here begins the quest for great-fitting jeans

the holy grail of sewing (other than a couture wedding gown) would have to be jeans. jeans have been on my to-sew list for a long time, but frankly i was slightly afraid of failure so they kept getting pushed to the side. recently i picked up some $2/yd stretch corduroy on a crazy sale and decided to finally give jeans a try. i went with the ever-loved jalie 2908. i’ve made this pattern for my daughter twice and had great results, so i got to tracing off my own size.

(sorry about the awful pics… this dark color is super hard to photograph, so i overexposed the pics in order to see the details i’m talking about.)

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right now i’m about 75% happy, so i thought i would talk fitting. i’m not a pants-fitting expert, so what i say here is simply my own personal experience, and stuff i’ve picked up from fitting books. feel free to chime in if i say something that sounds totally off!

to begin, i wanted skinny jeans (i know… i’m using corduroy, not denim, but we’re just calling them jeans since they have the same stretch and design details) so i took some measurements from my everyday jeans to give me a starting point. the pattern is already fit with negative ease through the thigh, so most of the tapering came from the knee down. i did have to bring the back outside seam in a little right before the knee, but from there i tapered in symmetrically. i also added 1 1/2″ to the length. the leg shape i’m happy with, though i may try to reduce the under-bum wrinkling.

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now for some crotch talk! ugh, can we as the creative type come up with a better term than crotch??? for realz people. this needs to happen. anyways… off the bat i added a wedge to increase the back rise by 3/4″ (i’ve seen this called a “full bottom adjustment” hahaha the only FBA i’ll ever need!). this worked well, and the overall crotch seam length i’m happy with.

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so what’s this 25% i’m not happy with? i have this wedge of fabric just kinda hanging out below the fly. it doesn’t really show up in pics the way it does when i’m looking in the mirror, but this is something that definitely does not occur in my RTW jeans.

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i think i have two issues here: one—the pants aren’t sitting close enough in the front, and two—i have a “prominent thigh” pulling the fabric out, which is more obvious in profile.

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i think if i adjust the front crotch curve to be flatter, most of my issues will be solved. reducing the front curve will inadvertently add width to the front of the leg, making room for my prominent front thigh.

the waistband on this pattern is the straight cut, fold over type. it is cut on the bias and interfaced with stretch fusible. i didn’t feel like messing with a new curved waistband, but i will on my next attempt. by the time i got to the waistband i knew these were in “wearable muslin” territory so i didn’t sweat it. for round two, i plan to baste on a straight piece of muslin, then take darts in around until it sits flat, and use that to draft a custom waistband. i understand jalie’s idea of keeping some stretch in the waistband, but i just don’t think it will ever keep its shape.

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obligatory back shot… pear much?

as far as sizing, i cut the size corresponding to my hip measurement. my waist falls about 1-2 sizes down, so during fitting i took 3/4″ out of the CB, and another 3/8-1/2″ total from the side seams. the rule of thumb is choose a size based on your toughest to fit area (hip/thigh) and make simple adjustments to the rest. realistically i think i have a handle on what i need to do next, and i’m very optimistic! for further authenticity, i ordered some rivets and tack buttons (from taylortailor.com). i put one rivet in on the coin pocket to see how it worked and it was kind of a hassle. i think i’ll have to pull out the drill to get a good clean hole for the rivet post.

anyone else trying out jeans? sometimes i feel a little nutty going to all this trouble, but in all honesty i’ve always had to settle for good enough in RTW. with that in perspective, it’s not so nutty. in the words of the always inspiring Carolyn… “be your own sweatshop, yo!”

on a completely different topic, i want to introduce my baby sister, Monica to you guys! she shares my sewing obsession and we constantly talk sewing and consult each other when we need opinions. she’s been sewing for several years and just started up her own blog called seams right to me. her first garment post is an archer button up, so obviously she has great taste. if you feel inclined to add another blog to your reader, go show her some love!

—lisa g.

