New Clothes

The Escher Quilt finished last week, I started on some summer clothes. I’ve gained weight since I moved into the apartment, particularly this past year, and none of my summer pants fit me! None of them. The waists are waaaay too tight, but also across my belly the zipper has a hard time closing. So rather than trying to remake them, I decided to start from scratch.

Linen Pull-on Pants

A couple of months ago I bought one metre each of three different colour linen fabrics from Blackbird Fabrics (online) – nice weight, and I thought the fabric width would be wide enough that I’d be able to scrape out a pair of pants – well almost – I would normally buy 1 1/4″ metres for a pair of pants why I didn’t call and ask them to sell me the correct amount, I don’t know!. As it worked out, I was just able to fit in the fronts and backs and the front and back pockets but all facings and had to be cut from something else. With the red pair I had to create hem facings because the legs weren’t long enough to turn up; the mauve pair ended up somewhat cropped; the navy pair were OK in length. Because I intend to wear them with loose tops (I haven’t worn “tucked in” in a long time) I can get away with an elastic waist, pull-on pants.

I want to make one more pair but that will have to wait until the fabric stores here in town reopen – Wednesday, this week, I think – to buy some khaki/beige linen blend fabric.

In the meantime, I’ve turned to tops and dresses.

Top Recut From Dress

This top is a dress remake of the dress I made in 2014 for Benjamin’s Bar Mitzvah. 2014 – that’s a while back – the dress was just too small. I put it in the give-away pile and then decided to use the fabric as a “muslin” to recut the dress as a top to see how it would look in a larger size. Not bad. I can certainly wear it with white or red pants and a bit of jewelry and look decent.

I was using this garment as a mock-up for a longer casual summer dress. Working from a pattern I’ve had forever

I retraced the size 14 I now needed, carefully drafted neck “yoke” pieces (the pattern uses a neckline facing, but the neckline is a bit too large so I decided to add an insert (“yoke”) to make it higher, rather than change the neckline on the pattern) and I also lengthened the sleeves to close to elbow-length.

I had bought some viscose/cotton/flax/ print fabric a few weeks back with this dress in mind. Yesterday, I cut it out and assembled it.

Floral Viscose/Cotton/Flax Casual Summer Dress

I’m not going to be glamorous in this dress, but it’s going to be loose and cool and comfortable on a hot summer day (OK we don’t get a lot of those here in NS but we do get an occasional warm one).

I’m just about to make a second dress using some batik rayon I stamped myself in Bali in 2014.

Bali Rayon Batik

I purposely used two tjaps (stamps used to apply hot wax to the fabric) to create my design intending to use the “rectangles” as a border at the hem of whatever I eventually made. We stamped two “border” sections so I’d have enough. I came home with 5 metres of this batik rayon fabric – the dress will take about 1/3 of what I have – I’m going to try to border the sleeves a wee bit, as well, if I can.

That’s today’s project. I have more linen and linen blend, as well as rayon, fabrics in my stash to make several more garments but I really don’t need more than two dresses – we don’t get that many hot days here. So that fabric will stay put for another summer.

The “Muslin”

It’s close to two weeks since I posted anything. That’s because I’ve been stuck on the latest quilt – I have this lovely collection of jellyroll strips – I’d like to do something with them using diamonds – and the 2 1/2″ strip width limit has me blocked!

Jellyroll Collection

I’ve tried sorting the strips in pairs (which is one way I could assemble diamonds by cutting each vertical half diamond from the strips and pair them up):

Jellyroll collection with contrast

However, I lose the flow of colour I’m looking for if I pair them this way, and I can’t see a way to bring in the perfectly contrasted turquoise grunge fabric. So I gathered up the strips and set them aside for now.

I returned to my photograph of Ruby and played with it – enlarging her 50% and then extrapolating to a final panel size. I’ve cut out the backing muslin but got no further than that. What’s stopping me with this project is trying to figure out how to make the mud flat look wet – not there yet.

