baja or bust....

Last weekend I sewed up "my" Islander Sewing Systems Baja Shirt.  I say it's mine because i'm on the cover but that was just by chance.  It was designed by Janet Pray and I was simply  in the right place at the right time when they needed a male model.

The first time I sew a pattern I try to follow the directions and sizing exactly without modifications so I can fully evaluate how the designer intended it to look.  With that being said there were only two things I will change next time I sew this pattern.  One was the sizing, and the second was the seam where the hood connects to the neck.

If I had paid more attention to the sizing on the pattern instructions I would have noticed that the pattern clearly states the finished sizes and I would have picked more appropriately.  As it was I made the recommended size Large going off my chest measurement and ended up cutting 4" off each side before closing the side seams.  Next time I'll be making the small size.  I know it's supposed to be loose and all but this was a little too generous for a unisex pattern.  Something else I noticed is that there's only a 2" difference in bodice length between the XS and the 4XL.  I'll keep the large hood and pocket. The overall length I'll keep and just reduce the bodice and sleeve width.

The other issue I had was the seam where the hood connects to the neck opening.  I remember noticing this on the samples we modeled at the sewing show.  It's not graceful at all.  This was the only place on the garment I used the serger and that was my attempt to "pretty" it up somewhat.  In looking at some RTW hooded garments I notice they either serge this seam like I did or use a binding to cover over the roughness of the seam allowance.  Since most people will hardly ever wear the hood up I suggest a quick fix by putting the seam allowance on the opposite side so it's hidden 90% of the time. Let's face it, if you're wearing the hood up you're likely not worried about fashion or seams showing anyway..  I look like a hoodlum with the hood up....  maybe down as well!

The instructions included with this pattern are excellent.  The whole Islander philosophy is all about bringing industry techniques to the home sewist.  These instructions were clear, verbose, and had lots of great illustrations.  When you're accustomed to the regular style of cryptic pattern instructions Islander instructions are a joy to work with.

The fabric I chose for this first attempt is some sort of rayon/poly/spandex stuff I picked up for $1/yard at Walmart years ago.  It's buttery soft, so absolutely luxuriously comfortable, and pills within hours of wearing it.  I bought 6+ yards of this stuff so it's not the first time I've used it on a project.  I knew it would pill so I expected this and obviously why it was so inexpensive in the first place.  Anywhere the fabric rubs against itself or other stuff shows wear immediately.  You can see here on the cuff.  This is just beginning, it will get much worse.  Eventually it will get a strange threadbare effect. 

You'll also notice I made the sleeves long.  Being someone with long arms I don't get to enjoy extra long sleeves very often.  Since I reduced the circumference of the sleeve this extra length works great since I can also wear the cuff at my wrist and it won't slide down.  If it was a baggier sleeve this extra length would annoy me.

All in all it's a great basic pattern to sew up.  I think next time I'll try doing it in a t-shirt weight jersey.  This could also be made with short sleeves.  The simplicity of construction makes me think I'll be sewing a lot of it on the serger next time.  

This is my first "baja" style shirt.  I admit to being reminded of someone standing on the freeway on ramp with their thumb out.  With that said I absolutely love wearing it.  It's comfortable and casual yet has just enough detail to look cute at the grocery store.  I remember not wanting to take off the samples when we were done with the cover photo shoot.

If you're looking for a easy project to make for yourself or someone else that will actually get worn pick up a Baja pattern.  Just watch the sizing and you can't go wrong.

Disclaimer: This is not a "sponsored" blog entry.  As compensation for modeling this shirt at the show I received three Islander sewing patterns as gifts.  That's it, nothing else was implied or promised.  In these days of blogging for cash I think it's important for you to know this.

Picasa Slide Show

I love the frame that YouTube randomly chose for the video this week...  so funny, I think I'll keep it!
YouTube Video

9 comments :: baja or bust....

  1. Nice! I love it in a knit. It looks great on you. I suppose if one made it in the traditional hand woven cotton burlap like stuff it would have to be oversized, like a serape with sleeves. What's the deal with that bad neckline finish provided? Maybe it's "traditional" construction, lol. I think I would extend the bodice facing up around the hood edge. Remove the fold back extra on the hood, sew the hood to the bodice, then apply the facing. Hmm, that could make an interesting effect with a contrast fabric. I really enjoyed your video review!

