One Day My Prints Will Come

Today, another pattern from the way-back-when. This particular moment in time is the MN Cascade skirt and it feels like a mermaid slammed into a princess going full speed with no airbags. Once a year around now, I find it in the back of my closet. On super-hot days the double gauze is irresistible. Well, it hot, so here we go.

Basically, the Cascade is a more-than-a-circle skirt. It fastens with a simple overlap and it’s made of two fronts, a back, and a waistband. A go-getter with a drawing compass could whip one up without too much trouble but I made this early in my sewing career (‘career’) before I figured out 1) most skirt patterns are just a litttttle reheated-feeling and 2) what I like to wear.

However, this skirt keeps escaping my culls. Ordinarily it would be way too swishy-pretty for me, but it’s so sort of unabashed that it shot the moon and I like it again. It makes me laugh to dress up like I’m going to comb my hair with a dinglehopper and drown sailors and then actually just get a sandwich instead.

We’re going back, way back – pre-spreadsheet, so pre-2017 – but I can almost guarantee that I bought less fabric than this pattern called for and ignored the grainlines when cutting. 3 7/8 yards of 45”-wide fabric, and that fabric is Nani Iro? Yeah, did not happen. At a guess, I bodged this any-which-way out of 3 yards, if that. The nondirectional print doesn’t give any clues but I know myself pretty well (and I continue to love this print! Dare I call it…TIMELESS?!).

It’s also safe to say I cut a size M. Right now my waist falls between and M and an L and this still fits comfortably, but I think an L would have been a better investment. In a word: overlap. A longer waistband means more overlap, which means more coverage. My highs are a little too high. Though that doesn’t explain why my lows are so low!

That high-low angle is X-TREME. It’s X-Box 306. It’s arguably Xanadu. The fabric is light, too. Usually beautifully so, but it can get dicey. On the morning we took these pictures, the air was dead, but I popped a safety pin at the bottom of the overlap just in case. Later that afternoon it was a little breezier and despite the pin, unless I held the skirt edges like I was processing royally, any wind could boost my rating to PG-13. But that’s why it’s also so suitable for our recent stretch of 95°+ days (35° to you Celsius fans)! You gotta do what you gotta do.

This skirt features my first (and at time of filming, only) hand-rolled hem! It’s actually a huge amount of fun to sew but I did not do a great job despite the double-layered fabric (it’s a bit tuftier than intended). I’d probably go with a bias binding for a fun pop if I were sewing this today, but this hem treatment doesn’t inhibit drape or flow at all, which is nice! I used two sets of dress bars for an invisible closure.

There was a time in my life where I squeezed a Tate top out of any semi-realistic scraps, which is what I’m wearing here. This free Workroom Social pattern appears to have vanished from the internet! I’ve fallen out of love with it but I still have a PDF copy if anybody wants one.

My version has such features as “a baby-hemmed hem that likes to flip up”, “extra seamlines born of necessity rather than style”, and “pretend buttons”. The pretend button placket is just the selvedges overlapped without additional finishing; the neck and armholes are bias-bound. It’s fun to be swaddled in Nani Iro from neck to ankle (hey, if you’re looking from the back, it’s ankle! It counts!) but I’m not wowed by this shirt. The cut-in shoulders are no longer my go-to silhouette, and I’m usually too lazy to convert my convertible bras, so it doesn’t get much wear.

On the other hand, in this summer of many parties, including 18 months worth of make-up parties (is anyone else feeling like Slurms McKenzie? If Slurms and all his buddies were fully vaccinated, TBC), this skirt  has been a friend indeed. I don’t care if high-low hems are so 2011-2012. Lots of cool stuff is from around then. Call Me Maybe. Cotton candy grapes. Rivers of London.

Anyway, wear whatever you want! I have declared it meet, and I get to do declarations now, because in this skirt I am clearly a princess. Long live me?

Pattern: MN Cascade skirt

Pattern cost: ?

Size: M?

Supplies: ? Definitely Nani Iro double-gauze

Total time: Lost forever

Total cost: Never to be known

Last Resort

I really like black outfits in the summer even if they effectively make me look glow-in-the-dark, but this one kind of crossed the line from “casual” to “deadly-widow-on-a-cruise”. To be fair once I realized that I leaned into the styling; since I’m only going to wear this outfit this once, I may as well wear it as hard as I can. This is my wearable muslin for M7936.  

Sometimes a muslin gets promoted to the big leagues. This isn’t one of those times. I haven’t really been tempted by short rompers lately; I feel simultaneously overdressed and underdressed, and this summer has been so relatively cold in New England that I’ve gotten to enjoy long pants most days anyway. But I wanted to sew through this pattern once before deciding whether or not I would make myself a full-length version. Honestly, I’m still not sure.  

The drafting was simple but good – everything lined up, there’s generous hem allowances, and the pockets are a good height and size. I had to sew my nemesis, an invisible zipper, but even that went okay thanks to the expert guidance of Kenneth D. King! However, it seems my new nemesis is facing a V-neck with an invisible zipper at the point. My fabric was a slightly grow-y, slightly shifty rayon/linen blend, and I didn’t make it perfectly symmetrical. I hand-stitched the edge of the facing in place to minimize the mismatch.

It’s obviously not an invisible finish, but if a line is going to be slightly wobbly anyway, I think hand-sewing visually justifies it. I wonder if a closed-end dress zipper in the side seam would make a good replacement for the center zipper, possibly if the back neck had a “V” neckline as well for extra hip-in, hip-out room? I’m not fond of placing the thing I’m most likely to mess up front and center, but a back zip can be a hassle too.

Fit-wise there’s not a ton to say – the intended fit is free through the waist and loose in the hips and shoulders. I sewed a straight size M (the pattern alpha-sized, by the way). It’s comfortable but the inseam pockets gape a bit, so grading to an L probably would have been more suitable. It passes my squat test for thick thighs as-is, though.

