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2023 Sewing Bee – Round 2 – Folkwear 270 (Metro Middy Blouse)


As a short-necked person, I mostly avoid them. Continuing in my exploration of new embellishment techniques, I wanted a flat collar with plenty of room to show off some pretty stitches. The Metro Middy blouse pattern from Folkwear Patterns, with its V neck sailor collar, would be the perfect backdrop to showcase my decorative stitches. Recently, I ordered a couple of wing needles on a whim. I had beautiful lightweight, pale blue-gray linen in my stash that would be perfect for hem stitching using my Bernina. Starting with a vintage-inspired pattern, I wanted a more modern looking garment.


To make my collar stand out, I decided to make my own textile. Hemstitching would be the primary element. I experimented with so many stitches and stabilizers and threads. As I experimented, I would write in sharpie the stitch number, the stitch length, and stitch width. Using my samples, I would then cut and sew test seams. I found the hem stitches to be robust as they are formed by overstitching which makes it resistant to unravelling. After much experimenting, I settled on just three stitches on my Bernina 790 Plus:

701 with 7.0 length and 7.0 width
711 with 7.0 length and 7.9 width
308 with 7.0 length and 6.8 width

I decided to add pintucks. Using my Bernina 46C foot, a 2.0 twin needle, Isacord embroidery weight thread, bottomline thread in bobbin, and straight stitch 1 with 1.25 length, I added pin tucks, ½ inch apart. After prewashing and drying my fabric, I pressed it, but did not starch it. I cut a larger-than-needed piece for the collar, as the pintucks and decorative stitches would reduce the fabric width and length. I added 8 inches to the width and 3 inches to the length of my starting piece of linen. The extra allowed me flexibility when positioning the collar prior to cutting. I serged the edges to prevent raveling. I started the pintucks in the middle, working outward and always sewing in the same direction. My starting piece of linen for the collar was 36 inches wide by 30 inches long. I ended up sewing 60+ pintucks. I slowed my machine down and took my time, following the grainline of the fabric.

After pintucking, I pressed my cloth using a wool pressing pad to avoid crushing my tiny pintucks. Next, I stabilized the pintucked fabric with OSED’s Aqua Mesh Plus stabilizer. Using the Bernina 46C foot, a size 16 wing needle, and embroidery thread which matched the fabric, I hem stitched the designs between the pintucks. Matching thread color made the embroidery more contemporary. The grooves in the bottom of the 46C foot follow the pintucks allowing easy centering of decorative stitches. The hem stitches are formed by the wide wing needle, which pushes through the fabric forming little holes which add interest to the surface. Always sewing in the same direction, I would alternate between the three different stitches to add more visual variation. My sewing samples were washed and dried to ensure that my work would survive the rigors of typical laundering. I tried many stabilizers and one fusible interfacing, and the Aqua Mesh Plus gave me the best results for the lightweight linen I had chosen. It is applied with pressure, and should be rinsed out before laundering. All traces disappear leaving a wonderful one of a kind textile, with a good amount of drape. Once all stitching was done, the entire piece was tossed into washer and dryer. My collar was originally to be cut on the fold, but I cut it unfolded. I placed the pattern piece on the one side of the finished textile, with the fold line in the center of the fabric. I marked where the pintucks fell on the pattern piece, and traced around the outside of the pattern piece. I then flipped the pattern piece and aligned to the pintucks, using the mark to cut the collar symmetrically. My collar piece was cut and ready for assembly. I repeated the entire process to add accents on the sleeves. Cut a generous piece of previously laundered and pressed fabric, serge the edges, pintuck, stabilize, hemstitch, rinse, launder again to remove the remaining stabilizer, and then cut a right and left sleeve. Phew, that was a long day of sewing.


Never having made this pattern before, I started with a few pattern alterations that I commonly need. My chest measurement fell between XL and 2X. My hip measurements were outside the 3X size range but not by much, which was easily accommodated by the full swing design. I had to draft a 3X sleeve into the smaller XL/2X bodice. Every pattern piece was altered and I verified that the seams aligned throughout the modified pattern pieces. Using muslin, I cut and assembled my toile. The only additional modifications to the toile were shortening the sleeves by an additional 2 inches, and adding a bit of length to the front and front-facing pieces to honor the original design lines. I really fell in love with the garment at that point. I love how the collar frames the face, the curved hem, and the slightly bell-shaped sleeves. It was very comfortable and the embellished collar would be the main focal point of the garment. I did the simple button front, and used self-covered buttons to keep the focus on the collar. I did eliminate the center seam in the back and cut on the fold instead. It kept the back light and flowing, but it eliminated a convenient place to tack the back neck facing. In the end, if your fabric is wide enough, I would recommend eliminating the back center seam. Also, I found the sleeves unusually long.


