Thursday, December 4, 2014

Miss Melinda Needs Longer Arms: Grainline Archer

Good afternoon, my dear chickens! For those of you in the United States, I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. My own was filled with perfectly made apple pie (a first!), tons of family, and a lower back injury. Apart from the oh-my-god-I-can't-move back spasms, it was an idyllic holiday. Sam and I really enjoy cooking for masses of people and it was a blast having both of our families at the same table. 

That being said, I have missed quiet weekends. Right before Thanksgiving, we were in Chicago for an academic conference, and the weekend before that was our (newly) annual trip to the Renaissance Fair with Sam's family. We counted it up and it has been over two months since we've had a weekend without travel plans, visitors, or familial obligations. The first two weeks of December, however, are blessedly open. I plan on using the next two weekends to conquer my backlog of sewing projects. Woohoo! 

As far as blogging, I have quite a few unposted pieces to share. It's rare that I photograph projects, without immediately posting them, but life has continually gotten in the way these past weeks. First up on that list is a mixed-bag project: my first long-sleeved Grainline Archer

Autumn in Texas is a funny thing. Our high temperatures can hit anywhere on a forty-degree spectrum, from the bitter chill of the thirties to the lovely, mild seventies. (0°C to 25°C) As such, layers are essential. I love a patterned button-down, because they work solo and layered under a cashmere sweater. Unfortunately, my wardrobe is a bit slim on buttoned shirts. I keep telling myself to make more of them, but if I'm going to spend time fiddling with collar stands and buttons, I'd rather make a shirtdress!

Shocking, right? However, as part of my quest for the perfect shirtdress, I realized my vision lacked something: sleeves. Though it is wonderful in every other way, there isn't a true long-sleeved option for McCall's 6696. To my mind, a perfect long sleeve on shirtdress has a placket, buttons, and cuffs. 
Enter the Archer.

Combining sleeve patterns is one of the easiest changes to make. Swap out the sleeve cap on your foundation pattern for the one on your desired sleeve and--voilĂ !--a perfect new sleeve. I had high hopes for the Archer sleeve, but didn't want to count on it with precious shirtdress fabric. I also have no time for unnecessary muslins in my life right now. I knew the Archer body worked on me, so I grabbed some polka-dot cotton from my stash and threw caution to the wind. I'd make up an Archer, see how I liked the sleeve once and for all, then decide whether it would work for my frankensleeve!


This did not go well. As it turns out, the larger sizes of the Archer have sleeves fit for Amazons.

On the statuesque side myself*, I've never particularly worried about sleeves being too big. If anything, I usually have the opposite problem. Not so with the Archer. The sleeves on this baby are a good three inches too long and four inches too big around the wrist. Instead of lightly hugging my wrist as a cuff should, these slide right on down my hand and land on my knuckles. It's like I've transplanted sleeves meant for Dwight Howard onto an otherwise reasonably sized shirt.

I'm going to fix this, of course. In fact, I considered doing so before posting this blog and glossing over the whole thing. However, if you were coming to Idle Fancy for perfectly muslined, aspirational garments, you would have stopped following long ago. You deserve to see these sleeves. Why, with my arms down, my hands are barely visible! It's a new trend sweeping (the floors of) the nation!

*5'8'' (172cm) and with what my mother calls "healthy Viking bones," my wrists are decidedly larger than the average woman's. Bangle bracelets are but an optimistic pipe dream and cuffs are rarely this big. 

Eventually, I'm going to pick the cuffs off, shorten and narrow the bottom sleeves, then try the whole shebang again. For my plaid shirtdress, I'm also going to add a tower placket on the sleeve, in lieu of the narrow, banded one of the Archer. 

If you ignore the sleeves, this shirt was an uneventful project. For the bodice, I used my original altered Archer, which added in a bust dart during the FBA. It's a base size 16, with four inches added to the bust line, and the shoulders narrowed by a 1/2 inch. The polka-dotted cotton was printed horribly off-grain, but it worked out. I cut out according to grainline, instead of vertical dot lines, and the scattered pattern hides the flaw well. For buttons, I used plain black ones from the stash and they're the perfect contrast. Once the sleeves are fixed, this will be a fantastic layering shirt! 

In the meantime, I'm trying to convince myself that my arms aren't abnormally short. This is the only problem with sewing, y'all. Adjusting patterns makes over-analyzing your proportions all too easy! Perhaps I have time for full muslins right now, after all...

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