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!

No Distractions Sewing Resolution for 2021

Everyone’s talking about their goals for 2021. I started listing a few in my head.

Blah, yadda, yak yak…

I realized that while I could easily come up with several “do mores” and “trys” and “improves” for sewing, I really just need to do one thing.

I need to be present in the moment when sewing.

I have had a lot of time this month to sew and have made a few things – home dec projects, PJs, tops. I’ve had whole weekends “sewing” and likely will have many more during this epidemic, where we can’t go anywhere or do anything, as the snow piles up outside.

These projects still seemed to expand to fill the available space. That’s because I have not been “present” while sewing them.

I finished this top today, for example:

Oki Style “Tiim” top

I started it the evening of December 22. Hey five days – not bad. But why did it take five days?

I cut out a few pieces, then I get a snack. Then I cut out a few more and check my phone. I take the dog for a walk. I make a move in Scrabble against a friend online. I press some seams. I read some texts. I serge a seam. I make a phone call. I set in a sleeve. I check Instagram. I turn up a hem. I put on some music. I make a buttonhole. I have another snack.

When I sew like this, the project suffers. I make mistakes. I forget what I am doing. I unpick a lot. The fabric gets mishandled and wrinkled and stretches out. I waste electricity with a sewing machine and iron at the ready, but not in use.

Worse of all, I don’t feel like I am enjoying sewing for what it is – I feel like I am sewing to fill up time, to while away my days instead of as an intentional act to create something for myself that’s both useful and beautiful. I don’t take pleasure in it. And that’s no good for me.

So my 2021 resolution is simply to be “present” when sewing – put away the phone, turn off the music, resist the siren’s song of the fridge, and just be there with my machines, my fabrics, my patterns, in a deliberate and mindful harmony.

What’s your 2021 resolution?

Top 5 Fails of 2020

Can we just stat by saying that in the entire suck-a-thon that’s been 2020, there’s no such thing as “fail?” There are just things that didn’t go the way we want them to go. Which is pretty much everything.

Still, in taking stock of some sewing projects that went awry, I must acknowledge a few projects that failed. Part of the “fail” comes from my attempt to try new things – new patterns, new “looks” – that didn’t really pan out for me. I suppose this is what happens when you have a decent stash of patterns and fabrics, and too much time on your hands.

I started with some free summer skirt patterns. While neither of these is a “fail” exactly, they both required substantial work from me to make them wearable. That is, way more work than I’d bargained for.

The blue and white skirt is the “Justine” from Ready to Sew. It had some serious errors in sizing, drafting and construction (gory details here). On the right is a free A-line skirt from Bernina’s short-lived patternmaking software. Really just the worst experience – sizing, drafting, instructions all crap (gory details here).

But – at least I busted my embroidery unit out of its box again and managed a 12-color design for the pockets – it only took four tries to get it right:

Hummingbird embroidery saved this sad, sad project

Next up are these shorts from Vogue 9246. I thought the asymmetric mock wrap look would be cool – trying to get the “edge” back in summer my wardrobe after all those girly skirts. Unforch, the mock bit just looks weird, not chic – it kind of balloons out awkwardly. Perhaps in full-length pants it would work, but for shorts it’s a no-go.

Weird-ass shorts and wonky-ass top.

This McCall’s 2094 top out of stretch poplin isn’t the greatest either, but at least it’s wearable. I made a lot of mistakes with it – I somehow put the buttons in the wrong place, and I didn’t cope well with the fabric’s stretch – the hems and facings are wonky AF.

This next project was so bad I didn’t even blog it: Kwik Sew 3926.

Slippers… yuck!

I saw someone else had sewn this pattern, and it looked so cute. I needed new slippers. I had lots of scraps around to make some. So I gave it a try. They fit way way way too wide and are hellaciously uncomfortable to wear. They went into the donation bin right away.

My final and most devastating fail, though, is this Faye dress, from the Fall 2019 Fibre Mood magazine:

Who’s the biggest fail? You are!

Gory details here, but the summary is this – this was an expensive dress that was a lot of work and used a lot of fabric. But the hem is irretrievably messed up and therefore unwearable.

