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I'm Meg, maker and mama.

And this is M E G M A D E, a place for sewing and making stuff.

Embroidered Crowded Faces Tee

Embroidered Crowded Faces Tee

I’m sure you’ve heard the idiom “worth the wait”, and nothing could be more true of today’s project. Keep reading to see how, after a year of finessing, I finally brought my idea of an embroidered tee to reality!

If you participate in the Instagram sewing community or patronize indie fabric shops, chances are you’ve already seen the super popular “Crowded Faces” fabric from Lady McElroy. It’s definitely a crowd favorite these days! When I purchased some of the cotton lawn over Christmas 2018, I knew I wanted to do something extra special with it.

First however, I needed to nail down a pattern with a fit I was 100% satisfied with. I decided to use the Key Largo top by Hey June, a woven tee with a moderate scoop neck and a set in sleeve. Its a simple casual top that would let the fabric shine, and after searching the instagram hashtag it seemed to look so nice on everyone.

Because I really wanted to get this shirt right, I first made a muslin/toile before cutting in to my final fabric. I did this in January, folks. I made my muslin according to the pattern size chart, but it ended up being too big pretty much everywhere, most noticeably the shoulders and back. So I made another…and another…any time I didn’t have any sewing jobs on the calendar, I worked on muslining this pattern. First I tried sizing down and adding a dartless full bust adjustment. Then I added a narrow shoulder adjustment. Then I started over with a darted full bust adjustment. Then a full bicep adjustment. Then more shoulder adjustments….I made six versions before landing on the right combo of sizes and adjustments. Six! For someone that often doesn’t muslin at all, this was some serious dedication—though must admit, as I ironed the sleeve cap on my fifth muslin I stood there asking myself “why am I still doing this??” But I pushed through and finally reached a pattern I was really happy with. My crowded faces tee was finally sewn by the end of July.

I normally like to share what adjustments I made to a pattern, but this one was much more of a sculptural endeavor, shaving seams and adding to others in small increments. There were however, three main adjustments I made:

  1. Darted full bust adjustment. I tried two versions with a dartless FBA, but it just wasn’t giving me the fit I wanted in the armscye. The darted version fits so much better, and you can’t even really see the dart because of the large print.

  2. Narrow shoulder adjustment. I’ve realized this year that this is one of my most frequent fitting issues. My shoulders are narrow so my sleeve caps and armscyes end up on my arm. Not only is this a dead giveaway that the garment is too big, it also affects my range of movement. Fixing this has made a world of difference on this tee and subsequent tops I’ve made this year.

  3. A better full bicep adjustment. No matter my measurements, I’ve always had narrow shoulders and a fuller bicep, which has made fitting sleeves tricky for me. One a couple of my muslins (versions three and four, I think?) I tried using the typical slash and spread method to do a full bicep adjustment, but it still wasn’t fitting quite right, particularly in the armscye (have you noticed that the armscye is the bain of my sewing existence?). I finally stumbled upon another method from SBCC and I love it! Instead of just creating a pouch for the bicep, it adjusts the armscye, the sleeve width, and the sleeve cap. Its a little more intensive than the regular method, but the fit improvement was incomparable for me. Another resource that totally changed how I went about my shoulder and sleeve adjustments is this blog post all about drafting differences in sleeves and their subsequent fit. If you struggle with these parts of your garments, please check out these two posts! They’ve completely revolutionized how I adjust my patterns now.

Now that my shirt was sewn, I could finally start on the real star of this project: the embroidery! When I purchased my fabric and was trying to decide what to do with it, it occurred to me that it was basically a fabric coloring book. It had simple lines and lots of white space, and several unique faces. It was just begging to be colored in!

I had just received the book, “Hoop Dreams” by Cristin Morgan of Marigold + Mars around the same time, and I realized the crowded faces fabric and hand embroidery would be a perfect match for my tee. I treated my embroidery like I would a doodle. There was no particular plan or color scheme; I worked in an intuitive manner and chose stitches and colors as I went along. I also kept things pretty basic with chain stitches, running stitches, and back stitches. Because I was doodling, I wanted the embroidery to kind of fade into the rest of the shirt, so there’s one face that’s more heavily embroidered, and the rest of the stitches trickle out from that point. The cool thing about this style is I can always go back and add more if I feel like it, just like I would with a doodle on the bak of a notebook.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of this make—and my persistence! This idea was something I wanted to make for almost a year, and even though there were moments I wondered why I was still wasting my time trying to fit the dang shirt, I’m so glad I pushed through and arrived at a garment I’m really happy with.

And now, you can make your own crowded faces embroidery too! I’m over the moon to share with you that I’ll be teaching a workshop with D&H Fabrics in Washington, DC in September on creating your own embroidered faces. And, you’ll get enough fabric to turn your work into your own tee, or an Ogden Cami, an Ida Clutch, a wall hanging…there are endless ideas for this project! Plus you’ll get some super cute embroidery supplies too. I would love to have you there! Sign up using this link!

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