Jeans, Bitches! (Part II)

Emboldened by success at my first pair of handmade jeans last year, I resolved this year to tackle another pair. This time it’s the Ginger Jeans pattern from Closet Core Patterns (nee Closet Case Files).

Ginger Jeans in stretch denim with red topstitching. Top is a Henley tee from Jalie.

A lot of indie home sewing patterns are hyped. You can believe the hype with this one! The pattern is fabulous, and I am delighted with the results. The instructions do a nice job of walking you through without excessing hand-holding, and the quality of the drafting and details are top-notch.

For efficiency’s sake, I put two sewing machines in service – one for construction, one for topstitching. I chose this red leftover from a bygone upholstery project. I love using red as a neutral color to make ordinary garments pop.

More fancy pocket embroidery and topstitching

The pocket design is part of a larger motif from Urban Threads called “Gothic Gate.” I am still learning to use the embroidery unit from by Bernina 580. This time I learned how to skip around in a design to get just the bits I want. Many machine embroidery designs have an excess of curlicues, subtle color gradations and other elements that turn me off.

Entire “Gothic Gate” design

I was able to embroider just the bird motif at the bottom by skipping ahead in preview mode until the needle got to the part I wanted. Luckily, it was end at the end of the design. So I stitched just that bit, baby-sitting the machine so I could be sure not to get more than I bargained for (still shuddering horrors at my multicolor project last summer).

Obligatory butt shot

The pattern had two design options – a low-rise jean with wider legs, or a high-rise skinny jean. I opted for the former, figuring the leg fit would be the hard part, and I could always raise the rise on a subsequent pair if I was otherwise happy.

The fit was pretty great with minimal tweaking from me – just a 1-cm back crotch extension, lengthening 1 inch and taking in the waist 1.5 inches. The jeans tend to gape open a bit at center-back so I added a second belt loop back there – give the belt some love, I say!

The only major fit issue for the next pair (and there WILL be a next pair) is the back leg twisting and bagging sitch at the knee. I am pretty sure this happens for a combo of reasons – a bit of a knock-knee leg shape, a bit of chubbiness at the inner knee, and a bit of hyperextension of the calves.

Obligatory side view

Plus, this is pretty stretchy denim. I think I can figure this out for next time. In fact, I bought some more denim (less stretch) to try again – soon!

First Entry into the Skirt Smackdown!

I sewed up the simplest skirt first for my five-skirt smackdownplan. And it nearly made me want to sew pants again.

Here’s the finished product:

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Bernina A-Line Skirt Crapfest

I realize this is a crappy picture. Crap project, crap picture.

Hey, it’s wearable…

This is the Bernina My Label A-Line Skirt. There was so much screwed up about this pattern I am not sure where to begin.

First, I should note that while the pattern photo shows a center-front seam, there isn’t one on the pattern – the front is cut on the fold. Next, I should tell you about all the errors and omissions on the pattern itself, such as:

  • No grainline marked on pocket pattern
  • You need to cut twice the waistband pieces as the pattern pieces call for (this is correct in the instructions but not on the pieces themselves).
  • No zipper placement marks.
  • No notches at all – not for the waistband, pockets, side seams – zip! (yet, there are some that have no use on the front piece).

Of course, I noticed these things after I did my fancy embroidery on the pockets. So I felt I was in for a penny, in for a pound with this thing.

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This is pretty anyway

The fabric came from Qi-Ja Fabrics in Hamilton, Bermuda – I picked it up on vacation last year. It’s a coral linen – a very pretty color but close to my face it tends to bring out blue undertones in my skin, so I thought a skirt was a better option.

The cutting phase revealed two more bits of fun:

  • This pattern uses about 1 yard of woven fabric, not 2, at least in the size I cut (10 waist, 12 hip).
  • The pattern calls for you to cut a very long back waistband so you can fold a loop out of it to make a “strap” at the back. Why? I have no idea – I guess if you want to hang your skirt on a hook, you might find it handy. But who does that? And even if that sounds great, do you really want a big loop of fabric hanging off your ass all the time?

We soldier on…

The instructions were just kind of garbled and vague. It’s a pretty simple skirt, so it’s not like I needed a lot of hand-holding, but still… sheesh.

* The pockets, while cute, are useless. Stuff falls out of them. Duh. I sewed then shut at the bottom.
* The sizing is off – easily two sizes larger than the sizing table indicates.
* The drafting is off – the hem oddly angles in in a jagged way instead of gently curves, as does the waistline. I had to smooth this out.
* I used an invisible zipper since I was sewing from stash and didn’t have a matching zipper handy.
* I chopped off that asinine strap and turned a bit of it into a tab button placket so I could better secure the waistline. The button is an antique from my stash.
* Interfaced the waistband (the pattern did not call for this ?!?)

