Pattern 16: Sewaholic's Pendrell Shirt

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

I chose to sew another Sewaholic Pattern for Pattern 16, the "Pendrell Shirt".

Although I think the ruffled cap sleeves are cute, I decided I would make the sleeveless version first to see if I like the fit of the shirt.  I didn't want to take extra steps for a fancy sleeve if I didn't like the the way the shirt looked on me.  After deciding on the pattern and which version I wanted, I flipped the pattern over to see the recommended fabrics for this shirt:  chiffon, georgette, charmeuse, challis, crepe de chine........  
Before going any further about the fabric I chose, I need to explain a few things and make a confession to those of you who may think I am an expert sewer.
I have never sewn anything successfully on silky, slinky, shiny fabric like those recommended I use for this pattern.  We have several bolts of charmeuse and georgette in our store that Brooke ( my business partner) and I ordered when we first opened, but then we realized that most people didn't know how to sew with it and were scared to buy it.  The even worse part is that Brooke and I have no experience sewing on it either so we can't even teach our customers tips on how to sew with it.

I almost put the pattern back.  I didn't want to try to use the fabrics I've always tried to avoid especially now when I will need to blog about how the finished product looks.  Besides, I don't even know what crepe de chine is!  But then I thought of all of you who are afraid to sew with the knits that I adore. People say to me all the time, "I don't sew on knits.  Knits scare me so I stay away from them and only use cotton" to which I always reply "Oh, it's so easy!  Don't be afraid to use knits.  You just have to get used to them and then you'll love them!"  I decided I should take my own advice and push away all the fears I have about sewing on satin fabrics and give it a try.  You know the old saying "practice what you preach"!  So, I picked out a charmeuse fabric we have in our store patterned with peacock feathers in bright colors.  At only $6.25 a yard, I can afford to try it even if it ends up being a disaster.  I've liked it for a long time but never considered using it since it was in my "forbidden fabrics to use" category.  Excited about accepting this sewing challenge, I jumped right in and pinned my pattern pieces to the charmeuse and began cutting.  This was my first mistake since I didn't use very sharp, small pins recommended for silks and other fine fabrics.  I made a few tiny runs in my fabric, but none were noticeable so my first error didn't really affect me.  Next came the cutting where the fabric slipped and slithered all around as my scissors tried to navigate around the pattern pieces.  I tried to hold the fabric down with my hands, but it still kept moving so much!  When I finished cutting, my fabric had very uneven, jagged edges and I couldn't even tell where I tried to cut out the triangles I would be needing later to line up pattern pieces.  That's when I realized my second mistake.  You should really use pattern weights (lots of them from what I later learned from researching the web) and use a rotary cutter with a new blade to cut out your pieces.  It prevents the fabric from slipping around as much.  I will definitely try that next time.
Still not frustrated despite my errors, I sat down to sew my shirt.  I decided I would serge all of the pattern pieces first to help prevent the fabric from unraveling as I manipulated it.  I decided later this was a good decision except for the fact that I didn't put a new ballpoint needle into the serger and pulled a few more runs in my fabric.  Oops!  I'll do that next time. ......
I did change the needle in my sewing machine to a new ballpoint needle (Size 10) and started sewing.  I used lots of pins to keep the pieces together while sewing, and I had to stop often to realign the fabric.  The ballpoint needle worked wonderfully, and I didn't put any new runs in the fabric.  I sewed with the stitch length at 2.0 instead of 2.5, another suggestion from the web.  Putting the bias strip around the neckline and armholes was the most difficult to do because even after ironing the fabric with a folded edge, it doesn't really stay pressed like cotton does.  This made the fold roll more when sewing so it doesn't look perfect if you inspected it closely on the inside, but it isn't noticeable on the outside.
As far as the pattern goes, the directions for the "Pendrell" shirt were very easy to follow and before I knew it, I finished a sleeveless blouse out of charmeuse that I think ended up looking really cute.  I plan on wearing it with black trousers and a cardigan to school!4

The shirt has a very nice drape to it, and it doesn't have to be tucked in if you prefer not to do so.  It is long enough to wear out with a belt around it to cinch the waist for another look.  I am definitely going to use this pattern again with more silky fabrics so that I can get experienced and knowledgeable enough to teach a class on working with these difficult fabrics.  The pattern also suggests using a lightweight jersey knit which would give this shirt a different look.  Maybe I'll try that as well and go for the ruffled or capped sleeved versions available.  I definitely recommend this pattern for its ease of use and great finished fit.  An advanced beginner could easily sew this but if you aren't used to this type of fabric, take the suggestions I've reviewed below.
1)  Use pattern weights (or heavy objects around your house like coffee mugs) to help you cut out the fabric.
2)  Use a rotary cutter with a new blade.
3)  Use small, very sharp pins made for silks and other delicate fabrics.
4)  Use a ballpoint needle (size 10) on your sewing machine.
5)  Make your stitch length a little smaller (like 2.0).
6)  Stop sewing often to make sure your fabric pieces haven't shifted away from where you placed them.
Although my finished product isn't perfect, I'm still proud of tackling a new fabric.  I challenge all of you to try sewing with something that scares you.  If the fabric is inexpensive enough, what do you have to lose? 


  1. Laura, this is beautiful! I am with you - I am always scared of shiny and silky fabrics, but I find myself drawn to their beautiful prints. This shirt came out great and next time I know to use pattern weights. Thank you for all the tips! I will be in Charleston this weekend and hope to stop by your shop. I can't wait to see it!
    Jenny Hall

    Seamingly Smitten owner/designer
    PDF Sewing patterns for Women and Children

  2. Jenny,
    Thanks so much! I hope you can stop by the store when you get to Charleston. I visited your blog and love it! I also love your patterns. Do you sell them wholesale?

  3. Hi Laura, Yes, I do sell my pdf patterns wholesale in online shops around the world (United States and Australia) and on CD's in a fabric shop in Louisiana. I am coming by tomorrow to your store so we can talk about it if you are there. I cannot wait to see all your apparel fabric! You can also email me at anytime.


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