Finished Object: Position 5 Pavlova!

Pavlova Position 5

Here she is, all finished!  I meant to post this last night, but the internet at our house ground to a halt and refused to be revived.  Next morning after some fiddling, it’s back.  Whew.

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This skirt was originally my Position 2 skirt- the one where I abused the horsehair braid hem. I’ve had a few emails since then letting me know I was doing it wrong.  Yes, I know.

The thing is, it would be weird to make a series of posts about circle skirts without mentioning horsehair braid.  There’s plenty of information in the internet about application of horsehair, and I made a brief visual reference, too.  I wanted to do something else- to show precisely how the braid reacted to continual wash and wear, a clear visual warning.

Worn In Pavlova Back

It’s not pretty, but that’s not the fault of the braid.

When I needed it, I couldn’t find any horsehair braid in Brisbane or Australia so MrsC who owns and runs Made Marion in Wellington sent me some.  She’s so good.

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I couldn’t leave the hem looking so terrible, so before I appliqued and embellished my skirt, I ripped out the braid and re-stitched the hem.

Pavlova Position 5

I think it was the right choice.

One of the things I find curious about embellished circle skirts is how easily the ripples can hide applique motifs.  There’s a little pink bird somewhere on the back of my skirt…

Pavlova Position 5

Oh!  There she is!

Pavlova Position 5

And another one!  Who knew candy pink birds could be so subtle?

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There’s nothing subtle about the satin ribbon birdcage, though.  I built it over an existing pocket but it would be workable (and saner) to mount it on a plain rectangle of fabric which then becomes the pocket.  I positioned the bird cage near the top of the skirt as per the inspiration photo, but given my druthers I think I’d like it better near the hem.  But this is fine, too!

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The Position 5 skirt felt more like arts and crafts than a sewing project.  It was really fun.   I kept messing with the ribbon birdcage, adding and removing pieces of ribbon.  Can you see the little bird swing I snuck into the cage?   I also removed a “bar” so we have an open door.

And Lila the photo-bomber came back!   We couldn’t get out somewhere cool to do photos, but she kept me laughing and we had fun in the yard.

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Downloadable bird and cage templates and construction details at sewingcake.com.

Meanwhile, The Pavlova Wrap Top & Skirt pdf patterns will be released on Craftsy tomorrow!

Do Knit Fabrics Have a Bias?

Tiramisu- a dress cut (mostly) on the bias

When this question comes up in classes, I used to reply “The short answer is, no.  Knit fabrics behave differently to wovens, only wovens have a true bias.”  That’s not inaccurate, as far as it goes. The long answer is a little more nuanced, and it’s taken me the better part of a year to satisfy myself about whether knit fabrics have a “bias” grain or not.  I think they do, even though the nature of the fabric is different than a regular woven.

I run a few regular searches on google, to find any new blog or forum posts on the topic.  I never found much information online or off about whether knits have a bias grain.  Opinion varies widely on the topic of knit bias, so I knew I would need to experiment on my own to find an answer that satisfied me.
Earlier this year, I made the Bow Tie Tee, a hack of the Blank Canvas Tee and also available as a pdf pattern.  The jersey I chose to use is a relatively beefy cotton t-shirting with moderate stretch.  It’s pretty stable, a good place to start playing with knit grainlines.  When I worked with the pattern, I didn’t approach it as a “woven” or a “knit” pattern, but as a kind of hybrid.  For most woven patterns, you want at least an inch or two of wearing ease to allow you to move and laugh and jump around.  Most knit patterns tend to have “negative” ease, which means the fabric is cut smaller than the body’s measurements so the fabric will stretch and cling to the body.  For the Bow Tie Tee, I worked with 0 ease- neither extra fabric like a woven, nor “negative” ease like a knit.

I did this because I wanted to play with stripes.  Why else?  The front yoke is cut with horizontal stripes, and the stretch runs the direction it should in a typical knit pattern- that is, the stretch lies around the body.  For the lower front piece, I turned the fabric on its side.  I wasn’t sure this would work, because it’s not usually the way knit fabric is used.  Turns out, it works just fine- probably because I only did this on one section of the garment, not the entire shirt.  This is one of my favorite tops, I’ve been wearing it for months now and I find no problem with the cut or the grain.  It doesn’t bind or ride up, in fact when I put on this shirt I cease to remember I’m wearing clothes.  That’s always my aim.

The back uses another kind of grain altogether- a “bias” grain.  I did this because I have an undying love of back interest and chevron stripes.  Again, I had no idea if this would work because it’s not usually done, but it turned out well.  I noticed that the back seems to have a different kind of “give” and “hug” than a regular knit top.  When I wear the shirt backwards for a plain v-neck front (this works well!), I notice the fabric molds and skims over my bust and waist in a pleasing way.

front, “Lamington,” a work in progress

I tried a similar back bias treatment when working up samples for another upcoming pattern.  (I make and wear samples extensively before working them into a full multi-sized pattern.) This time, the front is quite plain with the stretch running around the body as it would on a normal knit pattern.

I left this one unhemmed to see the effect of the CB downward “growth” more clearly.  You can see that the back has indeed grown longer than the front, and as it stretches downward it gently pulls the side seam to the back.  This is quite clear when I lay the garment out flat, but when I put it on my body fills the shirt and the seams lie where they should.  The back “bias” pieces behave almost exactly the way I would expect a woven bias cut to behave, but with the knit fabric the bias effect is somewhat more pronounced.  Interesting!

The stripes show you clearly that the side seam is cut on the “straight” of grain, and the CF is “bias.”

