All Feathered Up: Simplicity 1253 Blouse Pattern Review

So, Simplicity 1253 has me stymied.

I wrote up my review post the same day I completed the blouse, filled with self-pity and angst over how frustrating this project was and how it didn’t line up with my expectations. Then I wore it a few times. And now I kind of love it. This is not the first time this has happened.

I don’t want to sugarcoat the experience because I like to be able to look back honestly and see growth or obstacles rather than just sunny commentary. At the same time, I also don’t want to be all, “Wahhh! Woe is me,” when in the end, I have a top I’m really enjoying. Overly dramatic creative tension it is, then. On with the review!

My streak is over. (Sort of.)

I had been a roll of making things that I loved, that turned out great, and that made me think I was getting pretty okay at this whole sewing thing.

Then this thing came along.

Let’s start with the fabric. I LOVE this border print feather fabric. It’s so vibrant and fun! Everyone who sees it tends to comment on how rad it is — even my husband. So I didn’t want to screw this up, especially because I can’t get any more of it. That said, I’ve been working out of my stash and in a “sew the good stuff” mood lately, so this piece was getting stitched up, one way or another. (Sidenote: I totally fabric binged since writing this. It was a good 11-garment stash streak while it lasted!)

Technicolor feather love!

I debated a ton of different patterns. In the end, I went with Simplicity 1253 because of the simple lines. There are some neckline pleats, but that’s about it. I edited out the neckband since it wouldn’t work with the print, and I added a lining. Other than that, I made this without any changes.

As lovely as it is, this fabric is lightweight and slippery. There was no way I was going to try to execute anything complicated and overly seamed, or that required a close fit. This thin, delicate polyester fabric needed something simple and at least slightly drapey. I also knew I wanted the border to run from the top down, instead of having the border at the bottom. So, I set out!

As soon as I was done cutting, I knew my plan hadn’t done justice to the border. Without the neckband, the top was lower-cut than I realized, and a lot of the gorgeous border feathers were lost. Well, shit. No use crying over it, though — time to get sewing!

Oh my goodness, you guys — this fabric hates me. This polyester wiggled and moved and slid and slithered and was just an overall bitch and a half to cut and sew. I had to stop and sew my husband some woven cotton boxers halfway through just to have the satisfaction of working with a friendly, pressable fabric to reset and refresh myself.

When your friend gets that good angle!

It’s not just the fabric, though. I made SO MANY unforced errors while constructing this relatively simple top. Seams went wonky, I would catch additional layers in my seams, I couldn’t get the button loops turned AT ALL, and it was just sloppy all around. Of course, it wasn’t intentionally sloppy, but the amount of times I had to unpick stitching was some kind of personal record. On delicate fabric, no less. Sigh. Can I blame it on baby-induced lack of sleep? Because I’m totally going to.

I also wish I’d sized up about half a size. I cut a 10, as per usual, and it’s a little tight in the arms, shoulders, and back. In a knit, the fit would be perfect, but in a woven (which is what it’s designed for), there’s not quite enough room to move effortlessly. I was worried going to pop a seam bending over to lift the baby out of her crib, but it turns out it’s okay. I wore this a couple of times already and have been able to care for Baby JuJu and hug copious people with nary a popped stitch. Phew!

Also, I have to comment on the sleeve buttons. They are so oddly placed! Because they’re on the inside/underside of the sleeve, they don’t show up from the front, or the back, or… really… from any angle. Definitely not worth the effort of adding six loops and six buttons! Lesson learned: adding buttons to one-piece sleeves is a non-starter.

Let’s also chat about the button loops for a second. I got a lot of great advice on Instagram about how to turn the loops, but in the end, this fabric was just too delicate. That, and I didn’t have the patience. After trying several solutions and waiting for the perfect large needle to arrive and then having that plan not work, I decided to stop Wile E. Coyote-ing this thing and just move on. I substituted pre-made 1/4″ bias tape for the loops. Gotta say, I don’t recommend it. They’re way too thick, and made it difficult to stitch over them smoothly. Next time, I’ll consider ribbon, which I wish I would have thought of earlier. It would have been a lovely, seemingly intentional touch instead of a total eyesore and mismatch.

I’m seriously embarrassed by how crappy the stitching is, dudes.

That said, I really like the length of the sleeves as-is; this is going to be a great transitional item between seasons. Another thing to like about this pattern is the length. It doesn’t have the look of a long, baggy tunic, but there’s the perfect amount of coverage in the back. The back hemline curves down and offers perfect butt coverage to wear with leggings. Bonus! I did struggle with hemming the curved back hem; it came out a bit wavy. It looks dreadful in photos, but I’m guessing that it’s much less noticeable to anyone else when I’m moving around. Not worth fussing about.

The back makes much better use of the border! Argh!

