Tag Archives: cowl-neck

Cowl Finale

Cowlneck the fourth

Well, for the moment. Like Steph, I think I’m done with this project. I’ve made four knit cowly tops this week, all but one of which are wearable. (And I have hopes of salvaging the fourth, possibly by stitching down the folds or something…)

This one was supposed to be the ultimate. And, to be honest, I think it looks kick-ass in the pictures. That is pretty much what I was going for.

The devil, as always, is in the details.

The biggest one, I think, is the most inevitable—the large cowl which permits those lovely underbust folds doesn’t, in fact, stay in place particularly well; any time I raise my arms or lean over, it comes untucked, creating a front that just looks, well, poofy. I have a feeling the original top would’ve had the same problem unless (as I half-suspect) the “underbust” folds in the photo are created by tugging down on the cowl, rather than falling naturally that way—in which case in the shirt as worn they wouldn’t even be there at all…

Completely my fault, on the other hand, are the hole I

A bit of a closer look

accidentally snipped in the front neckline while trimming the binding, the cowl facing that doesn’t fall nicely to the inside (I sewed it down a hair or two wrong on the inside), and the fact that the sleeves are sewed on with the wrong side of the fabric facing out. Fortunately the last is virtually undetectable—anyone looking that close is going to be much more struck by my wonky stitching. /sigh. I was trying to take my time with this last version, but I think my subconscious was against me.

For those of you who’ve been thoroughly confused with what I’ve been doing (and who’ve stuck with me despite it 😉 ) I made up a quick little diagram of the steps I took. The tricky part, again, is the details—how long and wide of a drape, how much to curl back the front pattern piece.

Pattern alteration---click image to see full size

And I think that’s enough of messing with cowls for, well, at least a couple of weeks…

After all, Sherry’s tailoring sewalong begins in just a few weeks, and I need to have a pattern of some kind ready for that. I think I’m going to try to create my own based on the Built By Wendy jacket book (which Ali just did a great overview of). I’m thinking princess-seamed bodice, empire waist with A-line below, thigh-length, maybe an inverted box pleat or two in the skirt portion… still haven’t decided on a collar or single- or double-breasted… anyway, I’m sure I’ll have a post on that in a day or two, anyway. But I will still have to muslin etc., and decide if I can make the sleeves two piece etc.

So much to sew, so little time… 😉



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A qualified “meh”

Anthropologie knockoff v. 3

For this third iteration (see 1 and 2), I didn’t change much from the last; re-narrowed the neckline a wee bit, and lengthened the cowl portion so there would be more drape higher up.

This fabric is meh. The colour is drab,  it’s very, very thin, and worst of all it has very poor recovery; to get it to fit like anything other than a sack I took both sideseams in by over an inch. But it’s got great drape and cost about $1.50/m, which is about as good as it gets, at least around here.

For those of you who are insanely interested in the exact alterations, I think I’ve “curled back” the side seams/armscye too much. I needed to do it a bit more than in my first iteration to get the cowling to drape a little deeper, but not as much as I did. As usual, I overshot. I think there’s a sweet-spot somewhere between my pattern the first time and this iteration; mostly it looks good except that there’s some oddness in the folding of the pleats at the armpit; basically the first pleat is turning into a dart, which isn’t what I want. Solution? probably rotate the armscye back by the amount of that dart, and make up for the extra distance in cowl height.

Like my accessory?

Which sounds like gibberish typed out, but will hopefully remind me of what I’m trying to do… so I apologize to the rest of you for my opacity.

The other upside—this colour goes really well with my corset-waist circle skirt, which almost nothing else in my wardrobe does, and the corset-waist covers up the somewhat-more-meh lower portions of the top. Yay!

For honesty’s sake, I’ll include a shot of what I was wearing earlier in the day before I “finished” (for that unhemmed, threads hanging everwhere, value of finished)  the top. See? Not a good combo.

Previous outfit.


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Curses. Just as I’m grappling with the fact that I really need to decrease the sewing-to-grad-school ratio in my life, I get not one, but two tantalizing sewalongs dangled in my face.

Peter, as you know (since everyone and their chihuahua reads MPB) has pencilled in a jeans sewalong for May. Now, obviously I’m in no need of more jeans for me—I have no less than five functional me-made pairs, plus the RTW, which I think is more pants than I’ve had at any one time since I was 12—but it would be an excellent place to tackle the terrifying prospect of sewing jeans for my husband. The only thing more frightening than the prospect of sewing jeans for him is the prospect of jeans shopping for him… well, that and the fact that it’s very, very hard to get him to model anything I make him…

And then, as if that weren’t enough, Sherry comes along offering a RTW tailoring

New book!

sewalong! Just days after I splurged and bought Coats and Jackets by Wendy. And washed the 5 m of off-white wool I found at VV ages ago… So now I’m sitting here doodling sketches of empire-waisted spring coats. So much inspiration… so hard to choose!

