Well, that’s almost what happened. Here’s the story:
I worked four hours yesterday trying to fix a baggy-knee issue with my second pair of Workroom Social Claryville Jeans. As you may recall, here’s the prob:
I got advice to try some darts in the knee area, so I dutifully put the jeans on, pinched out the baggy back-knee area, and sewed some darts. I had no idea that knee darts in jeans were A Thing – thanks for the reassurance!
The darts were pretty big – at their widest point, it was about a half-inch of fabric, tapering to nothing at the side seams. It worked, sort of.
But… the darts created a problem in the front. I didn’t get a photo of this, but rest assured it was not pretty. I am perfectly OK with some wrinkles at the knees but it was so much worse with the back fixed. So then I added darts to the front. And then I had to unpick the side seams and resew them again. And it still looked like crap.
Then followed a danse macabre where I went back and forth from my sewing machine to the mirror to the cutting table to the sewing machine to the mirror… in my underwear, trying one alteration after another in desperation.
I was making these jeans as a dressy pair that I could get away with wearing to work or any place else where jeans would not normally be a thing. And I realized that was the problem. This fabric is not a jeans denim. It’s a stretch twill – too light to work with the pattern as cut. And as I stood there glaring at it, I realized I kinda hated it. It’s shiny. It’s too stretchy. It looks cheap.
So I threw it in the garbage.
And then, in the fullness of time (that is. this morning) I realized…
I could make shorts out of the damn things! Jesus! Just cut it off at the knee and get on with your life, gurl.
So that’s the plan. Once the weather warms up and I actually want shorts.
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!
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:
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.
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!”
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.
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 arranged the overlapping front pieces so that the motifs would scroll along at the hem and hip.
The tunic top again, this time with the Seamwork Moji pants
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!
I managed a hat trick for my most recently completed sewing project:
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.)
I am continuing to work on my “Sew Edgy” look for the office. Check out these trousers in black wool stretch twill:
(Sorry about the backdrop – our shittily stained fence is as close to “edgy” as my home looks.)
The trousers are a deep black, so it’s hard to see the detail, but trust me when I tell you the fit is just about PERFECT.
The pattern is Style Arc’s Jasmine trousers. This is my second pair. The first ones were pretty good, but I still needed to work out some fit issues. I also wanted to try different fabric, because the first pair, in a wool gabardine with 3% elastane are a little too stretchy. This time I used a black wool twill that I got at B&J Fabrics in New York. Gorgeous stuff! The fabric has 1% elastane for just a little stretch recovery.
I started again with the size 16 because the fit was perfect at the hips, and I took in the rest of the pants a bit from there:
1 1/4 inches at the waistline
1 1/2 inches at the waistband
Tapered the sides in 1/2 inch starting 1″ above the bottom of the pocket bags and ending at the knee. (The first pair tend to fit a bit like jodhpurs on me, given my waist-hip-thigh ratios.)
Sewed the entire side seams at 5/8 inch instead of 3/8 inch
Scooped out the back crotch 1/2 cm and extended the back crotch the same amount
Added 1 cm to the top of the center back of the yoke, tapering to nothing at the side seam, so the pants would not dip down a bit in the back.
I sewed a blind hem, hemming at the length the pattern comes in because I wanted to wear with patent-leather loafers for a menswear look. It’s a fine length for me, at 5’6″. I think they might be a bit long – we’ll see.
Also, this time I stay-stitched the back yoke curves because the last time that bias curve stretched out a bit during construction. And I tacked the pocket bag seam allowances down to the insides of the pockets to keep them in place.
One big fail, however, was the button. The pattern calls for one button in the waistband. Last time, I opted for a hook-and-bar closure instead. This time I wanted to do a button because I had a special one in my stash – a heavy gold button with an enameled black band around the outside. I like metal trims for work clothes as part of my Sew Edgy workplace look.
I sewed TWO practice buttonholes on mocked-up scraps identical to the pants – same fabric and interfacing. They both came out great. When it came to the actual pants, however, no dice. The buttonhole went in wonky and started sewing in place. I ripped it out but accidentally ripped up the fabric of the pants a bit in the process. So now I had a hole in my fabric and no buttonhole. I adjusted the buttonholer to sew less densely and fast, and tried again. Same problem. I ended up doing two hook and bars on the inside and sewed the button as a faux button to the outside to cover up the little hole (which I darned closed). GRR! Tell me the truth – does the button look stupid?
