Cake – Camel and Gray Pants

I need pants. Long pants, short pants, wide pants, skinny pants, work pants….so I am officially checking two pair off my SWAP in camel and grey.  These are basic but will be workhorses in my wardrobe, hence the ‘cake’.  I’ll get to some icing soon.

PATTERN

Both pants were drafted using my sloper with modifications.  I borrowed the leg shape and width from a pair of RTW pants that I like.  They have an invisible zipper in the back to reduce any lumpiness in front and they have no pockets, again to maintain a clean look under my ubiquitous jackets and sweaters.  The only differences between the two pair is that the camel ones have a contoured waistband at the hip, and the gray ones have a 1″ straight waistband at the waist.  I also stitched down the crease in the front of the gray ones which I think makes a nice line.

I just need to get on my soapbox for a moment and give a shout out to SLOPERS!  Heh slopers, you ROCK!  It has taken me years to come up with bodice and pant slopers that finally fit.  For the longest time I thought that you were supposed to take a published pattern and then adjust it to match the fit of your sloper. No!  I learned from my sewing instructor  last year that I can use my sloper to add ease and style lines and I’m done!  This is a major sea change in the way I think about patterns.  I don’t have that many and now don’t really need that many.  Sure I’ll buy or download a pattern to copy a detail like a collar or peplum  but I don’t use the whole pattern.

Really, how many pants patterns do you need once you have a sloper.  There is no need to bang our collective heads against the wall every time we take a new pattern out of the envelope to fit it.

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FABRIC

These are both made from Rayon/Polyester/Lycra (RPL) which has a fabulous drape.  Emma  One Sock stocks it in a decent range of colors.  Although they are suppose to be the same fabric, the two colors are a bit different.  The camel is a bit “spongy”, thicker, and stretchier than the gray.   Stranger still is that the camel has the greatest stretch lengthwise which the grey does not so I cut the camel on the crossgrain.  They even fit a bit differently due to the slightly different stretch factor.  I’ve worn the camel three times so far and sadly it’s already starting to pill.   We’ll see how the grey fares as I’ve only worn them once.

The jury is still out on RPL.  I have some in cream which is in the middle of becoming pants, and I have several more yards of camel for a jacket and skirt but I’m not sure I’ll buy more.  I typically don’t buy polyester for environmental reasons but I was looking for something with a bit of Lycra and the price was right.  Real wool gaberdine is pricey and hard to find.

CONSTRUCTION

Besides jeans these are the only pants I haven’t lined.  Any lining would need to have the same stretchiness as the fashion fabric which was a tall order so I didn’t bother.  The edges were first serged then sewn together.  The waistbands were cut on the same grain as the rest of the pants.  The RPL doesn’t take too kindly to iron-on interfacing so I used two layers of horsehair interfacing stitched together and it worked out OK.

Camel Contoured Waistband: Interfacing was laid in after the waistband was sewn on.  Then the top and bottom seam allowances were catch-stitched around the interfacing to keep it in place.   I then sewed the side seams and handstitched a facing made from Bemberg lining.  The final step was topstitching the top and bottom of the waistband.  I went back in and took in the waist a bit more and made a royal mess of the topstitching and facing.  I need to find a better way to make a contoured waistband that still allows me to adjust the side seams without too much hassle.

Grey Straight Waistband:  This was much easer than the contoured band.  I used a technique I found in Pants for Real People where the interfacing is stitched to the seam allowance of the waistband before being attached to the pant.  Brilliant!  I’ve probably said it before but Pants for Real People and Jackets for Real People, both by Palmer/Pletsch are the best sewing books I have.  (Power Sewing by Sandra Betzina comes in third.)

Hems were topstitched in a rush.  I usually do a catch stitch to some interfacing but couldn’t use it on this fabric.  Note to self:  Try blind hemstitch next time.

FIT

Pretty darn close to perfect!  The only change I will make in the future is raising the back waistband up about a 1/2″.  These are about as narrow as I can get before I start to get the dreaded under-the-butt wrinkles.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • Just because you have a swatch of a fabric in one color doesn’t mean that it will be the same in another color.  Always order a swatch if you can’t touch it in a store.
  • Maybe topstitch the waistband before sewing the side seams for ultimate adjustability?
  • Invisible zipper foot on my BabyLock is a PITA.  Use the one on my Viking which is a sure thing every time.