Unfortunately it’s a little uncomfortable to raise my arms above my head. It’s a cut-on-sleeve issue, not a body-length issue. Lifting my arm moves the whole garment, inevitably, but the sleeve digs into my arm before I run out of crotch space; if it were a set-in sleeve I would have a sense of how to adjust (all due to ikat bag’s generous post, an evergreen from 2014) but I’m not sure what to do about it here. Adjust the shoulder slope, possibly?

I sewed and finished the pattern according to the directions before adding my own twist, the little strappy hardware bits. It’s just four rectangles folded like double-fold bias tape and topstitched shut, plus four D-rings. The strap width was determined by the D-rings I had sitting around, 1 ½”.

These straps each started life much, much longer. I pinned them to the finished garment before trimming. This was easiest, but it wasn’t always easy. I was home alone for this sewing project and pinning straps above my own booty with the help of exactly 1 mirror was a bit fussy. They were unsurprisingly unsymmetrical, so I took measurements on the flat garment and tried to split the difference, only to somehow end up sewing the back straps symmetrical to each other but a good 4” lower than the front straps. Several tries later I ended up with this arrangement.

I was a little worried that the cinching would pull back the fabric around the invisible zipper and reveal the coils, but it’s all good. These look a bit useless when fully loose and a bit tortured cinched to the max; this sort of half-waist seems to be the sweet spot. You can get a similar(ish) effect with something like this elastic waist, with the exception that I have a flat area (panel in that link) between the strap ends on both the front and back.   

I’m not super excited about this romper, alas. Why’d I even bother poisoning the Colonel, y’know? The one thing I unabashedly like is the depth of the V. I really wanted to recreate a particular denim jumpsuit I have pinned, but now I dunno. I was pretty grateful to pop this off in favor of jean shorts and a tank; I just feel more like me in that outfit. On the other hand, denim makes everything better.

It did inspire me to go through my wardrobe and pull out a few other things I don’t feel excited about. My clothing swap pile is growing. Got to get that stuff out before the if/when of another lockdown…

On that cheery note, arrivederci! If Scotland Yard comes sniffing around, tell them it was natural causes.

Pattern: M7936

Pattern cost: $5.49

Size: M

Supplies: 2 yards of black linen/rayon, $11.98, Sewfisticated; 22″ invisible zipper, Gather Here + 1 1/2″ D rings, Winmill Fabrics, $4.79

Total time: 7 hours

Total cost: $22.26

Summer Jams

Thanks to general encouragement (especially KK of Magpie Logbook!), I finally sewed myself some fresh summer pajamas.

The pattern is Lisette for Butterick, B6296, and I just noticed it’s sold in the category “Family Sleepwear” which also includes B6338. Begging the question, why didn’t I sew frillybum sleep panniers for the whole family instead?! Oh well. Maybe next time!

My paper copy was in the higher size range, which was necessary for my downstairs, but a little too roomy for my upstairs. The dilemma of the cross-sized! I sewed a 14 top and a 16 bottom. The shirt is exaggerated by design and sewed up easy as pie. The shorts weren’t complicated, but there’s not quite enough vertical space in the back. Two extra inches, one added to the top of the back rise and one to the curved part of the seat seam, would be welcome.

The shorts are wearable as is, but if you’ve been sitting on this pattern (seat pun) and you have a bit of a bum, you might want to add volume. Also, the back yoke is narrowest at center back and is cut on the fold. Odd! Or to put it politely, unique!

By the way, I deeply dislike threading elastic into a waistband. It may technically take less time than sewing a fly, but each minute stings like poison because I hate it, and the elastic twists, and I untwist it, and then it twists again, and I hate it. After an estimated four thousand hours, I finally got the elastic lying flat and stitched a line through the center so it could never twist again. Grrr. Comfy though!

The pocket bags are surprisingly generous – they end about an inch and a half above the hem of the shorts. Next time I would consider trapping them in the cuffs so they can’t flap. I love using cuffs to finish, by the way. It conceals so many raw edges and has a nice weight. Everything else is French seamed because she’s (me’s) worth it.

I’m a little worried that these look like formal radiology scrubs, nice finishing and all. Hopefully the frilly little buttons and the piping help prevent that.

Self-fabric flat piping is sort of the Men In Black: International of piping. Maybe nobody worked that hard on it, but it stills seems like unnecessary effort for something pretty hard to see. Sewing it was good low-stakes practice, though! It’s slightly uneven but even I have trouble spotting that. Originally I planned on a ditsy floral contrast fabric but I eventually opted for monotone, both because it aligned with a traditional masculine aesthetic, aaand because I had a big ol’ free piece of scrap fabric. I still do, actually. This took remarkably little piping. I used straight grain pieces on the shorts legs and bias-cut everywhere else.

The collar directions are basically identical to these from the true indie sew-alike, CC Carolyn pajamas, including the part where you kind of fade the piping into the front + facing seam right before it meets the collar. I was surprised at how easy and tidy this was. And though I was initially hesitant to snip into the collar, it must be snipped in order to finish the center section of the seam allowance in a different direction than the ends, and it actually feels secure! Yay!

I sewed the longer version of the shirt and it was a little bit ghastly. Way too long, it covered the majority of the shorts. Instead of redoing the hem properly, I folded it up as much I could and popped another line of sewing on top. I was limited by the preexisting button hole, but I still got a luxurious deep hem (with a secret bonus hem inside).

Speaking of luxury, I bought the fancy buttons to finish this because I wanted a discreet feminine touch (that sounds like code for something, but it’s not) to balance the overt masculine influence. These bitsy enamel sweethearts were over a dollar EACH. I sewed them on FIRMLY.

Unfortunately, my buttonholes were a little too big and the shirt kept unbuttoning itself. I wore it a couple times that way before deciding that spending five annoying minutes to fix the problem represented better value than the five annoyed seconds per button over and over, forever, and I hand-sewed the buttonholes a scotch smaller.

I think this fabric might be Oxford cotton. It has no wrong side and a tiny moiré diamond pattern made from a darker blue and a white thread. It’s sturdy enough that I skipped interfacing the facings, and it holds its shape well enough that it’s still cool on hot days, no clinging. The cotton had just enough body to make gathering the sleeve cap ease kind of a pain, but it’s pajamas, so let it pucker!