I took it to the next level with my samples of the Tiramisu dress.  The skirt is cut with the straight of grain at the side and a “bias” seam at the center front and back.  When I first started playing with this concept, I had no idea if it would work in a knit.  I know that “straight” sides and “bias” CF and CB seams works to make a very flattering silhouette in a woven, and I was keen to try on a knit.

thats some good rippling…  The jersey is one of those “modern” jerseys that stays wrinkled… Not sure I love the effect… But I do love this dress.

I’m happy to say it does work quite well on knit fabrics.  I’ve tested it on rather light weight (striped version), medium weight (several muslins), and even a double-layered jersey (red version) to see how the fabric behaves when treated in this manner.  I couldn’t be more pleased with the gentle rippling effect, though I have discovered that a knit bias dress should be hung unhemmed overnight so it can “settle” the same as a woven.

Tiramisu front bodice piece

The bodice for Tiramisu was also interesting.  I liked the stripe placement on a similar woven dress (1950′s pattern I made for Mother’s Day) and hoped it would work for a knit.  It does.  However, I discovered that due to the way the stretch lies on the body (nearly vertical) and the weight of the skirt, the top bodice section tends to stretch.

Made of a heavy weight double layered jersey, works quite well.

Further, I discovered that it’s more or less a standard amount of stretching regardless of the weight of the fabric used.  Lighter fabrics usually stretch more than heavy ones, but the lighter dresses don’t weigh as much as the heavier ones, so it seems to come out even.  In this case, we’re working with the nature of the fabric (stretch), the weight of the fabric, and gravity.

This means that for the underbust seam to lie under the bust, the pattern itself must be quite a bit shorter that the shoulder-to-underbust raw measurement.  If I hold the upper bodice pattern piece up to my own body, it doesn’t seem like it will work.  However, comprehensive testing and understanding how the fabric will behave has shown me how to produce a consistent result.

I also use a carefully-calibrated piece of neck binding to help “snug up” the neck opening to prevent tumbling out of the dress.  I hate having to think about my clothes after I put them on, especially having to worry about that particular issue.  The short binding works well for keeping the neckline in shape without using another kind of stabilizer.  The binding itself is cut on the cross-grain (without much stretch) and about 3/4″ shorter than my neckline opening.  I eased it in, and the result is solid and light.

I have satisfied myself that knit does have a “bias.”  While the nature and structure of a knit fabric is quite different than a woven, I can not deny that knit fabrics behave differently on the body (and with a pattern) when cut on the bias than when cut “straight.”  Furthermore, I think that when a knit is cut on the “bias,” it behaves in much the same way as a woven bias, but more so.

What do you think? Have you ever experimented with knit bias?  Do you know of a great blog post, article, or book on the subject?  I haven’t really found much that was helpful, just a handful of forum postings and a few about.com pages that rambled about knit fabrics.  I’d be quite happy to hear any and all thoughts on this!

(Also… I have some fun sewing for Stephen coming up… I made him some long-sleeved linen work shirts years ago, he gets compliments from the other ecologists whenever he wears them and has requested a few more!  Cool.  I’m planning to use Negroni, I’ve been dying to make it up!  And Lila could use a few new pieces, I’m designing some girlie versions of my ladies’ stuff to try on her.  Should be fun!)

Trouser Legs: How Wide is Too Wide?

First- I’m sorry for once again dropping off the radar.  I tend to do that, despite my many avowals not to, but it seems only right to apologize for just disappearing.  It’s all because I said something about blogging “two on, one off.”  Then after weeks of doing just that, I got blogging block.  Jinx.  I’m not depressed, or sick, or disenchanted with blogging or sewing, in fact it’s rather the opposite.  I just don’t know what to write about at the moment because so much is going on in my life.  I’ll have some very cool news to share very soon…

Also the Hack in polar fleece is on its way.  I just had a hiccup with sourcing a separating zipper in the correct color and length.  I’m sorry!

After “cracking” the fit on Colette’s Clovers, I felt I needed to take the concept of pants to the opposite extreme.  I’m not going to lie, I really don’t feel comfortable in skinny-leg pants.  I gave them a good try for a few weeks, but I just don’t reach for them when I need to dress.  I also don’t own many tunic-y tops, and I don’t really want to make a bunch of tops just so I can wear them with one pair of pants I don’t particularly enjoy wearing.  Nothing at all against those who love them, please be my guest, but I don’t love the “skinny leg” cut.  If anyone wants the teal Clovers from no-wale stretch cotton cord, email me and I’ll tell you the dimensions.  If we’re close you can have them for postage with my blessing.

I *do* reach for my wide-leg pants constantly (and the Pinkies, but they’re boot cut).  I have a pair of ancient black linen ones made from Simplicity 4044 as well as a pair inspired by Jean Ross in organic cotton canvas and red linen ones, both made from Wearing History’s Smooth Sailing pattern.  I wanted to try them in denim, and I wanted to make the legs as wide as possible.

So, of course, I made a Pinterest board of “Antidote” Trousers.  The antidote to skinnies.  I found some great modern and vintage inspiration, though “wide” seems to mean one of several types.  There’s “wide”: (as always in photo posts, click for source)

“WIDE”

From Pintuck Style blog, great inspiration post.

And then there’s “REALLY WIDE”:

Cool vintage beach photos in this post… Click for source…

Click to see the post at Q’s Daydream, amazing photos.

Click for interesting advice about wearing wide-leg pants well…

And finally, there’s a “Giant Pants of the 30′s” Tumblr.  I kid you not, great photos.