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some not so boring basics

i love all the bright colored pants i’ve been seeing, and i finally got around to making a pair. i ordered this coral twill a while back under the want of pink twill. pink… coral… same diff? eh. it’s just another fashionfabricsclub.com not-exactly-what-i-thought-i-was-getting acquisition. i really waffled on whether or not to make these pants because of the color not being what i had in mind, but decided to go for it if for no other reason than to experiment with making a skinny cropped thurlow. then, if they didn’t turn out, i wouldn’t be too bothered. and whaddayaknow, i think they came out pretty okay!

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ugh, and can i just say how hard it is to photograph pants? i look at the pics and all i see are HIPS. yeah, bright colors exaggerate that visually, but hello! fun pants! that, and i made about every derp face possible… i took 80 photos, and this is all i have to show for it. sorry, i know you all come here to view my stunning photography skillzzz… aha, aha, aha… KIDDING. moving on…

i decided to give these a dressier edge and scale back on all the topstitching i usually do. also, since i knew i would be stitching and unpicking to get the leg shape right, leaving the topstitching out definitely kept the frustration at bay. i did topstitch the whole crotch seam because, let’s face it, my backside needs all the reinforcement it can get. i used a hook and eye closure, the waistband is stitched in the ditch to catch the facing, and i even sewed up a tube to make the belt loops instead of just topstitching the folds.

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i have to admit—getting the leg shape right was a lot more challenging than i had anticipated. i started out with a straight cut from about the knee down so i could easily taper in as i worked it all out. i’m not totally satisfied with the leg, but i have a much better idea of how to go about it for the future. after rounds of basting, taking in, letting out, taking back in… i finally just had to stop futzing and go with it. since this fabric is a non-stretch, it’s a delicate balance to achieve both wearability and good fit. i’ll certainly wear these pants, especially as the weather cools but before the chill really sets in; they’ll look great with my knit blazer, a denim jacket, my chambray archer, an in-the-works archer, and a few other tops in my wardrobe. they’re definitely a win, and definitely a learning experience!

EDIT: in case anyone is interested, i wanted to add that i began tapering the outer seam about mid-thigh, then both inner and outer seam symmetrically from the knee down. i left about 1 1/2″ ease at mid-thigh, 3″ ease at the knee, and the hem circumference is 13″ or 14″.

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the astute among you will notice my title says some basics; in other words, i also made the white tee i’m wearing. my last RTW white tees are pretty much only worn to bed, or relegated to what i wear for a heavy duty house cleaning, so it was time. a good white tee is the LBD of casual wear, and finding an appropriate white knit can feel a little like tilting at windmills. i got my fabric from girlcharlee.com (HERE) and it comes pretty close to ideal. it’s a cotton/rayon jersey, it’s super soft without being too challenging to work with, and, while far from opaque, is good enough to not require a cami.

i used the renfrew pattern with hem and sleeve bands omitted. i cut the shirt 2″ longer to account for the lost length, and the sleeves… i can’t remember if i made any changes to the pattern piece, i traced that off a long time ago. for reference, they are about 1 1/2″ long under the arm (after taking a 1/2″ hem) and cut straight across. the size 6 gives me a nice fitted tee, but i went with a size 8 since this fabric is thin. i find that thinner fabrics require more ease than thicker fabrics (knit or woven) and i really just wanted a nice comfy tee. mission accomplished!

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can’t really see the details on my shirt, you’ll just have to take my word for it that it turned out really nice!

i thought i’d mention that the renfrew neck band has been the bane of existence for many people, and truthfully, i don’t even bother with that pattern piece. i sew up the right shoulder, attach the neckband, stretching as i feel necessary, then sew up the left shoulder. this is basically a fool-proof method if you ever have difficulty with knit neck bindings. yes, it means the one shoulder seam isn’t completely flawless, but it means that there is no guessing about neckband length and, most importantly, no unpicking and re-doing. if you’re serging, it’s easiest to leave only a 1/4″ SA for the neckline and band so you don’t have to worry about slicing off just the right amount evenly. then i zig zag over the neckband join to keep it in place and call it a day. easy peasy!