I have slept in these, but they’re at their best as lazy daytime PJs. They make me want to linger in bed with a locked room mystery and a stack of hot buttered toast like an idle Woosterian aunt-botherer. These pajamas mean business! And my business is pajamas!

Good night & good luck!

Pattern: B6296

Pattern cost: $1.00

Size: 14 top, 16 bottom

Supplies: 3 yards of cotton (Oxford?), $14.97, Sewfisticated; buttons, $6.64, Gather Here; thread, $2.39, Michael’s

Total time: 11.75 hours

Total cost: $25.00

4 Denimsional

In my continued mission to squeeze value from the MN Dawn Curve pattern until it squeaks, I’ve made another pair of Dawn shorts. I’m not the only one confused by shorts this year, but I figured I couldn’t go wrong with denim – even better, leftover denim from all the other pants I’ve made recently. I had large scraps and more than a little hankering for the bi-color/parti-color/jester trend, so blammo!

These are all rigid denims. The light blue is 10 oz.; the dark blue is 8 oz.; the black used as one back leg is also 8 oz.; and the other black denim is 5 oz. I used that just for the back pockets, coin pocket, and belt loops. I cut those lightweight pieces first and set them aside. Everything else I cut improvisationally. This is the first time I’ve sewn Dawns without tweaking the fit or trying a new view, so I felt good about experimenting elsewhere.

I prioritized making the back from the dark scraps to a) minimize underwear show-through and b) in case I sat in something. I haven’t sat in something, but summer isn’t over yet. I probably could have brought one more light element to the rear, but I love black and blue together, and hopefully wrapping the dark blue to the front makes the front and back feel less separate.

I actually cut belt loops from every fabric and decided to make a call on which to use later, but there’s something to be said for sewing loops from a lighter coordinating fabric. It was so much easier to get through those layers.

You can see I’ve got buckling in the back yoke, but I’m starting to believe this is inevitable in rigid jeans. They just slump after the first day of wear (this is day 2 or 3 for these shorts – non-consecutive, if you’re asking!) but otherwise they wouldn’t fit on day 1 and I’d never get to day 2 anyway!

Oh also, when I sewed my muslin of this in the winter, I noted that the shorts back leg outseam is 1” longer than the front outseam. This time I eased them together, but is that a thing? Easing the outseams? I guess it keeps the hem parallel to the grainline, but it seemed like a lot of excess to ease over a relatively short seam (compared to a full-length pants leg).

I tried the MN button fly directions for this pair. I would class them as effective but inefficient. You’ll be switching between regular thread and topstitching thread way more than necessary if you follow them to the letter, and I know this because I did. I used a hodgepodge of bobbin threads but topstitched each denim tonally, except the light blue; I didn’t have any light blue thread, hence the gold.

Surprisingly the pattern only calls for 3 buttons or rivets on the fly, plus 1 on the waistband – and it was enough! I typically use 5 on the placket, but it’s so much faster to get in and out with just 3 that it makes me 60% more likely to pee. Oh, and my pocket bags are scrap cotton with shades of blue and grey. I’m feeling preeetty happy with the insides of these shorts.

I’ve been using a straight waistband with this pattern, which made it really easy to color block. I cut long rectangles from whatever scraps accommodated that and then placed + trimmed them to match the finished shorts.

I switched topstitching colors on each section of the waistband. Hems too. I pulled the thread to the back and knotted it instead of backstitching. Fiddly, but I like the result!

I’m actually very pleased with these shorts. They’re longer and a bit looser than I usually wear shorts and there seems to be some excess fabric in the front leg/crotch, but they’re comfortable even when my thighs are given full scope, important for such summertime activities as lying in a hammock, sitting on a picnic bench, etc. And I love these scrap colors together (not totally surprising since I bought them all in the first place). Plus it was $FREE$ (as my dad says, ‘if your time was worthless’).

Also, you may have noticed I have a low-poly paper fox head in these photos??? It’s leftover from Halloween 2020 (I made this one, Professor B.F. made a red one) and I had a case of the why-nots. One way to tell I’ve been blogging for a while – three years ago when we first took photos, I was adamant that no one could even be nearby, and for these I unconcernedly unbuttoned my shorts roughly ten feet away from two plumbers conferencing outside their van while balancing a paper fox mask on my head.

No shame in my game anymore. Woof, arf, assorted fox noises. See you soon!

Pattern: MN Dawn Curve jeans

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 14 waist, 16 hip; 16 rise; with lots of changes

Supplies: leftover denim medley; thread, rivets from stash

Total time: 7.5 hours

Total cost: $0.00

Pink Ice Cream

After years of min-maxing my sewing stats, it’s not totally surprising that I like most of the pants I sew, while shirts are hit and miss. This one is a wearable miss. It checks off the essentials; it is a shirt, I think it’s reasonably well-made, I like the fabric, it fits my body. But if my list of its qualities starts with ‘it is a shirt’ you can probably tell it’s not a love match.  

This is a Seamwork Natalie blouse which in retrospect I shouldn’t have sized up. Alternatively, I should have sized up way, way more. This is a 12, one size up from my recommended 10, and instead of feeling breezy and effortless it’s just a bit big. Camp collars, y’all. I was aiming for safari style; I landed in the service sector. I’m basically dressed as the top 50% of the waitress in this Bleachers video (the irony being that I’d rather dress like Jack Antonoff and I have nobody to blame but myself!!).    

I only made tiny changes to the pattern, by adding a pocket and straightening the sleeve hems. I also used cream quilting cotton instead of interfacing. I’m not convinced I’ve been attaching interfacing well enough, as I’ve had some bubbling in the wash lately, and since most of the facing is freely moving within the shirt, I didn’t want to risk it. It made the facing a bit thick and independent-minded – hopefully it’ll get washed and worn into submission. I invisibly tacked down each side underneath the centermost corner of the pockets, but they still have occasional fits of exuberance and try to roll free. No. Stop it. Conform.

