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

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

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

Darkest Dawns

I didn’t think I had too many pairs of jeans until I began regularly using the phrase “I’m not a denimhead, but”. I just love sewing jeans, and this pair was an easy comfort sew. Probably I should have taken it a little less easy, though, because the fit isn’t great!

Let’s rewind. These are Megan Nielsen Dawn jeans, the tapered view. I made one pretty bad muslin, and then adjusted the pattern and sewed one pretty good ‘real’ pair. This pair uses the pretty-good adjustments, plus a couple more, but with less success. These are shown on the 3rd (and final) day of wear, by the way (they are actually foxy and wrinkle-free right out of the dryer, but only for a few hours).

I started from a 14 waist, 16 hips, with a 16 rise. Here’s my list of total adjustments, with the new ones for this pair in bold:

  • ¼” small waist adjustment
  • 3/8” wide hip adjustment
  • removed ¼” from center front at waist
  • removed ½” from center back at waist
  • scooped butt curve ¾” deeper
  • lengthened front crotch extension by ¼”
  • lengthened back crotch extension by ½”
  • lowered back pocket placement by 1”
  • enlarged back pockets by ½” per side
  • integrated front fly pieces into the front legs
  • used a straight waistband

Bigger bum pockets, A+. Integrated fly extensions (and Ginger zip installation method), A++. Straight waistband…eh? B+, A-? Hard to judge in this fabric. The most significant issues stem from the denim, which is thin and crispy. I think either a heavier denim or a softer denim would be more *discreet* about my fitting problems, instead of the extremely obvious and sharp wrinkles I have here. Also, the waistband crumples. But most importantly, because I sewed my pretty-good pair with much thicker fabric, I think by comparison this pair came up a little…big? I’m not used to that. A hot wash & dry helps a lot, but the crotch is still busily wrinkled.

I spent a while staring at my own reflection, confronted with new-to-me wrinkles. I tried pinching and binder clipping excess fabric at a few different points, and what I came up with was: I just don’t know.

The extra fabric under my butt goes away if I sit down or angle a leg forward, so I assume that’s necessary for wearing ease.

The extra fabric in the front crotch smoothes out if I stand up exaggeratedly straight, but that’s not really part of my daily life in the same way sitting and walking is. If I tug the front leg fabric back (jerry-rigged test to see if I should shorten the front crotch extension), there’s no improvement. If I tug the fabric up (to see if I should shorten the vertical rise), it’s distinctly worse. I guess it’s probable that the front crotch curve needs to be shallower – it would make the crotch shorter overall, but wouldn’t affect the extension where it fits my inner thigh, or the rise.

Or it might just be that if I want to wear this cut, on my excellent bod, I’m gonna get these wrinkles! I wish I had used this fabric for something else – specifically, how good would it have been as Clyde pants?! But as the wisdom says, It’s Only Fabric.

And in any case, the pants are really comfortable. Pandemic or not, I like high hard pants. There’s no give in the fabric so I definitely couldn’t do yoga in these, but I already don’t do yoga, so problem solved.

Favorite new trick: selvage is useful not only for the outside edge of the belt loops and the unfolded edge of the fly shield, but also for the short end of the waistband underlap. It makes a neat, low-bulk finish. Yay woven selvage!

I made a couple very mild style swings on this pair. I used a traditional button instead of a jeans rivet to keep a low profile (oooh) and left the hems raw (aaah). I put a line of stitching ¼” from the raw edge as a safeguard. Then, after a wash, I trimmed the fringe neatly, somewhat mitigating my supercool edginess.

I remember reading something, somewhere, about softening natural fibers by soaking them in a solution of a common household good (like baking soda, not necessarily baking soda though) – does that ring a bell for anybody? I think I’d like these better if they weren’t so crunchy, but fabric softener seems like a no-go (I searched “is fabric softener…” and Google auto-filled “…bad?”, and the results said “Yup!”).

These are worn with a cupro knit Stellan tee, which is one of my favorite Stellans. It’s got a cool hand and it’s very slithery, so much so in fact that it slithers right out of my stitching and has been mended in several places. I’ll continue to fix it, because I love it.