These pants are a TNT for me for sure! I am delighted to find a pair that fit and wear well yet have all the details of RTW trousers, such as a real fly and pockets. If you’re shaped like me – a bit of a pear – you may also like the way these work for you.
I want to try a pair with some denim next to see if I can get a jeans look out of them.
So, it’s been cold here this May. I’d love to lay some of my summery me-made fashions on you this month, but I didn’t want to freeze my ass off. I ended up repeating a few things, so no point in taking pictures again. I did manage a me-made item every day, even though I had a couple of migraines (thank you – me-made PJs and T-shirts).
Here are a few unique looks. First, for the office:
For that last one, I was not having a good day at work – or a good hair day, either – sheesh! I was also wearing navy gabardine pants from McCalls’ 6901, but I couldn’t be bothered to get a full shot. Sorry, not sorry.
Here are some looks for home office and weekend wear:
My favorite look of the last week:
I was headed out to a hair appointment and then a baby shower. The skirt is RTW from the Boden catalog. This was the one nice day all week. I made the most of it!
And my “finish weak” look to finish May:
This cardigan is from Happy Homemade Sew Chic. It was the first knit item I’d sewn in ages, and it’s pretty… rough. For starters, the high-contrast geometric print is only on one side, so it’s not a great choice for anything where the pale and plain wrong side shows. Then there’s the error in factoring in how the pleats would work at the neckline with the fabric – not symmetrical at all. And finally I sewed on this silver clasp (the style of which has nothing to do with the style of the fabric, or the style of the garment) because I thought it would look better if it closed in front. Sure. Whatever.
I finish weak because I believe in showing the good, bad and ugly of my creations. I am not someone who photographs every garment and look to perfection. And I certainly don’t sew everything to perfection, either!
Hi everyone – here are some quick Me Made May looks from week 3. So far, I have worn at least one Me-Made garment each day, sometimes head-to-toe looks. I am delighted that I have come this far, and I am confident I can finish out the month.
First, the rest of the looks from last week’s vacation, where the temperatures soared into the low 90s after starting the week in the 50s:
I went to the office yesterday and decided to dress up since I needed to get my head back in the game:
And then a couple of work-at-home days with suitably casual looks:
I notice that a few of my me-made items are nearing their expiration dates. This New Look top, for example, didn’t come out right and hasn’t worn well. The neckline is ripply and the hem is wonky. I wear it for things like exercising and working outdoors. Also, let’s face it, my upcycled tablecloth-turned-top is pretty funky (as was intended) but not a great look for me.
Likewise, that Cordova jacket is on its last legs. The zipper area is all rippled – I am not sure why but I suspect that the interfacing shrank when I had the jacket cleaned. It was always a little big, but it seems to be getting bigger as the years go by. I really need to make a new jacket for work.
When I packed for my vacation this week, I was excited to realize that I could do so many coordinating Me-Made outfits. I chose a blue palette and a red palette, and picked pieces from there. Except for one dress and one pair of jeans (and lingerie and socks), everything I packed was Me-Made.
It’s easy to look edgy in the winter, at least where I work. Dark colors and a somewhat gloomy aspect are the norm. But when spring arrives, with its fuzzy yellow chicks and pink tulips, must we edgy dressers retreat into our coffins and draw the curtains, or can we make it work?
Let’s find out!
To review, I came up with several guidelines for edgy dressing. For full details, check out this blog. Here are the highlights:
Metal hardware and details
Leather and other animal inspirations
Element of surprise
I like to start with the cut and shape of garments and then pair them with fabrics, but sometimes it works the other way around, too. Here are a few things I have picked out for spring sewing for a work wardrobe:
This McCall’s 7465 batwing dress with asymmetical side ruching option ticks several edgy boxes. The batwing look offers an animal inspiration (duh) and an exaggerated shape, while the ruching to one side plays well with asymmetry. I can imagine wearing this with a belt to get some metallic detail in there, too.
The Mirri Faux Wrap Dress from Wardrobe by Me looks pretty simple, with a bit of asymmetric detail, achieved this time with pleating.