The fault is all mine. The rayon challis I chose is too unstable for the bias edges of the hem. It keeps stretching and growing, and I cannot make it straight. I might turn it into a top at some point, but for now it sits in my closet, judging me…

Kicking It with 4 Yards of Bamboo-Spandex Jersey

A couple of years ago, I read about textiles made of bamboo. “Eco friendly,” they said. “So soft and comfy,” they said. “Easy to sew,” they said.

So I bought four yards of it online and figured I’d give it a whirl – maybe make a nice wrap dress and have enough left over for a top. The stuff I bought was 95% bamboo, 5% spandex. And 100% a pain in the ass.

It wrinkles. When I look at it. It also is sssssssuuuuuuupppppppeeeeeerrrrrr ssssssttttttrrrreeeeeettttttccccchhhhhyyyy. Any dress I made would be a saggy, wrinkly mess in no time. (But, nice and soft as advertised…) So I put in deep in my stash and forgot about it.

I need new PJs – home with Covid-19 raging around me and all that. So I figured I could manage to transform the bamboo jersey into a nice PJ set, with maybe something left over for a top (a nod to the original plan).

Ta-da!

PJs from McCall’s 7297


This McCall’s pattern, 7297, is a knockoff of some PJs sold in the Garnet Hill catalog. Those PJs cost $80 or so – I estimate mine cost about $20 – including some leftover satin piping along the neckline.

Satin piping

The pattern is a pretty easy project. The crossover bodice detail is the only tricky bit. I have made a few of these PJs and I have found it’s easier to install the neckline binding in one go and then sew down the crossover bit than to sew the neckline binding to the crossover point, baste the overlap down, then sew the rest of the binding on. To use piping, sew it first to the neckline binding, then sew the two pieces together onto the neckline.

The pattern calls for prepackaged bias binding, but of course it’s nicer to make your own. This time I did a narrow T-shirt style binding for the neckline and made a wider binding for the cuffs and hem. This black jersey was left over from a dress I made a couple of years ago – the “two yards of fabric on my ass” dress – if you recall it.

There was enough fabric left over for a T-shirt – as predicted! Here’s another try at Vogue 8793 – a Katherine Tilton design that calls for colorblocking and a decorative nylon zipper along the double collar. I used up the rest of both jerseys on the project.

Vogue 8793

The zipper along the collar never appealed to me – just seemed odd to include a “zipper to nowhere” and I thought it would be uncomfortable. So the first time I omitted it entirely, but the collar was kinda saggy and sad:

Vogue 8793 with sad collar

I like the top, but the collar disappointed me. The design, I think, counts on the zipper to give the collar some structure. I thought that knit interfacing along the collar might give a similar effect, so why not try it?

Collar action – very perky!

The collar is now a bit too stiff and doesn’t play well with the stretchy jersey. I like the way it looks, but it’s just too heavy. So, a decent effort but not exactly what I was going for.

A friend suggested that I just try the damn zipper already, so I agreed. If I ever make another one of these, it will have a zipper in the collar!

Anyway, I think I made lemonade out of the lemon that was this fabric. There was nothing but a little pile of scraps left.

Scraps…. did a good job on that 4 yards!

I wonder if bamboo jersey fabric is always wrinkly and saggy, or was just the stuff I bought? Anyone have any experience with it?

Top 5 Sewing Projects for 2020

I started 2020 intending to sew a new suit for work out of from Armani deadstock, and wound up with four pairs of elastic-waist pants. 2020 – gotta love ya!

Seriously, I am happy with the pants I made from Jalie’s Eleonore pattern. Definitely a Top 5 project for the year. They’re pull-on mock jeans made with fabric that has at least 20% stretch. They look like nice yoga pants and skinny jeans had a love child.

Jalie Eleonore Pull-on Jeans and Style Arc Creative Cate top

I made these shorts and a full-length pair, which I slashed and spread from knee to hem to create flares.

Most creative project goes to another pair of elastic-waist pants – the “Discover Something Novel” pants from The Cutting Line – a 1980s fever dream of a garment.

Crazypants from The Cutting Line in Japanese denim

These put a smile on my face – every time!

My other “bottom” triumph is… another elastic-waist project… Style Arc’s Gorgeous Gore Skirt.

