So Then This Happened…

How’s your summer going? Things have been busy here. In no particular order:

  1. Sewed a summer wardrobe.

PatternReview.com had a summer contest to sew so-called “Endless Combinations” where each item has to go with two other items. I sewed eight things in all, built around my need for some professional-looking shirts for work videoconferences and quick comfy shorts and skirts for decent work-at-home looks.

I didn’t win the contest and didn’t try, which is a big step for me. Rather, I competed for fun and really enjoyed it as it fit with my plans and needs. I sewed 100% from stash too in summery hues of aqua and teal, white, black and gray. If you’re interested, the patterns are (left to right):

A: The Creative Cate Top from Style Arc in a poly knit that includes all my wardrobe’s colors, finished on the inside to help the cowl neck keep its shape.

B: Jalie Elonore pull-on shorts in black stretch twill – the slim fit goes with all the untucked tops in this collection and makes a great short for biking on my lunch break or after work.

C: A white poplin cotton top from McCall’s 2094 coordinates with anything! It includes pleated breast pockets from Butterick 5526, so that I can wear it with pocketless RTW skirts not part of this collection.

D: Style Arc’s Gorgeous Gore Skirt is in teal ponte. I added pockets that nestled into the gores to support whatever’s inside without stretching out.

E: MariaDenmark’s Edith Blouse in crisp white cotton with a black and teal retro print, is finished with a bias hem for extra structure and polish.

F: The Jalie Drop-Pocket Cardigan in drapey aqua rayon jersey – coordinates with all the tops and bottoms.

G: Sewaholic’s Alma Blouse, in white and teal cotton lawn, is finished with French seams. The sash can also be used as a belt with the shorts.

H: Mock-wrap shorts from Vogue 9246 in a charcoal gray linen-rayon blend. I added belt loops and rear pockets for polish and utility.

2. I got a haircut and went gray.

Covid-19 finally convinced me to break loose from the tyranny of chemical hair dyes and hair straighteners.

I had not been to the hairdresser since February. My roots grew out a few inches. My annual straightening could not be done because salons here are only allowed to do basic cuts and colors. I had been slicking my hair back into a ponytail each day ( see pictures above).

Finally I went to the salon and got this:

My husband hates it, but then I explained to him that this haircut literally and figuratively was a weight off my shoulders, and I think he got it. Or at least accepted it. Hey, it’s only hair, it grows, and I can always dye it and grow it out.

So those are the fun things around here.

Some not-fun things have included:

3. Activist activities.

I’ve read and attended lectures about racism. Learning about racism has taught me a few things I’d like to share. One big issue is the way white people tend to regard racism – they tend to think racism is only super obvious hatred for Black people -like Klan-level, cross-burning types of hatred – and ignore subtler racist acts. It’s all racism, people. If you don’t know what microaggressions are, for example, that’s a good place to start to learn, identify bad behavior and change your own.

White people also tend to ignore racism when they see other people or situations perpetuating it. We tend to think it’s not our job to speak up. Of course it is! Say something! A couple of recent examples from my life:

At the grocery store before the 4th of July, I saw a boxed fireworks kit that had obvious racist imagery under the name “Savage Fireworks”. I am not going to post a picture of it here, but trust me, it was disgusting. I called over the (white) store manager to complain. She thought I was complaining about selling fireworks at all, and I had to literally point to the box and say “That is disgustingly racist and you should remove it immediately.” The look on her face when she finally saw it was priceless. She got a shopping cart and starting loading up the boxes. I certainly hope she didn’t put them back on the floor later but I didn’t check to be sure.

At the physical therapy gym, there are a bunch of solar-paneled bobbleheads in a sunny window. There are animal figures, cartoon characters, holiday-themes, and, yes, a “hula girl” complete with grass skirt and coconut-shell bra. I asked the therapist, a young white woman, if she thought it was appropriate. “I think it’s kind of cute,” she said. I asked her if she thinks her Asian or Polynesian patients would find it cute. She just looked at me, uncomprehending. Then I said, “Would you still find it cute if it was a Black woman instead of a Polynesian woman, or would you then see that it’s offensive?” She looked at it again and said “oh, I see what you mean.” She put it in a desk drawer.

These are pretty small examples of the kind of casual racism I am talking about – certainly not on the scale of police murdering Black people in the street, but still harmful and perpetuating stereotypes.

Also, I wrote emails to La Mia Boutique and Burda Style, asking them why they don’t use nonwhite models and telling them I won’t buy any more issues or promote the patterns I have sewn until they do.