Honestly I’m really fine with the jeans, too. Like I said, I’MNOTADENIMHEADBUT here’s an excellent excuse to iterate further. As always, I end up back where I started: thinking about sewing jeans.

Pattern: MN Dawn jeans (Curve, tapered view)

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 14 waist/16 hip & rise, with many changes

Supplies: 1 2/3 yards of Mid Weight Cotton Denim Black – 10 oz, Stylemaker Fabrics, $25.00; zipper, Gather Here, $1.60; thread, Michael’s, $3.70

Total time: 4.25 hours

Total cost: $30.30

Modded Fall Skirt

I need one of those nice multi-part German words to mean “adapted from an existing pattern with substantial changes”, because I didn’t draft this and I sure didn’t hack it (“I’m in!”), but I did adapt an existing pattern with substantial changes. Anyway! I wear skirts now, I guess!

I had less denim left over from my 1970s pants than I thought (if more than I expected). I’ve been considering adding skirts back into my life, mainly because my tights are underemployed, and the timing seemed right. ONCE AGAIN I started with the Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts, pretty much treating that pattern as a lazy woman’s block. I’m the lazy woman.

Searching how to alter a pants pattern to sew a skirt yielded some pretty dire refashions but not a lot of pattern manipulation. I went so far as to visit *the second page* of Google search results without success. In the end I felt my way through adapting the pattern on paper, which yielded a wearable but blah skirt, and finally altered the fabric directly, for a skirt I actually like.

Here are my initial changes:

This sewed up fine. The seams matched, the side seams hung straight, the hem was reasonably even (it dipped a bit in back – my rear takes longer to travel side-to-side than top-to-bottom,  I guess), though it was a little loose at the waist. But it was EXTREMELY uninspiring. It wasn’t really A-line, just a lackluster triangle. I thought about widening the back darts to fit the waist, but it needed a more dramatic change. So I added a back seam, taking in the skirt about ½” at the waist, and curving the seam extravagantly under my bum to remove a full 7” in width from the back hem!

This is what the pattern pieces looked like after my on-the-fly changes:

I added a grown-on placket to the center front. On the back, the little red filled-in areas reflect where more fabric was needed. I changed my paper pattern to include those, but since I obviously couldn’t add them back onto the already-cut denim skirt, there’s a funny little upward dip in the hem, like a gradual buttcheek curve (like so: ‿‿).

I didn’t think I’d be able to hem the skirt neatly when double-folding the finished placket, so instead I tried the following technique. It uses a 5/8” hem allowance and the downside is you’re locked in to whatever skirt length you start with, but it’s low-bulk and tidy!

I had a belated flap about the placket overlap (if my finished placket is 1” wide and the seam allowance is only 5/8”, then I’m going to be short by 3/8” per side for a total of ¾” too small at the waist!!) but in the end it came up a bit big, so I’m not sure what happened there. But I’m not mad.

Oh and did she add pockets? Yes she added pockets.

Even with adjusting on the fly, a simple skirt sews up so fast! I was recently given a bag of fabric by a lovely parent at my school which included this handsome autumnal floral, and I was so pumped that my skirt design kind of worked that I immediately made another one from my adjusted pattern. That’s called science!!

I was working with a leftover piece of sturdy cotton (?) canvas (?) so I’m glad I avoided both pattern twinning and floral cheek meat.

I was worried about a flower vanishing right into the crack seam (as all the best couturiers in Paris call it), but it’s a busy design and there don’t seem to be any terrible florivorous mishaps.  

You know what makes a simple skirt even faster? Rivets instead of buttons. Buttonhole placement, by the way, was determined by how many mostly-matching buttons I could find in the ol’ Tub O’ Buttons. 10, spaced about 1.75” apart, except for the waistband button and the first placket button, which are close buddies. 10 rivets too. It’s almost enough to get a gal to invest in an anvil.

This is shopping-not-sewing, by the way, but I’m very happy with my new(ish) Kodiak Low-Rider boots. They’re city boots from a hiking company, and they took about 18 hours to break in (3 6-hour wears) and now they’re super comfortable. My one complaint is there’s no back tab to help pull them on, but I recommend them to anyone else who’s constantly on the lookout for flat boots.