I needed something I could accomplish – I made 10 iPhone cases to give away. I’ve passed on three of the ones I made for myself so I decided I should make some to have in my gift stash.

iPhone Cases to give away

And then I finally got to the corduroy that has been sitting on my serger table for well over a year and decided to make pants.

I’ve capitulated – pull-on pants is what I need to make, not pants with a fly front and fitted waistband. I’m tired of wearing pants that are too tight in the waist (in spite of the elastic gussets I’ve inserted in the sides of many of them). So I went searching for a pattern online.

I started with the Jalie Pattern 3243 for pull-on pants. I bought the PDF version which sends me two files – one I can print on my home printer – that means 25-30 pages that I then have to organize and tape together to create a pattern array before tracing the size I want to make; and one I can take to a print shop and have printed on blueprint size paper.

I did the latter. I went to Staples and after much discussion with the gal (who clearly has never sewn anything in her short life) I decided to print the sheet based on the very limited information I could find on the pattern (all it said was “copy shop 36″). I asked for a 36″ x 48” sheet. When I measured the test block, what I ended up with was a pattern at 88% of full size! At $14 per printed sheet I wasn’t going to try printing it again, so I took it home and started doing some math.

This is one of those pattern with 27 sizes printed as one. I checked the pattern size info and decided my hip measurement was a size V (US size 9), my waist was a size Z (US size 13). To get those measurements on this 88% printout, I needed to upsize those measurements to a Z and a CC.

I marked the pattern accordingly using a bright highlight pen, used my French curve to make the adjustment from hip (size Z) to waist (size CC). I traced the resulting pattern, cut it out, placed it on my corduroy, and looked at it for a day before cutting the fabric, forgetting that corduroy has to be cut all in the same direction! (I didn’t realize I’d done that until I went to press the side seams and could see the colour difference).

Because this is my first attempt at this pattern, it really qualifies as a “muslin”. I’m not expecting it to work out perfectly but the changes I make will inform any adjustments I need to make to the pattern and the project might just turn out to be a wearable garment. So I carry on.

I don’t like the pocket shape and size they provide; I substitute my jeans-shaped pocket instead and make it deep enough to hold my iPhone. I also want back pockets – I have enough fabric to include a pair. I also cut out the waist facings in corduroy, realizing I may want to change that for a batik in the end.

I make one other adjustment. No pants pattern is going to fit my body with scant bum and thin thighs. At one of my visits to Sandra Betzina I learned how to get rid of the excess fabric under my bum and down my thighs by sewing a fisheye dart down the centre back of the pants. What I didn’t anticipate was how that adjustment would affect the centre back crotch length – more about that later.

I make the front pockets; I construct the back pockets. I stitch the centre front and back crotch seams; next the side seams – although when I held up the constructed front and back against my body I was pretty sure the pants were going to end up too small to get on! But I carry on, anyway – this is a “muslin” I tell myself – see what it turns out like.

I add the waistband, put the elastic in, and try the pants on – this is a “muslin”, right?

I can actually get the pants on over my hips, I need to tighten the elastic quite a bit. I hem the pants but I have a problem – the back crotch length is about 1 1/2″ too short. I wear the pants anyway and my turtleneck shirt keeps pulling out when I sit and the pants slip down in back.

So the next day, I take off the waist facings, add a yoke to the back of the pants increasing the centre back length by 1 1/2″. Here’s where I decide I don’t want to reuse the corduroy waist facings so I cut out and attach a new set in a complementary batik (not as heavy a fabric so the waist should gather more easily). Inserted the elastic and zigzagged a seam down the middle of the elastic to keep it from twisting – but in order to do that I had to stretch the elastic to fit the waist and in the process the elastic is stretched making the waist loose.

I wear the pants again, anyway – just a “muslin”, right? I find myself constantly tucking in my shirt again.

So this morning I painstakingly took out the zigzag stitching, opened the inside side seam to gain access to the elastic, shortened it quite a bit more, then instead of doing a zigzag down the middle, I simply vertically stitched across both side seams, the centre front, the centre back and in the middle of the back on each side – that will keep the elastic in place and avoid stretching it.

