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

Black Dungarees

I used to prefer navy blue to black, but over the past few years I’ve learned to love the clean simplicity of true black. That said, it’s no friend to the blogger, is it? But if you peer into the shadows you might just see my new dungarees!

This is view B (modified) of the Marilla Walker Roberts collection, which you really can’t beat for value. Even ignoring the dress view (as I do, because dresses are not my preferred flavor of jam), that’s three hip, comfy patterns for under ten bucks American. I wish I did like dresses, because the lines of their Isca dress are just gorgeous. And look at this sweet collection! The directions aren’t the greatest in the biz, but I love the designs. Okay, that concludes Marilla Walker aesthetic appreciation hour, back to the dungas.

I reworked this pattern something fierce. Under the influence of tiny YouTube waifs who swan around in airy shapeless jumpsuits made in under fifteen minutes with 96 cm of linen and no pattern, I drafted out the tucks and the front waist seam. Directions below:

  1. First, remove all seam allowances.
  2. Treating the pocket and front leg as one piece, draft out the tuck. I like this Megan Nielsen tutorial.
  3. Butt the bottom of the front bib against the new waist seam, making sure to match the grainlines. Trace as a single piece.
  4. Add seam allowances.

I added an additional 5/8” seam allowance to the outseams, just in case, because I decided to omit the closure. The button tab directions were confusing, and a try-on of my existing jumpsuit from the collection made me think I wouldn’t need one. (The extra seam allowance turned out to be unnecessary, as I’ll discuss later.) The original front bib pattern piece was now just a front facing, so I cut 1 on the fold instead of 2. The back and back facing needed no changes, except the added SA.

I made the straps 8” longer because I wanted to use a knot-and-loop fastening for the bib. It turns out a single knot doesn’t require an extra 8 inches, but I kind of like the excess! The loops are a little wider than the straps, and I tucked them between the front pieces and the facing and sewed over the junction several times for security.

This pair of dungarees is heavy – I don’t mean warm, I mean physically heavy. I was worried having all that weight resting on relatively thin straps would be uncomfortable, but it hasn’t been a problem. The knot stays put in the loop, too, even though they’re load-bearing. The fabric is a thick, coarse linen/cotton blend, which helps everything hold!

I wish I had done something a little differently in the back – made the back bib either wider or narrower, or criss-crossed the straps, maybe. It just looks a little unconsidered back there. The facings are already stitched down at the side seams, so I won’t be editing this pair (unpicking black thread on black fabric? No thank you).

Also, I extended the legs by 2” from the bottom, but I shouldn’t have bothered.

Super wide cuffs to the rescue!

Since removing the waist seam meant removing the slash pockets, I added two patch pockets. They’re about 7” wide by 8” deep, finished. Initially I planned on having them both on the back – I measured placement by draping the back piece over myself and patting my butt, by the way – but after sewing the first I lost interest in matching them symmetrically. In my defense, 90°F/32°C heat gives me a serious case of the good-enoughs. So instead I popped the second one on the opposite front (now with the scientific technique of patting my thigh).

Why yes, they ARE functionally invisible, thank you.

Let’s talk fit for a minute. The Roberts collection has a dropped crotch, so there’s plenty of room to move. But I just read about girth measurements in the latest Threads, and I recommend the article if you find your jumpsuit/overall/dungarees patterns need more vertical space.

Vertical, check! I overdid the horizontal, though. Back to that extra seam allowance – I didn’t need it. In fact, probably because I didn’t staystitch the curves (it was VERY hot that day) I ended up removing 1.5” from the waist at each side, so a 6” total reduction in circumference. I reduced the thighs by stages, too, until I got a fit I liked. The magic numbers seemed to be: remove 1.5” from the waist, and 1.25” from the thighs, reducing to nothing 17” up from the hem (and I trimmed the facings to match). It was a lot of pants-on, pants-off, but I’m actually pretty thrilled with the final leg shape. And it was a quick sew even with the adjusting.

And in case you’re wondering, you’d really have to work at it to peer down the side and see my underwear (fair question).

I realized after the fact that I accidentally recreated this Workshop pattern. So, no points for creativity! I’m still happy with the result, though! Time will tell if I can wear the dungarees in the fall – I expect they’ll be okay with boots and a flannel. Don’t tell summer, but I miss fall, okay?

