Summertime Blues – A Knit Top with a Twist

What do you do with your leftovers?  Do you chuck ’em for fear of adding clutter and forgetting about what you have in the house?  Maybe your leftovers get thrown off to the side with a half-hearted wish to make them useful sometime soon.  Or perhaps you judiciously sort, file, or store any scraps for later use.

1613     Whichever category you fit in, and I’m sure there are more divisions to add, this post is meant to show what I did with some precious leftovers…of fabric, that is to say.  I seem to fall in the last ‘leftover’ category which I mentioned, and I often impress myself at how I can find a use for every inch of my scraps.  So, knowing how I save and use my scraps, you can imagine my excitement at creating something with the leftover pieces from my “Doris Day blouse” (winner of the “Butterick to the Big Screen” 150th Anniversary sewing contest).

I was a bit disappointed in this top, merely because there were high expectations for it coming off of a great project.  However, I do really like this top after wearing it, and find the construction and the vintage/modern details a winner!

100_1807THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  dusty light blue 100% cotton double knit, all scraps and pieces barely big enough for the bodice pattern pieces;  also, a super lightweight polyester knit in the color navy, to be used as the lining and for the facings under my top

NOTIONS:  none needed; I had all the thread and interfacing that I used

PATTERN:  Simplicity 1613, (picture above and at right) year 2013, view C, with added cap sleeves from View A of my much used year 1937 McCall 9170

1613-back envelopeMcCall 9170TIME TO COMPLETE:  this top was finished in July 2013, after about 20 hours of time to sew this together

FIRST WORN:  out to do errands (get my glasses fixed, stop at Walgreens, etc.); big deal!  I hope to wear it out to a few nicer occasions soon.

THE INSIDES:  Turned inside out, this top is has clean invisible seams, with a smooth on the skin and professional look – all thanks to the great pattern design.  See ‘inside out’ picture below.

100_1910TOTAL COST:  only $5.00 was spent on the navy lining fabric

     The most important, number one piece of advise I can share about this top is…FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS!  I can’t stress this enough, and, coming from me (who almost always changes or adapts patterns), this statement should be taken seriously.  Like I said before, the layout of the instruction sheet steps and the design of constructing the top are so very smart, giving the finished product an amazing finish to some amazing details.  Reading through the instruction steps, and picturing in one’s head what you will be doing with your machine and the fabric helps immensely towards eliminating any confusion when actually putting this top together.  Read the instructions again and again (like me),  if you have to – some of the steps are tricky, but not hard.  With a thorough knowledge of sewing skills and an unwillingness to be deterred, anyone should be able to sew up this showstopper top.  Simplicity 1613 is the only modern pattern (so far) which has impressed me to this degree on many levels.  I wish more patterns had Simplicity 1613’s good features, especially the year 1935 Vintage Vogue #2859, which –click here to see my version– has many similar neckline features to this blue blouse.  1930’s goes modern very well!

My only changes made to this twist neck top were minor, but nonetheless useful little points.  Firstly, where the twist flips over the round neckband right at the bottom of the throat, I covered the raw edges of the two twist sections with matching navy bias tape.  This way I could sew the ends of the bias tape to the back of the neck band without worrying about any raw edges fraying or showing or not laying down flat.  It might be hard to figure out what I’m saying here, but if you make this top, you’ll understand.  Also, in lieu of armhole facings, I made my own self-fabric bias bands to neatly cover the raw armhole seams.  Finally, my only other change to the pattern is merely a fitting fix.  After my top was done, it gaped a bit along the back of my neck, so I sewed three darts along the edge, in a decorative 30s “fan” shape to make them look more decorative than functional.  Many other reviews from ladies who have also made this top also had some gaping, like myself, along the back neck edge, but I like my dart decoration solution better than if I had fixed this problem earlier on the pattern.

100_1806a     One more point that I like on my twisted neck top is the lack of top stitching.  However, I sewed in plenty of edge stitching on the wrong (the lining) side, and this does its job well enough with a touch up of light ironing.  As I did for my “Water for Elephants” imitation dress and my 1935 Vintage Vogue #2859, the elimination of top stitching has a wonderful classy appearance for the neckline, which is the center of focus.  Contrast top stitching would, I think, look extremely good on the neckline if this top was made in a fun, modern print…maybe I’ll have to try this combo sometime.

The best part about sewing is top is the challenge which it provided me.  Now that I have done so much sewing, it is becoming slightly difficult to find something that really tries my sewing skills in a good way.  Exercising one’s sewing abilities does feel good!

