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

Red Dawns Rising

“Fell deeds pants awake. Now for wrath fabric. Now for ruin fitting. And the red dawn[s]!”

Here we go again! My first ‘proper’ MN Dawns, the pattern only slightly mauled, in corduroy. Corduroy again! This is it for a while, though…probably.

I surprised myself with this fabric, as I’ve got kind of a self-mythology that I don’t like red; which is why I’m describing this color as “ruby chocolate” (Mood said “henna”, and it’s OOS). The fact that these pictures were taken on Valentine’s Day is PURE COINCIDENCE I ASSURE YOU. Anyway, this cord is definitely du roi. It’s seriously plushy. Like, the first time I washed and dried it, it overflowed the lint trap with ruby chocolate fluff and almost committed ruby chocolate arson. While sewing it shed tiny velvet fuzzies all over my ironing board, sewing machine plate, and legs. But I like it! It’s warm! It’s rich! The wales are deep and dramatic and luxurious! The small amount of stretch in the fiber makes next to no difference, though – I had hoped it would aid in recovery, but nah.

Oh, by the way, the yardage estimate for the Dawns is VASTLY overgenerous. It calls for 2.5ish yards and I had over a yard left over! I passed the remnant on, so you won’t be seeing it on the blog again, partly because this was straightforward to sew until I reached the belt loops, whereupon I broke no less than 5 needles, two on the same loop. Yikes. Enough was enough for me.

These Dawns are freshly washed, and they’ll bag over the course of the day, but right now I think the fit is – dare I say it – pretty good! I made further significant changes to the pattern, which I had already modified as described here, with the help of my personal Good Book, Singer’s Sewing Pants That Fit.

The below illustrations encompass ALL my changes, shorts and pants – i.e., starting from the straight leg view, unmodified 14 waist, 16 hip, with a 16 rise, here’s everything I did to get to these pants. First, I stacked and taped all the affected pattern pieces; pocket bag, facings, etc. on the front, leg + yoke on the back. Then it was time to slice-and-dice…shall we gif?

The finished pieces don’t look ‘ideal’, as in, they don’t look like a platonic/generic pants pattern, but they work for my body way WAY way WAY better. My other helpful change, not to the pattern pieces but while sewing, was to stretch the heck out of the waistband when attaching it to the pants. I wanted it to conform to my body, and on my shorts muslin the waistband stands up straight, partly because I forgot this step.

Just to commit a quick pants blasphemy for a second – I don’t think this pattern, with my changes, benefits from a curved waistband. The rise hits at like the one point of my body that isn’t curved, and I’ve already made every seam that meets the waistband less vertical, essentially widening dart intakes on the sides, front and back. The mild curve of the waistband is superfluous. Also, a folded rectangle is easier to cut AND there’s less bulk to sew through when adding belt loops. Ooh la la!      

My changes also made these pants less suitable for corduroy overall, mainly because topstitching the fly meant sewing a shallow diagonal across the wales (it reminds me of a story of a college classmate once told, of a boy who went in for a kiss she tried to avoid, and his teeth ended up scraping sideways clack-clack-clack across hers).

But that’s true of the original pattern as well. I’d like to try canvas or traditional denim next.

Begging the question, will there be a next? I think probably yes. I’ve achieved a fit state that Professor Boyfriend calls ‘Pareto optimal’ and I call ‘Whack-a-Mole’. The front is a little long, but if I pinch out the extra length, I get more wrinkles at the crotch. The waistband isn’t perfectly level but a shortened back rise would be worse. But the overall effect is comfortable and reasonable-looking.

There’s still tweaks to be made – I might want to enlarge the back pockets further, experiment with their placement (right now they’re about an inch lower than the pocket markings, by the way), try this zipper technique one more time (I’m still not wowed by it but I need to know if it’s my lack of experience), and swap in a straight waistband. And I’m tempted to give the tapered leg view a whirl. Basically, I can always find a reason to sew another pair of pants.

I hope you got to spend Valentine’s Day doing something you love, maybe with somebody you love…and I’ll leave you with these affectionate words!

Til next time!

Pattern: MN Dawn jeans

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 14 waist, 16 hip, with ch-ch-changes

Supplies: 2.5 yards of Italian Burnt Henna Stretch Cotton Corduroy, $35.97, Mood; 1/2 yard Rifle Paper cotton in Strawberry Fields, $6.25, Gather Here; 9″ metal zip, Sewfisticated; thread, Michael’s, $3.19

Total time: 9.5 hours

Total cost: $45.41

Goldie Dawn

Nothing says ‘seasonal sewing’ like a nice, warm, heavy pair of corduroy…shorts! Okay okay, it’s a wearable muslin of the MN Dawns, not a perplexing sminter (wummer?) staple. I had some leftover cord from my recent jacket and no great faith that this pattern would fit right away, so it seemed like an economical choice. Actually I was righter than I knew. This first muslin isn’t great!

