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

Morella Pants

So that was quite a start to the year. Not exactly surprising, but unexpected. I’m talking of course about Joel Kim Booster’s saucy take on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me re: men sewing. Just kidding! My capitol got sacked! Anyway – pants!!

I love my normal high, hard, tight pants, but please welcome to the closet, my first pair of woven lounge pants. I sewed them in November (the week of the US election, in fact) and I’ve been wearing them indoors a lot, and outdoors whenever it’s warm enough. These are the Pauline Alice Morella pants. The only version of them seemingly anywhere is a terrific ramie pair by Heathery Makes. She was the first share-r of this pattern and a pants pioneer!

I find my usual pants totally comfortable under usual circumstances, but I was inspired to try the trend for comfy-waist pants because I had shingles. People! Yuck!! In addition to the skin stuff on my belly and back, my nearby lymph nodes hurt like a fresh bruise, and all my pants pressed on both. I sewed these post-shingles (I’m better now, whoo) but it’s nice to have variety.

I picked this pattern because the pockets both intrigued and confused me. I’m lucky that Heather made and shared her pair, because I followed her advice and also because it gave me faith these pockets would work out. I couldn’t visualize the process, not one little bit. That said, it worked great! The first pocket was a fun challenge and a journey of faith that took about an hour. I sewed the second pocket in half that time, and I didn’t need the directions. It’s a cool technique! I like sewing that uses precise measuring and clipping. It’s high-stakes. Perfect for adrenaline junkies. Jason Statham clips to but not through the stitching line, all day, every day. 

I still couldn’t describe precisely how it’s undertaken – definitely one of those things that’s easier to do than say – but here’s my notes. One, yes, you should construct the whole back of the pants first. It seems like a lot of extra fabric to have flapping around, but it’s necessary. Two, when matching the pants front + pocket to the pants back – you need to flip the pocket. I know that doesn’t make sense now, but hopefully it will at the time. It’s not exactly “The only water in the forest is the river”, but flip the pocket.

I sewed the pocket corners in a single pass (as Heather recommended), and I reinforced the corners with a second line of stitching before clipping. This will hopefully keep them intact for a long time to come, and also made it easier to see where to cut. My thread was a perfect match for the wrong side of the fabric. I often try to match from my existing thread rack, but just-right tone-on-tone makes me purr.

I had some uncharacteristic anxiety about the outseam where it meets the pocket opening (hint: it wasn’t actually about the outseam, cough cough election week). I stitched that last inch three or more times. I tried a vertical and horizontal bartack and unpicked both. Eventually I added a rivet, so I wouldn’t keep thinking about popping that corner. I know, rivets in a lounge pant? It’s like walnuts in a brownie (controversial!). But I couldn’t relax in these while plagued by visions of Murray Slaughter ripping off Ted Baxter’s suit pocket. Now I can stick my hands in my pockets worry-free. Next time I sew Morellas I’d like to topstitch the pocket openings, since that edge puffs up a little, but I used self-fabric for the pocket so it’s pretty inoffensive anyway.

The elastic waist was almost my downfall! My piece of elastic was 18” long, 1” shorter than my size called for. I tried several different installation methods, none of which worked (and I had the unpicked threadball to prove it), until I remembered the True Bias Emerson pants technique. It’s simply the best way of adding elastic to a partially-elasticated waistband (mine has a folded, finished edge though)! Plus, if you want to extend the usability of your pants, you can leave extra elastic poking out past the stitch line, un-stretched, hidden by the front facing, and have inches for later. Or you could tighten it later, though that’s never been my direction of change.

I didn’t have wide enough elastic so I zig-zagged two narrower pieces together along their shared length. Predictably, the elastic wants to roll and fold, but I put a vertical line of stitching at the center back, and that keeps it flat.

I also interfaced the front self-facing as per Heather. Excellent suggestion.

The only thing I had to find out for myself was fabric requirements – Pauline Alice only lists yardage for 54” wide fabric, and I really wanted to use this Essex linen/cotton blend (Driftless: Downstream in Roasted Pecan), which is only 45” wide. I sewed a straight size 44. Sidebar, I don’t have the faintest idea of how to grade this pattern through the waist/hips. Anyway, I bought 2 2/3 yards, and I have a good few extra inches. Since I cut the back waistband on the cross-grain, I could have squeaked this out of 2 ½ yards but better safe than sorry! The pattern pieces are a little cumbersome, so I have largish scraps leftover. This fabric is great for lightweight pants (and beautiful, in my opinion), but it might be a little scratchy for masks. I’ll figure out something to use the scraps for, though!

I’d like to make a pair of these in French terry, maybe with cuffs instead of hems. They’re sweat-pants-comfy already, why not add a little sweat-pants-cozy.

Anyway, I know the home sewist is spoiled for choice right now with elastic-waist pants, but I think this pattern has a little something extra. I recommend it! If you try it and you have questions about the pockets, hit me up. And stay comfy out there!