100_1797a    The deep V of the inner neckline is a bit close to being low-cut on my chest, but not bad enough to stop me from wearing my new top.  Besides, my creative juices have figured out the perfect fix if I want the neckline to be a bit more covered up.  A vintage silk scarf of mine looks great tucked under the neckline (see picture).  I have also found that my navy tank top underneath creates a neat presentation, with the added bonus of keeping me warmer when I want to wear my twist neck top on cooler days.

Unfortunately this top might not get much wear this year, as the cooler temps are moving in quickly and summer is quite gone.  Boo hoo!  Even though I often get eaten alive by mosquitoes or sweat like a horse in our town’s stuffy humidity, I am always sad to see summer leave – it’s just me.  I am a warm weather girl, and posting about my twist neck top kind of reminded me of this fact.  As enjoyable as fall can be, I always get the summertime blues.  Dressing in layers just to stay warm…yuck!  No wonder I love to listen to Lana Del Rey’s new song, “Summertime Sadness”.

Worn now or next year, I now have a neat top that’s as casual as a tee, but dressier, with some great 1930’s details.

P.S. Gracie Burns (yes, from the Burns and Allen TV show) did a very humorous skit about “leftovers”.  Blanche, her neighbor, asked Gracie if she needed anything since she was making a trip to the grocery store.  Gracie wanted a few basic items along with asking for “leftovers”, saying that so many recipes call for them but the butchers never seem to know about those kinds of cuts.  Quirky, I know, but it’s so much funnier watching this for yourself.  I couldn’t help but think of this.  Burns and Allen know how to make me laugh and smile!

News Flash! Hooray, Hooray, I’m a Winner!

Today I just received the wonderful news that I am the 1st place Grand Prize winner to the “Butterick to the Big Screen” sewing contest, run in honor of their 150th Anniversary.  Talk about being ‘jump up and down scream like crazy’ happy!  My version of Doris Day’s striped collared blouse from the “Romance on the High Seas” movie (1948) was the entry that won.  You can view the blog post for my blouse here.

I am honored to be chosen as the winner and would like to thank Butterick and Mood Fabrics.  I would also like to thank Doris Day for the Hollywood inspiration for my project.

The Butterick Facebook page showcasing all the top winners of the contest can be seen here. All the other winners made some amazing creations, as well.

The page for the contest itself can be found here.

A Hollywood Look-Alike – Doris Day’s Striped Collared Blouse

As much as my family enjoyed watching the movie “Romance on the High Seas”, released 1948, I enjoy even more being able (on account of my sewing skills) to wear today the fashion from a movie of over 60 years ago.  The music, together with the many outfits that Doris Day wore as the starlet of the movie, are all stuck in my head, and Butterick’s 150th Anniversary Sewing Contest gave me the perfect excuse to whip up one of Ms. Day’s signature Hollywood looks.  To make the blue and white striped collared blouse from “Romance on the High Seas” I simply adapted a modern pattern to make a close imitation.  My finished blouse turned out so comfy and classy.  This is one of my new favorite vintage creations for the spring and summer.


While wearing this blouse, I can’t help but feel like singing Doris Day’s musical number “Put ‘Em in a Box”.  She sings about how “love and I, we don’t agree” and that “kisses in the dark, walks in the park,…and good old tea for two…love’s the one thing you can keep-in the ice box!”  Click here to watch a clip of the song from the movie. Luckily,  Doris Day turns around as she sings and gives viewers a good 360 view of her outfit.  It has a sporty but dressy and unusually fresh vintage look, in my opinion. I made plenty of notes to get the same features in my version of that striped collared blouse.  Here’s a picture of the original.

Lloyd Pratt (bass) in Doris Day film debut,1948     Now for THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% cotton fine double knits in two colors:  1 7/8 yard of eggshell white knit and and 1 1/2 yard of light blue knit.  Both fabrics have been in my stash so long I’m considering my fabric to be free.  (BTW, the blue knit had no selvedge just one continuous round piece, open only at the cut ends.  I don’t see any fabric woven like this anymore, and I wonder if it can be found still)

NOTIONS:  a white 6 inch zipper, matching light blue thread, and 1 pack of white double fold bias tape.  The notions are the only things I bought to make my blouse, and in total cost under $5

PATTERN:  Butterick 4347, view CB4347

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I was finished on June 5, 2013, after about 15 hours of time spread out over 3 days.

THE INSIDES: This is the most well finished garment I have made yet!  The shoulders and sides are french seams, the center back bodice is clean finished, and all the neck seams are bias bound.  Except for the bought bias binding on the neck seam, the collar and the other seams have bias facing handmade by me out of extra cuts of the white knit.  See the picture below.