 I almost ditched the chest pockets halfway through. They kept squashing out of shape regardless of staystitching, pressing, etc., so the only iron-on interfacing is on the back of the pockets, with the seam allowances removed, to keep them on the rectangular-and-symmetrical path. It was that or throw them in the scrap box. Even though I’m not convinced they add much, I grudgingly allow that they are not too bulky, despite the double-folded box pleat at the top hem. Originally I planned to place the pleat intake on the inside but I was worried that any deep breaths would make it look like my boobs were talking and/or blinking. Nightmare averted?

I borrowed the pocket placement from my Sewaholic Granville pattern. I was surprised to see it didn’t cover the Natalie dart end – the Granville dart extends further – but for once my bust darts seem to be pointing in the right direction, and I wasn’t going to rock the boat.

I edgestitched the facings but found my stitching line upsettingly wobbly (this fabric was happy to meet an iron and it eased nicely, but it was squishier than most cotton/linens, not to mention it frayed like a sonofagun – actually, it was kind of a hot jerk) so I unpicked that sewing and replaced it with short horizontal lines.

In a partially-successful attempt to keep the facing at the back neck in place, I added a little stitched box where the collar would hide it.

You can see the fabric pretty well there; it’s a new-to-me version of Kaufman’s cotton/linen, Essex Speckled Yarn Dyed. It’s a pretty icy pink and I love speckles, but I mostly bought it because I pointed it out to Professor Boyfriend at the store and said “Look! Pink ice cream!” before realizing the actual name was “Gelato”. It was destiny. “Pink ice cream” is a reference to a monumental temper tantrum I had at age three. I screamed for ice cream for hours, one for each year of my life (I got it, too – I tell my students this story with the moral “if you scream long enough…”). As near as I can guess pink ice cream was strawberry, which continues to be one of my favorite-ever flavors, so there yah go.

I had a heck of a time choosing buttons for it; dark buttons looked objectively nice but the high contrast kind of summoned a Pink Lady energy, mother-of-pearl was too feminine for me, the wood option was too big, etc.. I bought these buttons, unsure if I would use them but convinced I just needed to get something, to add a little chocolate and vanilla to the strawberry ice cream – Neapolitan buttons.

This is a reasonably breezy blend but eh. I did not achieve the summer safari sensation I wanted. I’ve mostly been wearing this blouse open over a tank for sun protection, but I’m just unenthusiastic! I know some people lose interest in dressing for fun in winter, but that’s me in summer. I don’t have a ‘character’ for summer, just a repeatedly thwarted urge to pass myself off as an extra in The Mummy. If you’ve got a go-to pattern for breezy summer button-ups, I’d love to see it.

Stay hydrated, Northern Hemisphere! Southern Hemisphere – you have my envy.

Pattern: Seamwork Natalie

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 12

Supplies: 2 yards of Essex Speckled Yarn Dyed Gelato cotton/linen, $26.96, Gather Here; buttons, Gather Here, $4.20; thread, Michael’s, $2.39

Total time: 7.5 hours

Total cost: $32.55

Kitchen Sink Pants

New pants! Brace yourself; the following contains a lot of words but not necessarily a lot of information.

These are my kitchen sink pants (as in ‘everything but the’). Here’s a quick rundown of their features:

  1. A faced front with a center fly zipper.
  2. Elasticated back waistband.
  3. Back darts.
  4. Single-layer pockets with faced inseam openings.
  5. D-ring straps for cinching.
  6. Mild balloon legs.

Of that list, item 1, a jeans-style center fly opening-plus-faced front sans waistband, was the one that kept me up o’ nights. Ever since sewing a faced pair of paper bag pants I wondered how to actually get the zipper to go to the top and finish everything nicely. The answer: I don’t know. The result: somehow very, very tidy. ??!!?? Ordinarily when I have trouble describing a technique in words alone I whip up a technical illustration, but I felt my way through this process, and I understand neither what nor how anything I did. What a terrible start to a post, ha!

I sifted through a lot of internet to find this tutorial for a front fly/front facing. I read through it several times and then went ahead and sewed my zip the same way I always do, only to end up unpicking the top three or four inches of my topstitching (the center seam edgestitching and the straight vertical part of the ‘J’ around the fly extension) and redoing it after adding the facings. It’s not particularly obvious in this dark tone-and-tone thread, but follow the wise advice found at that link, because my way was bad. The universe graciously forebore and it all worked out, but there’s no particular reason why it should have.

The pattern is also uncertain – I smushed together my PA Morella trousers with my traced Madewell balloon jeans, but I didn’t use any specific lines from either. I laid them in a stack under some tracing paper and drew new lines based on my feelings, usually somewhere between the two. This is so contrary to the organized way I usually work, and I don’t plan on rebranding myself as an intuitive artiste, but I guess I’ve made enough pants for myself that navigating by feel was a reasonably effective process. Still, yikes.

The flat faced front/back waistband technique is all Morellas. I ended up cutting my front facings twice, because the center zip complicated the process. The first time I cut them without additional seam allowance at the center. When I went to attach them, it felt like a mistake, so I recut and reinterfaced with more SA, only to trim to the original size when sewing. Again, I’m expressing this poorly because I understand it poorly. I’d like to sew another pair of pants with this feature (it’s so SO so SO comfortable to wear) and maybe take pictures that time, to really get the practice cemented in my mind.

You might have seen the pin these were based on, by the way. It’s this one below – I couldn’t find any other images of the pants, but I tried to copy what I could see. I decided to add elastic to the back instead of relying entirely on the straps for cinching because I thought it would sit more evenly (I was throwing all my spaghetti at the wall anyway), so I didn’t get those pleats but otherwise – yeah?? 

In case you were wondering why darts + elastic (surely choose one), it’s because there’s darts in the picture! And that’s it!

The rectangle rings are leftover from my Raspberry Rucksack, by the way! I sewed the straps to match their measurements.