I went with this draft by Harriet Pepin, craving the widest hems possible.  (If you like sharp-tongued drafting instructors, or if you’re interested in vintage pattern drafting, do check out Modern Pattern Drafting.)  My first draft was WIIIIIIDE.  Each hem was wider than my hips.   I “toned it down” for the second draft, with legs slightly narrower than my hip measurement, and I added some cool seaming:

I ask you, stylish and truthful readers- How Wide Is Too Wide?  I like these while I’m wearing them.  I like the way they move, I like the details, I like how they lengthen and balance my figure.  I like the pockets, they’re made like the ones from Chanel’s Eminently Practical Collection.

But then in some pictures, or when I’m standing a certain way, I kind of feel like a teenage Goth kid who blew their allowance on weird pants at Hot Topic.  Or like I’m wearing extra-long culottes.   I haven’t quite finished these jeans because I can’t decide about the width.  Do help me out so I can slap on the buttons!  They’re copper and very, very cute.

What do you think?  How wide is too wide for you?

Finished Object: Teal Clovers

Worn with my pinstriped Bow Tie Tee

And so I complete the Clovers.  After muslining my Pants Block, using the block to alter the Clover pattern, removing the excess back thigh fabric from the inseams, then from the side seams, these Clovers are finished.

I wish I hadn’t tried to be clever with the pocket flaps.  I had also thought to make some cool shaped cuffs, maybe embellish with some contrast buttons but I’m not interested in prolonging my work on these pants.  Besides, it would probably look super weird to anyone who isn’t me.

I’m pleased with the results, but I’m not completely sure they’re my style.  I feel exposed.  They’re pretty much the polar opposite to my favorite below-the-waist-garments- Katharine Hepburn style trousers.

The side seam pulls ever so slightly toward the front, but I can live with that.  Ruth, do you dig my shoes?

All in all, not a bad project.  I consider my personal style boundaries pushed.

We tried several poses and activities to illustrate mobility.   Stephen said “Go run and jump and do some rad air-kicks.”

These pants don’t slip and show crack even when I’m bending over to run up a hill.  Or when I’m sitting down, but you really *really* don’t want to see those photos.  I have some muffin topping going on, I get that any time my pants sit below the waist.  My solution (usually) is to wear pants and skirts that sit at my waist.

“Maybe I’m styling these wrong,” I thought to myself as I dug around for a tunic-length top.  Almost every top and shirt I own is closely fitted and ends just above the curve of my backside.  I wear a lot of full skirts and full trousers, so fitted tops harmonize with my usual choices but seems skimpy with this pants cut.  Or maybe I’m just not used to it.   While I was searching, I turned up this shirt I made last year.  It was worn for a theatre production of Don Quixote.

I would fain have donned the doublet for the photos, but the color clashed with teal.  Also, I have not a codpiece.  Another time.  I should write a post soon about this shirt, I haven’t taken it off all day.  Dare I wear this out?  Hmmmm…. probably not.

At any rate, I feel like I “cracked” the Clovers so I’m happy.

By the way, I found this interesting passage in Pepin’s Modern Pattern Drafting from the 40′s.  It’s referring to “bathing trunks” in the pants chapter, but the shape of the draft makes sense to me, and her explanation of the change in crotch shape necessary when working with jersey.  Why couldn’t I have found this two weeks ago?

If you’d like to work with me to fit your own pair of stretch pants/trousers, do email me. (Yours don’t have to be as closely fitted as mine, I just wanted to prove to myself I could do it!)  The Consulting Dressmaker charges $15 to guide you through the process, I’ll be there to answer all your questions and help dispel your fit issues.

If you’d like a custom-drafted Pants Block to help you reliably alter commercial pants/trousers patterns, click here and fill in the form.  Other Blockers have had great results, I love helping to fit pants.

And Brisbane… I’m teaching a day-long workshop at Piece Together called “Perfectly Fitting Pants” and only 3 spaces are left!  It’s on July 14, please visit Piece Together for more information and to register.

In other project news- I have over 350 data sets for the Waist-To-Hip Ratio survey.  That’s amazing!  When I set a goal of 300, I didn’t expect to reach it so quickly.  The more numbers I have to play with the better, so I’d appreciate any and all contributions.  I’m making some charts, crunching some numbers and scratching my head so I can show you on Saturday what I’ve been working on.  Interesting stuff.  Thank you so much for helping me!  Y’all are amazing.

Fisheye Dart = Changing Seamlines for Stretch Pants Fitting

I’m still playing with patterns and stretch fitting for pants- focusing specifically on the Clovers by Colette.  It started innocently enough, as an exercise to help me better answer Pants Blocks questions and as a way to sharpen my skills before teaching the Perfectly Fitting Pants workshop next month.

But now I’m kind of obsessed.  Every answer breeds another question.   I plan to keep chasing answers until I can’t find more questions.  Or until we get bored with pants.  Or until my 1934 German sewing magazine shows up.

Way back when I was fitting the Pinkie Pants, someone left a comment suggesting pinning out the extra fabric through the backside of the pants to allow the fabric to lie smoothly.  This is often referred to as a “fisheye dart” and it’s a perfectly reasonable way to adjust a pattern.  Check out this video detailing one way to do the alteration.

The problem with this is we can’t run around with darts on our backsides.  It just isn’t done.  I don’t really see why it’s ok to have all kinds of darts on the bust and not the backside, but we’ll leave that for now.  The fact is, if you’ve made a pair of pants that has extra fabric through the back, a fisheye dart is not going to help.