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summer (in the school sense) is coming to an end this week. the three oldest will all be at school full time, which leaves just me and my 4-yr oliver at home (aside from a few hrs of preschool 3 days a week). oliver and izzie are so close and spend all day playing together without much attention from me, so having only oliver at home will eat into my daytime sewing for sure! i’ll have to go back to sewing at night most of the time, but it does give me the opportunity to do some activities with only him (izzie hates going out and when she’s bored or uncomfortable EVERYONE gets to hear about it). it will be a bit of an adjustment around here, but fortunately i have a small backlog of projects i need to get to posting about. happy first days of school everyone!

—lisa g.

jedediah pants by Thread Theory

if you haven’t heard of the new pattern company Thread Theory, you’re in for a treat! or at least the men in your life are. as i sew more and more of my family’s wardrobe, that means my husband, nathan, occasionally gets a new piece to add to his closet. after sewing a few shirts earlier this year, it was time to start making some pants. the state of available menswear patterns is pretty uninspiring to say the least. clearly there is a gap in the market waiting to be filled, and Thread Theory patterns is posed to be one of the first in line to fill that gap. they have an up-to-date take on classic looks and i am very excited to see where they are headed.

pardon the rumpled appearance, these have already been worn several times and gone through the wash. what can i say… he likes his new shorts!

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i’ve been following Thread Theory for a short while, and when i saw their newest pattern offering, the jedediah pants, the release couldn’t come soon enough! my husband is on the smaller end of menswear sizes and pants, in particular, are almost always too big and way too long. i immediately begged offered to be on the list of pattern testers, and when the call went out i jumped at the chance. since i’ve done a lot of pants and shorts lately, i can knock them out relatively quickly. of course i’m accustomed to not following pattern directions, so forcing myself to actually read every step was a huge challenge for me. however, for the sake of pattern testing, i figured i should!

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the jedediah pants are a casual pant with a dressy edge. they have a flat front, slash pockets, back patch pockets, and back yoke. the great thing about this pattern in particular is the fact that they have included instructions for things like flat-felling seams, bar tacking points that need reinforcement, and even french seaming the pocket bags (p.s. i have a tutorial on that if you need a visual). they also include the pocket facing pieces and the fly shield. it is a fold-over fly facing, but since every other detail is there, i won’t complain.

for this pair i used a medium-heavy cotton twill and went with a shorts length. i love the cuffed variation the pattern offers, but my fabric was a bit bulky so i ended up hemming them to knee length. if you’re not into the tapered leg it would be super easy to change it up, depending on what look your guy prefers.

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as far as the fit goes, nathan typically wears a 30 in RTW so that is what i cut. as i was sewing them up, i thought i should check for sure what his measurements actually are, and lo and behold his waist is closer to 32″. afraid they would end up too small, i sewed the side seams at 3/8″ as well as the back seam. this left him plenty of room, but now the waistband i cut was too small. i had more fabric, but instead of cutting a new waistband (heaven forbid i waste fabric!), i simply pieced it right under the button closure where it won’t be visible. lesson: actually measure your guy’s waist. i believe these are sized a little slimmer than your typical RTW, but the pattern does include finished measurements to help get a proper fit.

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since this is the first pair of pants i’ve sewn for my husband, this will definitely be my go-to for a casual pant or shorts. the fit is great, and it’s nice to see him in clothes that do fit instead of drowning his frame. the only downside is that once you’ve been bitten by the custom fit bug, you just can’t go back! he’s already requested more. 🙂 if you’ve thought of making pants for your guy, there will also be a sew-a-long over on the Thread Theory blog beginning august 15th to help you through the process. however if you’re impatient and want to get started sooner, the included directions are very thorough, even if you’ve never sewn pants before. seriously. they left nothing out!

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so what do you think… tempted to sew a pair for your guy?

—lisa g.

shorts and wrap top | mccalls 6689

a while ago i placed and received an order from fashionfabricsclub.com and had ordered a smokey black with white polka dot cotton lawn. pretty sure i would classify it as a stretch poplin. not sure who is categorizing their inventory, but i think a lesson in fabric identification is in order. after getting it i wasn’t sure what to do with it. i only had a narrow yard, so it was destined to be a kid something. i did know that some khaki twill i had ordered was going to be shorts for my oldest daughter. i had mccalls 6689 on hand which includes a super cute wrap top/dress, a pair of slim pants, and a mini skirt. that, my friends, is a lot of pattern for one pattern envelope.

