Jean-Paul II

I hope you’re okay with a post which is mostly shouting, since this was the most frustrating sew! Such a marathon!! And like any time someone does a marathon, you know I have a LOT to say about it. Also, like a marathon, it was my own fault. Okay, let’s take a tour of what went wrong –

I changed the collar, which meant drafting a neck facing, only mine was disastrous. So I unpicked that and tried a wide binding. Also bad. So I unpicked that to try a narrow binding, which basically worked, except I’ve sewed dozens of them and yet it somehow took me 4 tries to catch one 2-inch section of this one??? And THEN I noticed one collar point was fraying ALREADY because I clipped too close to the stitches before turning, but I could not have it with taking it off at that point, especially because I had already added my plackets, which were also NO PICNIC.

And of course after one trip through the washing machine the collar point basically exploded, so I whipped some hand-stitches around it and now it’s fraying but also covered in hand stitches. So that’s…fun.

Back to the sewing – I couldn’t get the buttonholes going for some reason, and finally I noticed I hadn’t set my stitch width to the maximum. I adjusted, I sewed them, and they were basically fine. But then I realized I had accidentally put interfacing in the blind button overlap, not where the buttonholes go, so I unpicked them – AGAIN – so I could iron on little patches of fabric + interfacing and restitch.

Then, I French-seamed the bodice but the first time I did it inside out (!!!) and the second time I didn’t trim my seam allowances aggressively enough so all the seams on the right side ended up with what I call despite my better judgment “hairy crack”. No pictures of this because I picked out all the stray threads in a sputtering rage, like Mrs. White with a pair of tweezers.

FINALLY, I had decided to cut my fabric in two sessions (what a ding-dong) – and when I went back to cut the pants pieces I somehow hadn’t budgeted enough for full-length pants legs. So, sick of this project and unwilling to sink more money and time into it, I jettisoned my plan and just made it with shorts. GAH.

The thing is, even though it was going poorly, I didn’t stop. Is there a name for that? Dark flow, maybe??? CURSE US AND SPLASH US, I HATES IT FOREVER.

Okay, okay. I’m done.

Listen, is this garment fine? IT’S BASICALLY FINE. Is it what I wanted? NOPEDY NOPE. Alright, now I’m done.

The pattern is the Ready-to-Sew Jean-Paul boilersuit, which I made, poorly, once before. I bought the expansion pack because hope is the thing with feathers, I guess, but I still couldn’t get this pattern to really work for me. It’s not a drafting thing (with one quick exception, the waistband, more later) – it’s meee.

When reading about utility collections and clothing rationing in WWII Britain (I enjoyed this article), I learned about siren suits. Gorgeous and functional! Most of the examples I saw had a notched collar, rather than a collar and stand, and I thought I could fudge the Jean-Paul to match.

Here’s how I reshaped the collar and stand into one piece:

I have no idea if that’s the recommended way, but the collar rolls correctly. I extended the collar piece right to the edge of the stand because the plackets are sewn on separately.

I must have grabbed the wrong pattern pieces to make these changes, though (the ones from the original Jean-Paul pattern and not the extension, at a guess), since the new collar ended about 1” away from the placket seamlines on either side. This was after the grueling session binding the collar edge, so I just shaved a diagonal chunk off each top center front, grading to nothing at the waist. Oddly, this went fine. Off all the decisions not to bite me in the butt!

I extended the plackets slightly, folded over the extra at the top, and then attached as normal, so all raw edges were concealed.    

While this worked, more or less, the neck doesn’t sit open – there’s got to be more to a notched collar than just blending the stand into the collar piece. Someday I’ll crack that nut. Or, um, buy a pattern.

Sleeves, darts, tucks – all that went okay. Even the shorts (once I came to terms with the fact that they would be shorts and not full-length pants) weren’t too bad. The concealed button fly directions were solid! I used the slash pockets from the extension, and the openings feel nice and sturdy, no stretching on the bias. I was calming down. I just had to smash the top half into the bottom and call it a day.

But then the waistband was several inches too short.

At this point I wanted to set a small fire, but instead I chopped up the chest pockets I had cut and abandoned and patched them onto the waistband center fronts. This was not a victorious ending, but thank goodness, it was an ending!

