One of the things I enjoy about designing is the ability to take inspiration from something you see and figure out a way to use it for your own vision of a pattern. I was recently inspired to use color-blocking and buttons to create a new Muskoka tunic. I wanted to give you a closer look and share some tips on how you might do something similar.
Traditionally, color-blocking involves two or more blocks of color combined in various ways to make a bright and bold statement. These colors can contrast or complement one another. In fashion, color-blocking can also include the combination of both solid and print fabrics. In the Muskoka tunic I'm going to show you, I am combining solid grey and a red/black buffalo plaid fleece.
The Muskoka pattern already includes the instructions and pattern pieces for creating this beautiful framed split collar. The color-blocking I'm adding today includes the cut-out on the side, the sleeves, and the combination of solid and print on the wrapped hem. (I will also talk about the buttons, but let's do the color-blocking first!)
Put simply, to change a solid pattern piece into a color-blocked piece, you need to first cut the paper pattern pieces apart, and then add seam allowance at the new edges.
You can fold or use a ruler to draw a straight line across the pattern pieces where you would like to color-block. The simplest color-blocking cuts the piece(s) straight across from one end to the other, which is how I did the sleeves. I chose a point a little below halfway down the sleeve, and cut the sleeve pattern piece apart in a straight line.
Now, I needed to add the seam allowance back in. If you don't do that, your sleeve will end up too short! Since this pattern uses a 3/8" (1cm) seam allowance, I added 3/8" to BOTH new halves of the sleeve pattern pieces. Now, when I sew the two pieces together, the resulting sleeve will be exactly the same length as the original pattern piece would have been had I been making it with all one piece of fabric.
Here's where I share with you one of my favorite tricks for color-blocking... add seam allowance with CLEAR TAPE.
Using clear tape that is at least a little bit wider than the seam allowance you want to add, carefully place a strip of tape along the edges of both pattern pieces where you cut them apart. Do this on a surface that the tape won't stick to. If your tape is wide enough (and you have a steady hand) you can fold it over so that it adds the required seam allowance to that edge and seals the sticky side on the back of the tape at the same time. If your tape is too narrow for that, flip the piece over and run a second piece of tape over the back side of the tape, to seal it. Now, trim if necessary to ensure that you have added exactly the right seam allowance (in my case, 3/8") and your pattern piece is ready to be used to cut your fabric!
So, what do you do if you want to make a cut-out with a 90 degree angle, like I did with the side panel on the tunic shown above? First you have to draw and cut the shape from the pattern pieces, just like you did with the sleeves. Now things change a little bit in that you won't be adding seam allowance to both pieces... you will instead add DOUBLE the seam allowance only on the smaller piece.
This is what my pieces look like, with the tape along the top and side that adds 0.75" (2cm) of seam allowance on that inside piece. I've outlined around the tape to show it more clearly. The large piece does not have anything added to it.
Sewing these two pieces together needs to be done in a certain order, but it's not difficult. I didn't take photographs of this part of the construction, but here are some illustrations to show how it is done.
To finish the back side, I trimmed the seam allowances (because you can do that with fleece) to make the inside of the tunic tidy and neat.
The last piece that I chose to color-block was the narrow strip of fabric that is wrapped around the seam allowances to create the hem. This time, rather than making a pattern piece for it, I simply attached a small piece of scrap grey fleece that was slightly longer than the width of the plaid section on the front of the tunic, to a strip of plaid. Then I measured and cut that piece so that it exactly matched the positioning of the seam of the color-blocked pieces on the front of the tunic, trimming off any extra length I had.
That's the color-blocking done... so how about those buttons? I have to say, buttons are fun! I love upcycling old buttons, and what I really enjoyed doing with this tunic was choosing old mismatched buttons from my 'button box' and putting them all together. They are the same size, but each button itself is different!
When sewing buttons onto a single layer of fabric, whether it is a thin fabric like quilting cotton, or something thick like fleece, it's always a good idea (and necessary in most cases) to add some stability to the fabric. As fleece is stretchy, adding stability will also prevent the buttons from stretching out oddly where the buttons are attached.
I chose cotton twill tape to stabilize where I was going to place the buttons, as it is inexpensive, lightweight, and soft. The long edges of twill tape don't need any special finishing, so only the short cut ends need to be finished to keep them from fraying. This was easily done by simply folding over the top end and enclosing the bottom end in the wrapped hem.
I first sewed the twill tape 1/8" (3mm) from the seam of the two color-blocked pieces, and then stitched also down the other side. My twill tape is 3/4" wide, and I love how this looks from the right side of the tunic! It made the perfect framing for the buttons.
I used the button foot for my sewing machine to sew on each of the 8 buttons I selected. Sewing buttons on by machine is tidy and SO much faster than sewing them on by hand. Machine sewing buttons involves first lowering the feed dogs so they aren't trying to move the button under the needle, and using the correct width zig-zag stitch to land smoothly in each hole. If you haven't ever tried using your machine to sew on a button, try it!
And that's how color-blocking and buttons resulted in one of my favorite versions of Muskoka to date!
Before I sign off for today, I want to mention that February is Fleece Month at Pollywoggles... which means that both of my currently available fleece patterns are ON SALE. The sale is ending on February 28th though, so if you don't yet own Muskoka or the Banff pajama pattern... go get them before it's too late!
I'd love to see it if you decide to give color-blocking or adding details like buttons to any of your Pollywoggles projects! Be sure to join the Facebook Group to share your own inspiration.
Thank you so much for stopping by my little corner of the digital world. When I'm not designing (or, more likely, attempting to keep up with housework or schooling my three rug rats!) you'll probably find me with my nose in a book, escaping for a few precious moments into a world of fiction or learning with single-minded focus about my latest interest. Here, I'd like to share with you some of the things that I'm currently working on and a bit about all the ways I like to keep my creative juices flowing!
Just for Fun...