100_1643   I assumed, first of all, that Doris Day’s original blouse was most likely a knit, looking at the close fit and the fact that there was only the small neck zipper at the back.  The beautiful shine of the blouse’s fabric in the movie’s shots make me wonder if the original was a silk knit, but I was not going that far to be exact.  Besides, there were the right colors and enough yardage of two cuts of cotton double knit just waiting for many years in my basement stash.  Any opportunity to work on my fabric stash AND not buy anything is a good bonus for a project!

Then I went to work on the preliminary stage.  I decided on a size SM for the shoulders and bust, while a MED for the waist and hips.  Next, I re-drew a new bodice piece so that it would be one piece, with two shoulders (see close-up picture below).100_1589

     When it was time to pin and cut on my fabric, the white fabric was worked on first.  I didn’t cut the back bodice on the fold – I added a seam and 1/2 inch seam allowance so I could add the zipper.  The sleeves were cut as short sleeves, and I cut out an extra full, one-piece bodice piece, as well as the two crossover bodice pieces.

100_1590     All the bodice pieces (at left) were cut at 1 inch below the waistline , based on my plan to add on the bottom (biggest) piece of blue at the waist.  The collar was the only piece that was cut with out any change.  I thoroughly marked all the pieces, including all the ones that didn’t even need marking such as the bust line and the waistline, as they would be the guide for adding the blue strips.100_1593      Halfway in the middle of each shoulder I made a mark and used this to draw a V down to the center of the bust line – that V is where the placket of the collar gets sewn onto the rest of the blouse.  As you can see in the picture at right, I sewed bias tape along the cut edge so my collar placket would not stretch, would be cleanly finished, and have support for all the layers of fabric that were to be attached along this point.

Before I sewed any of the main bodice together, I added the blue parts and did the back zipper.  I was very exact and methodological with adding the blue knit.  I measured 1 inch above the waistline and cut the blue knit from there to the bottom hem.  That was the biggest bottom potion of the blue and I joined it to the white using a french seam that was then top stitched down.  The middle blue stripe was 3 1/2 inches cut, and with two 1/4 inch seams, finished as 3 inches.  Likewise, the top blue band was 2 1/2 inches cut, and ended up as a finished 2 inches.  Looking at Doris Day’s movie stills there seemed to be a slight grading of the stripes, getting bigger as they went down, which is what I was trying to achieve.  There is exactly 1 1/4 inches of white knit showing between the blue sections, and the top blue stripe fell exactly centered over the bust line mark and 1/2 under the edge of  the shoulder seam edge.  Yahoo!  It’s so perfect.100_1621

The center back zipper ends up not really being needed to slip my blouse on and off, but I am glad I added it, at least for the sake of looking like the movie version.  View D of the pattern (B4347) calls for a small zipper to be sewn in, and now I’m not sure why, but at least a back zip adds visual interest to the back of my blouse.  I’m so proud at how nicely I sewed in the zipper…the bottom tail inside is even covered with a small square of bias tape and tacked down to the center seam for a clean finish.

100_1630     Adding the separate collar placket was the only real hard part of this blouse, but things were OK once I quit stressing out over it and just went ahead and put it together.  It is actually hard to describe how I did the collar now that I’m thinking back.  Basically I put the whole blouse together (side and shoulder seams) with the two collar pieces hanging free.  Then I put the collar together according to the pattern instructions, and sewed on my own self-fabric bias facing to cover the raw edges.  Next I put my blouse on myself and just started placing, pinning, and marking where to cut, sew and attach the collar placket to the neckline underneath.  There’s a lot of fabric in certain spots, so that I chose to hand turn my sewing machine a lot and do some hand stitching time just to be gentle on the fabric and precise in my stitches along the front.  I even sewed under the one crossover placket (this was hubby’ idea) so that it would be free and show no stitches coming out from around the collar placket.  I am so very happy with how my collar placket turned out so sturdy, clean, and professional looking.100_1628

I hope you can tell we had a lot of fun doing the photos for this blog post.  There was a piano perfect for posing with located at a fancy, ritzier mall in our town.  I even did my hair up in Doris Day’s same hairstyle.  The only thing missing is a South American cruise, otherwise I can’t get any closer to being a part of the movie “Romance on the High Seas”.

Sewing this blouse really taught me a good number of new things, especially how to attain couture techniques.  The extra time put into making this blouse just right has its own type of payoff that people who don’t sew can’t understand.  I hope that, just by looking at my top, it looks as it is – made well. However, I am almost more proud of it when it is off of me, on a hanger, and one can see for themselves all the attention to detail that went into sewing my Hollywood reproduction blouse.

I already have plans to make more clothes of Doris Day from “Romance on the High Seas”.  Enjoy watching the movie for yourself, and leave me a comment letting me know which one is your favorite outfit and song.

Doris Day in Blue Striped sweater top