My single best innovation was adding a buttonhole in the fly shield so I could sew a button to the inside waistband and the layers would sit flat when worn. Game changer. I’m the Banksy of fly shields (no I’m not, but I am disproportionately excited about it).

Hopefully these interior shots will supplement my complete lack of explanation!

You can actually see the shape of the single-layer pocket bag there – that line of topstitching basically vanished completely.

I used 8 oz. denim (Kaufman per ush), which was light enough that all the hoopla at the waist didn’t get too thick, but perfectly suitable for pants. I almost bought 6 oz. but that would have been pushing it, I think. Anyway I’m very happy with the fabric. I used the selvedge on the edge of the fly shield and the edge of my pocket facings, which look like nothing on earth in a photograph, but function perfectly well!

Lest you think I think I am a pants savant, I forgot to reshape the hem allowance to angle outwards, so when I folded them up, the hems were slightly smaller than the diameter of the legs. I eased them together but the hems are *almost* gathered as a result. Tsk. I said tsk!

If you’re wondering where I’ve been hiding this fireplace: alas, this is not my apartment, but a very chic AirBnB (this one, well worth a look!!). These are the last of our vacation shots. Someday I’ll go on a vacation without needing a haircut. Someday!!

Anyway, I sort of expected these trouser-jeans to be clown pants but actually they ended up staid! But I really like them! I’m still nervous about *how* I made them (the word “mushy” comes to mind – mushy pattern, mushy understanding) but I’m finding them quite easy to wear.

And now I want to add hardware to everything. EVERYTHING.

Next up, July. Blergh. See you there!

Pattern: No pattern??

Pattern cost: NA

Size: ??

Supplies: 2 yards of Indigo Washed 8 oz. denim, $25.20, Gather Here; 7″ zipper, 1.5″ non-roll elastic, $4.59, Gather Here; thread, rectangle rings from stash

Total time: 8.5 hours

Total cost: $29.75

Shoulderpad Stellan

The Claudia tank has been all the rage lately, plus I was already primed for shoulderpads because I’ve been watching, for the first time, the 1980s TV show Moonlighting. Gorgeous Cybill Shepherd plays Maddy Hayes, a woman with a shoulder line so strong (and furs so luxurious) she occasionally approaches the rectangular. I have an abiding love for stern yet warm blondes who pal around with jackasses, so this was basically a perfect shoulderpad storm. I also love free things, so I decided to try adding them to the Stellan tee.

Weirdly, I sewed poly again. I swear I’m not a poly pusher, but it’s what I can find locally and I’ve mentioned before how much I hate shipping, especially since this only needed 1 yard of fabric. That small yardage is one of the excellent selling points of the Stellan. I use ‘selling point’ loosely because it’s also free! So yeah, this is a poly lycra – maybe not ideal for summertime, but cheep cheep cheep.

Even if it was good for Mama Earth, though, it was a pain in the butt to sew, so I think I’m done now. I tried a brand-new jersey needle, a brand-new stretch needle, and then two other brand-new jersey and stretch needles (the difference? I don’t know, ask the label on the bitty plastic tray thing) and I still got a lot of skipped stitches. My serger had no trouble so I eventually switched to using just that! For me, serging a pinned seam means staring wild-eyed at my serger blade while thinking don’t forget to pull out the pin don’t forget to pull out the pin NOW NOW NOW DIVE DIVE DIVE oh thank god wait here comes another one don’t forget to pull out the pin…it’s generally not worth the bother. So you know it must have been a frustrating experience on the regular machine to get me to switch.

It was worse when there were only one or two layers of fabric. The hem was particularly impossible to sew; I’d get one zigzag for every inch of loose thread. A straight stitch worked, so I don’t know what the deal was there. Luckily the bottom hem doesn’t need to stretch.

The neckline gave me the most grief. I would have described the Stellan as having a high neck, but not I guess compared to a properly high crew one. It just feels a little scoopy and pretty in this drapey knit. Because of how I sewed the armhole facings, I had to add the neckband in the round, and at first I made it too long so everything drooped. I unpicked and resewed it more like bias binding; I left the first inch loose, so when I met it again I could trim the band, join the band ends unfolded, and then sew the last bit to the neckline. I got a better result stretching by feel, but the gains of tightening the neckband were somewhat mitigated by all that unpicking. I didn’t think knits could stretch out but maybe this did? I kept missing stitches when topstitching, but this pass was the most successful, with just a few unexpected straight stitches amongst the zig-zags.

If I ever decide this should be a regular Stellan, I have enough fabric left to cut sleeves. I anchored the sleeve facings in the neckband, but I could just trim them away if needed. I was worried they would flip out since they’re only sewn at the shoulder + neck, and tacked at the underarm, but they stay in place surprisingly well. I came up with the shape like this:

I removed the shoulder seam allowance so I could merge them into one piece each. They’re about 2” wide at the base of the armscye, and theoretically wide enough to cover the pad at the shoulder (though in practice they barely do).

I did consider not sewing the shoulder pads in place, just tucking them in or maybe adding snaps, but they’re easy to unpick if I ever change my mind. Also, 99¢ a pair! I’m never makin’ my own again!

I’m glad I started with an inexpensive fabric, because there’s definitely room for improvement. I’d like to raise the neckline to a butcher crew neck, narrow the front, and pinch some excess from the front armscye. Also I’d like it to be cotton and navy blue. That said, most of those things bugged me during my initial try-on, but not while actually wearing the shirt.

Honestly, I couldn’t be happier if shoulders become a thing again. I missed them the first time around. And since most of the more playful/exaggerated elements of fashion right now don’t appeal to me, it’s nice to spot a trend I’m excited to participate in! Plus it makes me look way, way stronger than my noodle arms really are. I paired this my greeny-brown Papao pants the other day and was definitely showing off my Earthbender side. Kapow! Punch! Stomp! Etc.

Earth, bent!