The process of making this suit was so much more interesting (negative, but still interesting) than the finished project. I’ll still use it, but I think I have to cool it on this pattern for a while. The difference between my plan and reality is just bumming me out. Plus I’m not totally sure this outfit likes me either, because sometimes in the silence I can hear it whispering…

“…Oompa-Loompa costume…”.

Well, better luck next time, I hope.

Pattern: Ready-to-Sew Jean-Paul boilersuit

Pattern cost: $7.05 (expansion)

Size: 41 bust, 46 hip

Supplies: scraps 3 yards of Brussels Washer linen blend in Indigo, $26.19, fabric.com; thread, Michael’s, $2.96; buttons from stash

 Total time: 13.5 hours

Total cost: $36.20

Icarus Flops

A few weeks ago I posted about my plan to sew the Ready-to-Sew Jean-Paul boilersuit in time for The Sewcialists‘ #sewmenswearforeveryone. I wasn’t sure what fabric exactly I wanted to sew it in (a drapey rayon? A structured denim?) but let’s flip to the last page of this mystery: I chose wrong.

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Look, this isn’t terrible. It’s a wearable garment with no major fit issues. It’s comfortable, surprisingly practical for winter (I’m basically fully dressed before the jumpsuit goes on! Fully dressed as a cat burglar but still =^owo^=), and I learned something while sewing it. It’s not a dead ringer for my inspiration, but again, not terrible.

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I was never going to be spare and distrait and dramatic, but my main mistake was in focusing on the color of the garment in this picture, rather than the fabric substrate. I bought an olive green gabardine with 3% Spandex; the color was spot-on and I thought the stretch would be an asset (you’re fitting a lot of zones with a jumpsuit), but while the rayon/poly blend has a nice weight and drape and doesn’t wrinkle, I miss the crunch of natural fiber.

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Honestly, I miss the wrinkles! For a piece drawn so literally from manual workwear, wrinkles showing its use pattern are, for me, part of the allure. I also prefer sewing and pressing natural fibers; I don’t have a ton of experience with polyester, but the boilersuit involves a lot of patch pockets and topstitching, and the springy-spongy texture was harder to keep straight and true. All this plus stretch!

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Okay, enough of fabric, on to pattern. I sewed this almost exactly as written and was happy with the fit; Ready-to-Sew includes half sizes, which is awesome. If you’re a pear like me don’t do what I did and use your waist measurement for the waist; it sits much closer to my hips. It’s fine, thanks to the straight silhouette, but barely.

The collar and collar stand pieces are asymmetrical (I think!) but I failed to notice this and cut them on the fold and nothing dire happened! My only deliberate change was to the front pants pocket.

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The pattern calls for this to be lined, but it’s all straight edges, so I figured I could fold and topstitch. I made one change to the pattern piece, below –

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Nothing to it really – I just grew on a little flap, hemmed it, and then folded and topstitched the remaining edges. The fabric requirements were accurate. The chunk I have left is a little larger than two of these patch pockets!

There’s some funny bunny stuff in the pattern. For example, the horizontal pleat is folded and topstitched from the right side, but it would be much easier to sew as a tuck (or even baste as a tuck and then topstitch).

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That wide pleat is also folded over itself when you create the right button band. It’s a bulky area. I would prefer facings there, especially if working in a heavier denim or canvas. The left button band has a facing already.

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Argh, the dirty details of my topstitching. I used snaps mainly because I recently wanted 5 snaps for a different project and the minimum order was 100. Everything is snaps now! I made a little hole when installing one, darn it, but hopefully some rice stitching there will keep fraying at bay. I also lined up the snaps with each other vertically instead of checking to make sure the actual seams lined up – double-check your laps (in both senses I guess!).

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In terms of style, I like the lowered waist, the valiant effort to straighten my cuddlesome figure vestigial darts notwithstanding, the leg shape, the horizontal pleat. I’d like wider sleeves, maybe a wider collar, faced button bands instead of a collar stand.

My cardinal sin was in not knowing myself!! I just want to wear plants and animals. I’ll hang on to this jumpsuit for a minute, but if I could snap my fingers and make it broadcloth or canvas, I would keep it for sure. This is your friendly neighborhood Obvious Reminder – construction is important, fabric choice equally so.