Before I sewed a stitch, I changed the pocket bags to be pocket stays. I traced the curve at the bottom of the pocket bag from the Ginger jeans, but left the pocket opening as-is. I hate it when a pocket bag follows my hand out of the opening during use, and anchoring it in the front seam keeps everything sitting pretty.

This necessarily changed the construction order slightly; I had to sew the pockets before the zipper, or I wouldn’t have been able to trap their center edges. I was full of virtuous intentions to follow the Dawn jeans directions to the letter, but oh well. My lord make me pure but not yet, etc.!  

I opted to use a zipper because I think I can get a better read on fit when there’s not also pulling from a button fly – even a successfully fit button fly pair of jeans is going to get lines if your stomach curves outwards as mine does. The final pre-sewing decision was sizing.

I chose a 14 waist graded to a 16 hip, with a 16 rise. I used the 16 rise because I knew I would need a full stomach adjustment and potentially a full rear adjustment, both of which add height to the vertical part of the crotch curves (the full rear adjustment can also add depth to the back crotch extension, a.k.a. the horizontal part, but I used the crotch extensions as drafted). Starting with a higher rise built in some wiggle room. I’m using the Curve range, which has 14 as its lowest size; I could have guessed at and graded to a 12 at the waist, but I was wary of curving the side seam too extremely from the get-go. I prefer to distribute that adjustment among the back and front center seams as well since I’m not a 2D object. I cut a 16 below the notches on the crotch curves, slanted to a 14 above.

Like I said, I was determined to follow the instructions, so I tried a new-to-me zipper installation technique. Honestly I’m not wowed by it, or maybe just not by my implementation of it. Somehow my zipper ended up only barely overlapped, and there’s more basting and ripping than in the Gingers method. I’d like to give it another try before I fully judge it; it’s similar to the button flies I’ve sewn, and I’m happy with those.

Otherwise the sewing went well. I used a ¼” seam allowance on the back pockets and lowered them 1.5”.

The notches matched and sewing heavy cotton (with topstitching, no less) is absolutely my idea of fun. The back outseam was 1” longer than the front, but that’s an easy fix. The fitting, however…

The front was so-so, not good but not irredeemable. I reduced the 5/8” inseam seam allowance to ¼”, but I still need a deeper front crotch extension. I also have gapping at center front, but that could be due to my mis-aligned front zip installation. Otherwise it’s alright.

But the back seam was a crime scene! As in, worse than this! I had an acme of fullness where the pointy yoke center met the back leg, and my hungry bum was as hungry as a hippo, a famously hungry hungry ungulate. The back crotch curve seems to be designed to accommodate a high, heart-shaped rear. My butt is my-butt-shaped and I needed to make CHANGES. I shaved off that ‘nipple’ of extra fabric where the yoke and leg meet, removed ¼” from the center back, and scooped the crotch ¾” deeper 2” below the back crotch notches. Taking out a chunk of fabric like that is like borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, because it narrows the hips, where I also need space. I ended up sewing 1/4″ wider side seams at the waist, blending at 6″ down to 1/4″ TOTAL side seams (i.e., adding 3/8″ seam allowance below that point).  

Final result: the waist is still too loose, the crotch still too shallow. Also, weirdly, despite my reducing the waist circumference, the waistband wasn’t too long. Alarming!

Anyway, these shorts aren’t actually a total distaster. I wore them all day after taking these pictures; they’re comfortable, and everything that’s wrong with them is information gained. I’m not going to keep this pair, but I’ve already done some serious arts-and-crafts on the pattern pieces and tried again. More on that soon! I can’t decide whether this pattern is an intriguing intellectual challenge or if it just made me grumpy. Maybe both. But grumpy does not mean done! See you next time!

Pattern: MN Dawn jeans

Pattern cost: $14.98

Size: 14 waist, 16 hips, with adjustments

Supplies: leftover Kaufman 14 wale corduroy in Gold; 9″ metal zip, Sewfisticated, $1.40; thread from stash

Total time: 9 hours

Total cost: $16.38

Diagnosis: Trouser

These pants don’t fit!

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People, these pants don’t fit!

Obviously nobody is delighted when a project flops, but I’m actually excited to write this post, and it’s mostly down to my new acquisition – Singer’s Sewing Pants that Fit. This book was recommended on the Pattern Review forum when I asked a pants question, and its clear diagrams and jewel-toned eighties style madness do NOT disappoint. Also, there’s so much experience and generosity on the PR forum, it’s amazing!