All this is in between madly running over alterations to the knock-off cowl pattern. Fortunately, when knocking off a $90 shirt, you can justify an awful lot of iterations of $3/yard jersey.

For the next version, I sacrificed some of my striped

Muslin #2... not as awesome as #1

knit (visible on the right here), as I was too impatient to wait for the weekend when I can get to Fabricland (which is allegedly having an awesome sale). This was a bad idea, as it doesn’t have the stretch and drape of the pink fabric. I’m not 100% convinced it’s wearable, although it’s not awful, but worse is that because the drape isn’t right I can’t really compare it to the first version. So I’m not going to dwell too terribly much on the results except to say that next time I’ll add back a bit of the width I took off the shoulders, to give me more room for deeper pleats.

Much happier with my first version… sigh…

Speaking of which, guess what I wore today?

Me-Made March, day 11

Fluttery cowl-neck
Ellen pants

Apparently my spring-like outfits have in fact brought on spring… and these white pants are now very, very muddy. 🙂


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It’s possible I may have overdone it…

Anthropologie original

This is all Steph’s fault. She tempted me. First by posting this luscious Anthropologie shirt on her blog, then by showing off her version of it.

Well, mostly. There was also this thin, drapey coral knit showing up in the clearance section at my local Fabricland. And the cardboard, no seam-allowance version of of my knit TNT that I made up over the weekend, which makes tracing out and altering the pattern a cinch.

Hmm. Maybe a little too much pleating? Also, I don't think my shoulders are always this lopsided.

I haven’t quite replicated the original (I think I may have overdone it a bit, however). But I think I am pretty close to how they shaped the pattern, requiring just a bit of tweaking on the exact length, width, and pleating of the drape.

I started by attempting to drape the pattern on my duct-tape double (wearing one of my Lydia tops so I could pin to it; this also helps since my DTD doesn’t really have all of my features. Like, oh, armpits). This wasn’t super helpful, since I wasn’t prepared to hack up all my precious $3 fabric for pattern pieces, but it did give me some broad parameters for the width of drape and length of pleated pieces I was looking for.

My pattern alterations

There was a lot of debate on Steph’s post about whether this kind of drape, combined with the fitted lower bodice, could be achieved without seaming. I, too, was sceptical. At this  point, I am going to officially change sides and say that it can, at least in a 4-way stretch knit.  Although the result creates some interesting grainlines.

Knockoff shirt

I started my slashes below the armscye, about on the level of my bust; I suspect that this is still a bit high, the original shirt looks like the drape begins a bit lower, on the level of the underbust (you wouln’t want it to go any lower than that, though, or you’d lose the fitted look of the bodice). I used wedge spreading for the bottom part, and used the draping as a reference to give me the depth of the drape (pink line) and the length to be pleated (blue line). The green line shows the piece of the upper front I transferred to the back of the pattern (there’s no shoulder seam, just the dropped seam you see in the front.

Back view.

Obviously I still haven’t quite nailed it—I think I have a bit too much fabric in the pleats (or perhaps my fabric’s just heavier), and the Anthropologie shirt’s pleats are arranged a little more thoughtfully than mine where they’re sewn to the shirt. I also need to remind myself that the anthropologie dummy in the photo has a much longer torso than I do… if I were to try on the same size shirt, I’m pretty sure the draping would begin about at my waist, and not give me that lovely shelf-bust illusion.

For those who are interested in the technicalities, here’s a quick closeup of the inside of the pleats:

Cowl pleating at front shoulder

You can see the inch-or-so facing folded over from the outside (on the left of the picture; the armscye seam is to the right. I stabilized the pleated seam with clear elastic, and sewed it on my regular machine for greater control (and ability to sew over the pins. Very slowly and carefully, I’ll add.). You can also see that I arranged my pleats regularly (each pleat was 2″)… the original has them clustered towards the neckline edge, and I’m not sure how deep and how many of them there are; it seems like they might be fewer, and deeper towards the armscye.

Flutter sleeve

I also drafted my first flutter sleeve; I’m not convinced this is the best look for this particular top; as a small-busted girl cowl necks work well for me, but this one is so bulky it visually moves me into large-bust territory, at which point my broad shoulders become something to be minimized, not enhanced with flutteries. So I think in future versions (can I really justify multiples of

Another view, just for kicks.

these?) I would stick with a narrow sleeve. I love flutter sleeves in general, though, so I’m sure I’ll use it in the future.