I also can see either dress as a top. I have loved an RTW a black cashmere blend batwing sweater for a few years now. I wear it often with this high-waisted Simplicity 8058 skirt, black tights and boots, and a long silver necklace:
I have an idea to make another of these Cynthia Rowley designed skirts. You can see from the line drawings that there are two large darts on either side of the center panel. In the version above, I cut the panel even with the waistband and added a belt and hardware detail.
For version 2, which I’d make in a lighter ponte or scuba for spring and summer, I was thinking of adding zippers into those darts and eliminating the back zipper. And I was thinking of trying this with a print, to wear with a light-colored top from the McCall’s dress.
I need some new jackets for work. Most of the jackets I have are from Ann Taylor. Hardly an edgy look. They’re good quality, so I have kept them, but I really need something less traditional.
Vogue 7975 offers a wealth of ideas in a high-quality and well-reviewed pattern:
I think a collarless look is more modern than the traditional notch or shawl look (and easier to sew, truth be told). I think View D could go edgy, either with the right buttons or with a zipper. View E could look cool with faux leather trim. I could make a muslin out of the lining fabric to check for fit.
I also really need a suit. I love this La Mia Boutique suit by the Italian designer Sara Poiese:
That skirt offers lots of edgy options with its princess panels and exposed zipper. The jacket also sparks ideas, but it’s hard to read on my shape. The shrunken look doesn’t do us pear shapes any favors, but maybe a strong shoulder element, such as leather trip or epaulets, could balance it out. Also, it needs a zipper and not buttons to coordinate with the skirt, right?
In any event, this is a big project and I would want to make a muslin first, both to test for fit and because I am not the greatest with Italian translation.
I really need new pants for work. What else is new?
Style Arc Jasmine with the cool pocket and bonus back yoke
I started this winter on another version of the Style Arc Jasmines in a rather pricey wool-rayon black pique with some metal belt and zipper details, and then set them aside after I made a bad cutting error. They sat in the UFO pile all winter. Let’s just say I was pissed. I need to get more fabric to complete them. I really like the ones I made, and with some tweaks, they could be TNTs.
I’d also like a pair of wide-leg pants out of a drapey material. Simplicity 3688 fits the bill nicely, with no drama, but it’s a fabric hog so I must find something economical.
Finally, some tops are in order. I really need a basic white button-down. I could edgy it up with some metal buttons, like these square-in-the-round ones I bought at Pacific Trimming in New York last fall. I’d need a fabric that can stand up to the buttons’ weight.
Everyone loves this Butterick 5526 pattern, which includes lots of design options. I have been meaning to try it. I think a collarless princess seam (center bottom), without the decidedly un-edgy frill, would work.
I also like this Vogue 9246 top for the cut-on sleeve and yoke detail, which could do with some black faux leather piping to edge it up.
I have gotten a lot of wear out of my edgy wardrobe so far. I am still sporting the Assistant Manager of the DMV look to work a couple a days a week, but I have gotten more comfortable at wearing my edgy looks.
Now that I have a good pair of work pants, the Style Arc Jasmines, I want to edgy them up. The pair I made is good, but they’re pretty basic. To review:
Style Arc Jasmine fronts
Style Arc Jasmine with the cool pocket and bonus back yoke
The pair I made have a little bubble at the front zipper, which tells me that the front crotch curve is a bit too high. They’re also a skosh tight in the front crotch. I will deepen the crotch curve in the next pair.
As you can see from the line drawing, the pants have two interesting seam details. The angled front pockets, akin to jeans pockets, work very well if you have heavy thighs. And the back yoke works very well if you have a bit butt and hip to small waist ratio, as I do, since it’s easier to adapt that yoke than to adapt the whole back of the pants. The version I made dips down a bit at center-back, easily remedied in the next pair with a bit of a wider angle for the top of the yoke.
Now that the fit issues are out of the way, how do I jazz these up?
First, I’d like to replicate the built-in belting of these RTW Karen Millen trousers:
Not a belt as much as a sash? Whatever it’s called, I like it. I don’t like wearing belts because they tend to ride up (see big hip-to-waist comment above) and they never seem to match what I’m wearing. To put it another way, I don’t like wearing belts, so I don’t have a lot of belts, and then when I need a belt, I don’t have one I like… vicious cycle.