I documented the process I went through to whip my Clovers into shape and get rid of the extra back thigh fabric.  I removed excess fabric through the back inseam, and I deepened the crotch curve.  Still restless, I also shaved off the waistline seam and then took in the side seams.  It’s all fairly simple, once I worked out which way to go.

The interesting part came when I realized I did exactly what a fisheye dart would have done.  But with no dart.  Instead, I shifted the seamlines.  I’ll show you.

This is the finished pattern piece, with all my “notes” and new lines on it.  It’s a combination of my Pants Block and the Clover pattern, and also reflects the way I changed the seamlines during the fitting process.  For a medium bottom weight fabric with moderate stretch, this is my pants back pattern piece (though different fabrics will behave a little differently when cut from the same pattern!).  I didn’t change the front much; besides the fisheye dart doesn’t have anything to do with the front.  We’ll focus on the back pattern piece.

This is the pattern piece I started with.  It’s the Clover pattern combined with my block. I traced a second one for the sake of this exercise, but it’s exactly the same shape I used to cut out my Clovers last week.

This is the dart I pinned out.  After I sewed them together but before I did the Clovers fitting, I pinched out a dart to make the wrinkles go away on my pants.  I made note of it then and transferred it to this pattern piece for the sake of demonstration.

Then I pinned out the dart after cutting away the excess pattern paper.  This has no seam allowances.  Notice how the shape of the curve changes, as does the angle of the waistband seam.

Check out the darted pattern piece with the one I already know fits me laid on top.  The pattern piece on top has seam allowances, but the seamlines through the crotch and hip are identical.  Even the side seam.  The only difference is the shape of the dart, and I have to say using the larger dart that wasn’t cut off by my alterations makes sense.  Other than that detail, the crotch and waistband seams are identical on both pattern pieces.

The legs were different.  I scratched my head for a while and put it down to the fact that on one pattern piece I had folded out a dart, and on the other I hadn’t.  The “grainlines” are different, if you will.  I focused on only the inseam and side seams (because the crotch seam was sorted out by the dart) and carved away the same amount from the inseams and outseams on the darted pattern piece as I had on the Clovers.

They’re the same. (Sidenote- the altered pants pattern corresponds exactly to my full hip measurement.  It’s zero ease, but not negative ease.  Interesting.)  I took out that much fabric from the top of my inseam.  If I were cleverer, I would have taken out a little less there and a little more at the side seam to balance the seams.  As it is, I ended up with a pretty wearable pair of pants that fit reasonably well.  It’s interesting to note that pinning out the dart and shifting the seamlines yields much the same results.

The difference is that you can shift the seamlines on pants you’ve already sewn up, whereas the “fisheye dart” alteration can only be performed on the pattern piece, not a garment-in-progress.

I’d love to hear thoughts on this- you’re a sharp crowd…  Or questions- I’m not sure I explained this so well and I’d like to be quite clear.

Also– Thank you thank you so much for participating in the Waist to Hip Ratio survey (and for spreading the word!).  I have collected 289 sets of measurements since Sunday- wow!  It’s really interesting to play with the numbers, I look forward to writing a post about it this weekend.  In the meantime, if you haven’t already contributed, would you mind?  I’d really appreciate it.  The more numbers I have, the better my equations.

Also- What’s that on my drafting table?  Antidote Trousers?  Ooooh.  Those are my kind of pants… I’m trying two different ways of drafting wide legs/fitted hips to see which one I like best.  But that’s a project for next week…

Obsession, Observation and Clovers

I’ve been wearing my less-than-perfectly fitted Clovers all weekend, thinking that if I forced myself to wear them, I’d have a Eureka moment about why I hate them so badly.  I don’t wear skinnies, it never occurred to me before.  I started working with Clovers in response to questions from Pants Block clients.  Of course I’d self-experiment to find the answers.

When we were out and about at a big huge shopping mall yesterday, the scales fell from my eyes.  All but 3 (I counted) women I saw between the ages of 15 and 45 wearing pants were wearing Clover-like garments on their lower halves.  Older women wore regular trousers.  Is that normal?  (I’m counting leggings-as-pants in the same category as “skinnies.”)

When did this happen?   I certainly have a tendency to dwell in la-la land, but how did I miss this?  A google search turned up plenty of articles with words like “wardrobe staple,” discussions about comfort and versatility, etc.  Sure.  Reading that, I felt just like I did in highschool when everyone I knew swore up and down that thongs were the most comfortable underwear ever invented and I kept thinking “You’re all a pack of dirty liars.”

At any rate, it doesn’t matter whether I like them or not.  It matters if I can fit them- it’s a puzzle to unlock.  Skinny-leg pants fit closely to the body down the entire length of the leg.  They pose a greater fitting challenge than anything else worn below the waist.

I spent some time today researching other Clovers and checking out how they fit everyone else in the blogosphere.  On the way, I found a super-incredible-awesome-beautiful series of tutorials from Sallieoh called “Fun with Clovers.”  Wow.  I mean, wow- she does gorgeous work.  You could use the tips on pretty much any pants.

While I was reading, I ran my hands along the side seam down my thigh.  I could see and feel that my Clovers had too much fabric in the back thigh still, and I noticed the seam allowance was twisting forward.  Eureka achieved!  I grabbed a piece of chalk and stood in front of a mirror to mark where the side seam should be- perpendicular to the floor, and through my thigh area nearly an inch towards the back. (The top of the side seam was perfectly fine.  Go figure.)

I mentioned before that it’s important to balance the seams on pants- if you take out from the inseam, you must take out roughly the same amount from the side seam.  I hoped to get away with not doing it because I’d rather not unpick a zipper if I can avoid it.  Nope, it was unavoidable.  I ripped the un-zippered side seam from mid-hip through the lower knee.