In the end, I really don’t love this top. I don’t love the neckline, I don’t love the gathered sleeve caps, I don’t love the fit, I don’t love the hem, and it’s just so meh for fabric I was crazy about. I’m optimistic that I’ll still wear it. Sometimes I try to “save” my most loved garments and don’t wear them as much as I should, so hopefully this top will meet the opposite fate. (Sidenote again: After wearing this a couple of times, it’s growing on me. It’s not OMGAmazing, but it’s Quite Good, and the fabric puts me in a good mood. Still wish I would have chosen a boatneck pattern for maximum featherage.)

I also can’t say I regret cutting into my precious feathers. Fabric that sits on the shelf is mostly wasted. Even if this blouse isn’t my best work or my favorite garment, I had the pleasure (debatable in some moments…) of cutting and stitching a project, the fun of wearing it a few times, the enjoyment of photographing/writing/reflecting on the process, more space in the stash, and the affirmation that my skills and lifestyle are good enough right now to merit good fabric.

So, welcome to the closet, my Feathered Comeback Kid Blouse!

Crop That: Vogue 9078

You know how your style is supposed to become more conservative after you get older and become a mom?


Now that I’m not going into the office five days a week, I feel the opposite. I can wear skirts above the knee! I can wear lower cut blouses! I can wear… a crop top? (Serious question here.)

I certainly did not anticipate taking up crop tops after having a geriatric pregnancy (lovely term, btw), but here we are. I blame the #catpants. Once I wore them, I realized they were ridiculously high-waisted. A crop would be a more suitable companion. And since I had an old thrifted dress on hand for refashioning, why not?

First, the good news: this project was so fast and easy, and super fun to sew. Win!

The fabric is a polyester-spandex blend that’s pretty thick and a bit textured and squishy. I thrifted this dress a couple of years ago for less than $5; it’s from K-Mart’s house brand, so… super classy. (Honestly, I have a soft spot for K-Mart, and have found some awesome things from there through the years.) It’s pretty cute to start with, but it’s a couple of sizes too big for me and it also has a stain on the front. That makes it a perfect candidate for a refashion!

Because the skirt consists of 6 panels, I wanted to find a pattern that similarly used panels in order to avoid piecing anything together. I’d like to claim some sort of thoughtful scheme, but really, the whole project came together in a flash of inspiration while flipping through my pattern collection.

Check out the crazy shapes that made up the dress bodice!

I used the bodice for Vogue 9078, as it looked like it would be the right length, is constructed with princess seams so uses panels, and I’ve been wanting to use this pattern for a couple of years, but hadn’t found the right fabric fit.

I may have made a few… um… modifications.

Between cutting apart the dress and sewing, this top only took 3 nap sessions to complete. Because I was working with a knit, I was able to make the following changes:

*Eliminate the back zipper
*Cut center back piece on the fold, and scooped out the v-back
*Eliminate lining
*Fold over and stitch the neckline and hems

Here’s the scooped-out back!

I also set the sleeves in the flat and serged all seams, making this super fast and easy. I cut my usual 10, and narrowed the sleeves a bit (as usual, because chicken arms). The top is a big large in the back, but I’m not worried about a perfect fit with this garment. When people talk about cake vs icing? This top is definitely icing, and not going to be a wardrobe workhouse. As I was making it, I started to get excited, thinking that I might wear it with more than just my #catpants.

Then I tried it on.

See? Short. Short short short short short.

OMG it’s so short. I mean, I knew I was making a crop, but I was picturing an inch or so above the belly button. You know, a tasteful, stately crop. Because of the fabric limitations, I really had to squeeze the pattern pieces, and, well… it’s really cropped. I chickened out of wearing it to an event, and fortunately, I have a friend who was like, “Stop worrying and wear the damn crop top,” though said more eloquently than that. She suggested I try a high-waisted pencil skirt, so I raided my closet, and found more ways to style this top than I expected! (I had a ridiculously good time playing in my closet, something I haven’t done in years. Thanks, Kristen!)

I call this look Stripe-a-Palooza. Or perhaps Stripemageddon?

Also, the stripes on the side panels are a bit wonky, again because this is a refashion. I just didn’t have the leeway to engage in any stripe matching, or even in making sure the angles were totally coherent. I knew that going in, and it was freeing. That was a lot of the fun of this project: the feeling that it was all play, and not some skills challenge. So yeah, the side panels don’t go in any design-related direction, and I can’t say that I care right now.

We’ll see if I actually wear this more than a couple of times. Hopefully, I feel like a total badass and end up loving it. You know, screw societal expectations of women over 35 and mothers and all that. On the other hand, if I end up wanting to cover my belly with my arm all day, this isn’t going to stick around for long. Either way, I’m happy with the process as much as the product. It’s easy to get caught up in technique and value and wearability when you sew, and sometimes, having a ridiculous experimental project is the best way to remind yourself that hobbies should be fun. (Need another reminder? Check out this brilliant post from This Blog Is Not for You.)

Who knew my McCall’s 6706 taffeta skirt would be a PERFECT match?

Welcome to the closet, my Conspicuously Cropped Cat Companion!

The Brocade Jacket: Simplicity 8265

This epic brocade jacket has been years in the making.