 

The Orange Shorts – Sewing Workshop Plaza Pant

This is the third time that I have made the Sewing Workshop Plaza Pants.  They are loose fitting and gathered at the waist except for a flat section in the front.  They should be made from fabric that has some drape.  They have a 1″ pleated seam down the front of each leg which is quite flattering.

The first time I made them I used some sort of cotton slinky with a ribbed texture if you can picture that.  They kept getting longer with each wear until the crotch was almost down to my knees.  I exaggerate, but they were a fail due to my fabric choice.  I did really like the pattern though so the next time I made a pair a pajama bottoms in plaid flannel.  They are super comfy and get so much use that they are threadbare and nearing the end of their life.

IMG_0245 copyThis latest iteration is a pair of shorts made for my St. Lucia wardrobe at the beginning of the year.  It’s some sort of technical fabric (New Balance maybe?) that I got from I’m guessing Fabric.com.  This knit is thick and drapey and most likely wicks sweat.  It also has a very soft finish that makes you want to pet it.  I love the color and have plenty more to make a running top and/or sporty zip jacket.

When tracing the shorts I replaced the crotch curve with my own and lowered the front waistline.

Even thought this is a simple pattern and has an adjustable waist I think a muslin is is a good idea. This is because there are no side seams to adjust, and due to the construction order the hem must be made before the front pleat.  Basically you need to get the fit right the first time.

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[So let’s talk about the elephant in the room.  What in the world are all those wrinkles in my lap that the camera picked up?  It’s a beefy knit for crying out loud!]

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White Skinny Jeans – Burda 7863

Finally! A pair of pants completed, white pants, at the end of August.  I worked on my pants sloper on an off with my sewing instructor for about 6 months.  We got the sloper worked out for a standard pair of narrow (not skinny) pants.  The concept is that I can use the sloper to draft any other kind of pant but when dealing with a stretch fabric the whole pattern basically needed to be narrowed in the X direction inlcuding the pockets and crotch width.

I threw caution to the fashion winds and wore them to work today — way after Labor Day!  :P

White jeans are on my SWAP by the way so yeah me!

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PATTERN

I used Burda 7863  as the basis of design.  Basically I used the measurements of the pockets and back yoke.  The top of the jeans is about 1/4″ lower than my sloper.  For the next pair, and there will be several more, I won’t lower the back at all and will dip the front by another 1/2″.  The legs here are much narrower than the Burda pattern.

The pattern calls for a straight waistband but I made a contoured band instead with seams at the sides to allow for adjustments. It’s a bit bulky but I am always tweaking.

The one thing I messed up was the pocket placement on the rear.  It was fine until I started taking the sides in and now they are too far apart.  I’ve put the pants back in the sewing room for the winter  in the hope that I ‘ll get inpired to move them by spring.

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And yes, those are houndstooth Connies!

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FABRIC

I struggled a lot with the nature of the stretch denim which I am guessing has about 3% Lycra.  I think I got it at NY Elegant in NYC.  I prefer 2% Lycra but I had a hard enough time finding a white that was also thick enough to avoid show through.  The pretty floral waistband and zipper guard is actually the last of an old set of sheets.The pocket bags are just a buff colored quilting cotton purchased specifically for this project as I didn’t want anything to show through.

IMG_0313FIT

These are fresh out of a hot dryer for the photo shoot, but they loosen up in after an hour of wear.

I took them in at the waist, hip, and even reduced the crotch extension to accommodate the stretch properties.  I also narrowed the legs for style purposes.

The only fit issue that bothers me are the wrinkles below the derrière. My sewing instructor says that they need to be there if I actually want to SIT in my pants. Bummer!

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CONSTRUCTION

I’ve made jeans before so there was nothing new for these.  I always have difficulty at the ends of the waistband though where there is a lot of bulk.  Need to work on that. Jeans button and rivets are from Joann’s and were easy to intall.

The topstitching was done with white jeans thread which worked just fine.  I had my serger and two sewing machines running for this one so I didn’t have to keep changing the thread.

LEASONS LEARNED

  • Take fabric stretch into account when drafting the pockets.
  • Attach rear patch pockets AFTER fitting the waist and hip.