Then aligned the front seamline (which was really obvious after two days of wear) with the chalk line I drew.  Pinned, basted.  I tried them on, then stitched in place.

I still had some funny business going on, so remembering MrsC’s recommendation that I “hoik up the side seam,” I did just that.  I ripped out the waistband and “hoiked” it about 1/2″ at the side seams, tapering to nothing at the CB.

The left side is the one I fixed up, the right side has the zipper and I will get to it shortly.  I still have a little wrinkle under my backside, but I won’t worry about it.  I think everyone gets that- at least it seems like it from the other Clovers I’ve seen…  I have to wonder if it will go away once I sort out the other side, I can feel the difference in the two legs when I move.  The drag lines are gone from the back knee area, you can see the ghosts of them but irl and not on crappy nighttime photos, they’re gone.  You’ll see when I do the FO post..

The leg on the right has been fixed up.  It feels better.  The other leg feels weird.  Also, for the first time in my life I feel hippy.

Not fixed side seam.

Fixed side seam.

I tried to keep track of my alterations and “nudges” on the pattern piece as I sewed, but in the interests of science I’ll also take a tracing of my finished pants so I can reverse engineer the process of whittling a regular Pants Block down for stretch.  Which I’ll document, of course.  I also want to show my pattern work and compare it to the “fish eye dart” method.  Turns out they yield the same results.

Also, I have a new numbers project.  Can you help?  I have some crazy ratio ideas about waist and hip measurements, and I’m also working out a sizing chart for below-the-belt patterns.  If you don’t mind anonymously contributing your measurements to my project, click here.  Thank you!  I’ll write a post about my findings once I hit 300, I’d love to have as large a sample as possible.

What do you think?  You know what else, none of the slim cut pants I saw while I was out the other day had pocket flaps.  Did I do something super-weird by putting them on mine?  They’ll have buttons and be cute, I promise!

Finished Objects: Pants/Trousers from Blogging Blockers

I like to teach for purely selfish reasons.  Helping someone conquer a sewing issue makes me happy, as happy as the first time I conquered the issue myself.  It’s the same on or offline; when I read posts like the ones below, I smile all day…

As part of pants week/month, I collected blog posts I know about that feature pants I had a helped fit through the Pants Block service.  If I missed your post, please feel free to link in the comments and I’ll take a thousand lashes with a wet noodle.

Liza Jane was one of my first testers, when I hadn’t yet worked out the kinks in the process.  I hadn’t learned to scale the scans, so the resulting block on her end was not quite right, though at the time neither of us realized it.  D’oh.  It didn’t matter though, because Liza Jane kept working at tweaking with me and then turned out this gorgeous pair of hot pink linen trousers.  They’re so pretty, I think I’ll have to make some for myself next summer.  You can see the full post here.

This is Burda 125-10-2009, made by Marie at Quirky Threads.  She and I are *almost* neighbors!  (Give or take a few hours, but still, it’s exciting!)  Marie and I worked together much more recently, and it was our extended conversation about back-inseam-reverse-ease (is there a proper term for this?) that set me thinking about how to best use the block for closer fitting styles.  Marie did a great job on her pinstriped trousers, you can see her full post here.

K from Green Hills In April and I also worked together through the tester phase, earlier this year.  She took a little break from working on the block (what?  other people have real lives?  ;)) but once we sorted out the fit, she made two pairs of pants.  A regular long pair, and then these plus fours.  I completely get it, I made myself some plus fours when I first had my block, too.  K also worked out how to make a rectangular gusset for hiking shorts (Gramicci, anyone?), and she’s in the middle of messing around with stretch pants, too!

Sophie from Un Peu de Couture worked together fairly recently.  She made a Burda 8488 for her first pair of pants after the block and I love what she wrote: “Typically this pattern stopped at size 44, but now I don’t care anymore..”  Which means- you can use the block for patterns that aren’t necessarily in your size.  Check out her sailor pants and the pretty interior details here.

But Sophie wasn’t finished yet!  She turned around the next week and put together this pair of pants using Burda 01-2006-107 and a linen-lycra blend.  The pattern hadn’t worked out for her in the pants, but this pair works quite well.  You can see the post here.

Lee and I are both contributors to Sew Weekly, and Lee blogs over at the Slow Steady.  I love her tagline, and her quirky-but-practical style.  Lee worked through her fitting issues and then made the “Sitting on the Stoop” pants from Simplicity 2367 for the “Family” challenge.  That post helped me re-asses how I approach alteration with the block: sometimes the simplest solution is the best.  You can read the full post (including the backstory on the interesting title) here.

Lee turned right around and made 40′s style jeans, this time using Simplicity 3688.  It’s a 40′s reproduction pattern and cotton linen denim- doesn’t that sound divine?  I love these jeans on her.  She finished them beautifully on the inside, I’m really impressed by her Riveter Jeans.  You can read about them here at Sew Weekly.

These are just a few of the blocks I’ve made in the past few months.  I learned quite a bit since I started playing around with the service, and I really enjoy collaborating with another sewist to achieve good fit.  Thank you all for your patience and persistence, you’re really inspiring.

If you’re reading this and I missed you, I’m very *very* sorry, please let me know.  If I used your photo by mistake, please let me know and I’ll fix it up post haste.

If you’re in the middle of fitting the block and you’d like to play some more, please email me and I’ll crack the whip.  We will work through it together, until it’s just right!  But I don’t want to spam or pester you, so please email me.