Incidentally, those bust-framing folds (in my shirt and in the original) are created by puling parts of the drape down below the bust. This works well enough for posing (especially on a cloth-covered dummy) but I suspect won’t really stay put in the general course of life.

Still, what a lot of fun! And a bit reassuring after my last attempted-cowl fiasco. You can see that it’s not finished—serger threads hanging everywhere—but I really wanted to just show it off. I’ll neaten it up later, and if the weather improves, I may even get to wear it for MMM!

Me-Made March Update:

Me-Made March, day 9

I’m thinking of this outfit as an invocation of spring. (Actually, it’s supposed to get above freezing here today. Hooray!)

JJ blouse
very plain tank-top
Ellen pants

Ok, now I’m going to go put on my sweater… and socks. 😦


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I meant to do that…



I’ve been saving the rest of the fabric from this top, trying to find just the right project. I love this fabric so much. Eventually, I decided that it needed to be a drapy pattern—a cowl neck, maybe.

Last night, I decided that a reprise of this super-quick cowl neck top by Ichigogirl on Burdastyle would be perfect.

But. It’s still about -20C around here. I wanted to add sleeves.

I pulled out the pattern-pieces for Ichigogirl’s cowl-neck, and my “trusty” (aka much altered) Lydia pattern to compare. Armscyes were about the same size, as far as I could tell, but a radically different shape. I thought it seemed simpler to try to draft a cowl neck onto the Lydia than to try to fit sleeves to the odd-shaped armscyes of the sleeveless cowl pattern.

Of course, it was 8:00 at night and I was far too impatient to read up on cowl

Inner folded facing of cowl neck sewn over rear of shoulders, to enclose the shoulder seam.

drafting… I had the pattern pieces right in front of me. It’s not like I’m a stranger to frankenpatterning.

Ehm. I had actually wanted a little bit shallower of a cowl than on the original pattern, which is a bit, ah, risque if you bend over.

But, not quite this shallow. Urgh.

Rear view. Meh.

I was very proud of myself for figuring out a neat way to attach the inner fold of the cowl-neck to the shoulder so it neatly encloses the shoulder seam. I’m not sure if the picture will make any sense at all, but you’re looking at the back of the shirt, inside-out. I folded the facing portion of the shoulder-seam around to the back, enclosing the entire shoulder-seam between shirt front and facing. This makes for a lovely finish on the inside.

I then proceeded to do an impatient bodge-job of setting in the shoulders (I think I

still need to remove a bit of ease from the Lydia sleeve-cap, and add a shoulder-point notch). Didn’t do such a good job on the back-neck binding, either.

Bleh. Can I just pretend I meant for it to be this way?

In Me-Made March news:

Here’s today’s outfit, which is my first one this week not to feature some (or entirely) items I didn’t have last September. It feels a little boring because of that, but on the other hand these are some of my absolute FAVE pieces so far, so… yeah!

Classic pose

Funky dancing pose

Frankenpatterned top
More self-stitched jeans

Also my new, awesome, but hyper-uncomfortable boots. They will be great once they’re broken in.

I was wondering how long it would take me to break out the goofy poses this time around…


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Fun with plaid

So last weekend I “splurged” on this purple plaid-printed knit. One whole yard, costing a whopping $2.50 (I would’ve gotten more but let’s face it, how many outfits in a fabric like that can I get away with? Although, I suppose I could’ve made stuff for the kids). It’s a fairly thick, stable knit, a little too polyester-feeling but not awful, and decent recovery. There’s some kind of flaw in the pattern-printing (doubtless why it’s in the clearance section) but it mostly only shows on the reverse (plain, light purple) side, so I was able to ignore it for the bodice pieces.

But I didn’t want to do just another boring Lydia. The plain, scoop-necked Lydia is great in solid colours I’ll layer under stuff, but for something striking like the plaid I wanted more of a statement pattern, something that would stand on its own. And one of my regrets from Self-Stitched September was not getting much use of my cowl neck tops, due to their sleevelessness*. (Due to the knit, they wouldn’t drape nicely over one of the Lydias, I think.). I considered re-drafting a cowl-necked version of the Lydia (honestly, this would not be hard.)

Then, I threw caution to the wind, re-traced the sleeve from my Lydia, measured the armscye, chopped off the top of the sleeve, and added the sleeve to the Manequim cowl top.