I also was going to email StyleArc, which uses illustrations, not models. The illustrations are always of white women. Don’t believe me? Here’s a screenshot of all their patterns. Can you find any nonwhite women in these illustrations?

But lo and behold, how did StyleArc promote its latest dress pattern?

So instead I sent a email commending Style Arc – saying it was “about time” and hoping to see many more Black models.

I have not received a reply from any of these companies, so we’ll see.

A sewing friend from Canada took issue with my emails, saying that it’s unfair that someone from the United States (me) expects sewing pattern companies from other countries (Italy, Germany, Australia) to confirm to what she called “American sensibilities.” Guess what? There’s racism and bigotry in other countries. There are nonwhite people and models in other countries. These companies have nonwhite customers. Nonwhite people are people and must be included, not pandered to with tokenism or dismissed with Continental shrugs. I also expect pattern companies to show models of different ages, body types, abilities and other dimensions of our human race. It’s the right thing to do.

4. Health crap.

My work to fix my shoulder and posture was really paying off earlier this summer. Through daily exercises and stretches, I had leveled off my shoulders quite a bit and was standing taller:

And then I started feeling pain in my right knee. I put off going to the doctor because of Covid-19, but finally I went, had an MRI, and found out that I have some gnarly arthritis in that knee. So then I got the shoe orthotics, the physical therapy and the dietary supplements “for joint health.”

Turning 50 is a bitch.

Last Entry in the Summer Skirt Sewing Smackdown

After two tries at “free” skirt sewing patterns for the summer skirt sewing smackdown, I decided I’m dome with free patterns for a while. They can be fun, low-stakes projects, and you can get to know some cool indie pattern companies this way, but you also can end up with problems. Sooooo, time to sew up the most well-reviewed skirt in my five-skirt plan: the Gorgeous Gore Skirt from StyleArc.

StyleArc skirt 1
StyleArc Gorgeous Gore Skirt

This is not, strictly speaking, a free pattern. It was free to me, since StyleArc often gives away an older pattern when you buy a newer one. This is a very simple pattern – a gore piece you cut six times, and a waistband, which you cut four times. It doesn’t get much easier! And since it’s made of knit fabric, you an whip it up on the serger in a a couple hours or so.

My fabric was this crazy large-format geometric print in a heavier poly knit – not a jersey but not a double-knit or ponte either.

IMG_20190403_174821 (1)I had intended to make a dress with it. I must have been drunk or sleepy when I bought 3.5 yards of the stuff. A dress would be overwhelming to wear in this print, and it also would be kind of hot for a summer look. I figured a skirt was the answer:

StyleArc skirt 3

I’m glad I did this! The final result looks great and will coordinate well with other items in my wardrobe.

I ordinarily don’t go for elastic waists because that cinched-in elastic waist look doesn’t flatter me. No worries this time! This pattern has a clever solution to the waistband elastic situation. The casing sits on the waistband facing so it can’t be seen from the outside. To look at it, you’d think an invisible zipper on the side was in play. Nope!

Here’s a close-up of how it looks:

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Basically, you sew the waistbands and waistband facings together at the top and understitch. Then you sew 1/4 inch elastic in the round to your measurements and tuck it up against the understitching in between the waistband and facing. Then sew the casing on the facing only. The elastic is probably unnecessary for me, but I suppose it’s extra insurance.

I hemmed this to finish just above the knee (it’s designed as a below-knee skirt). I used the coverstitch setting on the serger and kind of screwed it up. My serger does not like bulk. I really to need to figure this out. Any flaws probably won’t attract the eye of anyone but me anyway.

StyleArc skirt 2
Back view

Because it’s a higher-waist design, the skirt flares out to skim but not settle on my hips, (unlike some skirts that shall remain nameless).

Now that I can declare victory, I am taking a break from skirts!

 

 

Me May May Skirt Sew-Off! Sewing Up Freebie Skirt Patterns

My spring/summer “Sew Edgy” work wardrobe is out the window. I won’t head into my office in New York City anytime soon because of COVID-19. So suddenly I have downshifted all my plans to simple work-at-home staples, which don’t have to look edgy. Working at home, I don’t need to look like I eat nails for breakfast. Who am I going to intimidate – the dog?

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The dog is not impressed

May is shaping up to be a long month at home again, so why not be productive, in the spirit of MeMadeMay? I think I can manage a make an wear one skirt each of the five weekends in May.

