yours.
    Here’s the url just in case http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/17610/dont-miss-our-special-issues

    • January 6th, 2011 at 17:44 | #6

      Wow, Lisa, that is just bizarre! Basically, they’re saying “our publication schedule is so nuts that you can’t find us, so you’d better look harder”. That doesn’t seem like a good business model. Somehow you’d think that just considering having to write a post like that one would have given them pause. Wacky.

  4. shams
    January 5th, 2011 at 20:42 | #7

    Wow, very cool. Though I can’t see the first photo of the tunic on the dressform. That weird rendering problem strikes again.

    It’s a gorgeous fabric!

    • January 6th, 2011 at 07:48 | #8

      Swapped out the image. Did it work??? If not, exorcism is next!

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