Want proof?

I cut out the fabric back in November of 2016, posted about in January 2017 (thinking this would be some kind of accountability that would force me to sew, hah!), and just now finished it in 2018.

The fabric was a birthday gift from my in-laws (seriously, how lucky am I?), and I wanted to do justice to it.

Fabric close-up!

I was motivated, I was ready, and I was going to turn this into a whole personal workshop on coat-making technique and attention to detail. It was going to be perfect, because I was going to focus on each step carefully, lovingly, and thoughtfully. And then I would sashay around in the most gorgeous jacket ever known to man, confident that the inside was as overwhelmingly beautiful as the outside, and inspire raging jealousy wherever I went.

I was going for something like this:

Then — you’ve heard this before from me — I got pregnant. And my desire to sew flew out the window. I didn’t have the energy to do more than eat breakfast before needing a nap some days. So this poor garment stayed half finished for over a year, resting wistfully on my (equally ignored) dressform.

Now that my sewjo is back (and dude, is it ever!), it was time to finish off this precious UFO. This brocade definitely did not deserve to languish any longer. But that spirit of inspired perfectionism and focus I began the project with? Pfft…. long gone! Also long gone were the facings, front lining, and specialty interfacing I had carefully cut and prepared. Drat! I have no idea how I could have accidentally thrown them out, but they are nowhere to be found and I had to go buy more lining and recut those pieces.

But seriously, where did those pieces GO?!

So I would love to walk you through the techniques I used and the materials, and what I learned along the way. But I don’t remember any of it. I used some kind of fusible batting to add warmth, and an extra-stiff interfacing on the facings. Couldn’t tell you what kind.

I also had to start from scratch on figuring out a plan to add a lining to this garment. The pattern, Simplicity 8265, is definitely not intended as a warm weather garment or serious outerwear, but I wanted super streamlined clean lines to showcase the fabric instead of chopping it up. (I feel much less strongly about this now, and might have chosen a classic trench, which has been on my to-make list for YEARS.)

Nary a dart or seam in sight!

This jacket has darts at the front neckline and… well, that’s it. It doesn’t get much simpler (I even edited out the side slits), but it doesn’t include a lining.

It’s not hard to draft a lining (it’s not even really drafting, just cutting the existing pieces in slightly different configurations). But it does take a small bit of brainpower to get it all sorted, with the proper seam allowances and lengths to be able to bag it properly. Since I’m getting… oh, let’s be generous… about 4-5 hours of broken sleep a night, it felt like frickin’ calculus.

I also blame the Threads magazine tutorial I used (which I’m not linking to, because in the end, I don’t recommend it). While I’m sure it makes sense to the person who wrote it, I found it to be an organizational disaster that confused the hell out of me. In the end, after scrolling through that damn piece dozens of times, I used the same See Kate Sew tutorial that I used for my tricolor shantung jacket. (Which I’ve lost all memory of making, and I basically had to learn how to bag from scratch. Again. Good times.)

Maybe if I post only out of focus pictures, you won’t be able to tell that I really need to take another stab at pressing…

I also used the Grainline tutorial to finish off lining the sleeves. I did better than last time! I still managed to screw up a few things, but meh. (WHY is it SO confusing for me? I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do with the seam allowances when creating the hem and couldn’t find any directions that specified. Humbug!)

That whole, “can’t wait to make my most technically proficient garment ever” spirit? Sailed. Left. Skipped town. And frankly, good riddance. While I get frustrated that I make a ton of errors and mistakes and everyone else seems to, like, totally have awesome sewing skills I don’t have even though I’ve been sewing for decades, I’d rather just enjoy the process and have a slightly wonky end product. Yes, there’s a little bit of wonk to everything I make, this jacket included. But it’s not too bad, considering how I powered through it.

You can see the puffy hems here… or you could pretend it’s perfect, which is what I”m doing

Okay, since so far this post has been of no help to anybody, here’s what I can tell you:

*Fusible batting doesn’t provide a ton of warmth. Definitely “late spring” weight.
*Consider sizing up in this pattern. Although the weight of this fabric is within the recommendations, it’s tight across the back and through the sleeves.
*Always crowdsource from Instagram. I couldn’t decide whether to make the jacket long like I originally cut it or shorten it, and I got a ton of feedback in a very short amount of time. It was awesome! I went with the wisdom of the crowd and shortened the jacket (but added back a couple of inches per suggestions).
*On that note, don’t fuse your batting on until you’ve finalized your length. My hems have batting in them, and they’re puffy, dammit.
*Also, don’t make amazing jackets that you don’t have ANYTHING to wear with. Seriously, I got nothing. White t-shirt and jeans is about it. Time to get sewing on some tops that will showcase this better and give me more excuses to wear my rad brocade jacket.

Don’t mind me, just casually strolling in front of a tripod…

Okay, let’s wrap this up. Jacket? You’re pretty awesome, even if you’re not nearly as well-made as I planned. Welcome to the closet, my Fanciest Mom at the Park Brocade Jacket!