Pattern: French Navy Stellan tee

Pattern cost: NA

Size: M

Supplies: 1 yard of polyester lyrca, $4.99, Sewfisticated; shoulderpads, $0.99, Sewfisticated; thread from stash

Total time: 3.25 hours

Total cost: $5.98

Slash-neck Astoria

For sheer relentlessness, you can’t beat Seamwork. I pretty quickly realized that I couldn’t keep up with the deluge of new patterns, but I still have a few from way back when. Of those, one of the ones I most wanted to sew again was the Astoria sweater.

I was inspired by the relaxed Astoria I saw over on I Think I Can Sew It; my first version of this sweater (never blogged) has a tighter, preppier, sweater-bunny kind of fit. It doesn’t layer over things and it tends to creep up. I didn’t want to recreate that look, so I sewed a size L, slightly up from my measurements. And as you can see I altered the neckline to be a slash neck!

I don’t have any patterns with that particular feature, but I thought I could figure it out, and it seems to have worked. This polyester sweater knit was perfect for proof of concept (that’s my diplomatic way of saying “cheap”). I had to buy the end of bolt so I have a strange amount left over, but it was still a bargain.

Steps are below – next time I would use a more generous belly-up curve for the line that bridges the neckline, instead of cutting it almost level, but this worked well enough for a trial run! The most important thing to remember is that you need to finish the edges of your neckline fabric separately, if you decide they need finishing, and not together.

And here’s how it went!

The front is okay, but my stitching is decidedly wobbly on the back neck! It’s a) basically impossible to photograph and b) not a fabric that was particularly happy to be stitch picked, so I’m living with it. I’m mostly jazzed with the fit I got by sizing up, but next time I’d remove a wedge from the center back neck, as it’s not only wobbly, it’s gaping. I suppose it’s due to a nascent dowager’s hump (now if only I had a nascent dower house).  

I felt best using a zig-zag stitch for my topstitching, but of course a double needle is always an option, and you could possibly get away with a straight stitch if you have a wide enough neckline (or a small enough walnut).

The size L sleeves were a little long; I could have trimmed them but in the end I just folded the wide sleeve hems over twice, because I thought sleeves that were slightly too short would be better than sleeves that were slightly too long, especially in cream fabric. It turns out I shove them up to my elbows either way, but they are neater looking inside as a result!

I finished my neckline edges with a serger and sewed my sleeves in flat. I avoid serging in the round whenever possible, so instead of constructing the shirt and the shirt band as two units and joining at the waist, I sewed each unfolded band to each shirt piece, then sewed the side seams from sleeve end to the far edge of the band, making sure the shirt/band seams were pressed down. After folding the band in half I topstitched from the right side to trap the second, inner edge of the band, which I left raw. I could have sewn them as two units, joined them, and then left all the seam allowances raw since I’m so leary of serging in a circle, but that literally just occurred to me now. Oops!  

There’s excess fabric in the armpits but that’s the style now, grandpa! Or actually, that’s not something I feel is a problem comfort-wise, nor a fit issue I notice on other people, and it doesn’t bother me here. Loose-ish = extra-ish fabric, that’s just the deal.   

I had to reprint my Astoria pattern (I lost my last copy), and the Illustrator file wasn’t locked, which I love. Not only was I able to select just the lines for my preferred size, I could also arrange the pattern pieces in a new document to print as efficiently as possible, and I fit the whole shebang onto 12 8.5”x11” sheets of paper. I don’t expect pattern companies to supply individual ultra-efficient print layouts for each size, but I’m really happy when the files are editable and I can do it myself.

I like this sweater more than I expected to. I’m not troubled by high necks, so I just feel very cozy! Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the fabric will age ungracefully. If I make another, with higher-quality fabric, I might do away with the separate band altogether and just integrate it into the shirt front/back. It’s not impossible to tuck it in as-is – my high-waisted bottoms are generally high enough to cover that seam – but it could be better.

I’ll probably stick this in a drawer for the next few months – we went for a weekend away in the Berkshires, where we took these pictures, and it was 45 and raining the whole time (it was amazing, actually, I read a book and ate scones and watched Midsomer Murders), but one week later it’s about to be 90 forever. Blergh. Holler at me if you find more pattern gold in that swift-flowing Seamwork river!

Pattern: Seamwork Astoria sweater

Pattern cost: NA

Size: L

Supplies: 1.75 yards of polyester sweater knit in Cream, Sewfisticated, $8.73; thread from stash

Total time: 2.5 hours

Total cost: $8.73

Marry Bop Kill

I’m not a fabric stasher (#moralsuperiority #onlykiddingIjustdon’thaveanystoragespace) but I accumulate patterns like a ship accumulates barnacles. And like most ships, I don’t need quite as many barnacles as I have. I pulled out a few patterns I haven’t sewn yet to evaluate which ones to try, which ones to good-bye, and why. And I shall of course be rating them with the network-television-friendly standard, Marry Bop Kill!

1.  SOI Amelia bomber (OOS)

Pattern spend – $14.10

Requirements – ~2 yards shell fabric, ~1 yard lining, 16” metal separating zipper

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $20?

Rating – Bop

I purchased this pattern in 2018, I think? Or more accurately, I purchased an unwanted magazine in 2018 in order to obtain this pattern. I smashed the buy button because I liked that the waistband elastic was concealed; having never sewn a bomber, I’m not sure how easy that is to change on any basic bomber pattern! My cost estimation is so low because I’ve actually already cut the shell from scrap fabric. The thing preventing me from moving forward is buying a zipper – I can’t find one locally and with shipping I won’t pay less than $8, which is apparently my pain point, even though I bought a $4 packet of culinary lavender the other day without a peep and that’s like a tablespoon of smelly plant heads. Money is weird. I think I’ll make this once, though probably not until fall. But if it goes well there’s a possibility this one might get bumped up to Marry.     