My eventual goal is to sew a trouser-fit or carrot-leg pair of jeans. I couldn’t find an ideal pattern but I remembered Made by Meg’s jean-style Lazos, and decided THOSE, I want those! So I bought the Lazo trousers PDF and got to hackin’. Arguably too much hackin’ all at once. But now that I look back on my inspiration pair, also signally failin’ to add a yoke as Meg did. Oops.

My wearable muslin, which I’m talking about today, is not a success, but that means it’s time to read…those…wrinkles!! Eventually!

Anyway, this is going to be a long one.

Chapter 1 – What I Did

I started from a size 16. I’d recently removed the tucks from MN Flints as per the tutorial, as a learning exercise, so I thought I could apply that technique to remove the pleats from the Lazos. However, the tuck lines on the Lazos are parallel, not convergent. I decided to mark a line roughly at the knee and then treat them as though they would converge there, following the MN directions.

Chart 1

Okay, done.

Meg reduced the width of her waistband by half and kept the lower half. I wanted to reduce it by half but keep the top. So, ideally, the upper edge of the waistband would stay on my waist, while I would increase the rise of the pants. I did this after removing the pleats!

Chart 2

I blended the lower half of the waistband into the pants legs. On the front I needed to increase the fly extension to match; happily I prefer a wide extension. Instead of extending the pocket bag pattern pieces, I scooted them up and maintained the same opening and angle, as shown above. Apart from merging it with the lower half of the waistband, I didn’t make any other changes to the back legs. Yet!

Chapter 2 – What Went Wrong

Immediately and obviously, the back didn’t fit (SURPRISE!). According to Morgan at Thread Theory, the back darts are integrated into the center back seam of the Lazo trousers. It’s also designed for flat bottoms, I think. Since I raised the waist by 2 1/8” on my draft, and have lotsa bottom, I could have stored a bushel of acorns in the gape.

I’d already stitched on the pockets so I unprofessionally bunged a couple of darts back there, terminating under the edge of the patch pocket. The pocket openings would no longer sit flat, but at this point I already knew these wouldn’t be wearable. I still wanted to get them a) close and b) done so I could read the fit more accurately for next time.

Standing, these pants are reasonably cute and comfortable.

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Sitting, they’re punishing.

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The front waistband digs into my gut (not an issue with other high rise jeans) and the back waistband dips far too low, hence the bodysuit for these photos.

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When standing up, my side seams are vertical and my waistband is level. That says to me – the crotch length is probably okay, except at center back. The crotch depth is #!!@*%!!ed.

Chapter 3 – What Next?

First, when I talk about ‘fit problems’ I am NOT saying my body is the problem! The problem lies in the interaction of my body and the garment, and adjustments are always undertaken on the garment, not on my fine self. When using my book’s terms like ‘large hips’, it’s just a way of defining where the pattern diverges from my body, and not a judgment on whether hips are good or bad.

Okay, from front to back:

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I’m seeing some space between the waistband and me: small waist. Also, the pocket bags are popping open: large hips. And that little triangular pucker between my upper thighs: protruding front thighs!

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So far none of these changes affect the crotch curve, except the poppin’ front thigh adjustment, which adds a little depth. But so far so good! Now let’s mosey on around to the back.

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Look at those wrinkles, then at this guide:

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Protruding seat, as clear as day! It’s me!! This will add depth AND height, right where I need it.

Here’s an image that combines adjustments for many, though not all, of my issues, plus one I don’t have:

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I’ll definitely reference this during my redraft-a-rama!

I’d like a yoke instead of darts, as mentioned earlier, but that’s more of a style tweak than a fitting one. This particular pair of trousers might not work on me, but I feel like my brain is learning to touch its toes. There’s a clear and achievable path to another draft and I’m feeling energized to walk it!

And that’s the end of this meaty post! Speaking of, we first tried pictures of my bum straight-on when attempting to photograph the dreaded back dip. Professor Boyfriend showed me some and I said ‘Oh no! It just looks like a blimp! It needs context!’. He took more, but it turns out it wasn’t really the photos’ angle that was responsible, so I present to you this voyage of the Heinie-burg.

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Or maybe the Hinden-butt?

The end!!

 

Pattern: Thread Theory Lazo trousers

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 16 with extensive edits

Supplies: 2 yards of denim, $8.00, Sewfisticated; zipper, $1.38, Sewfisticated

Total time: 6.25 hours

Total cost: $9.38