Now let me sit and ponder if I got away with this post without revealing the hole in my tights…

See you soon!

Pattern: Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts, in a way

Pattern cost: N/A

Size: D at waist, E at hips (again, sorta)

Supplies: scraps of Kaufman 10 oz. Denim in Indigo Washed, scraps of floral cotton canvas (?); thread, buttons, rivets from stash; thread, Michael’s, $2.39

Total time: 5 hours/3.75 hours

Total cost: $2.39

Denim Again-im

New pants!! I may look like a scarecrow or some kind of gigantic boy who eats soup and says “Gee!”, but I feel like a time traveler from nineteen-seventycute.

I actually know exactly what caused me to make these pants: I got chilly. I love the look of cropped pants but sometimes I want continuous coverage! This past spring I modified some patterns to make my own version of the Anna Allen Persephone pants, which I call my Perse-phonies, but this is my first time making them full-length.

I’m happy with them, even though they’re less structured than I pictured. I used Kaufman 10 oz. Denim in Indigo Washed; it’s non-stretch denim but I wouldn’t say rigid. It’s pretty soft and drapey. It was lovely to sew, and wide enough that I could fit both legs side-by-side, but now I’m a bit baffled about what to do with the leftovers. It’s probably too heavy for a shirt but I don’t really want more jean shorts and it’s not heavy enough for a bag. I anticipated having to place the legs vertically, so I have a healthy piece left over. Any suggestions?

Oh, another note about the fabric – it has a smell when it gets ironed. I’ve encountered it in denim before, and it’s hard to describe. It’s musty. Not nice. It’s not awful, either, but it does sort of…exist, more than I’d like. This is after a white-vinegar wash, by the way!

I guess it’s not really useful to talk about fit when we don’t have the common touchstone of a shared pattern but next time I should probably adjust for a protruding seat and protruding front thighs. If I was just prioritizing one, I’d fix the seat, because while I don’t mind wrinkles under my bum I could live without the horizontal wrinkles between the darts.

I cut the legs extra-long so I could make a deep hem.

2.75” finished, and I could stand to round up to 3”!

You can really see the tension on the buttons here, by the way. A zipper distributes that tension evenly across l’estomac but I like the vintage flavor of a button fly with this silhouette. I used five buttons, as usual, and I stitched horizontal lines between the buttonholes, a good tip from Fabrics-store. I also topstitched the inseam from the hems up, stopping about 1” from either side of the crotch seam. It’s barely possible I could have done this in a single pass of continuous stitching. I stand by the easy way, though; it works!

My black pair of these has no pockets which is NOT COOL, PAST LIA but I patch-pocketed this pair right up.

One on the rear, which is in slightly the wrong spot because I placed it with the jeans on, accidentally pinned through the denim to my underwear, and then took out the pins so I could escape and thought “I’ll remember where it goes” (I didn’t).

It’s also oddly narrow! Ask me how often I look at my own butt, though. Never, except in these photos. So it stays.

And these notched patch pockets in front!

The notch was part of my initial vision and I’m not sure why; I go back and forth over whether they’re worse than a regular pocket or kind of cool. Is the process totally self-evident? I made some diagrams anyway.

You might argue – too many diagrams???

I also have a secret pocket! I’m calling it a protest pocket – not to be accessed during normal wear, but just the right size for an ID, a little cash, and a hand-written list of phone numbers. Mine is underneath my patch pocket, but you could sew it to one layer of a pocket bag, too.   

Normally I’d make it deep rather than wide, but I really wanted to use that selvedge!

I mean, right?

Oh and, US voters, don’t forget to make your voting plan! Register, request a mail ballot, donate to The Movement Voter Project, etc. I’m voting Biden/Harris. Feeling unenthusiastic? Professor Boyfriend (and literal professor of Political Science) and a friend (and leader of the CCR) have made this website which I highly recommend, whether you’re feeling a bit blah, or an engaged voter looking to motivate others!

In other news: I got a haircut and my neck is FREEEE, and I recently learned I’ve been spelling selvedge wrong this whole time (‘selvage’). What can I say, I keep busy.