Gorgeous Gore skirt from Style Arc in teal ponte, with the MariaDenmark Edith blouse

I was really proud of myself for figuring out how to get good pockets in a knit skirt without the pockets distorting or pulling. The secret was to sew the pocket bags in a stable woven fabric and secure them within the gores of the skirt.

Secret pocket action in production

The runner-up for best project of the year is… wait for it… face masks!

<<<Sad trombone music>>>

Well, they are not the most sophisticated things I’ve sewn in my life, or even this year, but they were pretty important. I made about 200 (lost exact count). Most went to friends who are nurses – one at a nursing home and one at a veteran’s hospital. I hope these masks saved some lives and also made people smile, with the cute fabrics I chose.

The #1 project for 2020 – PERSIST!

Quilt in four modules from “The Proverbial Quilt” pattern by Denyse Schmidt

This is one of those projects that kept me sane during the spring and early summer, when the world was going to hell. They were a joy to make and a joy to give to friends who are all helping one another persist through various challenges – health, career, marriage and financial.

Most of the things I made this year were quick projects to fill needs. These I made to last a lifetime.

Work At Home Couture – Winter Edition

I’ve knocked off a few more garments for my winter work-at-home wardrobe – all designed to look good on videoconferences while being ease to sew, take care of, and comfy.

First up – the Harper Cardigan/Jacket from Style Arc.

Style Arc Harper Jacket in ponte with decorative edge finish

I bought this poly-rayon-spandex ponte some years ago, intending to make a dress for work with it. Then I realized I didn’t want to wear something so hot and heavy, not to mention raspberry pink, so the ponte went back into the stash.

I figured I could use 1.5 yards of it to try this simple jacket, which I got for free from Style Arc when I bought something else. Three pieces – what could go wrong?

Well…

Sometimes I feel like I am hypercritical of commercial sewing patterns. But there’s no overlooking the sheer number of odd things in this.

Issue #1 is the center-back seam, which you’re supposed to sew as a French seam since it can be seen from the outside.

Back view

Good luck sewing a French seam on a heavy fabric such as ponte. A flat-felled seam seemed more suitable, so that’s what I did (added .5 cm seam allowance to provide for a bit of extra room).

Then there’s the finishing issue. This has no facings or anything – in fact the pattern says you can leave the edges raw if you want to. I did not want to. I mean, that’s just dumb. So I dug out the manual for my serger and did a three-thread “rolled wave” treatment on the edges.

Rolled hem – black in upper looper, white in lower looper, and matching thread in the needle
Rolled wave hem – ready for its close-up

Then there’s the closure issue. This pattern originally came with some jumbo hook-and-eyes – you set the hooks in the shoulders and the eyes on the tips of the fronts. Since there’s no facing or anything to hide the hooks, the pattern provides a postage-stamp sized patch you’re meant to sew on to cover where the hooks are sewn on.

This is the laziest things I ever heard of. The design could have benefitted from a rethink – maybe a button and loop or a decorative tie would have made more sense? I played around with various fixes before saying the heck with it and sewing on ordinary hook and eyes.

Closed view

Here it is closed, and you can see how the front pulls against the hook and eye on my shoulder. I will buy some larger hook and eyes when I get around to it – maybe – and try it again.

The next garment is a simple t-shirt out of a lovely rayon/spandex blend. This is Jalie 2805 – a pattern pack of four T-shirt options (jewel neck, V neck, mock turtleneck or Henley).

Jalie 2805

I like this pattern for the fit and ease of construction. I plan to whip up a few more this winter.

Finally, I made a pair of the Jalie Eleonore Jeans – a pull-on style made out of woven fabric with at least 20% stretch. These don’t take a lot of fabric, so I had plenty left over from my shorts project this summer to try a full-length pair.

The shorts were tight at the knee so I thought I’d made flares for my full-length pair. This is a simple change – just slash up the center to just above the knee, cut into each side to create a hinge for the leg, and spread.

Pattern jeggings to flare adjustment
Fill in with paper, true up the bottom, and mark the changes.

I added length at the hem also. No picture of the finished project, sorry, but they are comfortable and look nicer than a pair of yoga pants for working at home.