Also – Heather and I both plan on sharing overalls in February, which she’s brilliantly dubbed “Over all this 2020 nonsense”. And I will amend slightly to add “And the first week of 2021 too”. Feel free to join us. 😀

Pattern: Pauline Alice Morella pants

Pattern cost: $9.76

Size: 44; elastic for the waist shortened to 18”

Supplies: 2 2/3 yards of Kaufman Essex cotton/linen; Driftless, Fern in Roasted Pecan, $35.91, Gather Here; thread, $2.09, Michael’s; elastic, rivets from stash

Total time: 6.75 hours

Total cost: $47.76

Lilac in Spring

One of the few patterns I bought instantly and sewed instanter was the Sew House Seven Burnside Bibs. They haven’t appeared on the blog despite being one of my favorite things, because I made them exactly as written; I even used the Jungle green Essex cotton/linen that’s shown in the sample. They might still show up someday because they’re terrific and make me feel like a small-town florist in a musical about a small-town florist, but it took me years to make a second pair! And as soon as I had, mere moments to wear them!

It’s spring, and I’ve decided to start dressing like it. I’ve been dressing defensively lately – as Northern hemisphere winter was replaced by global and personal uncertainty – and that’s meant dark colors, heavy fabrics, lots of wrapping up and absolutely no chance of seeing of my own toes (it reminds me of Liz Lemon flipping through her closet in that one episode of 30 Rock – “Grey, maroon, navy – am I depressed?! Later!”). But I can keep what makes me feel secure in those choices (sturdy fabrics! Pants so wide that they socially distance for you!) and add some breeziness and color.  

I’ve historically avoided purple but I had a yen for a spring pair of Bibs and this just-right shade of purple (called “Lilac”) edged out mint green and sunshine yellow. Dang, now I want those too – I could dress like a package of Peeps! I arranged my paper pattern pieces in my secret weapon, a.k.a. my front hall. My hallway has one area that’s about 45” wide, which then widens to about 54”, so it’s ideal for laying out pattern pieces and calculating yardage on different fabric widths. I knew I wanted to use Essex cotton/linen again, for the structure, and gambled that I could get away with 3 yards instead of the 3 5/8ths called for.

These are the cropped view, no darts! I just made it!

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I had to cut both front bibs on the crossgrain, as well as the waistbands, but I’m pretty jazzed at how little fabric was left over AND that I could save some spondoolies. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend this for directional fabric. I made one minor change to this version; instead of sewing the front pockets as patch pockets (I wasn’t happy with the neatness of the curved edge on my first pair), I sewed them as single-layer slash pockets. I’m not convinced this was the right choice, as it diminishes their visual impact. However, they are neat! And it’s easy to use the existing pieces to make this change (patch pocket above, single-layer pocket below). The pocket facing stays the same.

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I topstitched the pocket bag edge twice to anchor it. Everything else got one line. And liked it!

I did the fold-and-topstitch technique for the long straps because you’re going to have to lock down my region a whooole lot longer before I think it sounds fun to turn a long skinny tube right-side-out. For some reason my brain went pbbt when it was time to make the belt loops, though, and I folded them in thirds instead of quarters (the fabric selvage is the outside third, but still). It would be nice if they were stronger, especially the outermost loops, as those see the most stress.

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I’m saving my scraps, though, and if I need to replace them, I will!

Sewing this went very smoothly. It’s not just straight lines, but really nothing challenging; it’s a lovely relaxing sew that zips right along, and I think a beginner who was enthusiastic about topstitching could make a beautiful pair. I only had one little wrinkle, when I needed to ease the inner bib’s bottom edge to match the outer bib. I hand-basted the layers together, and used those stitches to gather the inner bib edge slightly, too. Topstitching holds everything in place and any literal little wrinkles are hidden on the inside.  

Fit is sort of beside the point with the wide legs and the cinched waist. I sewed a 14, no zipper. I could lose 4” in width without dire consequences but I like the extra extra fabric, it makes the gathering more dramatic!

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These Burnsides are worn over a Roscoe blouse, by the way, which I sewed in April 2018. Still not blogged, but someday! For now it’s enough to say: I sewed the smallest size (!!!), and it was the star of my latest late-night closet fashion show, so I’ve been wearing it a lot lately.    

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I like its neckline, I like the curved bib neckline, I like ‘em together.

I’m really pleased to have added a second pair of Burnside Bibs to my wardrobe – the only thing slowing me down was choosing a color, and I’m in the mood for all sorts of colors right now. The witch hazel is blooming, so is the forsythia, and I’m pretending to know which is which. It’s a weird spring, but it’s spring, baby.

I hope you’re keeping well, and if you feel like sewing, I hope you’re sewing something that makes you happy! Zum Wohl!

Pattern: Sew House Seven Burnside Bibs

Pattern cost: N/A

Size: 14, dartless view, curved bib, cropped

Supplies: 3 yards Essex linen/cotton in Lilac, $34.46, fabric.com; thread, Tags, $3.28

Total time: 6.25 hours

Total cost: $37.78

Pattern: True Bias Roscoe blouse

Pattern cost: N/A

Size: XS

Supplies: 2 yards Treasured Kermes rayon in Crimson, $23.73, Red Beauty Textiles; thread from stash

Total time: 4.25 hours

Total cost: $23.73