I think that’s it, except that I almost rehomed this shirt but now I’m glad I didn’t. Later, dears!

Pattern: Perse-phonies

Pattern cost: NA

Size: ?? 31” waist, 43” hip

Supplies: 3 yards of Kaufman 10 oz. Denim in Indigo Washed, $32.60, fabric.com; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 5.75 hours

Total cost: $32.60

Denim Granville

These are the last of the fancy photos from our trip, and probably my favorite batch too! Next week it’s back to Professor Boyfriend’s phone camera and the occasional abandoned power plant.

Luckily, a denim shirt is at home anywhere. This is my accidental take on the outfits Samantha from Bewitched wears to do housework, but with less witchcraft and Endora but luckily also less Darrin. I digress.

This pattern is the Sewaholic Granville. I think Sewaholic patterns are aging well despite no new designs for several years. I’ve got half an eye on the Cypress cape, too. I sewed a size 10 Granville in my pre-spreadsheet era, which was technically perfect at the time; it still fits, but it isn’t my preferred fit, so I retraced the pattern in a size 12. I also modified the body of the pattern for a more relaxed shape.

The yoke, sleeves, pockets, and collar are unaffected. On the front, I temporarily held the dart closed, then traced the side seam from the Grainline Archer (a shirt I want to love but that doesn’t seem to love me back).

On the back, I merged the three princess-seamed panels into one, but without removing the seam allowances. Where the pattern pieces “kissed” I marked the center of my new pleats, each 5/8th of an inch deep. After folding the pleats (the direction is dealer’s choice; I overlapped towards center back) the width of the back panel will again match the width of the yoke.

I also traced the Archer side seams here. I didn’t make any changes to the hem curve.

As you can see the pleated back adds considerable ease and makes the shirt really comfortable and casual. There’s no reason you can’t wear business denim if you want to, but this suits me and my needs much better!

Everything is French seamed – even the armscyes, which isn’t exactly my idea of fun but it’s better than flat-felling in the round – and it’s tidy, and gladdens the heart of woman. This actually inspired me to try French seaming the sleeves on Professor Boyfriend’s shirts, too, and I like the result! Not only is there no potentially wobbly topstitching, but the seam, with its four layers of fabric, is also supportive. It helps the sleeve hang nicely with a little extra ‘bounce’ from the shoulder.

I should have chosen one topstitching distance and stuck with it, but instead the collar and pocket flaps are stitched at ¼” and everything else is more like 1/8th or 1/16th. That’s a pretty fiddly complaint though.

When I first read reviews of this pattern, a lot of people mentioned the sleeves were too long. That wasn’t my experience of the size 10. The size 12, however…

Oh dear. The good news is that I like my sleeves cuffed, and all this extra length means I can get a neat smooth cuff below my elbow, which is my favorite length anyway!

You can see how crisply it folds – the fabric also wrinkles some, but this was worn all day, straight out of my suitcase, before these pictures were taken, and I don’t look too disreputable.

The picture above shows the color pretty accurately, a cornflower blue that makes it easy to wear double-denim. And if you’ll excuse my preening, I did a dang fine job ordering thread online to match! This is from Mood, and their suggested thread would have been too light. Victory dance!

By the way, this is hemp fabric, not cotton. It’s a strong, soft, sustainable fiber – what a dreamboat! It was easy to press and mark, but it definitely felt ‘harsher’ than cotton denim while I was cutting and sewing it. It’s not for dull scissors. The fabric feels totally soft to the touch, though, so harsh isn’t exactly the right word – fibrous maybe? Tough? It is smoother than I expected. I don’t know if I’m going to get that beautiful denim fading on the seams. I hope I do! I still want a toothier denim shirt, so this one might get a sibling.  

The buttons, as many of my buttons have been lately, were fished from a Tub-O-Buttons at work! Also described as ‘button hash’ (delicious). The kids sort out the fun, sparkly, colorful, interesting buttons, and I swoop in and use the leftovers. So far no student has been like ‘THAT THREE-EIGHTHS-OF-AN-INCH OFF-WHITE TWO-HOLE BUTTON WAS MY BIRTHRIGHT’ so I don’t think I’m taking too much advantage. 😀

Final thoughts: I’ve wanted a denim shirt for a while and this does NOT disappoint. The color goes well with indigo jeans and my recent surplus of fox-colored pants. I love the sized-up and modified Granville pattern. This is the kind of deeply practical basic I like best! I think I’m going to wear this shirt for years, especially since hemp is supposed to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.

