Butterick 3794: two great things that aren’t great together

The pattern is Butterick 3794, top, skirt, and pants, from sometime in the 1970’s. No date on this pattern, but obviously 70’s. I mean, those shoes. 

I like the artwork on this pattern a lot. The model had a sweet face, her hair is simple, she looks more or less like a real, normal, not overly glamorous person. Maybe this is why she looks so sweet: her little neck scarf looks like an attempt at glamour, like a normal kid aspiring toward glamour, which is super endearing. 

I like how that giant black and white plaid shows us that the skirt is cut on the bias, rather than the envelope telling us with words. 

I like how the artwork shows that with just three fabrics, a turtleneck sweater, two pairs of shoes, one pair of socks, a scarf, and the patterns in this envelope, you can have this whole wardrobe of looks. It’s stylish yet efficient and kinda bare-bones in an appealing way. This artwork is tapping into why people like the idea of capsule wardrobes: it really seems like it’s gonna work, like that’s it, your clothing situation is all settled, the end, welcome to a whole new world of everything going with everything. 

I buy fabric without a use in mind. I just like it. It’s mostly second hand, I’m not being extravagant, so if I like it I buy it. Which means I end up with a collection of fabric that is mostly prints or interesting weaves or patterns. Solids don’t usually jump out as interesting, unless it’s a really special solid. Which means nothing really goes together, except in the sense that I like all of it, so it must be related in some way. I’m pretty sure that if I just keep making stuff, eventually everything will go with everything. As a factor of me liking all of it. 

Anyway, from this pattern I made the shirt in a brindled knit from deep in the bins at Michael Levine Loft, and the skirt from a pair of woolen-blend table-runners, some lace, and a peppermint delirium of a lining fabric. 

Here’s the shirt. 

Brindled is defined as brownish or tawny with stripes of other color, especially in reference to domestic animals, as in a brindled bulldog puppy, which is exactly why I bought this fabric. 

Good sleeves on this one. 

I made only one change from the original: I finished the neck, sleeves, and hem with this decorative elastic. Originally the sleeves were elastic in a casing, the hem was a drawstring, and the neckline was that weird 70’s obsession of finishing a knit garment with an interfaced (aka no longer stretchy) facing. I assume they did that because knits weren’t as stretchy back then (lower Lycra content), so stretching on a T-shirt style neckband would’ve been impossible. 

I did put a little interfaceing in front though, for that triangle shape at the center front neck that sweatshirts always have. 

Why do sweatshirts have that triangle? Reinforcement? Why would the front need more reinforcement than the back or sides? 

And here’s the skirt:

So, yeah, the plaid was two long skinny table runners, woven in the Carnegie tartan, from some alumni event of my husband’s. I put in a window of black lace with one scalloped edge, and behind that some crazy swirling lining fabric. I know this looks nuts, but there wasn’t enough of the wool. I had no choice in it, there was nothing else I could do. 

This is the first time I’ve used my appliqué scissors for actual appliqué. Usually I use them for hems. Trimming away around these scallops was very satisfying. 

Instead of matching the plaid when I was putting together the sections of table runner, I offset it for maximum crazy. You can see most clearly at the back, here:

This skirt is longer than the original: the pattern included a 2 1/2 inch hem, but I faced it instead. The only other change I made from the original was sidestepping the waistband. I stitched in a twill tape and the understitched it with the lining.

Lapped zipper though, just like the pattern told me to. Always happy to use up these old coil zippers. 

And here it is on a warmer day with different styling.

Sew It or Throw It:

Sew definitely. The shirt is great and the skirt is super simple. Same pattern piece for the front and back. Could probably be finished in one sitting. Except not this version, my skirt took eight and a half interesting and fun hours. The shirt took only four hours though, that’s practically instant fashion. 


20 thoughts on “Butterick 3794: two great things that aren’t great together

  1. Genius, you are definitely a fabric co-ordinating genius. Who would have thought a swirl would complement a tartan, but there it is in all its glory – fabulous skirt. And that top is also a winner. You see I would pass these patterns over for something much more ‘designer en trend’, but you scoop up these little gems and make hay.

    Your perceptive comments on artwork are worrying me though, its like you stepped back in time at warp speed and resurrected the 70s sentiment a little too acurately. Come baaaaack Liza Mae. x


  2. I love pattern illustrations, some of them lead me into a false sense of security – ie I am sure I will look like that elongated drawing with cool drawn hair, or I am sure I can pull off socks with platforms……I really like the sleeves on that sweater – its a great pattern, and clever you off-setting the tartan!


    1. Tartans are so great. So many ways you can arrange the lines.
      I too am lead astray by illustrations sometimes, although it’s funny how much easier to read a drawing is than a photo. I feel like the patterns with photos on their covers are even harder to see the truth of and imagine in real life.


  3. Both pieces are great. I really like how you’ve updated the sweatshirt pattern with the finishes you opted for (and, well, with a stretchier fabric). And, as you know, I’m a big fan of creative solutions for using up all of a limited yardage, so to me that skirt is a work of art :-) I’m almost done working on something that used fabric scraps — albeit in not as creative a way — just a set of snaps away from finishing and photos. (Runs off to buy a snap setter.)


      1. I’ve contemplated using a hammer but I got a sudden vision of disaster, so I think I should just minimize the risk and buy a snap setter. I’d prefer to avoid shredding an almost finished garment.


  4. I covet this skirt so badly! I wish we were the same size so I could just come over and take it! I also love brindled fabric and want to make that shirt. This has been one of my favorite posts.


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