 

Worst pattern ever. Beats this skirt sewed from a Japanese pattern book a few years ago.

Bernina should be ashamed of itself. I found out later that this “MyLabel” product was a short-lived software package for pattern drafting and design. As a friend of mine said when I recounted this tale of woe – “Bernina should stick to making sewing machines.”

Braving the Embroidery Unit Again

I was so glad that I finally busted the embroidery unit out of its box last year. I chose a simple, one-color design for my jeans pockets, and it came out perfectly.

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First embroidery project done!

Let’s try a more complex design for our first Summer Skirt Smackdown project, OK? I picked out some summery coral linen for the Bernina My Label A-Line Skirt. I scrolled through the preset designs on my machine and landed on this hummingbird design:

hummingbird

I attract these ruby-throated hummingbirds to my yard every summer with a feeder that looks like a flying saucer. The design requires 12 colors – go big or go home, I guess. I rifled through my threads, and while I didn’t have the exact colors I had enough that were close – both embroidery threads and regular threads – to give it a try. I lined them all up in order and got to it.

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Five tries later, I had it done!

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Top row (left to right):

  1. At first, I put the pocket piece in the hoop, but it wasn’t secure enough and tangled up. In trying to remove the tangle, I cut a hole in it.
  2. Next, I got the first color started just fine on a larger piece of fabric. The phone rang, so I went to answer it. I thought I had set the machine so it would stop and cut the threads when the color was done. Nope. I came back a few minutes later to see it had started sewing the design entirely in this dark green color.

Bottom row (left to right)

  1. The bobbin ran out. I wound a new bobbin but screwed it up somehow – got a thread nest again and again cut a whole in the project trying to fix it.
  2. Made it halfway before I encountered a mishap! I had reduced the size of the design by 15% so it would fit on the pocket nicely. I didn’t realize, however, that when you do this the design saves in the computer as a temporary new design. I took a break from the project to eat lunch, but when I returned the size display was showing 100% instead of 85% – because it was 100% of the temporary design – get it? I didn’t. I dialed it back to 85%, so now it was 85% of 85% (whatever that is). The design sewed askew and I could not fix it. I eventually gave up only to start yet again. I dumped the temporary design, unplugged the machine, plugged it back in, and started fresh.
  3. Finally, a perfect one! Only took about 4 hours!

One down, one to go. I flipped the design to a mirror image for the other pocket. Worked perfectly the first time – only about 25 minutes!

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Whew I am tired! And I didn’t have to do a stitch by hand.

 

Best and Worst of 2019

I am happy that I met all my sewing goals for 2019 and ended up with quite a few useful and well-made pieces!

My single biggest achievement (and #1 garment for 2018) was actually a three-fer. I made jeans! And I used the embroidery attachment of my machine for the first time! And I went to a sewing retreat!

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Jeans, bitches!

The jeans are Workroom Social’s Claryville Jeans. I can’t say enough awesome things about this pattern. LOVE. And as the jeans have worn (I have worn them a ton since I made them in September) they have conformed nicely to my bod.

Here’s another look at the embroidery on the back pockets:

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While the sewing retreat part of the jeans-making experience wasn’t for me, I am glad I did it. I learned a lot about myself and I have been thinking about how to apply that learning to next year.

Another goal was to make a garment for my mother. I made her a top from Lekala patterns, and she liked it so much, she asked for another one, in fancier fabric that she can wear for Christmas/New Year’s events. I sewed this up for her birthday in December.

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Lekala 4114

She picked out this gold polyester satin. Not the best, but I made it work. It looks better on than in this photo (I promise). I used the fancy buttons I got at LouLou in the Garment District in NYC.

I took the “RTW Fast Pledge” and made a goal to not buy any clothing except for things like socks and tights. I would have made it, too, if not for my vacation in May! It was so cold (unseasonably and unexpectedly) that I bought a few things on an emergency basis. I donated both jackets to a charity that provides coats to the poor, and I have worn the sweater a few times. So…. I am going to call this “a win!”

On the positive side, I truly did “Me Made May” this year – wearing at least one me- made garment daily for the whole month of May. Yay!

Here’s my biggest swing-and-miss from 2019: I didn’t do so well in my resolve to participate in fewer sewalongs and sewing contests. I get swept up in the excitement and camaraderie. I also hope to make new friends this way. It doesn’t seem to work out that way.