Oh, and what’s in the mug? English Breakfast tea at the beginning, and nothing by the end! I do my own stunts (when the stunt is drinking tea).

Yum!

Pattern: Sewaholic Granville

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 12, with modifications

Supplies: 2 yards of Light Blue 6 oz. Hemp Denim, $27.98, Mood; thread, $3.91, Mood; buttons from stash (kinda ^^)

Total time: 9.25 hours

Total cost: $31.89

Can’t Elope

First, real and urgent: here’s an efficient way of contributing money to multiple bail funds and advocacy groups, and also an article (with further reading linked) that I found useful.

Now, back to trifles – sewing. I like to buy fabric in person (who doesn’t?), but the coronavirus stay-at-home order has put a geas on that and will for a while. I live in the most densely populated city in New England and we’re taking reopening slow (except for protesting! Okay, trifles again). Anyway, I made a misstep when ordering the fabric for this top. It’s perfectly nice in terms of quality, and I’m often attracted to these pale oranges and buttery yellows, but I couldn’t ‘try it on’ in person so I forgot that they’re a little nudie on me.  

IMG_9009.JPG
IMG_8974.JPG

Much like Rogelio de la Vega, I don’t pop in peach. Actually it’s ‘Cantaloupe Check’ by Carolyn Friedlander, so I guess I don’t pop in cantaloupe. Oh, well! The fabric is soft, stable, and firmly woven, with no wrong side; the layout left a lot of scraps, and the 1/4″ square checks made it extremely efficient to cut and sew those into masks. And I got to try a new-to-me pattern, so the time and materials weren’t wasted, really! Except for paper, since it has a wasteful layout. If they marked both necklines and hems on the same boxy body piece it would save at least a dozen pages.

The pattern is the free Fibre Mood Frances top, and the war on trees aside, it’s fine. I like it on the model a lot, but her fabric is much drapier! My cotton is poofy, not drape-y. Add the check and I might be a farmer, possibly in the dell? The shirt as drafted is almost exactly a box.

IMG_8940.JPG
IMG_8937.JPG

Except the front hem is curved, a little optimistically for my shape!

IMG_8948.JPG

Given that I wear my shirts knotted or tucked, I could have skipped it. Still, that wouldn’t have conserved much yardage. Because the sleeves are grown-on, I needed a full 2 yards of 45” wide fabric to fit the pattern pieces, with a lot of wasted space whether I cut them on the straight grain or the cross grain. But I really, really liked the look of those elastic cuffs. (No way the Fibre Mood model is comfy with them stuffed into a blazer, though.)

IMG_9084.JPG
IMG_9075.JPG

By the way, if you know a way of French-seaming a right-angled armpit without clipping into the seam allowance, please let me know! I couldn’t find one. I stitched the seam a couple times for extra strength, but I still feel funny about the two tiny raw spots when everything else is enclosed.

IMG_9096.JPG
IMG_9123.JPG

The shirt tips back on me. I have to fiddle with it more than I’d like to keep it symmetrical/covering my bra straps (the peep through the large armscye of my quite sensible bra is fine; I pick my battles). I briefly considering elasticizing the waist as well, which I think would keep it in place, but that would be a deliberately poof-forward solution!

One random thing I liked about this pattern: the neck binding length is provided. It saved me a step (normally I pin, measure, un-pin, join my binding in the round, then pin, then sew…I could skip right to pin and sew, nice!).

I’m wearing this shirt with the first shorts muslin of my Perse-phony pants draft. The buttons are waaay under the overlap (too far!), but as the denim relaxes, I’m having an easier time getting in and out.

IMG_9056.JPG

The back pockets are in extremely the wrong place. They were the spontaneous product of a couple large scraps and a desire to hide my pointy dart ends, but seeing these pictures, I might actually care enough to drop them a good 3”.