If you’d like to work together on a block so you can reliably alter commercial pants patterns, click here.  The block service is $30 until midnight tonight (in the US) and then the price will go up.

If you live in Brisbane and you’d like to take a one-day workshop on pants fitting, alteration, and techniques, please visit Piece Together to register.  Places are filling fast; I keep my class sizes small. (Psssst- Knits Mastery, a one-day workshop in August, is also filling up…  Check it out.)

Tomorrow: Getting rid of that pesky fabric under the backside, through the thigh.  The examples above show semi-fitted to loose fit, and I’m taking it to the other extreme by making some Clovers.  And there will be other, quirkier Clovers after that.  Settle in for LOTS of pants posts…

Reliable Pants Alteration: Colette Clovers and Me

I’m working out a methodical way to use my Pants Block (I can make you one too!) to reliably alter skinny stretch pants.  The block works really well for reliably altering woven trouser-fit to loose fit pants*, but after fielding a few requests for help altering the Clovers, I knew I had to work out a system for stretch.  The information here is correct, though it is still somewhat incomplete.

Just to review, “fit” does not mean tight.  In the case of the Clovers or stretch pants in general, it does mean closely fitted but it does not mean tight.  Let me say that again-

Good fit is never tight.

“Tight” is not the same as a good fit.  “Tight” is like a sausage casing, smooshing the body and filling in the wrinkles on the pants.  “Tight” does not allow the kind of mobility that you’ll need in your double life as Wonder Woman.  “Tight” makes you feel fat.  “Tight” is also kind of indecent (camel toe, anyone?).

Fit relies on the shape of the seams.  The seams will be shaped differently for every body.   With a block, you’ve worked through the little twerks of the pattern to ensure that the seams match the shape of your body.  (If you’ve been working with me and your seams don’t do that yet, let’s get back on it!  Email me.)  The block is a template of your seamlines- think of it that way.  When you use the block for alteration, you get the benefit of using a commercial pattern (with design details, instructions, and cutting layouts) and peace of mind knowing that your finished pants will fit you properly.

There’s many ways to use a block to alter a pattern.  It is the right way if it works and fits you.  This is one way, I think it is the simplest to explain.  It may seem like a lot of steps, but that’s because I’m showing both the front and back.  The method is pretty straightforward once you get your hand in.

Begin by tracing off the pants size closest to your own.  I fall between 10-12 for Colette’s sizing, I started with the 12.  It’s *always* easier to make something smaller than to make it bigger.

On the block, draw a line in another color 3/4″ (2cm) to the inside of your regular inseam. We want a very short front crotch, and less excess fabric on the inseam. You can mark this line “For Stretch.”

On the pants pattern, mark the seamlines, at least on the front crotch and inseam. If you want, you can go so far as to cut off the seam allowances but I usually don’t bother.

Lay the pants pattern on top of the block. Line up the point where the crotch curve meets the inseam on both pieces. Hold your finger in that place.

Rotate the top layer (the pants pattern) as necessary so that the grainlines on the pants pattern and on the block are paralell. I marked my block grainline in red in this photo, the pants pattern grainline is under the ruler.

Once you do that, you can pin the two layers in a few places to keep them from slipping if you’re worried about it. Then re-trace the front crotch seamline, using your block as a template. (Note: I’m kind of weirded out by how flat the front curve is here.. I almost never need to alter my front crotch seam; the flatter seam left unaltered will lead to kitty whiskers on finished pants…)

At the top of the pants pattern, mark the seam allowance.

Slide the block on top of the pants pattern, line up the front crotch seamlines and make sure the grainlines are still parallel. Then mark the waistband seamline from the pants pattern directly onto the block. I labeled the line so I know what it is later.

Set the pants pattern aside for now. Using the block, pin out the dart. Just bring the lines together and pin it. This is the shape (more or less) of the waistband.

Mark the seamlines on the waistband piece from the pants pattern.

Lay the waistband pattern piece on top of the block (with the dart pinned out). The lower part of the block won’t lie flat but it doesn’t matter, you are only interested in the top of the block. Match up the CF foldline to the CF line on the crotch curve. My front waistband pieces match up just fine, I don’t need to change anything. But it’s always good to check.

Time to correct the back pattern piece. Mark the seamlines at the back crotch and the inseam. Do not touch the back inseam on the block yet, but just lay it flat and lay the pattern piece on top of it. Match up the inseam/crotch points the same as for the front.

Rotate the pattern piece (holding that inseam/crotch point in place) until the grainlines are parallel.

Correct the seamlines. First I corrected the crotch line. I marked the little dart from my block, the dart from the pattern is about the same size so I decided to use the pattern’s dart. Then I got a surprise- I’m not a 12 through the hip, so I expected to take a little bit off but not such a large amount. I checked my work, the paper pattern and the sizing chart several times. In the end, I went with my seamline because I know it’s correct for my body. I was slightly concerned that the pants would be too big, but I *always* err on the side of leaving extra fabric (which can be taken out) rather than shorting myself.

Trace the seamline at the top of the pants pattern.

Transfer that seamline to the block the same as for the front.

Pin out the dart on the block.

Mark the seamlines on the back waistband piece.

When I laid the waistband piece over my block and matched up the CB foldine on the pattern piece to the CB line on my block, I saw an irregularity. That’s understandable, I had to change the back side seam. I simply followed the seamline I traced on the block onto the waistband piece. Then I added the appropriate seam allowances. I also checked the width of the piece at the CB and made sure the width at the side seam was the same. Because I’m a stickler for getting pattern work right, I also checked the new side seam by matching it up with the side seam on the front waistband piece. It’s all good.