Critical reception of this jumpsuit ranged from (grownups) “That’s…a lot of suit”, a silent but much appreciated thumbs-up, to (children) “Amazing” and because of a game where I was meant to be captured by pirates “Perfect, you’re dressed like a servant already”.

Sadly this wasn’t my only sewing project that went a bit flumpo recently. I just sewed the Lazo Trousers by Thread Theory but no pictures because I can’t get inside them! Pure bush league eff-uppery, I sewed 10 waist 12 hip but could really use a 12 waist minimum to probably a 16 hip. I’m particularly disappointed in myself because the fabric was a gift from a friend – the ‘short end’ of lightweight wool, purchased in 1948 (!!) from a Pennsylvania mill by her great-grandmother, who worked there. I was so excited to be working with a fabric that passed from working woman to working woman over the decades, and to use this traditional menswear fabric to clad my lady legs. Even when it became clear the ship had sailed on these legs getting into those pants, I finished them; it didn’t seem to honor her work and the fabric’s journey just to toss them aside. The finished trousers are actually quite lovely if very small (though the directions for the zipper fly installation are fully bananas). I’ll pass them on at an upcoming clothing swap. Blame it on my juice!

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Pattern: Ready-to-Sew Jean-Paul boilersuit

Pattern cost: $11.50

Size: 41 waist, 46 hip

Supplies: 3.5 yards of olive bengaline suiting (rayon/poly/spandex), $24.32, Joann; thread, $1.91, Michaels; snaps from stash

Total time: 12.25 hours

Total cost: $37.73

M7840 Bigshirt

I made a big shirt.

A biiig shirt.

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Can you sense my wild enthusiasm for it here?

Okay, it doesn’t look totally terrible in photos. But how about…NOW?

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Help, something is following me!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not tall. But neither am I short. I’m a happy medium – a standard American female 5’ 5”. Why is my behind shrouded so?!

OKAY, let’s talk about this for real. The pattern is M7840, and it’s a pretty recent release. I spotted it in some “mad for plaid” sort of round up (I am, I am mad for plaid) but it was the Woman’s model sample that really compelled me. She looks so cozy and warm and stylish! Her glasses are cute! I wanted those things, so naturally I messed around and paired the short sleeves of that view with the bananarama high-low hem. NOPE.

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This is not the comforting winter bag of my dreams. Drafts go right up those wide, cropped sleeves and it turns out even a nice squishy flannel like this Mammoth flannel doesn’t feel that warm when it stands away from my body. Plus the collar is BIG. It flops open and if it buttoned (it doesn’t) I could still easily fit a hand down it. I like oversized shirts, but I underestimated the importance of a nicely fitting collar. “Deep and floppy” more or less sums it up.

I should have gone looking for a better partial placket tutorial online, but I tried to brute-force it. Unfortunately my attempt based on the pattern booklet is a bit of a mess. Not so much the slight plaid misalignment (I can actually live with that), but I couldn’t figure out how to finish the bottom; eventually I relied on my experience of sleeve plackets, a snip, and a prayer. No bueno. There’s a teeny little hole there now. I fused a bit of scrap fabric to the wrong side. We’ll see if it holds. I’ve gotten spoiled by extra diagrams for new-to-me sewing processes, something McCalls strangely did not anticipate?!

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So what went well? I like the fabric (Mammoth flannel is so easy to work with), plus I like large scale plaid + large scale shirt, at least in theory. The width is kind of cool too, at least when I have a wingspan! That’s probably why the only photographs of it I quite like are the ones where I’m standing like Jesus. It was also fun planning the plaid placement (asymmetrical on front, balanced on back).

The added benefit of all this fabric is that I can remake it. Yep. I’ve pretty much already determined to shorten the back hem by 3 – 5 inches, and I have just enough leftover fabric to recut longer sleeves. If ‘more fabric’ doesn’t somehow solve my ‘lotsa fabric’ problem, I might just go nuts and recut this into my standard shirt-saver – a Melilot. Say buh-bye to the big shirt, folks. They can’t all be winners!

Pattern: M7840

Pattern cost: $8.00

Size: 10

Supplies: 3 yards Robert Kaufman Mammoth flannel in Denim, $21.75, fabric.com; thread from stash

Total time: 5.25 hours

Total cost: $29.75