IMG_9067.JPG

I love my butt! It deserves better!!

I have no grand pronouncements about the Fibre Mood Frances; I think I still kinda like it, but my iteration needs a new home (or I could get a tan, but actually I can’t). I’ve got some ivory rayon leftover from a long-ago project and I’m waffling over trying again in that.  And if I do, you’ll hear it here first on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!

IMG_9034.JPG

And, why not make that donation recurring? See you next time. xo

Pattern: Fibre Mood Frances

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: M

Supplies: 2 yards of Cantaloupe Check cotton, $18.00, Gather Here; 3 yards 1″ elastic, Gather Here, $5.40; thread from stash

Total time: 4.75 hours

Total cost: $23.40

Perse-phony

First, a plug: if you’re shopping for fabric or yarn, and you don’t have a local fabric store, may I recommend mine?

And now, a post! Pants!!

IMG_7262.JPG

What, pants AGAIN? So soon? Yes – not to be A Bummer, but my school is closed for obvious reasons, so I have some extra time. And, I find pants are substantial/engrossing enough that sewing them is a mental and emotional booster. So yeah – more pants!

Actually, while I’m proud of these pants, I feel a little weird about sharing them. Because here’s the thing: they don’t have side seams, but they’re not Persephones. Despite the fact that everybody looks like a vixen in that pattern, I don’t own it. Every time I thought about buying it, I hesitated, because I wanted to figure it out all by myself.

I also want to respect intellectual property and the hard work of a small business owner. I know an individual can’t ‘own’ a side seam (or lack thereof) but in my corner of the sewing world it’s impossible to separate this look from Anna Allen’s pattern. I decided once my experiment was done, if I found anything lacking in my draft that a simple tweak couldn’t fix, I would buy the pattern and learn from it. And if I was satisfied with my version I would obviously still credit her design! Introducing: my Perse-phonies!

IMG_7234.JPG
IMG_7241.JPG
IMG_7236.JPG

Thank you, Anna Allen, for an amazing design! I had a ton of fun trying to recreate it, and hopefully this will be accepted as a loving homage to a red-hot pants pattern. YMMV, but here’s how I got there.

My hypothesis: since seams are essentially darts, I could change the angles of the front and back crotch seams to have larger intakes, and remove the side seam entirely. I started out with two patterns I’ve sewn a number of times – the Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts, and the Peppermint Magazine wide-leg pants. I worked with my copies of the patterns, both of which had already been graded and adjusted for my shape. I used the Fern shorts from the crotch up, and the Peppermint wide-legs for the in- and outseams. Also, I removed the Fern pockets and all seam allowances for this experiment.

On the Fern short front, I removed the width of the front dart and the difference between the side seam and a straight line from the front crotch, changing the angle to meet the new center front. I did the same thing for the back piece, but I kept the dart. Then I butted the pieces together, and traced off the inseam and outseam from the Peppermint pants by overlaying the patterns at the crotch point. Finally I smoothed the waistline, added back the seam allowances, and I had a pattern piece! This lengthened the front crotch, but that’s fine, as it would hopefully have a similar effect as my usual full stomach adjustment (it’s not quite that dramatically slanted in real life, but I wanted the modification to be clear in a small diagram).

Perse-phony.jpg

I sewed a pair of shorts as a wearable muslin, and actually it went great! I just had to widen and lengthen the darts by ½” total, and scoop out the bum seam a little. Meanwhile, the front was surprisingly perfect! :O Or, well, with one exception – I used the button fly directions from my Morgan jeans pattern, but I was a bit cavalier about buttonhole placement and they are SO DEEP under the fly overlap, I have to mount a spelunking expedition to button myself in and out. I sewed the shorts from some leftover scraps of Cone Mills denim and you will definitely see them some sunny day (if I can find the buttonholes again).

Since I didn’t add pockets, these came together shockingly fast. I can see why people make multiple pairs. They’re like the chocolate chip cookies of pants.