I now have half of my six projects done! (Well, technically that dress is not done but I just cannot with it right now).

Green checkmarks – completed projects!

What should I do next?

Playing with Proportions with Crazypants

I like big pants and I cannot lie! You other sewers can’t deny – that these are kind of fun:

“Something Novel” pants from The Cutting Line

These pants from the “Try Something Novel” outfit pattern from The Cutting Line is definitely a LOOK straight out of the 80s.

I have been playing with proportions as part of my “Sew Edgy” wardrobe, and these sure fit the bill. These have an edge because the voluminous shape distorts the human form.

Side view

They are very baggy with seamlines on the lower hem and an interfaced hem facing to create an effect similar to a lantern sleeve, but on my shins:

Back view

The pants are elastic waisted, which is not a great look for me, but for a fun work-at-home trou experiment, it’s fine. I added patch pockets to the back and used silver topstitching thread to accentuate the seamlines.

The fabric is a 7-ounce Japanese cotton denim.

The pants are very comfortable and maybe on trend – at least I heard that 80s looks are coming back! Maybe not? Who cares? I like them!

Maxi to Mini in Five Infuriating Steps

I’ve been working on the “Faye” maxi shirtdress dress from last fall’s Fibre Mood magazine. I got it all together and left it for a week to hang so that the hem would relax. I had to jack up my dressform Ruby to 5’10” (I am 5’6″) so that there was plenty of room for gravity to do its thing.

Maxi indeed

When hemming time came, I stood on a stepstool while my husband pinned the hem to the desired length. The hem was pretty uneven – I didn’t get a picture of this on but it was doing that typical drapy thing where the most bias-y edge hung down quite a bit, almost like a handkerchief hem. I tried it on pinned up and it looked good, so I thought it was OK. I trimmed off the excess.

Uneven hemming trim job number one.

Then I pressed up and pinned the hem and prepared to sew it. But first I tried it Damn. Nope – it was very very uneven. Crap!

Crap uneven hem is way shorter in the front.

So we had to do it all over again. I wanted a LONG dress, but I figured I’d settle for a mid-calf dress. My husband repeated the pinning ritual. I again tried it on to be sure it was OK. It looked all right – shorter than I wanted but still OK. So I trimmed off uneven hem #2:

All these crazy uneven hem scraps!

I pressed up and pinned the hem again and tried it on. DAMN! The skirt was just too short to be long, too long to be short – it hit at this awkward length, hitting at the fullest part of my calves and dowdy as anything.

Well, this is awkward…

There was a great deal of swearing and door-slamming and some tears.

Then I put on my Big Girl Pants and trimmed another 3 inches off them hem so that it would at least fall at a flattering length. I pressed it and pinned it yet again, then lost the will to do any more.

Final length? Who knows?

This dress started the day grazing the floor, and now it’s above my knee. Plus, the proportions are all off. This humungous print demands an equally humungous amount of drama and scale, but now it looks like every dress I had in the 1990s. Also the drop shoulders and wide cuffed sleeves look dowdy as heck. I am very tempted to throw it in the garbage.

Who’s Afraid of a Big, Bad Dress?

I’m more of a separates sewist than a dressmaker. I’ve made a few dresses, sure, but I don’t love making them. When you’re pear-shaped, as I am, you run into fit challenges unless you stick to the old fit-and-flare look. And when your shoulders are uneven, as mine are, the calculus for the drape of a dress can be daunting.

But so far, so good with the Faye dress from the fall Fibre Mood magazine.

Faye dress, on its way

The dress uses more than 4 yards of fabric – rayon challis in this case. I finished the body of the dress, including the hidden button placket, while on vacation. I just need to put on the sleeves, sew the side seams and pockets, make the buttonholes, and hem it. OK, so still a lot to do…

The bodice includes a flap that adds interest to the top. They went in pretty easily, and the pattern matching wasn’t bad. One flap is sort of a mirror image of the other rather than a match, but I decided to live with it.

Bodice pieces with flaps

The only thing that gave me agita were the pleats – three on the bodice and three matching ones on the skirt. This was, frankly, a mess to do because here’s what the pattern looks like if you trace it from the magazine:

Which lines are for which pleats and which sizes? Who knows!