The Pull-on Pants after adding a back yoke

The waist of the pants is now definitely tighter. I plan on wearing them again today to test out the fit. Furthermore, I send the PDF file to a friend with access to a blueprint printer. I should have a new 100% printout of the pattern to work from and then I will make up a second pair using the navy corduroy I bought a couple of days ago.

The pants fitting saga continues.

New Clothes

You might think I’ve not been doing much sewing/knitting but I’ve been busy with additions to my wardrobe.

First, a boiled wool jacket using Marcie Tilton’s V8430 jacket:

Marcie Tilton V8430

The boiled wool came from Blackbird Fabrics in Vancouver. I bought the aubergine which I thought would make a warm addition to my wardrobe.

A simple pattern with just two fronts, a back and sleeves which went together easily and because it’s boiled wool I didn’t need to finish edges! In fact there’s a dart at the bottom of the sleeve which is stitched by abutting the two edges and zigzagging it closed – doesn’t show but gives shape to the lower sleeve. I’m still debating whether to do something similar in the middle of the back at the neckline – I’ve a slight rounding of my back at the neck and I think the jacket would fall better in the back were I to make that tweak.

I chose the pattern because I thought the soft folds for the lapels wasn’t something I usually wear and would look “new”.

New Jacket/Sweater and Corduroy Pants – Front

With a new jacket/sweater I thought dark purple cords a good choice – I whipped those up two days ago.

New Jacket/Sweater and Corduroy Pants – Back

Taking pictures myself is extremely difficult – to position the camera involves twisting which causes the pants to show a bit of pull. I had to take the side seams in after I’d finished them – I didn’t take them in as much as I possibly could because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to sit. I’ll see how they are after I’ve washed them – the fabric was washed before I used it but it will shrink a bit more, I’m sure, with further washing.

I have three more lengths of corduroy to make pants – I’m intending to get to at least one of those this weekend.

Navy Twill Pants

I’m heading to Italy in a week. Two days ago I tried on all my summer weight pants – they ended up in two piles – a small pile of those I could zip up comfortably and a much larger one of pants I’ll have to modify in order to button the waistbands. My navy pants were in the “not wearable” pile.

Navy Cotton Twill Pants

So I made a new pair. I knew I’d probably have to make navy pants a couple of months ago so I dug out the navy twill I had in my stash, washed it, and put it aside to work on but didn’t get around to pants-making until yesterday. I used a modification of an old pattern for a culotte adding pockets and reshaping the legs to make a straight leg pant.

Cutting out, adding interfacing, setting up pockets, fly front are all straightforward. The problem with making pants (at least for me) is I have to make them up completely before I can try them on to determine if they actually fit. I cut this pair largish because there was absolutely no give in the width of this fabric and I didn’t want to make the pants too small to fit into. However, they turned out too big in the bum and through the legs. So I did what I’ve done before – put a shaped dart down the centre back of the leg to get rid of much of the fullness below my bum and to narrow the thigh.

The back pockets are typical jeans pockets. I decided not to do inner front pockets – instead I cut out a pocket shape, added a facing to the open edge, then turned under a 1/4″ seam allowance and top stitched the pockets in place on the fronts before they were attached to the back.

I made a couple of further adjustments to the fit today but now the pants are wearable.

Elastic Inserts

OK, so I’ve been procrastinating on the quilt! I’ve been feeling somewhat under the weather but that’s no excuse. I should be working on the quilt.

Yesterday, however, when I sat down to sew, wearing a pair of black corduroy pants I made many years ago (they are still in good condition and fit everywhere except in the waist!) I admitted I was uncomfortable. Over the last couple of years as I’ve grown shorter my waist has grown larger – and the waist in my pants has become tighter and tighter. I can still get the button done up, but the waist is just plain tight. Time to do something about it.

Years ago I came across a very useful article by Kathy Ruddy on how to create elastic inserts. So I took off the pants and got to work.

Elastic Inserts

The instructions are for creating elastic inserts while constructing pants. To do an elastic insert in existing pants here’s what I do.