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clearly the top/dress is the star of the show here, and the mini might be okay, but the pants are most definitely a throwaway pattern. the drafting is beyond terrible—there’s no way anyone tested it! so let’s talk about the pants first. i decided it would be cute to make the pants as slim knee-length shorts. she measured exactly the waist/hip for a size 7 so i went with it. these have an at-waist waistband, so i chopped off 1″ all the way around the top and adjusted the waistband to match.

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i made them up and holy smokes are they poorly drafted! the front rise is way too long, and the back is way too short. a simple moving of the crotch seam forward would solve all this, and had anyone actually made them, this would be so very obvious. a size 6 would have been a much better fit, but it just doesn’t feel right sewing up a size 6 for a nine year old. i know we all love to hate on the big 4—and this is why. yeah, i’ll probably re-draft and adjust the pattern because i really like the idea of this pant, but jeez louise. test your flippin’ patterns. don’t just throw them out there thinking no one will actually try to make it!

somehow, all the fit issues aren’t readily obvious in these pics, and as it stands, she loves the shorts and sees nothing wrong with them. they will be worn (and have been worn many times already) but they could be so much better. final verdict: unless you plan on doing a muslin for those pants and know how to make crotch adjustments, STAY AWAY. just walk away. that pattern sucks.

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on to the top… when i went to cut out the shorts it dawned on me that the cotton lawn stretch poplin would be a perfect match for the cute wrap top. of course after the debacle with the pants, i was hesitant to attempt the top. but, like i said before, clearly the pants were a throwaway pattern never intended to be made up, so i decided to give it a try. p.s. this top has a billion pieces! i had just enough fabric to squeeze it out of the one yard i had. i strayed from the pattern’s directions quite a bit though. it has the top fully lined (bodice, peplum/skirt, and sleeves!), and honestly i think that is just a lazy way out of  writing alternate directions for finishing a non-eyelet fabric. so instead of the lining, i used bias tape to finish the wrap edge and around the neck, and used the inside waistband piece to neatly finish the bodice and skirt seams.

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while the pants were quite large, the same size top is a great fit. maybe too good, i probably could have made the size 8, never minding that the last time i made her a size 8 of something it was practically falling off of her…. you never can tell how crazy the fit is going to be on kid patterns!

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anyways, this top is super duper cute! and the girl loves the whole outfit. i may even do the dress version at some point because who doesn’t love a little DVF-inspired wrap?

—lisa g.

mama’s first re-fashion (and more shorts)

refashioning is not something i’ve gotten into. there are lovely peeps out there who do it almost exclusively—and i think they are amazing!—but i just haven’t gone there myself. however, in an effort to use some of my old clothes that i no longer wear but just can’t give away, i decided to give it a try. and ya know… it wasn’t half bad!

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i’ve had this button up shirt since college, and i loved it and wore it a lot. nowadays the fit bothered me: sleeves too wide, main body too wide, shirt too short… hasn’t been worn in years. so i cut it up, made it small and gave it to anastasia. she’s very much not a girly girl so it was a risk giving her a ruffled collar, but it’s small and subtle enough that she’s okay with it.

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i had plenty of fabric to work with, so i cut the collar stand on the bias to break up the plaid a bit. for the ruffle, i went with a scant 2:1 ratio and used my serger to finish the upper edge. even though i had plenty of fabric, i made the inner collar stand out of a contrast fabric that just happened to go well with the plaid. i really like this feature on shirts, though i’ve never used it for myself. that may change.