On the bright side, I won the January 2019 PatternReview contest with this ski jacket:

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Ski Jacket from Simplicity 8843

I had planned to enter this contest – and this contest only – but then I went on a binge of other sewalongs, contests and such. What happens when I do this? Let’s just call it a mixed bag:

I mean, there are no disasters here, but also not much that plays well with “sew edgy” looks. I did some stuff for charity (napkins and scrap quilts center top) and I passed the first round of the PatternReview Sewing Bee with that blue cardigan before bowing out voluntarily when the second round didn’t inspire me.

The white top was not what I wanted. I entered a contest to make an outfit, so made a nice pair of black wool pants and planned a button-down shirt to go with it out of this pretty white striped shirting I bought. But, I had a problem with my sewing machine’s computer and it was in the shop for a couple of weeks, so I needed instead to do a top that I could construct on the serger or by hand. This top is the result. It looks really awful untucked, better tucked in. I am kicking myself that I used that shirting for something I don’t love.

I joined two Sewcialists sewalongs – one where I drew the color “coral” and other where I drew the word “funky.” I ended up with a wrap skirt (top right) and a top upcycled from a tablecloth (bottom left). Since these sewalongs really run on Instagram, and I am not an Instagram person, I miss out on the whole thing. Likewise for the charity projects for The People’s Sewing Army – if you’re not an Instagrammer, you get left out.

Finally, in my effort to stop making so damn many mistakes, I claim a partial victory. I have made my peace with the fact that I need to just baste a lot more. Basting does things that pinning does not (at least for me). So I resolve to baste even more in 2020!

Three Goals in One!

I managed a hat trick for my most recently completed sewing project:

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Jeans, bitches!

Yes, I sewed a proper pair of jeans with all the topstitching, fancy seams, fly front and whatnot. This has been a goal of mine for three years. I am delighted not only that I met this goal, but also with how well the jeans came out.

But wait! There’s more:

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Machine embroidery, bitches!

I also busted the embroidery unit out of its box (where it has been gathering dust for 4 years), downloaded a simple design and sewed it on to the pockets. I even did a fancy “mirror image” trick so that these ginkgo leaf motifs are somewhat mirroring the curve of my butt.

But wait! There’s more!

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Camp view, bitches!

I attended a hands-on sewing retreat, Camp Workroom Social in the Catskill Mountains in New York State to make these jeans. It was another goal I had that I can call “done!”  While the event was definitely “not for me” in some ways, the class itself to make these jeans was wonderful. I never would have done it without the help I got at the retreat.

We used a pattern made by Workroom Social, called the Claryville Jeans, after the town where the camp is held. The pattern is drafted for us pear-shaped women who have larger hip-to-waist ratios. It’s a really high-quality pattern with all those great details that make jeans look RTW. And the fit was great. After trying on a muslin in size 12, I made a few 1-centimeter adjustments to give my butt a bit more real estate, such as scooping out and extending the crotch curve and increasing the yoke at center-back. I also needed to take in the waist about 1.5 inches.

The fit is pretty great. These are a bit tight, but they will no doubt stretch out and conform to my bod over time, as jeans tend to do.

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Obligatory butt shot

The jeans have slightly forward seams and a bit of a bump-out at the calf for some nice fitting details. You do mock flat-fell seams at the yoke to reduce bulk. The only thing I haven’t done is to install the rivets at the front pockets. I am going to borrow a rivet-setter from someone to get that done.

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Obligatory inside shot

The topstitching is a chore, as you can imagine. Next time I make these, I will thread one machine for construction and another for topstitching to save my sanity with all the thread switching you have to do otherwise. It’s not perfect in any event – I could not get that second line at the fly to work – but who cares?

I used a kit from the subscription box Needle Sharp to make these. I won the box from a drawing at PatternReview.com (thanks again!) The box was a really nice kit, including  Cone Mills (made in the USA) stretch denim, fabric for the pocket bags, interfacing, regular and topstitching thread, needles, buttons,  a zipper and rivets. I can see this being a great service for sewists who make projects occasionally and can’t or don’t want to maintain a stash. The box also came with the Ginger Jeans pattern, which maybe I will use someday if I get tired of the Claryvilles.

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Needle Sharp jeans kit

For the embroidery, my recent “goofy for ginkgo” moments offered an opportunity to try personalizing the jeans a bit. I was in no rush to try my machine’s embroidery unit, since I don’t really like most embroidery. What can I say? A lot of motifs are corny. But I found this design on Urban Threads,which offers more modern and edgy designs, so I decided to go for it. More on that later.

(I want to say here that I don’t get any kickbacks, promos or other value of any kind from any of the entities I am linking to here. I am just telling you all about the pattern, fabrics, and embroidery that I found and used because I really liked it. I believe in ethically disclosing this stuff.)