  • Cut the waistband about an inch and a half from the side seam in the back – cutting just a tiny amount below the waistband itself (if you want to open the waist more than, say, an inch on each side then cut deeper into the top of the pants to allow you to spread the waistband further – depending on the depth of the cut you will need wider elastic, obviously – the widest (6″) I’ve been able to find comes from Kathy Ruddy).
  • Using 3″ wide elastic, cut wedges about 2 1/2″ across the top, 1 1/2″ at the bottom, serge the cut sides.
  • Position the top of the waistband against the top of one side of the elastic and stitch, then attach the waistband to the second side, leaving an opening in the elastic wide enough to be comfortable but not so wide as the make the waistband too loose.
  • With the top of the waistband and the elastic in place behind the opening, top stitch (I use a utility stitch because the cut edge is raw and I want to secure it) along both cut edges securing the pants fabric to the elastic.
  • I don’t worry about attaching the elastic on the inside of the pants.

The whole operation took me about 10 minutes. I put the pants back on and I could sit comfortably. So I gathered up the other four pairs of corduroy pants in my closet and did the same to them.

Now I can breath when I’m wearing these pants. Truth be told, I’m going to have to do the same thing to all of my jeans. They all still fit everywhere but in the waist and are more than wearable. No point in tossing them out – I just need to make the adjustment so I can wear them comfortably. And since I wear my sweaters or t-shirts out (not tucked in) my kluge doesn’t show!

Beige Pants

Same pattern, cut out with the same modifications I used with the pink pants, and these came out larger – had to take in the sides 3/8″ at the top and from mid hip to hemline. Obviously the difference is the fabric in spite of the fact there’s no spandex in this fabric either….

The front has turned out fine, happy with that, but below the bum is a wee bit baggy. Not much I can do about that at this point – the pants may tighten up a bit with washing, although I prewashed the fabric. Sitting in them may also round out the backside some.

The pants are certainly wearable. 

This morning I dug out some navy cotton twill (no spandex) that I will wash tomorrow, as well as some prewashed beige cotton twill – both will get made into pants when I get back from Toronto (going to my niece’s wedding coming weekend). I also found a prewashed length of French navy blue light weight cotton/linen blend to use for a loose shirt. Once those garments are done, the pants with the stretched out spandex will go.

Tomorrow, I intend to interface the silk dupion I’ve had waiting to be made into a quilt. I’ll get that project started next.

Pink Pants

These pants were cut based on the modifications I made to my basic pattern in San Francisco – a small addition to the centre front crotch area, a 3/4″ drop in the front waist, and 1/4″ addition to the side seams because the fabric had no spandex.

This is a jeans pattern but I thought this wool/polyester fabric was a bit too “dressy” to turn into jeans so I left out all the top stitching, omitted the back pockets, and used a single seam for a neat hem.

Have to say they turned out pretty well – although everything that could go wrong did! I started by putting the zipper on the wrong side of the fly front, had to redo it, pockets went in fine as did the side seams, but I screwed up threading the embroidery machine and I had to take out a stitched (not yet cut, fortunately) buttonhole not once but twice. After rethreading the machine and doing a practice buttonhole (which I should have done in the first place) the third try was fine. Only then did I cut it open.

I’ve just finished cutting pants out of a beige fabric which I will sew tomorrow. The beige fabric I used for pants in San Francisco turned out to be dreadful – it’s a stretch twill and it now has a permanent stretch across the front where the spandex has failed – very visible. So once these new beige pants (with almost no stretch) are done, the SF pants will get tossed. 

That’s the same fabric I used for the light and dark blue pants I made earlier in the spring – they’re starting to show the same permanent stress marks across the front so they’ll have to be replaced. This time, I’ll use a cotton twill with no spandex in it. The original fabric wasn’t a cheap fabric, either. 

So lesson learned – stay away from fabrics with any amount of spandex – they may be intended to provide a comfortable fit with some give but the quality and durability is variable and pants take a good 5-6 hours of work. Too much time for such a limited result!

Remodelling Summer Pants

You get up one day and decide today is the day to swap out the winter pants for the summer ones. That was this morning – however, I knew I would want to do something with the fit in the back of all eight pairs of pants which I’d made last summer.