The pattern instructions are well written. I followed them pretty closely. I marked my notches and it gave me a straightforward assembly. The facing construction is not typical. You sew the facing pieces, sew the interfacing pieces, then sew them together, turn, and then press to fuse the interfacing. It gives a less bulky facing with a clean finish. I opted to use French seams throughout the garment. The armscye is finished by hand. The hems are done as instructed, but they were hand-stitched to keep a very clean finish. The most challenging part is setting the sleeves. To prepare setting the sleeves, I gather between notches using my favorite method. Starting with long thread tails, I increase the stitch length to 4.5 and disengage the dual feed. I hold my finger behind the presser foot as I slowly stitch; the fabric collects behind the foot while the fabric is gathered. If I need more gathers I can pull on threads. The longer the stitch, the more gathered the results. I learned this method from Deb Canham.

The collar construction is straightforward. The two collar pieces are sewn right sides together, seam allowances are trimmed, the collar is turned right side out, and pressed. The collar is then basted along the neckline to the garment, clipping, matching notches, and easing around curves. The facing is then placed on top of collar, and sewn, sandwiching the collar between the facing and the garment. At this point, grading the seam allowances is critical to reduce bulk and allow the collar to lie flat. Starting with seam allowance layer that will lie closest to the outer fabric, slightly trim the seam allowance. With each layer of the seam allowance trim a bit deeper to form a stepped effect. Press the graded seam allowance away from the garment, and under stitch to the facing as far as you can along the seam. This will prevent the facing from rolling over and showing. Finally, on this garment there is top stitching along back of neck between the shoulders, which holds the back collar in place but is hidden under the collar.


• 4 yds Lightweight linen purchased about a year ago, 3.25 for garment.

• 2.0 Twin needle for pintucking

• Bernina Foot 46C – great for pintucking, and decorative stitches between the pintucks

• Size 16 wing needle – for hem stitches featuring tiny holes

• Isacord Polyester Embroidery Thread – close match to fabric

• OESD Aqua Mesh Plus – used to back the hem stitches

• Frixion Pens for Marking

• Five 5/8 inch self-covered buttons

• Lightweight Fusible Interfacing


I absolutely adore this blouse. Like the blouse, it makes me feel light, pretty, and feminine while wearing it. It is extremely comfortable. The key is to get the fit on the shoulders, neckline, arms, and bust perfect. This garment is versatile as it could be worn as is, or even used as a jacket for layering. The subtle bell-shaped sleeves, the curved hem lines, and the showpiece collar (made from a textile designed and created by myself) all come together to make it a truly unique garment.

Thanks again to Pattern Review, the judges, the mentors, the sponsors, and my fellow contestants who together make the sewing bee one of the highlights of my year.

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2023 Sewing Bee – Round 1 – 5 Out of 4 Patterns Nancy Raglan

Knit dress with a twist

I have been exploring new to me embellishment techniques recently. When this challenge was announced, I wondered how I could combine the “Knit Dress with a Twist” challenge with a new to me embellishment technique. I have several Alabama Chanin Design Studio books, which contain photos of amazing knit garments, embroidered, couched, and appliqued exquisitely. I decided to finally be brave and try some of these amazing hand sewing techniques. After a bit of practice and making a few samples, I was ready to start. I chose 5 Out of 4 Pattern’s Nancy Raglan Top, Tunic, and Dress pattern.


The Alabama Chanin methods are intended for organic cotton jersey. In my deep stash I found a medium weight double knit cotton jersey, in an eggplant purple color, which was more suitable as a the base fabric for the dress. I also found a much lighter weight cotton jersey in a very close match. The light weight cotton jersey would be perfect for creating the cotton jersey ropes, which I would twist around each other while couching them to the bodice of the dress, creating a striking design with textural interest. I used the recommended thread, which is a button and craft thread made up of a polyester core, wrapped in cotton. I only had a few colors available to me, so I chose a gray thread for most of the embroidery and couching. I also used navy thread when I wanted the stitching to be less visually striking along the side and under sleeve seams. I experimented with several needles before settling on Richard Hemming milliners size 7.