I prefer skirts to shorts for summer – cooler, easier to fit my leg/hip/waist ratios, and adaptable as I continue to lose a few pounds. They also sew up quickly and use less fabric, as I am trying not to buy any new fabrics or other supplies for a while. I reached into my pattern stash and found five skirt patterns I’d received for free during the past couple of years. Looks like a perfect opportunity for a May Skirt Sew-Off! Anyone want to join me?

As usual, beware of the freebie patterns! Some are not worth the paper they’re printed on! And since you’re doing the printing for the .pdf type, double caution! Two of the five skirts I’m planning are not free downloads, but I got the patterns for free during promotions. The other three are free for the taking – links included below.

The contenders are:

The  (free download) Bernina My Label Easy A-Line Skirt   woven pattern with back zip and cute front pockets. It calls for denim or linen.

Bernina Easy A-line skirt
Bernina My Label Easy A-Line Skirt

Next up is the StyleArc Gorgeous Gore Skirt, which I got for free when I bought the Jasmine Trousers pattern (this is not a free download, sorry). It uses knit fabric and has an elastic waist – two design details I don’t normally go for in a skirt, but it’s easy enough to be worth a try. Also, I will need to add pockets, if I can figure out how to do that in a knit without the fabric distorting or pulling on the side seams.

Gorgeous Gore Skirt
StyleArc Gorgeous Gore Skirt

Next up is the Justine Skirt from Ready to Sew, a French pattern company offering the skirt as a free download. Love the pockets on this! It’s a below-the-knee length with waist gathers, and buttons up the front. It calls for lighter linens, cotton lawn or poplins and such.

Justine skirt
Justine Skirt from Ready to Sew.

Then we have the Felicity Skirt from Jennifer Lauren Handmade, which is offered as a free download on PatternReview.com. (I don’t think it’s a freebie on the Jennifer Lauren site.) This is basically the skirt portion of a dress, and it’s a free so-called “expansion pack” from that pattern.  Again, gotta love those pockets! This also uses woven fabric with a zip back, and offers two views – a gathered waist for lighter fabrics or a fuller circle shape for heavier fabrics, both above the knee.

Felicity skirt

Finally, I have the Deer & Doe Azara Skirt.  I got a voucher to get this for free when I went to PatternReview.com weekend in Canada two years ago. It’s not a free download, sorry.

Azara skirt

This is the nicest of the patterns, using woven fabric, a button-up front or zip back, below the knee length. It has interesting seam details and a lining. I will make this up in fabric suitable for work, if I ever go to the office again.

Sew Edgy Trousers

I am continuing to work on my “Sew Edgy” look for the office. Check out these trousers in black wool stretch twill:

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Not your everyday work trousers

(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.

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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?

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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.

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Obligatory back view  complete with photobombing dog

I want to try a pair with some denim next to see if I can get a jeans look out of them.

Me Made May Week 3

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:

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Blouse from La Mia Boutique July/Aug 2018 and Maria Denmark Yasmin Yoke Skirt

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Lounging my the pool in the Tunic with Roll-up Sleeves from “Happy Homemade Sew Chic”

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Headed to a botanical garden in my poppy print top from Simplicity 1202 and Yasmin skirt

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The denim Yasmin skirt again, worn with an upcycled tablecloth top from Happy Homemade Sew Chic’s Tunic with Lace

Brown Hotel
Dinner with my hubby in my Jalie drop-pocket cardigan and RTW dress

I went to the office yesterday and decided to dress up since I needed to get my head back in the game:

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Sewaholic Cordova jacket, Style Arc Creative Cate top and RTW pants in my office’s fancy elevator.

And then a couple of work-at-home days with suitably casual looks:

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The tunic top again, this time with the Seamwork Moji pants

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Planting spring flowers in a top from New Look 6330.

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.

 

Edgy Wardrobe Winter Sewing Plans

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:

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:

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A built-in belt? Yes please!

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:

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Pretty zippers…

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.

Finally, the back yoke and front pockets seem to beg for some faux leather piping, like the stuff I used for this Swoon Patterns Ethel tote bag:

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Telfon foot works perfectly to apply faux leather

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!

I feel like Etta James….

ettajames

AT LAST a pair of me-made pants that fit really well! Here they are, the Style Arc “Jasmine” trousers:

 

 

To understand why this is such a big deal, remember my three-muslin doomed effort earlier this year?

 

 

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:

 

 

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!

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Style Arc Jasmine fronts

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.

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Butt, baby!

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.)