2. Colette Walden bag (OOS)

Pattern spend – $0

Requirements – ~2 yards main fabrics, ~1 yard lining, a whole buncha notions

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $60 – 75

Rating – Marry

I got this pattern for free at an Artisan Asylum swap, and I can’t remember whether I cut out the pattern pieces or the previous owner did. Either way, it’s good to go! This is a perfectly nice bag pattern. I’m most likely to make Version 3, the satchel/bike pannier version. I have no current plans to make this but it’s a basic bag, so it’s not like it’s going to go stale; I just have to wait for bag fever to strike. I’ll hang on to this pattern indefinitely, so it can take awhile and that’s fine!

3. Butterick 5895 (OOS)

Pattern spend – $1

Requirements – ~1.5 yards fabric, 4 buttons

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $20

Rating – Bop

This is an old Gertie pattern with good reviews. Do I have an urgent desire to dress like a rockabilly sweetheart? I do not. Can I picture a scenario where that specific desire rules me? Sure. I traced the blouse pattern ages ago, but I might trace the pants too; I didn’t want clamdiggers until I read the island-life memoir Onions in the Stew and saw the author photo of Betty MacDonald (not that one, but she’s adorable in all of them, which is so frustrating because her visual and written adorableness is ruined by plain racism. The non-racist parts of her memoirs are irresistible but I can only recommend them as proof that racism can cohabitate with charm, and it doesn’t excuse or eliminate the racism, gaddamn it Betty!!). Anyway, my copy cost $1 because I got it from the clearance bin at Winmill Fabrics, back when that existed. Now it goes online for over $30 in places, woof!

4. M7936

Pattern spend – $5.49

Requirements – ~2 – 4 yards of fabric, 22” invisible zipper

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $25 – 60

Rating – Bop/kill? Black widow spider?

I pictured this full-length in denim with some hardware or maybe made from a dropcloth so I can wear it as a stylish coverall when I throw pottery* (*I have never thrown pottery and have no current plans to throw pottery. I have, however, watched The Great Pottery Throw Down). The short view is also a potential candidate for bicolor/vertical color blocking, whatever it’s called. There’s some v. v. cute versions to be found online but I remain reluctant. I’m not sure why! But there is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to jumpsuits, or omitted all the voyages of my life are bound in separates. I dunno.

5. M6993

Pattern spend – $12.79

Requirements – ~2 – 3 yards of fabric, 9” zipper

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $20 – 70

Rating – Betrothed

I want to be a skirt person! Specifically, a vintage skirt person, i.e. a sensible but imperiled Agatha Christie brunette! It’s hard to picture wearing this while spotting students in and out of trees or arguing about yogurt, but maybe I’ll be weekend fancy. I really want this to suit me (hence Betrothed), but I’m unlikely to try until fall. I could see this in flannel or wool, hence the difference in estimated costs, because Gather Here stocks some pricey Merchant and Mills wools that are full cartoon-wolf-eye-pop beautiful. You know, this guy. But I have also rehomed nearly every skirt I own. I’m a leg isolationist! We will see.

6. M7726

Pattern spend – $3.49

Requirements – ~1.5 – 4 yards of fabric, 9” zipper

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $20 – 45

Rating – Kill

New rule: I can’t Google this!! Every time I look at this pattern my heart shrugs, then I see other peoples’ versions and I think I want it again. I don’t! Kill! Kill kill kill!! I think what I’m trying to say is, is there 12-step support system for giving away pants patterns?

7. Lisette B6296

Pattern spend – $1

Requirements – ~3 – 6 yards main fabric, ~1/2 yard binding fabric, 4 – 5 buttons, ~1 yard of 1” elastic

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $30 – 80

Rating – Marry

I haven’t sewn this yet because even the bittiest version (short sleeves and shorts) is a pretty big time investment. I can reliably find 100% cotton and cotton/linen blends at Sewfisticated for $5 – 6 a yard, so it really is time more than money. Though I’d like to make a winter flannel version someday, and since I’m a big Kaufman Mammoth flannel fan, that could get expensive. Owning this $1 pattern has already saved me at least $16, though, because it inoculated me against buying the CC Carolyn pajamas.

I haven’t traced this yet, which is a blessing in disguise, because it’s another throwback Winmill find. I have absolutely flourished in the years since then and that flourishment = nourishment; retracing it would be a pain in my ever-improving booty, so my past laziness is my present reward. Moral!!   

8. Thread Theory Comox trunks – click through for wilderness-flavored French postcards (I mean, it’s the official photos, but eyebrow waggle)

Pattern spend – $5.87

Requirements – ~1 yard of fabric, ~1 yard of elastic

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $15

Rating – Marry

Embarrassingly I bought the PDF of this a couple years ago, and have yet to even print the pattern. It’ll be, what? 6 pages of paper? Next to no fabric? I’m happy to make this for Professor Boyfriend (clearly theoretically since I haven’t touched it), but it is my secret heart-hope that I can make this pattern work for me. There’s a tutorial on the Thread Theory blog for a low-front-volume version but I’d like to try eliminating the pouch entirely. Again, so, so theoretically. I will now cheerfully forget I own this pattern for another year. Anyway, Marry. Is this a good system??

9. Peppermint patterns, generally

Pattern spend – $0

Requirements – as many yards of linen as you desire

Estimated cost of fabric/notions – $20 – infinity

Rating – Kill

Wait!! Listen! These are beautiful patterns. I want to love them. But I’ve printed and assembled the playsuit, the jumpsuit (twice, because my size changed!), the harvest top, and the button-up dress, and then I just tucked them into plastic sleeves and ignored them. Why? I don’t know why! But I am experiencing an outsize amount of guilt for ignoring these and if I don’t care enough to reprint a pattern why would I spent my time and money making the garment? I downloaded but haven’t printed the pocket skirt, and I feel much more interested in that pattern, I think because unprinted PDFs don’t judge. I did make the wide-leg pants twice, though! Also this should in no way be taken as a criticism of linen. Linen and I are very happy together. Even in-love substrates fight sometimes.

I’m sure I have more unused patterns lingering here and there, but these are officially on my watch list. If I don’t make these by the end of the year, blammo! They’re outta here! Given that I just make jeans over and over, there’s a real chance this is the last time you’ll see any of them. Except the pajamas. They’re timeless. And the bag, obviously. And maybe the Gertie outfit…okay fine! I stash patterns. YOU GOT ME! See you soon!