The design is a series of thin ropes twisting to form a chain link type of effect along the front bodice. The front contains 17 twists of ropes. Originally I was concerned that the bulk created by the twists would distort the drape of the garment, but after some experimentation I was happy with my results. The Alabama Chanin design method stresses using knit on knit. My design is such that the final garment retains almost all of the knit’s original characteristics of comfort and stretch. I covered all edges and seams with a herringbone stitch. I chose a round neck with full length sleeves. The combination of color choices and design created an almost renaissance fair feel about the garment.


I choose 5 out of 4 Pattern’s Nancy Raglan Top, Tunic, and Dress pattern, because I love the close fit of the long sleeves, and the moderate A line flare of the dress. I modified the pattern grading from a 1X on top to a 3X at the waist, hips and sleeves. Since it is a raglan sleeve, the grading required using the 1X neckline and the width of the 1X bodice, while grading out to a 3X waist and hips. I used the 3X sleeves, but reduced the top width of sleeve to match top of the 1X sleeve width. After modifying, I measured and made sure seams lengths matched on front and back of the sleeves, and at the side seams. I was able to achieve a great fit with no darts or closures needed, thanks to it being made of stretchy knit and my lovely pear shaped figure. My muslin has become a favorite nightgown. This pattern is plus size inclusive and offers a lot of sleeve, neckline, and length options.


Following Alabama Chanin’s methods suggests making cotton jersey ropes from the light weight cotton jersey strips. I duplicated the front dress pattern piece, and sketched out my design. I then used the piece of pattern marked with the design piece to mark the design on to the actual front piece of the dress. Marking knits can be challenging but thread marking is my favorite method. I pin the pattern paper with the design marked on it to the front piece of the dress, and then hand baste along the bottom design line. I would then cut off the marked areas of pattern paper exposing the next design lines, and repeat until the design was completely marked with thread. I then started couching the ropes on to front piece of the dress. Ideally, I would have completed all of the couching prior to assembly, but our travel plans required a change of strategy. I was going to be in a car for 20 hours, which would allow me plenty of time for hand work. I also did not want to bring my sewing machine. I machine sewed the sleeves on, then the pockets, and finally the side seams with the under sleeve seams using a knit stretch stitch on my sewing machine. My goal was to hand finish all seams allowances, and hems in a way that the machine stitching would not be visible. In the end, the addition of pockets made me fall short, as there is some visible machine stitching around the pockets. Due to limited time, my inexperience with hand sewing construction seams, and the necessity of robust pocket construction I am happy with the compromise. The inside of the dress shows neat embroidery stitches with knotted tails, all cut off at a scant ½ inch as recommended by Alabama Chanin Studio. After laundering these will soften and fuzz up, but remain large enough so as to not pull through to the front.


The design is a series of 5 ropes, twisting across the front of the bodice, interrupted by the neckline. The ropes are created by cutting ½ strips along the grain line and pulling on the ends, which caused the fabric to tightly curl forming ropes. My ropes started out 40 inches long to avoid having to butt them end to end. There are a total of 17 twists across the front bodice. Although Alabama Chanin provided many photos and instructions for couching, I never observed the crossing of ropes, which made me a bit nervous. All the edges are finished with a 1.25 inch strip of lightweight cotton jersey cut across the grain line, folded in half, and then embroidered with gray herringbone stitch. The raglan sleeve seams are also covered with gray herringbone stitches, to frame the front bodice area. Since the pockets interrupt the side seams, I reversed the herringbone stitch, and used navy blue stitching to keep it from distracting from the other embroidery. The herringbone stitch reinforces while maintaining a stretch, and is a pretty way to finish the seam allowances throughout the dress. The real magic of Alabama Chanin’s is the templates provided which allows you to quickly and accurately mark your embroidery before stitching. The results are neat, uniform stitches, front and back! It makes even a beginner like me look proficient with just a little patience and practice. Also, I found the “love” the thread suggestion made a big difference.


In the end, I have a very comfortable and pretty knit dress. For my first attempt at these methods, I am extremely pleased. I am proud that I completed this challenge using only stash fabric and threads. At this point, I want to wash and wear the dress a few times to assess the robustness of my embroidery and couching stitches. If all goes well, I will be making a more involved design, perhaps combining the reverse applique with couching outlines as showcased by the Alabama Chanin Design Studio. Another idea is to use this technique to embellish using the ropes to write text. There are so many ideas running through my mind, and that is definitely the hallmark of a successful make. I definitely see some gorgeous organic cotton jersey in my future.

I highly recommend the Alabama Chanin Design Studio books and methods, especially for anyone interested in hand constructing and embellishing garments. Many thanks to Pattern Review and the Sewing Bee’s Mentors, Judges, and Sponsors.