This was… interesting.

I was pretty sure I wasn’t capable of making the cut-off top of my sleeve match with the horizontal “shoulder” of the cowl top, so I

peekaboo shoulder: I bound the top of the sleeve and finished the cowl separately.

kept them separate. In theory that means there’s some potential for cute shoulder peekaboo; in reality, the way the cowl has ended up sitting makes this unlikely. Whatever.

It took a fair amount of mental gymnastics to get the pattern working this well—there are certainly a number of places I could’ve measured better, remembered what my seam-

Purple plaid Manequim

allowances were, etc. Also the original pattern has a lower armscye (typical for sleeveless patterns, I think), and adding sleeves to it really pulls it up and into the armpit oddly. Not uncomfortable, but weird if you think to look for it. On the upside, something about the close fit at the armpit means that so far this top is completely resistant to sliding up onto the shoulder, unlike every other off-the-shoulder top I’ve ever encountered.

Plaid top---rear view

I used the wrong side of the fabric for the contrasting cowl-neck.

The only downside, at the moment, is that the broad, off-the-shoulder cowl neck pretty much negates the added warmth given by the sleeves. I am COLD!

I should add for the sake of the free-pattern-grubbing masses (like myself), that while this pattern is based on the pattern here, I totally messed with the bodice, so really the only relevant piece from the original pattern is the cowl/drape itself. You’ve been warned. I also lengthened the bodice (I had kept the original length the first time) by 3 cm, and it’s better but still a bit short for my liking, especially since I haven’t hemmed it yet. I was about to, but my twin needle decided to break going over the first side-seam. Really, it’s done quite well—none of my previous twin needles have survived more than one or two garments at most before I managed to break them—but it means the shirt won’t be getting hemmed for, oh, another few weeks.

Also, look at that! RTW jeans! And honestly, this is the only pair of the RTW pants I missed, the whole month of Self-Stitched September.

Side view---cowl "up"

*now, historically I have worn plenty of short-sleeved and sleeveless tops all through the winter. Rendered more-or-less invisible by my signature hooded sweater. But having discovered through sewing the wonder of the long (or rather, long-enough) sleeve, I don’t know if I’ll be able to bring myself to do this ever again.


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Another (not so) quick cowl top

Manequim Cowl Top

This one is based on another free online pattern. The catch? It’s this pattern! Yup, you’re right, that entire website, complete with plenty of gorgeous patterns, is in Portuguese. And no, my Portuguese isn’t so good. Actualy it’s nonexistent. But seriously, we all know how well I read instructions,anyway, right? And this particular pattern has a two star difficulty rating. “Facil” it says. My Portuguese may suck, but my French is halfway-decent… I know easy when I see it. The size range isn’t great, but it works for me.

Of course, I couldn’t just sew it as is. The pattern as is (not that you can tell based on the photo since the model’s got those crazy-high waisted pants on) has a really wide, blousy bodice. Not my thing. So I pulled out the pattern for my other cowl top, compared, and pivoted until I had what I thought was a reasonable width.

I had a Plan.

I was using more of the same light, ultra-stretchy knit fabric from the first cowl. The upside of this is it was super cheap and I have a ton of it. The downside is that it’s ultra light and ultra-stretchy. Stable it is not. Sewing it actually isn’t even the problem—it’s

Manequim Cowl Top---back

getting it lined up smoothly to cut the pattern. So I really couldn’t tell you if the various places my pieces didn’t match up correspond to the problems in the pattern itself, my changes to the bodice, or my poor cutting. My guess is mostly the last. When I made the first cowl top, I doubled the front. This

Mannequim cowl top

time, I planned to double both, and thus avoid having to bind any edges. And I did it! Aside from a couple of glitches, I managed to sew every single seam on this shirt so it faced the inside, except for about three inches along one edge of the cowl drape, which I finished by hand.

Then I tried it on and had to take each side in by about half an inch. So now the side-seams aren’t nicely finished. But otherwise, it’s great! I’ll let you know how badly it stretches out in the wearing, though… that seems to be the key issue with this fabric.

As to the top itself—it’s nifty. Doesn’t really look like the model’s… I think my fabric is way too different (also my seam along the edge of the cowl really makes it less flippy, more drapy. The cowl part is really big and drapy—cool looking, but I’m still a little nervous about the way it falls. It seems like it will shift around a lot with wearing. I’m actually tempted to make some straps… we’ll see. But here’s some different possibilities for wearing it, which is kinda nifty. If I ever do make it again, I’ll make the body about an inch longer…

off-the-shoulder variation

High shoulder variation


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