Tree Ornaments

I know Thanksgiving has not even passed but Christmas is almost here!  Yikes!  I still haven’t made the plaid tunic that I promised to make my niece last Christmas.  Except for my St. Lucia vacation wardrobe detour I have been working through my SWAP list which calls for a blue linen jacket.  I’m about 75% complete, and when it’s done the tunic will need jump to the front of the queue.

I don’t consider myself a crafter but I sometimes do crafty things.  These ornaments were made years ago before I started my ‘me-made’ wardrobe.  Sorry but I have no idea where the patterns came from.

These were easy and fun.  Just felt and embroidery floss, and no fitting!

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Now back to fashion sewing.

Are you a Pattern Tracer?

I have noticed several camps of sewists out there when it comes to envelope vs. PDF patterns.

There are those who loathe PDF’s because they must print, cut, and tape them together. I sew from a lot of PDF patterns but have never had a problem. It seems that everyone is trimming the edges before taping. The good news?  You don’t have to trim! No need.   Just overlap them and tape. Trimming is not required. Actually I think it would be more difficult to get the edges to align properly if they were not perfectly trimmed.

Sometimes the matchlines or symbols are not dark enough to see through the paper so I use a window to tape against. Sliding glass doors are the best.  At night when there is no light coming in I’ll tape against my shower door which has a light behind it. I’m also lucky enough to have a built-in light box which works well for smaller pieces.

Once taped up I roughly cut the pattern pieces apart, trace them, and put the originals away for safe keeping.

There is also the camp that doesn’t like the overlapping pattern pieces on one sheet like BurdaStyle magazine. Did you know that they tell you where they are located on the sheet? Just use a highlighter or marker around the pieces you need, then trace them onto your tracing paper.

You are tracing your patterns right?  Right?  I’ve learned from experience never to cut or modify my original pattern pieces except to cut them apart.  You never know when you might need to go back and look at the original after you have tried to fit or modify something beyond recognition.   Also if you decide to do some selfless sewing you will most likely need a different size.

Are you a taper? Cutter? Tracer?

Polo Anyone?

I wouldn’t go out of my way to search out a Polo-style shirt but I was swayed by these great colors, MY colors.

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For this teal one I convinced my LH that teal is not his color and he surrendered it to the sewing studio without much fuss. Coincidentally teal IS one if my colors.  No really.  A total coincidence.  Really.

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I removed the sleeves and filleted the shirt opening it up at the sides and shoulders with only the collar holding everything together. I then recut the shoulders, armholes and sides using my trusty SLOPER! Yeah sloper!  Instead of side darts I eased in about an inch of fabric at the side seams at the bust which lent itself to a subtle  hi-low hemline. I can see in the photos though that I should have made the “dart” larger as I see some drag lines at the bust.  I kept the original hem and added flattering side slits. I also recut the sleeves maintaining their original hem as well.

So now I have a sassy little tunic I can wear as a beach coverup or with leggings.

FAIL

I picked up the turquoise Izod shirt at the Salvation Army for a few dollars knowing that it would get a make-over. It was 80’s vintage, wide shouldered and loose, with puffy sleeves.

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Photobombing by Waffles

I removed the sleeves and took in the sides. I used fold-over elastic on the armholes and stitched it to the inside of the garment. This type of binding is a first for me and I don’t think it’s quite right. There’s really no need for elastic here but the FOE color was a good match so time for experimentation! The armholes are now a little too snug which means I must have stretched the elastic during installation. The shoulder slope is off too.  I keep walking around yanking my shirt down so too snug in the bust. Considering that I only paid $2.50 and its second hand, I’m calling this one a fail and It’s going back to Salvation Army. Eew!  It’s not woth my time to unpick.  I am calling it a learning experience.

LESSONS LEARNED

  • In some knits you can’t ignore or reduce the bust “darts”.  This is very firm stable knit that deserved a bit more shaping and ease.
  • Fold over elastic is too bulky for cotton knit pique.
  • Don’t stretch the fold over elastic or binding at the armholes. I don’t need ease here.
  • Slopers are awesome!
  • Learn how to SMILE for the camera!