I tried each on, pinned a dart to get rid of the fullness under the bum. Then I dug out some thin cardboard and drafted a template for the dart.

All of the pants were made from a palazzo pants pattern – with modifications as I went along – the legs got narrower, some ended up cropped, the first pair had the side opening used in the pattern, but second pair on I changed to a fly front.

I figured out a system for doing the alteration – I turned the pants inside out, pressed along the centre back, marked 6.25″ from the lower waistband seam, positioned the template, marked the dart seam with a fabric marker or chalk, then stitched it. Pressed the dart toward the centre back, turned the pants right side out and pressed along the seam. Done!


The pants fit so much better than they did.

Now to incorporate the shape and depth of the dart into the back of my jeans pattern, as well as the palazzo pants pattern. I think I have the dimensions of the “dart” just about right now.

San Francisco 5

A fascinating day. Because all of us (we are 9 women) are interested in perfecting a pair of pants, it began with Sandra showing us an array of pants – from very loose culottes to very fitted knit pants as well as jeans… pointing out how these various garments would look good on a range of shapes, and explaining which fabrics would work and what not to bother trying.

Next we were each measured. Sandra has a collection with each of the pants patterns in every possible size. So after being measured the fun began.

Sandra demonstrated how to use our measurements to mark changes on the garment pattern, showing how to change size for different parts of the pants.

I wanted to start with a pair of jeans. Sandra suggested I try a size ‘B’ – which she said wouldn’t fit across the front, but would give us a sense of the back fit. Turns out I have a ‘calf’ problem – my calves are just large enough to prevent the pant leg from falling easily along my lower leg – so when adjusting the pattern, she recommended I add a 1/2″ to each side of the back pieces from knee to hem. Next she wanted me to try a size ‘E’ (I have a large waist) for the front fit – well ‘E’ fell off my hips, even ‘D’ was large, so we settled on ‘C’.

Next I set to work tracing the pants pattern making the adjustments, cutting out the pattern, then cutting the pink twill (pre-washed) fabric I had brought with me.

I have much of the prep work done now, and will begin sewing the pants tomorrow.

It was like that with everyone – each gal choosing a style of pants to work on, then trying on several pairs in different sizes – you can imagine the laughter as we unrobed over and over again and paraded in pants either too large or too small in order to determine the adjustments needed to establish a personalized fit.

Our work room was one busy place:

Tomorrow should see several pairs of pants completed.

Black Silk Pants

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I’m starting to get organized for the San Francisco trip in April. I had a phone call last weekend from Elke (Sandra’s assistant) about the workshop, wondering what questions I might have. I told her I was determined to come home with a perfectly fitting pair of pants!

In the meantime, the Saturday night we’re having dinner at Sandra’s home and apparently it’s a “dress up” affair – not too dressy, but not jeans, either. I have that lovely silk embroidered shirt I made in July from the fabric my friend Mary Ann gave me. And I have a black silk crepe top. All I needed was a pair of black silk pants!

I’ve had 5 yards of black silk in my stash for 20+  years – my sister Donna brought it for me from Thailand – I’d just never used it. The silk was a light weight shantung so I thought the pants should be lined. It just so happened I had some hot pink silk lining fabric which I’d bought a couple of years ago in Florida to line my Faux Suede Appliqué jacket. However, I found a better lining fabric, used it on the jacket, and put this lining fabric away.

IMG_0840This seemed a good use for it – I had enough for the pants (with a bit left over for lining bags, I imagine). IMG_4522Nobody will ever see the lining, but I’ll know it’s there and having it makes the pants drape nicely.

I used the modified pattern from the palazzo pants (don’t ask my why I didn’t use the Eureka pattern – I just didn’t think of it – I think I was originally thinking of a wider leg than I actually made).

All in all I’d say these pants turned out rather well. That notwithstanding, I know I’m still going to learn a lot about fitting pants. And in all likelihood I might wear these pants 2-3 times beyond this one occasion. So I wasn’t worried about a lot of tailoring detail – just made sure I had deep pockets on the front so I can carry my phone!

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