*After* I altered the back pants pattern piece, I cut an additional 3/4″ (2cm) off the back inseam. I just recently made some great fitting skinny leg pants, I know this is correct. At least, incompletely correct. We’ll explore the wonderful world of the back inseam through the thigh area in an upcoming post. But taking off this much will get you set up for stretch fitting. The refinements (which I’ll go through) will work differently for every set of thighs out there…

Once I altered the pattern, I quickly basted together the main pieces to be sure I wasn’t making a massive mistake. They’re not incredible, but they *do* fit through the hips/crotch seam. That’s the tricky part- the part the block takes care of. I have no kitty whiskers.

LOTS of excess fabric. This is a semi-heavy cord, I can’t be swinging around all that extra fabric on “slim cut” pants. By the bye, what do you think of my pocket flaps? The rest of my wardrobe was picking on these pants for being so plain, so I’m adding some fun details to quirk them up…

The side seam is perpendicular to the floor, as it should be. Note to self- that flap looks awkward there… Double check before sewing…

No problems in the back, either. I took the photos without the waistband, but it’s sitting where it should on my body. The problem is a LOT of excess fabric below my bottom and above the knees. We’ll get to that.

If you’d like a guided tour through your own personal pants fitting journey, do let me know.  The block (including fit tweaking and help altering your first pattern!) costs $30 until midnight on the 6th, when I raise the price to $40 for postal delivery and $45 for a pdf.  I really enjoy the process, it’s all at your own pace, I do answer odd theoretical type questions to the best of my ability and I’m not happy until you are.

Alternatively, if you’d like to tune-up a pair of pants you’re already working on, email me and we can work something out with the Consulting Dressmaker.

If you live in/near Brisbane, check out the Perfectly Fitting Pants day-long workshop I’m running next month at Piece Together.  The spaces are filling up, so do hurry so you don’t miss out!  It will be much like this blog post (except using the pattern of your choice + the Block), plus some great technical sewing skill-building.

Tomorrow- Pants Block Success around the blogosphere*, then later I’ll spend some time rabbiting on about back inseam negative ease and adjustments.  And then I’ll talk about the crazy crazy cuffs and pocket flaps I want to put onto these pants.  And at some point we’ll have a finished object!  I’m really focused on the Clovers right now, I’m pissed off at the blazer because my fabrics are just short and I can’t buy more.  So I’m pouting for now, then I’ll do some creative seaming and it will be fine.

*(I have some great blog posts to feature tomorrow showing nicely fitting pants made by clients- if you have made a pair of pants after using a block I made for you and you blogged it, send me the link -{or a photo if you’d like be included and you’re not a blogger}- and I’ll feature your work!)

Pants Block Muslin and Perfectly Fitting Pants Class

I finished the Duchess of Cambridge top- for all that I used fancy fabric, I have a suspicion the name may be a little grand.  Check it out at Sew Weekly.  I’m wearing her here with my Pinkie Pants, my first foray into the world of fitting slim cut stretch pants.  I almost haven’t taken them off since I made them (ewwww) because they’re so comfy and seem to work with most of my tops.

I started working on fitting stretch-slims with some of my Pants Block clients*.  It kept coming up.  The block works well for light/medium to heavy weight wovens:  regular trouser fit through wide-leg, that is.  This month, I’m on a mission to use my own block to “crack” the Colette Clover pattern.  Once I work out the method I’ll be a better teacher/block drafter.  I chose Clover to work with because it’s ubiquitous and simple.  Once I nail the fit it will be fun to play with the Clovers- add some pocket flaps here, a cuff there, and maybe go nuts with fun seaming.  I have two other lengths of the same fabric I used for the Pinkie Pants, but in teal and in khaki.

The first step is muslining the block.  I made myself a block from scratch to document the process of working on the block.  Also, I recognize that for many it’s a little nerve-wracking to email awkward shorts muslin photos for fitting so I thought I’d embarrass myself publicly with similar shots so we’re all equal.

Not bad, not perfect.   It’s fairly typical, though as I make more blocks I refine the process to make better blocks every time I draft.

Not bad, either.  There’s a little bit of pulling at the bottom, and when I was wearing them I felt the crotch seam (hate that word!) riding up too much for comfort.

I scooped out the front crotch seam by about 1/4″, tapering to nothing in the straight part of the CF seam.  I did the back much the same way, but tapered it much sooner on the curve because I didn’t have any problems with the back.

That’s all we needed.  There’s a residual wrinkle in the fabric because it’s the world’s grossest polyester suiting.  I can’t press a crease into it, but it will hold onto my fitting wrinkles.  Growl!

That’s fine, too.  I’m less worried about the wrinkles at the top, they have more to do with the pin-job than the fit.

Sometimes the muslins need much more tweaking than this, which is fine.  I’m more than happy to work at your own pace on the fitting, and it’s not easy to stump me.  I’ve been staring at wrinkly backsides for quite some time now.

At any rate, if you’ve been curious about the process of fitting the block, that’s about it.  I send you the block, you send me photos, I suggest the alterations, and we work on it until the issues are resolved.  I had a few hiccups along the way in developing the service (tech issues, language issues- now I tend to just use diagrams, much easier), but I’m confident now with fitting pants via email.

If you’re curious about what the block looks like, you can check out the sample pdf I uploaded here.  If you choose electronic delivery, this is what you will receive (except calibrated to your measurements, of course).   I’m also increasing the prices on the Pants Block service as of the 13th- my next drafting day.  The new prices will be $40 for a block with postal delivery and $45 for electronic delivery.  They’re $30 until the 13th.