Meg dips her toes into the Indie pool

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When I was searching for patterns for my vacation ensemble I decided it was a great opportunity to try a few Indie patterns. Many of the Indie patterns I see are dresses, which I don’t wear very often, and knit tops.  I’m a jacket and pants kinda gal so most of them don’t appeal to me although I always need something to wear under the jackets.  I thought I should at least try one or two Indie’s to see what all the fuss is about. I don’t think twice about downloading PDF’s and I pay little attention to instructions so my focus is on the details and the cut.

I had a white scoop neck woven top listed in my SWAP queue and thought the Sorbetto might fit the bill.

I had originally envisioned a “chemise” style in a loose weave to wear under jackets so I ordered a cotton/Lycra blend that turned out to be too stiff for a chemise style. Duh!  In my pre-vacation delirium to make all things SUMMER I then decided that it would make a great Sorbetto. Not!

I surged the side seams and used bias binding on the inside of the neck and armholes. Instead of a straight stitch I used a wing needle and a decorative stitch to stitch the binding down. This technique looks lovely on a linen but is quite muddy here.
The pattern has no darts in back so there were gobs of fabric at the back waist all puffed out. I tried to tame it with some pleats but they look a bit snug in the photos.

I’m giving this project a FAIL mostly due to the wrong fabric but also because I should just stick to my style of more fitted garments.  I also want to change the shape of the neckline to something more square and perhaps add a center back seam that I can tweak.  You live and you learn.

Next up was Maria Denmark’s Day-to-Night Drape top. I had never tried a draped neckline but  was smitten by Sew Busy Lizzy‘s  awesome version.  It’s a very simple pattern that gets its “cool” from the drape of the fabric.  I had purchased a very thin sorbet colored cotton knit which feels luscious but really needs to be a bit heavier for this pattern. I tried it with a weight at the neckline but found it dragged it down a bit too much for me.  This is more on the “night” end of the scale rather than “day”.  I could see it in a more liquid-like material, a metallic, or sequins.  There is also a lot of fabric pooled down the front below the bust which I suspect is inherent for a cowl neckline.  Hmm…maybe I’ll try to marry this neckline to my sloper and have a two piece front.  I’ll give this one a passing grade.

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LESSONS LEARNED

  • Simple is not necessarily better.  I need more fitted styles.  This is not the same as tighter.
  • Start relying on my sloper more.
  • Pay more attention to the drape of the fabric. Both of these projects could have been better with different fabric.
  • Check sloper to make sure their are no drag lines at the bust.

BurdaStyle 06/2013 #111A Shorts

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These shorts were part of my St. Lucia vacation wardrobe. The fabric was leftover from a failed pair of pants. It’s a lovely fine twill weave of wool and silk in a warm brown with silver undertones. It looks sturdy but is actually rather delicate and doesn’t like to be stressed so we’ll see how long they last. I downloaded this pattern (06/2013 #111A) because of its relaxed look, faced waist, and width.

As designed the shorts have a side zip, faced waist, rear vent pocket, and rolled cuffs. They sit slightly below the waist. I omitted the useless and potentially lumpy back pocket and moved the zipper to the back. I also changed the bulky facing to seam binding and omitted the roll up hem. 

IMG_9859I laid the pattern out over my almost done pants sloper and found that the side seam sits towards the front.  I know this is an optical trick to make one look slimmer from the front but wasn’t sure if or how to translate that to my sloper.  Then somewhere along the way I lost an inch in width on each side!  Must have been late at night.  Hmmm….this is a design opportunity!  I added a 1″ strip down each side using the back side of the fabric which is a grey/silver.  It looks a bit crooked at the top but I won’t be wearing my shirt tucked in anyways.

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In the end I am quite pleased with the fit.  I need to work out the bug with the stripe but I will be making these again.  They definitely suit me!

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LESSONS LEARNED

  • Take your time.  Don’t sew under time pressure.
  • My pants sloper already rocks! (Thanks Astrid!)

Anatomy of an Etcetera jacket

I found this jacket in a local second hand clothing store called Second Time Around in Needham. Basically the only time I shop for clothes these days is when I sneak in there after my haircut every seven weeks or so.  I always have my eye out for unusual jackets.  The back vents were still tacked together so I am assuming that it was never worn – although I can’t tell you how many men and women I see on my daily commute with the tacks still in place on skirts, jackets, and coats. This epidemic requires a public service announcement!