IMG_7251.JPG

I didn’t necessarily need another pair of black pants right now, but it’s the fabric I had on hand at a time when that’s an even more valuable consideration than usual, and it was always destined to be pants someday! The fabric wasn’t perfect for this experiment because it has a small amount of stretch, but I interfaced both sides of the waistband and all the crotch facings/shields. It’s sturdy. It’s practically armor (what sublimated feelings?)! It’s no longer available at Threadbear Fabrics, but it’s a true black USA-made denim with scanty stretch and the magical ability to pick up all the white fluff in my house. And I think it worked!

They’re a little loose, but I might sew them again in a non-stretch denim or canvas and then reevaluate. Luckily this shape is easy to adjust – I’d just remove a skinny column from the center of my leg pattern piece (probably about 1/4”). The big surprise was how LONG these were! I must have used my adjusted Peppermint pants piece (the one where I added 4” inches to the length), because these pants have a 2 1/8” double-fold hem and they’re not that cropped! I described them to my sister as “just cropped enough that you wonder if it was on purpose” and I stand by that! I could have trimmed, but nice deep hems are luxurious.

IMG_7313.JPG
IMG_7298.JPG

The fit around the front crotch is a-ok, but I did make the front button placket (do you call it a placket on a crotch?) ridiculously long. I can get in and out of these pants by undoing the waistband and three underlap buttons, even though I sewed four, and I have a vestigial fifth buttonhole way down deep. I thought about tacking the overlap down in a couple places, but since these have broken in a little the overlap doesn’t want to pop open as badly as it used to (this is popped with encouragement).

IMG_7306.JPG

Speaking of broken in, I’ve worn these like 4 times in the last 10 days. What, nobody’s gonna see!

If you have some bottomweight yardage, interfacing, and a handful of buttons, these are a great q sew (Prof. BF and I calling this time ‘the q’, which I know sounds flip but for some reason we find it comforting)! These are things I usually have on hand, as opposed to pocketing and zippers – I’m always out of zippers – and I’ll definitely repeat this project. Maybe even this q. >_> We’ll see. 

IMG_7326.JPG

How do you feel about recreating patterns? Obviously most people would agree it’s different when copying a corporation versus an individual, but what about design? Do you feel differently if it’s complex or simple? Specific or universal? What if the business serves an underserved or underrepresented community? And what if a pattern is only available as a PDF and your access to printing is limited by a global pandemic (for example)?

I don’t have clear feelings about these questions myself. Well, I do have one clear feeling – a wish for you, your families, and your communities to be safe and well.

Pattern: Uhh…?

Pattern cost: N/A

Size: 10 at waist, 14 at hip (sizes synthesized from a mélange of patterns)

Supplies: 1.6 yards stretch denim in True Black, $24.40, Threadbare Fabrics; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 4.25 hours

Total cost: $24.40

Gingers <3

I feel a little like the two-dimensional best friend in a romantic comedy (a love story between a garment sewist and a TNT). “When you find The One, don’t let go!”. For me, that’s this pattern.

If my math checks out, I’ve made 10 pairs of Gingers. I started sewing them before I started spreadsheeting, but I’ve given away at least 2 pairs (one pair got tight, I didn’t like the topstitching on another), completely unpicked and remade 1 pair (I didn’t like the topstitching on those either), cut 1 pair into shorts (no! The crotch seam started fleeing north, immediately and uncomfortably), tucked 1 into my giveaway bag (flares – I might get them on the blog before I re-home them), and I currently have a ‘denim drawer’ with 4 working pairs of Gingers and 4 pairs of Morgans. And now, these! We did it, team! Double-digit Gingers!

And as I’m wearing them in one-third of my blog posts it seemed like time to say something about them!

This pattern is terrible, don’t make it. (JOKING!)