I’m really excited to tell you all I’m running this as a class next month at Piece Together in Brisbane!  It’s a one-day pants fitting workshop on Saturday, July 14.  I’ll draft your custom block before the first class and we’ll spend the first part of the workshop tweaking your muslin.  Once that’s done, we can work on the trousers/pants/jeans pattern of your choice.  I’ll show you how to use your block as a reliable alteration tool, and we’ll finish the hard parts on your project- at least the fly and the pockets, though with 6 hours on our hands I’m sure we can get some great work done!  This is an intermediate to advanced sewing class, at least basic knowledge of sewing is required.

Click here for more details and to register online.  I only have 7 spaces and expect them to fill quickly.  The ladies who run Piece Together did a fantastic job of creating a streamlined way to register and pay online- no hassles or bothers.

Whew!  That was a lot… The whole point of a properly fitted block is to use it as an alteration tool.  In the next post on Pants, I’ll show you step-by-step how to alter Clovers using this block.  I might slip in a few fun potential design features, too- oooh!  I just had a thought!  If I’m using Clovers, I can make a fun pdf of pocket flaps and cuffs to share!  Now I’m itching to get started on these!

Coming Attractions: Friday Night Extras (new series!) and The May Hack.  I’m really, really loving the hack.

*If you and I made a block together and you would like additional help with fitting slim cut pants, please feel free to email me and I’ll sort you out.  Otherwise, keep watching this series because it will be helpful to you Blockers especially.

Getting Creative with a 1930′s Blazer

This little 1930′s Simplicity pattern has lived in a quiet place in my mind since I found her last November.    I’m working on several projects at the moment- updating the Kimono Wrap Top, making another pattern for Craftsy, finishing the hack for May (it’s actually finished, the gussets look great, I just need to do the imaging work!), and a pants project I’ll talk about tomorrow.  At least the Duchess Top is finished… Of course it makes sense to throw a 30′s blazer into the mix, right?

For me it does.  I used to try to force myself to finish one project before moving to the next.  It never quite worked, and I’d get stressed out.  Eventually I learned I just don’t work that way.  Instead, I work in waves- waves of inspiration followed by pattern and prep work, followed by construction, followed by finishing.  Sometimes the waves overlap, but right now I’m working on heaps of “pattern-prep” work and loving it.

The only thing it needs is a little horizontal dart.

I altered the pattern using another jacket pattern some time ago and made a muslin- which I discovered this morning while cleaning out part of my sewing room.  When I put it on and saw that the fit isn’t that bad, I decided to go ahead and finally make the blazer.  Besides, I really like making jackets.

I’m a sucker for nice wide lapels.  The finished lapels will be somewhat narrower than the muslin (seam allowances!) but they’ll still be rather dramatic.  I like the deep neckline- it will show off the blouse underneath and it helps to break up the bulk I carry in that area.  The CF closes with two linked buttons and two buttonholes, but I think I may try a little tab feature a la Downton Abbey:

click for source

Isn’t Lavinia’s coat charming?  (No!  Must focus!)

The back is fine, too.  I like the lines of the darts.  There’s a little wrinkling through the waist, mostly caused by the way I’m pinching the front closed.  My muslin fabric is a horrible polyester suiting that won’t press, but I kind of like the rippled effect below the waist.  I went back to the pattern and gave the lower CB more flare, and I’ll sew the darts as tucks below the waist.

Once I tweaked the fit, I went back to Sherry’s excellent RTW Jacket Sewalong Archive and worked on my outer shell pattern as well as the facings, collar and lining pieces.  The pattern work went much quicker this time than I remember.   Sherry’s sewalong was amazing- I made a WW2 style corduroy jacket.  She covers everything you need to know for a great finished jacket.  In fact, it turned out so well that when I took it out for this year’s chilly weather it looked brand-new even though I wore and abused it constantly last winter.

This is fabric choice #1.  It doesn’t photograph well, and it’s pretty yawn-worthy in person- a plain smooth charcoal.  Ever notice that the most boring fabrics often become very useful and versatile garments?  That’s the idea here.  It’s a medium weight wool with 5% Lycra.  Does that work for tailoring or am I setting myself up for failure?  I bought this length for a skirt some time ago, but it’s pretty perfect for the blazer…

Fabric Choice #2 is another gray wool- lighter weight with no Lycra.  It’s pretty, but I don’t know if it would look as “classic” as the other wool, and I’m certain it won’t wear as well.  On top of that, I’m afraid it’s just barely too lightweight to tailor well.  But… It’s so pretty!

Either way, I’ll use this for the lining.  It’s some random pink poly jacquard from a friend’s de-stash.  I think it will look pretty inside the serious gray blazer, and it has enough “slip” to do the job.

I’m also quite pleased because when I re-read the pattern instructions, I realized it shows a new-to-me way to make a single welt pocket!  I can’t wait to try it out.

What do you think?  Do you tend to work on several projects at once, or do you finish one thing before moving to the next?  Button tab or no tab?  Dark and practical wool, or the slubby pretty stuff?  Oh dear me, and there’s buttons to think of…

Tomorrow: kicking off the month of Perfectly Fitting Pants… I’m on a mission to “crack” the Colette Clovers, then make some crazy ridiculously seamed pants that won’t leave my imagination and I’ll take copious notes.  So- some muslins, some detailed pattern work, one normal pair of stretch skinny legs, and one weird-as-can-be pair that I have already named “Golden Lotus.”