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But I digress.  The brand, Etcetera, is one I had never seen before and it’s lovely. I have been fascinated by the construction and thought I would share it with you.

The sleeves have deep vents faced with the fashion fabric so you can fold them up.  It’s made of a heavy linen/cotton blend with a yellow and grey cross-weave.  (The first photo is actually the truest color.) It’s got a little bit of pick stitching in there too.

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Will you look at these cut-outs in the front? The top, middle, and bottom sections of the mid-fronts are each lined and then stitched into the front and side panels. The sections even overlap at an angle.  Brilliant!  Let’s look at the inside. The front is lined and the back has bound seams.

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IMG_9921The configuration of the back stay is new to me.  It has two overlapping triangular panels stitched into the shoulder and armhole of the lining.  There is a small shoulder pad underneath.  In theory this should allow for flexibility but in reality it’s quite constricting.  Maybe the grainline is running in the wrong direction?  I may actually remove the stays.

Also the back vent is nicely mitered at the bottom.

I want to try the cut-out idea.  Now if only I had something to wear with it…  I’m thinking grey or navy skinny pants.

Who shops second hand?

New Look 6251 – Khaki Cargo Shorts, and Jalie Tee

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This is one of the Tees and shorts that I took with me to St. Lucia.  The top was made in January and the shorts, well, I thought I made them last summer but when I pulled out the pattern I saw they were made in 2011!  It was actually in the 70’s yesterday so we took Olive for a special walk at the nearby agricultural high school.

THE TEE

The shirt itself isn’t terribly exiting but I post it because it’s one step closer to a t-shirt sloper and I must say this is pretty darn close!  I started with Jalie 2566 except used the shoulders and sleeves from my bodice sloper. The fabric is very light-weight cotton with a bit of a slubby texture.

Construction was mostly done on the serger.  The sleeve hems have a band of matching fabric attached.  The neckline has the same band except it’s stitched to the inside and then turned to the outside and stitched down covering the seam allowances.

The hem was done with a coverstitch and I think that is the last time I will attempt it.  GRRR!  I have a 5 thread machine that can “convert” to do coverstitching, chainstitching, 5 thread safety stitch, etc.  In theory it’s great, but in reality it takes 20 minutes to switch it over and back again.  It also HATES to coverstitch over the thinnest tiniest of seams.  Even a hump-jumper doesn’t help.  In hind sight I should have bought a 4 thread serger and a separate coverstitch machine.

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THE SHORTS

I see that there is a new New Look 6251 out which is for a sweater or top and NOT cargo pants.  I have no idea how old this pattern is as I couldn’t find a copyright date anywhere.  I can’t believe they need to recycle the pattern numbers.  I bought it used online I think.  I’m a sucker for princess seamed pants and these have the seam down the front.  The brilliant detail here is the way the cargo pockets are set into the vertical seams at the front and side. Cool huh?  The only design change I made was to leave off the belt loops.  I don’t wear belts very often and they just add bulk at the waist so why bother.  I also used a button at the waistband instead of a hook and eye.  Buttons seem to prevent the vertical edge of the fly from sticking out and gives the illusion of a flatter tummy.  (I see you rolling your eyes mom!)

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Just to ease your fears, I would NEVER entertain the cropped version!

The fabric is a super stretchy cotton/lycra weave with great recovery.  The pockets work great for doggie bags!

Since the waistband is a contoured band, I stabilized the top of the band with twill tape.  It doesn’t work terribly well as the top of the band cuts into my waist.  It’s just not very comfy.  I want the waistband to move and stretch like the rest of the shorts but I have to add SOME structure to it so they don’t stretch too much.  I figured if I added a bunch of interfacing to the waistband it would be too stiff.

The fit is just OK.  I made a number of modifications and they are still a bit short in the crotch and a bit snug at the waist, nothing I can’t fix if inclined to do so.  In spite of their ‘short‘ comings these are the shorts I pull out most often on the weekend.

I have been taking sewing lessons for the last few months and our number one priority has been a well fitted pant sloper.  As of Saturday we. are. almost. there. and then it will be PANTS CITY around here!  Once the sloper is in place I’ll try this pattern again.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • Don’t add twill tape to a waistband if the fabric has a lot of stretch.
  • In a wash’n wear garment pocket flaps need fasteners.