If you’re thinking of trying this at home, and you haven’t bought the magazine yet, I’d buy the printed pattern just to avoid this train wreck.

Moving on… I got the pleats in OK for the bodice and just estimated where the pleats should go for the skirt. But the pieces would not line up. The pleats for the skirt are supposed to be deeper, but I will be damned if I can figure out how. So there is an extra pleat on the skirt. With this busy print, I bet you can’t tell.

Extra pleat? Where???

Trust me, it’s there. I am living with it and moving on…

The directions for the hidden button placket aren’t very intuitive. Luckily, I have made hidden plackets before. In fact, I love them and it’s a reason I wanted this dress.

Now you see it
Now you don’t.

Since this dress is such a fabric hog (4+ yards, people!) you could eliminate the hidden button placket in favor of a regular one, and also shorten or remove from fullness from the skirt to save a yard.

Then the bias neckline binding went on. The directions say to cut the bias binding on the fold. Do not do this. Sheesh! How hard is it to cut a straight 22-inch by 1.5 inch strip of fabric on the bias? Sometimes I scratch my head…

Hoping to finish this weekend. Not that I have anywhere to wear it, but I can dream…

In Which I Use 3 Hours of My Life and Nearly 5 Yards of Fabric

Yesterday was blustery and cold – seriously it’s like someone flipped a switch on the Connecticut climate – so it was the perfect day for the time suck that is the “Faye” Dress from the Fall 2019 Fibre Mood magazine.

To review, here’s the dress:

Faye Dress From Fibre Mood Fall 2019
Line drawings of Faye

The line drawings do a good job of showing the pleats and sweep of the dress, while the model photo shows the dress’ generous ease.

There are very few blogs or photos of this dress sewn up, and I think I know why.

  1. The trace-off was a nightmare. The skirt’s sweep is so wide (and the pattern pages so small) that you have to piece the skirt pattern together. The fronts are made up of four large chunks. I was so confused I almost gave up. Finally I figured it out.
Front piece – tape together four traced pattern pieces !

2. The dress is a massive fabric hog. My size calls for 400 cm of fabric that’s 140 cm wide. For those of us in the US, with our archaic measuring system, that’s 4.4 yards of 55 inch wide fabric. Oink indeeed!

3. The dress is massive overall – I am fortunate to have a big area to lay it out in. I don’t see how someone could manage with a small space.

Of course, I could not stop there. I had to buy this large-format print rayon challis because it was just so dramatic and edgy, with its asymmetical, animal-inspired, high-contrast look in my favorite colors.

5 yards to go!

I laid it out on the entry hall floor and got cutting in one layer. For such a big piece, a throw rug and a T-square are invaluable tools. Assuming your rug is straight, you can line up the selvage along its edge and use the T-square to line up the pattern’s grainline, like so:

Carpet makes a good cutting mat.

It’s not possible to pattern match this fabric for the skirt – at least not without buying many more yards than I’d already invested in. So I followed the next-best strategy of matching dark area to dark area, light area to light area. That should be fine, especially since the skirt has so much volume and drape.

Two fronts, pattern pieces complimenting each other if not exactly matching.

(Aside: At this point, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Gurl, you have a metric ton of Oriental carpets in your house.” Yes I do. I live in Connecticut. It’s the law.)

After the big skirt pieces were done, I could get fussy with pattern matching the sleeves and bodice pieces.

Sleeves, matched as a mirror image

At the end of about 3 hours, was exhausted from crawling around on the floor. I had a pile of pattern pieces, safety-pinned to their paper templates:

Pattern pieces

And a bit of scraps along a selvage and a few bits here and there – but less than I could have imagined when I started this project.

Scraps

(Another Oriental carpet aside – we chose this carpet for the entry hall and staircase in part for its roasted-chicken motif. Here’s a closeup:

This twin bird motif is supposed to be pair of peacocks, but they look like roasted chickens. If we were an aristocratic family, the roasted chicken would feature prominently in our heraldry. This is second-best.)

Then I had a gin and tonic and lay in a coma for much of the evening. Cheers!