I was initially terrified of sewing jeans (don’t be, I promise!) but I got wonderfully lucky with this pattern. My first version was the true skinnies and I graded between a 10 and 12 at the waist (a mythical size 11), and 14 at the hip. I used olive stretch twill and gold topstitching thread and when I first pulled them on I said “uh-oh” because I knew I couldn’t go back to RTW (this was also in 2014 or 2015, when mid-rise was high-rise and you could only find low-rise anyway). This is meant as a paean of gratitude, not a brag, but; things I did not need to do then, nor do I need to do now –

  • Any adjustments to the crotch curve
  • Any adjustments to the crotch extensions (I’m using the original version of the pattern, with slightly longer extensions that accommodate full thighs)
  • Any adjustments to the leg length
  • Any adjustments to the back rise
  • Any adjustments to the front rise

Is it surprising that I got hooked? I know I have wrinkles, but shoot, even though the olive twill pair grew too tight (RIP), I felt like a hot potato in my wedgie-free upper-mid-rise jeans! Plus, I only need 1.5 yards of denim or twill per pair, usually Cone Mills denim – a.k.a. The Good Stuff – which means a pair of jeans costs me on average $30 – 35. Actually, I can’t quit anytime I want, but also I don’t want.

The first pair of pants/trousers I made was actually the Colette Junipers, and I still wear them from time to time (mostly when I’m on my period, since the wide contoured waistband is very comfortable on a bloaty crampy period belly). Way back then I skipped the fly zipper, because fear is the mind killer, and used a side zip instead. So the first fly zip I sewed was actually on the Thread Theory Jeds. It went okay. But the first fly zip I loved to sew was on the Gingers!  

The directions are justifiably praised by many. I apply them to the majority of fly zips I sew and would recommend them, without hesitation, to a beginner. I also like that the fly is handled early in the sewing order, though I push it slightly later, and use it to divide my sewing into enjoyable chapters. First I sew short seams (pockets, back yoke), then the fly, and then long seams (inseams, outseams, waistband). Jeans are a satisfying, meaty sew, and I like having these natural stopping points as an option.

 You might notice there’s only one line of fly topstitching. I had two, but I enjoy an uncluttered crotch! Unpicking black thread on black denim is no joke, though. In more than one place, I snagged a denim thread instead of my topstitching thread, and once I accidentally caught and popped a thread right on the edge of the fly overlap. You can’t see any this (I hope) because I colored in any little white trouble spots with a black Sharpie. We’ll see what happens when I wash these.

I only use tonal topstitching thread now. I loved the thrill and challenge of high-contrast topstitching thread, and my heart yearns towards anyone’s gorgeous shot of on-point topstitching, especially in beautiful color combos (rust thread on blue! Grey on blush! Any color on grey! <3). But, I find that my jeans age better if I use tonal thread – it doesn’t show as much wear-and-tear and I get more years of satisfied use.  

I don’t interface the waistband, but I always use quilting cotton for the inner. It crumples with wear, but it’s comfortable to move in and stretches out less than self-fabric. I’ve been using this alternative waistband method for a while! I find I get neater results. Sometimes I remove the zipper teeth with pliers, as instructed (like a tiny fairy Marathon Man) and sometimes I just snip the zipper tape. Some of the jeans I’ve been wearing for years are pairs where I snipped the zipper tape. Tell no-one!

So somewhere, sometime, I got the impression that denim wrinkles are the enemy. That ‘true skinnies’ fit like a second skin. I haven’t attempted a really smooth fit, but I just made a belated but useful discovery: even when sewing skinny jeans, tighter does not necessarily mean fewer wrinkles. While wrinkles can indicate excess fabric, I think in my case they were indicating a lack of space (the way a pileup of fabric on your bum can indicate a swayback, or indicate that the fabric can’t fit comfortably over las pompas). On this pair, I added an extra ¼” to all outseams – leg, yoke, pocket pieces – and I think I have my smoothest fit over the hips yet. There’s extra space on my lower legs, but let’s just agree they’re stovepipes from the knee down! Viva la extra ¼“!

Hi, Gingers; I love you!   

—    

Pattern: Closet Case Ginger jeans

Pattern cost: NA

Size: ‘11’ waist, 14 hip, with ¼” added to all outseams (so ‘13’ waist, 16 hip?)

Supplies: 1.5 yards of 11 oz. Cone Mills S-Gene Denim in Black, Threadbare Fabrics, $24.20; 1/2 yard of Ruby Star Society Anagram cotton, Gather Here, $6; zipper, Sewfisticated, $2.80; thread, Michael’s, $1.90; rivet from stash

Total time: 7.25 hours

Total cost: $34.90