  2. I bought that pattern after you posted about it the first time, and the neck/hood seam stood out for me as a problem -- just from reading the instructions. I haven't sewn it yet. Also, all the raw edges stitched down seems very unfinished to me too. I don't have a serger (used to, but I never used it, and all that thread got expensive). I usually fell all my seams. If you're making this with a woven, I think the hood could be lined, or a stitched-down facing could be added to the neck area to solve the problem of the exposed seam. Binding is good too. If you're making this with a knit, almost the whole thing could be sewn with a serger, I would think.

    How does it fit, btw? Is it true to size, or the usual tent we get with Kwik Sew?

    I think I would like to make this with a fairly thick, loose woven. Maybe it's time to get a serger again.

  3. Oh, I just watched the video. It's a tent.

  4. I think the whole neck issue is really a matter of wanting to keep the garment construction as simple as possible. For a newbie the idea of facings and binding might be more than they're willing to do. Like I said, RTW doesn't necessarily always finish this area all that well either in some cases. For those who wish a more finished seam allowance there's lots of options that are totally suitable and really easy.

    Yeah it's a tent. I highly suggest following the finished size as a guide and then consider slimming the arms down even more. Still, in the pattern's defense it is designed to be big and baggy. Since it's so easy to modify the fit to one's own taste I don't see the sizing as a huge problem.

  5. speaking of Kwik Sew. I see women wear all kinds of Kwik Sew patterns that seems just fine. Why is the men's lineup designed to be so big and boxy anyway?

  6. Mens patterns in general run a size (or two!) large, while some, not all, of the womens patterns I've made run fairly true to size. If you question the pattern companies about this (I have in the past), they always say, "oh, that's just the ease." We know that's not true, but I imagine they're still saying it.

    Often I'll take a shirt that I like and see how much ease is built into it. Then I'll pick a pattern size based on this, rather than the chest size listed on the pattern. In every case I usually go with the next smaller size, and it ends up fitting just fine. Pants are trickier, and the commercial patterns usually have too much in the butt and crotch, I find.

    One company that's usually right on the mark? Folkwear. Not the sort of stuff you'd typically want to wear every day, but a lot of fun to sew.

  7. I've made a Kwik Sew mens hooded thingie like this before and to get around the neckline seam I lined the hood with a contrast colour (body black, lining red). I folded the raw edge under and stitched it down. That way it looked OK whether the hood was up or down.

    As for Kwik Sew patterns, I always thought they were awful but now I use them a lot. They make really well drafted basic patterns. I've made the mens jean jacket, pants, jeans, sweat pants and tops, dancewear and shirts. I also use their women's basic t shirts and gym gear a lot. I ignore the pattern sizing and use the finished garment measurements all the time. Because their patterns are so well drafted, they lend themselves to morphing onto other elements really well.

  8. So glad you had the opportunity to make the Baja shirt and write such an extensive review. As one of the developers of the pattern, I just wanted to comment on a few things. This pattern was designed for newbies with simple construction methods and detailed instructions with lots of pictures. As for the neck edge, it should be clean finished and stitched down to the hood but you could always make a binding to cover the seam as on our Easy Shirt #213 pattern. That's the next step up from the Baja and has a hood option with instructions for binding the seam. You have more experience than a newbie so that is always an option for you. As for the fit, it looks like you prefer a more fitted look. The arms look much more fitted than the intended look but that is totally a personal preference. You have a thinner frame than most so you need to take that into consideration.I'm fairly sure that the shirt you had on for the pattern cover is a large. You mentioned that you wanted to make the next one out of t-shirt knit but I would not recommend it...too lightweight and not enough body. I have been searching since last Sept. for the same fabric as the shirt you modeled and found it when we were in Puyallup, WA last week. I bought everything they had (1 3/4 yards) so I'll be sending to you this week. Happy Sewing.

  9. Hi Brian,
    Just had to opportunity to watch your review of the Baja Shirt. You made some very good points; I guess we didn't consider that not just newbies would be making this pattern. So for the neck edge I will be adding directions for covering the seam with a bias strip (same as in the Easy Shirt). I had never imagined the Baja as a fitted garment but it looks great on you. Good job at re-designing and making it your own! After all isn't that why most of like to sew?
    Sincerely Sew,
    Janet Pray

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