This Karen Millen detail is just a tube of fabric that emerges from the waistband and connects with two D rings about 3/4 of the way between the center front and the right side seam. The D rings are looped through a short tube of fabric that tucks into a waistband seam that lines up with the pockets. The other side of the pants has the same waistband seam, but there are no D rings.
The look is a bit edgy because of the metal and the asymmetry, but totally office-appropriate. This should be pretty easy to do (famous last words). The Jasmine pants have a much smaller waistband, so I will need to think this through.
I also want to play with zippers at the hems. I splurged at Botani in New York’s Garment District for two fancy zippers with black tape, shiny silver teeth and decorative pulls:
Unfortunately, I screwed up and bought 8-inch zippers when I meant to get 6-inch zippers. I could shorten them, but that’s a hassle with metal teeth. Also, because these are fancy zippers instead of the basic cheap ones, they are a bit heavy. I worry that the weight will drag the sideline of the pants down unless I use some sturdy fabric. I’ll have to think on this.
I was thinking also of some piped welt pockets in the back. We’ll see.
The pattern calls for woven stretch fabrics such as stretch Bengaline. This is hard to find fabric, but I figured anything with some texture would do. The original pants are in a heathered gray stretch gabardine. At B&J Fabrics in New York, I scored some black stretch wool pique that would be suitable for the next pair. A think a stretch twill would work well, also.
AT LAST a pair of me-made pants that fit really well! Here they are, the Style Arc “Jasmine” trousers:
Style Arc Jasmine fronts
Shoulder issues – the shirt is on grain. I am off grain.
To understand why this is such a big deal, remember my three-muslin doomed effort earlier this year?
Pants of Doom…
Doomed from every angle!
Doom! Doom! Doom!
I decided that instead of trying to adapt any pants pattern to my body – with its heavy forward thighs, wide hips, ample butt and small waist – instead I would seek out a pattern that is as close as possible to some decent RTW pants I own already. I have this pair of Calvin Klein stretch gabardine pants that fit pretty well. They work for me because of the angled front pocket, fly front, darts in back but not in front, curved waistband, and tapered legs. A long search uncovered the Style Arc Jasmine pants, with the same pocket, fly and dart sitch:
Style Arc Jasmine with the cool pocket and bonus back yoke
Pocket on old Calvin Klein pants
The pattern calls for stretch gabardine or other bottomweight woven fabrics. As a bonus, the Jasmine trousers have a yoke in the back, kinda like jeans. This seemed to offer good fit options for my rear and waist. I had some really nice wool gabardine in stash. Let’s roll!
I have not used Style Arc much because they can be hard to get in the US, the patterns are only one size, they use a 1 cm seam allowance (I prefer 1.5 cm, especially for pants) and their directions are … shall I say … “minimal” and “open to interpretation” (or, to be blunt about it, “crappy”). I also think Style Arc has less ease than Big 4 patterns – the two Style Arc blouses I’ve made were a little too close-fitting. So I ordered the Jasmine pants a size larger than I thought I would need.
The first fit was encouraging. They were too big on the sides but pretty good along the crotch curve and butt. So far, so good. I widened the back darts 1/4 inch, took in the waist 1 inch on each side, tapering to 1/2 inch from the belly to low hip, then graded out again to 1 inch from just above the knee to the hem. Viola!
These pants are not perfect. But they fit better than most RTW pants I can find, and I am very hopeful for future pairs. For the next iteration, I will deepen the front crotch curve a tiny bit and pinch out a tiny bit of fabric at the hip crease in the front to remove that little bit of whiskering.
In the back, I will pinch out that bit of extra fabric under my rear, and I will grade the top of the yoke up 1 inch so to remove that little dip down at center-back.
I really want to try these also in denim, a full size smaller since I can wear jeans tighter. I may be getting ahead of myself, but I hope that I have found a true TNT pattern for dressy AND casual pants.
By the way, I am wearing the blouse from La Mia Boutique that I made earlier in the year. I keep hoping I will love it, but nope. Note the awful distortion of the back stripes because of my scoliosis and shoulder issues. (A topic for another blog someday.)