How many times have you made your favorite tried ‘n’ true pattern? For Thea Chester, she’s made seventeen Springfield Tops—and counting!
When Thea first told us about her Springfield collection, we were instantly intrigued. So we wanted to interview her to find out more about her love of this pattern, and of course, to see her makes!
Thea currently lives in Tucson, Arizona, and came there by way of California and Oregon. She recently retired from a career as a lawyer where she specialized in employee benefits.
Thea learned to sew at age 7 on her mother’s Singer—after first nearly destroying it while trying to make clothes for her dolls, to her mother’s exasperation—and has been sewing ever since. For many years she made Halloween costumes for her daughters, including a green dragon that was improvised from a kangaroo pattern, since no dragon patterns were available. (Talk about an epic pattern hack!)
Thea has a number of Cashmerette patterns in her stash, but the Springfield Top has quickly become a wardrobe staple for her. Earlier this spring, we chatted with Thea and asked her all of our nosy sewing questions. Here’s what she told us:
When did you make your first Springfield Top?
I do not recall when I made my first Springfield. It was soon after the pattern first came out. Once I completed some fitting adjustments, I was off to the racetrack. The pattern is easy to construct and I get a consistent fit.
We’re dying to know about your collection of Springfields. How many have you made?
I have made at least seventeen Springfields. I have fifteen in my closet now. Of the seventeen, one was splashed with bleach and had to be discarded. One was made up in a nylon fabric that was given to me and I don’t like it and I don’t wear it. The other fifteen I wear constantly.
Since I live in a hot climate the ones in cotton, silk, linen and rayon get a lot of wear, the polyester ones a little less. I learned from a Sandra Betzina online class (thank you Sandra) that the polyester fabrics from the big box store work best if they are cut on the bias. Otherwise, the straight grain cut fabric tends to pucker when it is sewn. Cut on the bias, the fabric does not pucker and usually drapes well. If I have enough fabric, I often cut the Springfield on the bias, I like the drape. I cut all types of fabric on the bias, most recently I cut a lightweight silk twill on the bias and it draped beautifully. I have permanent bias grainlines marked on my Springfield pattern.
Usually I use the version of the Springfield with the narrower, three piece back. Recently, however, I used the one piece back, added about six to eight inches in width, and gathered it to the yoke. That one was done in two different silks, where I had enough of each fabric for a front or a back, but not enough of either fabric for an entire top.
I also like to play around with the yoke. I have used lace for the yoke and I also have made sort of a patch-work lace for the yoke and often cut the yoke on the bias. The yoke is a good place to use small bits of unique fabric. Sometimes I add sleeves, but generally I prefer sleeveless.
What is it about the Springfield that works so well for you? How long does it take you to make one nowadays?
The Springfield works for me because of the reliable fit, it does not require large amounts of fabric, and it is easy to assemble. It is a good way to get a comfortable, wearable top out of woven fabric. I do not even look at the instructions anymore, I can sew the Springfield very quickly, but I have never timed myself. I guess in answer to your question, it does not take me very long to sew one.
My favorite step in the process of making a Springfield is the conceptualization and designing what fabric, bias or straight grain, which yoke fabric, should the seams be piped in back, what kind of neck and armhole binding, sleeve or sleeveless?
I believe I originally cut a size 20 with a G/H cup. I had to reduce the size a little bit, so if I were starting over now I probably would start with an 18 G/H. If I recall, I had to adjust the dart take-up a bit, and I had to do a round back adjustment, primarily working with the yoke on that, and a sway back adjustment. I think I also might have lowered the front neckline. Sometimes I sew the neckline in a V shape instead of the rounded one.
Do you have plans to make more Springfields in the future?
This morning I cut a cardigan from a beautiful Missoni-type knit. The fabric print required that the pattern be cut cross-grain. When I was finished, I had an oddly shaped piece of fabric left—too big to throw away, too small with which to do a lot. I wanted to make a top and I knew I would need a pattern with a yoke in back because of the odd shape of the remnant.
I have a pattern for a knit top with a yoke, but I had somehow misplaced the yoke pattern piece (it is oddly shaped and could not be replicated easily, and I am going for easy today). I then thought yoke and Springfield. I did not have the luxury of carefully matching the pattern (I am barely squeezing in the lower back pieces). Also, I had to add a center front seam.
This is my first knit Springfield. The knit made it rather loose in the front neckline so I added four tucks in the front. The cardigan is from from Pamela’s Patterns, Cool Cardigans–Draped Front.
Tell us about your sewing space.
I use a bedroom for my sewing space. Over the years I have collected sewing furniture that I like from Koala and Unique Sewing Furniture and I have a set up that I like, including a good size closet and my home-made mannequin, Eileen Lackabutt.
I have separate cutting and ironing tables, and I have two older (2005) Babylock embroidery/sewing machines and a Babylock serger. I am in the market now for a new sewing machine, but I am not sure, in the current weird times, when I will be able to move forward with that.
I have way too many patterns. I store them in file cabinets by pattern company and pattern number or name and keep three-ring binders which organize the patterns by garment type, so I can find what I have. It is like having a pattern catalog.
Tell us about your fabric stash.
I have lots of fabric in my stash, organized on the shelves generally by color, and use a rolodex to keep it organized by fabric type. I really don’t need to do any more shopping for it, but that never stopped me in the past. A lot of my fabric, unfortunately, comes from the big box store, lots of polyester, because it is the only show in town here in Tucson.
When I can, I go to Portland, OR, (Mill End fabric store) or San Francisco (I love Stone Mountain and Daughter in Berkeley) to fabric shop, but those trips are not frequent. I try to get to the Sewing Expo in Puyallup, WA every other year and shop there. I do very little online fabric shopping. I would like to go to either Los Angeles or New York to do some fabric shopping, but that does not look too hopeful.
My favorite fabrics are linen, silk and rayon. They are just so cooperative to sew with. Linen especially. I like wool, also, but not much use for it in Tucson. I do have a lot of poly, and I intend to weed a lot of that out and try to use only fabric that I enjoy and not fabric that frustrates me. I use a lot of knits and like to work with ponte. Linen and silk knits, when I can get them, are a joy. If I could obtain enough reasonably priced silk knit, I could probably make a travel wardrobe of 20 pieces that would roll up and fit in a carry on bag.
I have had my colors done by Nancy Nix Rice and I try to keep within that framework. With my gray hair, pale skin and hazel eyes, my palette is on the gentle side, so I try to keep my fabric purchases within the palette, but not always with success. I sometimes just go for what I think I love, and then sometimes regret it.
With few exceptions, the fabric I work with has to be washable. I wash my silks. I do not have the time, patience, or money anymore for dry cleaning.
What other Cashmerette patterns have you enjoyed making? What patterns are you looking forward to trying next?
I have quite a few Cashmerette patterns in my files. Right now I am considering some summer dresses. I am particularly considering the Holyoke (cut knee length, I don’t care for long dresses), the Upton and the Webster.
My sewing goal is the perfect coordinated capsule travel wardrobe. Someday, perhaps, I will achieve that. Someday, perhaps, I can travel again.
A big thanks to Thea for telling us all about her Springfield collection and for sharing all of these great photos with us!!
Are you feeling inspired to give the Springfield a try for the first time? We’re super inspired by all of Thea’s great Springfield hacks—and you can learn to become a Springfield hacking master too with our Pattern Hacking for Curves workshop (class includes a coupon code for 30% off the Springfield Top pattern!).