Balloons Below

I don’t typically enjoy tracing/rubbing existing clothes, but I recently got access to a pair of Madewell balloon leg cropped jeans and I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity. You know that bit in P&P where Mr. Darcy tells Elizabeth how ardently he admires her? He was quoting me, talking to a pair of jeans. I actually considered buying a pair, but when it comes to pants I’d rather sew them every time (even if there’s no fit advantage to doing so! I love the process!) so I saddled up for a RTW dupe experiment.

Sneaky peeky (with inner waistband short end on the selvedge)…

And here’s the very candid photos of the ‘official’ pair, for reference.

I’d usually try to match an existing garment to a pattern, but with a pair right in front of me I wanted to try making a direct copy. Unfortunately, the process by which I copied them isn’t really applicable unless you get lucky in a similar way. Here was my recipe:

Step 1 – visit your sister + family for the first time in over a year and a half, thanks to a combination of vaccinations and negative rona tests

Step 2 – your sister is wearing really really excellent jeans

Step 3 – try on her jeans and discover, miraculously, you like the fit

Step 4 – borrow some leftover wrapping paper and a yardstick from your mother

Step 5 – grab a pencil, best-guess the grainlines, and spend the first afternoon where your immediate family has been within an ocean of each other doing math-y arts-and-crafts while muttering to yourself at the table where your four-year-old nephew would really rather be doing his dino puzzle

I didn’t have any tracing paper, and feeling the raised edges of the seams through wrapping paper wasn’t working for me. Taking and transferring measurements seemed like my best bet. The Madewell website has a few key measurements that let me check my process – I didn’t look at it until I was done, for independent verification.

The front leg went really well, and I got the finished 26” inseam right. The back leg was harder (possibly because I couldn’t lay it flat) and while I ended up with an outseam only ¼” longer than the front leg’s outseam (woo!), the inseam as I drew it was only 23”. I’d be fine with the back inseam being a little shorter, based on patterns I’ve sewn in the past, but 3”! Woof! My finished hem circumference was also 16”, as opposed to the ‘official’ 15”, but that was an easy adjustment. I chose to remove the whole inch of width from the inside back leg hem instead of dividing it among seam allowances. Then, I lengthened the back inseam as shown. I don’t know if this is technically sound, but it’s the way I could think of that added length without excess width.

It also changes the angle of the hips, but not necessarily for the worse. The width stays the same, because anything I lost on the inseam side I added back to the outseam side (about ¼”). It’s still ¾” shorter than the front inseam, but that’s consistent with my commercial patterns.

My traced yoke also ended up ¾” narrower on the horizontal than my measurement of the top of the back leg. I divided it on my (guessed) grainline and popped a little more wrapping paper in the gap.

I didn’t trace the fly shield, pocket bags/facings, waistband, or belt loops, but they were rectangles so I just whipped them up myself. The original waistband was straight so the only curved line I had to invent was the bottom of the pocket bag; I used Ginger’s.

Oh and of course, I added seam allowances. I cut a little cardboard shim 5/8” wide and moved it around the perimeter of my copied pieces, drawing an outline as I went, which I found easier than measuring over and over and connecting the dots.

The pattern pieces didn’t raise any alarm bells – they looked like pants, which was the idea. Since what makes these jeans special is the shape of the leg, I didn’t feel like a shorts muslin would be that valuable and I decided to jump right in with fashion fabric! Plus I had a coupon. I ordered this denim from Stylemaker Fabrics; Madewell doesn’t list the weight of their denim, but I (and my machine) like sewing 10 oz. denim, and the value was right (color is brighter, but I like it).

Final, possibly fatal decision – do I plan for success or budget for failure? I decided to plan for mitigated success, and part of that plan was staystitching everything except the back leg inseams. I sewed the front ‘officially’ the first time, with double lines of topstitching, but I basted the back yokes and back center seam, before basting the long leg seams. So even if I had totally nailed everything, I’d have to unpick and resew most of the pants anyhow!

Luckily (luckily?) the back needed adjustment. I scooped the back crotch curve ¼” and narrowed the center back 7/8”, blending to nothing at the crotch extension. That’s about what I added to the yoke pattern piece, by the way, so I guess it was my leg measurements that were off! I also narrowed the side seams ¼” just at the waist. I was happy with the yoke/back leg seam shaping, so that was my only “wasted” basting, which isn’t so bad. Then I stitched them up for real…and…well… 

I’m a happy bunny! They’re not identical to the Madewell pair (not even that close) but they’re not bad at all! I pitched my side seam curve a little low – the ‘belly’ of the curve should be higher on the leg – and the fabric is obviously newer/not artfully faded, and I added more rivets – but otherwise not bad! I would go as far as to say…GOOD!

As the denim relaxes I’m noticing some issues (namely, there’s some puddling in the yoke) but that’s highly adjustable if I make another pair, and overall I’m happy.

This ‘wedgie’ style isn’t the fit I usually go for, but it mirrors the original and truth be told I think it makes my rear view look like ten thousand American dollars.

So listen! The sensible thing to have done would have been to add a convex curve to the outseam of an existing pattern (or bought a new pattern, like this or that). But I enjoyed the time I spent on these. I learned more this way, often by investigating my owned patterns further, and taking a few measurements from those I wear regularly for comparison. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, you can find it here. These are also all patterns I’ve adjusted (usually for full stomach and full thighs, and grading across sizes too) so these measurements differ from the fresh-from-the-printer pattern pieces, but since they’re all adjusted for me, the relationships should be consistent.

Anyway, They Might Be Giants, this is where they make balloons!

Pattern: traced from Madewell balloon jeans

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 29

Supplies: 1.75 yards of Soft Mid Weight Denim Bleached Blue – 10 oz, Stylemaker Fabrics, $25.00; zipper, Sewfisticated; thread, Michael’s, $3.79; rivets from stash

Total time: 10.75 hours

Total cost: $28.79