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and hey, check out those cute shorts! i used mccalls 6391 again with all the same pattern mods as before. the fabric is a lightweight denim (6-6.5 oz) that was leftover from an older project. actually, this is the second thing i’ve made with the leftovers now that i think of it… i wanted to keep a trouser look so i used black topstitching thread, but to keep it casual i simply hemmed the legs and rolled them up twice, strategically tacking the side seams so they stay put. as you can see, in a size 7 they’re quite roomy. however i expect that she’ll get two summers out of these—our summers are fairly short so that’s a good thing. i also put an adjustable waist on the inside so she wouldn’t have to bother with a belt.

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as i constructed the shorts i took many pictures of my fly construction method, but writing up a good tutorial is very time consuming. i should have it up in a day or two (or four…) so watch this space!

—lisa g.

plaid shorts [mccalls 6391]

i bought mccalls 6391 years ago because i thought the shorts were cute and had lots of potential. a couple weeks ago i set out to make these shorts for my nine year old, anastasia. there are precious few not super helpful reviews of this pattern, so i went into it armed only with my instinct. the pattern is designed to sit at the waist. i can’t speak for you, but i’m pretty sure i don’t know a single kid who wants to wear at waist anything. off the bat i lopped 1″ off the top, and also removed 1″ from the length.

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i drafted all the not included pieces (fly facing, fly shield, pocket facings, etc) and went to work. i had less than a yard of shirting fabric (from this make) but managed to fit it all in and match my plaids pretty well. since this was a shirting fabric, i underlined it in muslin to make sure the shorts didn’t end up see-through.

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the pattern has a box pleat at the waist, which i thought looked strange, so i split the pleat into two regular pleats. i could have eliminated the pleats altogether, but aren’t pleats trendy at the moment? i don’t pretend to know, i just thought it was cute. i ended up cutting the waistband one size larger (since i lowered where the waistband was going to sit) and trimmed it down to fit. also, i added back patch pockets and belt loops. i had made a sash from leftover chambray scraps which she can use as a belt since the shorts are pretty roomy and would likely fall off otherwise.

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i made her a size 7 and they’re plenty big. i really like how these shorts came out and i already have another pair cut out in a lightweight denim, which hopefully i’ll get to next week. i have received a few questions about how i construct the zip fly, so i plan to detail my process in an upcoming post, as well as how to draft those mystery pieces that most patterns don’t bother to include. i have a few other things to post first, but i’ll get to it!

—lisa g.

chartreuse is the new black

here is my latest incarnation of the sewaholic thurlow shorts. can you tell that i love this pattern? this is the fourth time i’ve used it and, if my MMM’13 was any indication, you can see that i wear my thurlows a lot.

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no, i didn’t make the blouse. it’s my favorite RTW top though!

i figured since this was my fourth, it was time to change it up a bit. i made them cuffed as the pattern intended, and i changed the front pocket situation. i have no problem with the pockets as drafted, but i really do prefer the slash pockets even though they are supposedly unflattering on figures such as my own. forget about whether or not they draw attention to my hips, they’re just better for hand stashing. and hand stashing usually trumps figure flattering.

sorry hips.

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the actual color is slightly more muted than this picture suggests.

can we just talk about this color for a minute? when i went fabric shopping i was looking for a bright pink twill i had seen a couple months ago. i keep seeing bright colored pants and shorts every time i turn around and i definitely wanted in on this trend. alas, the pink was nowhere to be seen. determined to have some twill i grabbed this chartreuse/mustard color. the lady at the cutting table asked what i was going to do with it, and the look on her face told me she didn’t know what to make of this color or why i wanted to wear it. it definitely walks the fabulous? or hideous? line, but i think it’s great. crazy enough, it seems that i have several tops already in my closet that go with it, as if it were a neutral color. who knew that chartreuse was the missing link in my wardrobe?!

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well there isn’t much more to say about the thurlow that i haven’t already said (here, here, and here), except that i won’t be retiring this pattern any time soon. on a side note, i am proud to say that i hit a notable milestone regarding pants: i did the fly without consulting any directions. did you catch that? NO DIRECTIONS WERE CONSULTED. a pant fly is now knowledge in my head. and boy does that feel good. auto-pilot sewing is. the. best.

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if you haven’t made this pattern yet… what are you waiting for?!

—lisa g.