Oh and, a new friend is moving into a local mural – how snazzy is that shirt?

You inspire me, snazzy shirt man. See you next time, buds!

Pattern: Roberts Collection dungarees

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 4, with changes, above

Supplies: 2.5 yards of black linen/cotton blend, $12.48, Sewfisticated; thread, $1.99, Sewfisticated

Total time: 5.5 hours

Total cost: $14.47

The Sultan of Swat

If you’ve ever noticed a valiant 2-inch curl or a little extra pink on my scalp, it’s because I get occasional bald spots. They always fill back in, and the number one enemy of hair regrowth is worrying about it, so mostly I ignore them. But I’m in a high-risk group for skin cancer and the last thing I need in the summer is exposed skin on the part of my body that’s closest to the sun! The solution? Hats.

I’ve dipped my toes into hats before, but I find them tricky. Whenever I put one on I feel like people are thinking of me the way I thought of this one tween who wore a fedora to school every day (“You’ll learn, kiddo”). But finally I decided: hey, for a hat that says “I’M NOT TRYING, YOU’RE TRYING”, why not wear…a baseball cap?!

I tried one on and actually liked it, except the only one that fit my head also had embroidery that said DOG DAD, which alas ’tis not I. I peeked at the construction and decided I could make one. And then I made one!!

There are free patterns available, but I paid for the Style Arc Baseball Cap because I wanted a little more hand-holding and assurance. I was also wild with curiosity to find out what was in the brim, since that notion wasn’t listed. Answer: it’s ‘heavy canvas’, which is not very specific or helpful. Oh well.

I’m happy with the pattern itself. It makes what I think is described as a ‘dad cap’, a little over-sized and vintage-feeling (though, and this is probably the first time I’ve said this, I think there were too many notches!). But the instructions are frankly a scandal. They don’t quite fill a 3” x 5” square and there are no diagrams, just a drawing of the pattern pieces and then a drawing of the finished object – essentially this, for sewing.

So I did my own thing, mainly based on the RTW cap I tried on. Most significantly, I omitted the lining, and instead sewed bias tape over the interior seams. This was the last of my favorite bias tape – it’s just a perfect weight and color. This pale khaki green coordinates with everything!

I also skipped the interfacing. The pattern recommends an interfaced outer AND lining. So my version is only about 25% as thick as recommended! Obviously, it’s a lot softer and lighter!

Because I didn’t use a lining, I needed a new solution for finishing the edge of the little igloo door in the back (I don’t know what that area is called). I tried a bias facing three times but it wasn’t happening. Eventually I drafted a 2” wide facing, which did the trick! After topstitching it I realized I had forgotten to insert the back ‘straps’ between the facing and the hat, so I put them in the sweatband instead.

I used 3 layers of heavy interfacing in the brim. It’s still not very stiff, but it’s what I had on hand, and it holds its shape pretty well. I added two lines of topstitching. Incidentally, I think I need to get my machine tuned up – my stitch length has been all over the place!

I omitted the covered button because I didn’t have one and because I don’t think the meeting point of the seams looks too shabby.

And finally, I used snaps instead of Velcro for the band because – and I cannot stress this enough – I bought a ton of snaps a year and a half ago.

It’s certainly not perfect – that back asymmetry isn’t just in the photos, and the center front seam isn’t centered on the brim. But if I consider it a wearable muslin it’s pretty cool! I’d like to make more! It’s a snappy, satisfying project with a neat result.

I have a scrap hierarchy – if I have a lightweight piece I make a tank, pocketing, or bias tape, by order of size. If it’s medium/heavyweight, I make shorts. If it’s too small to make shorts, it just sits there. But now I have this as an option. So, this is a broad plug for making a cap! It’s fun AND efficient! If you try this pattern and have any questions (totally justified by the terrible directions), please send me a note. It’s all doable.

The other scrapbuster is this Tessuti Romy top, which I made in my scrap frenzy in March. Obviously it’s the linen leftovers of my shorts! I wasn’t wearing this top at all, because it was a funny betwixt-and-between length, but I cropped the side seam to 6.5” and now I love it as a coordinating set. The hem is actually hand-sewn because I didn’t feel like hauling out my machine and it ended up being a nicely meditative summer morning activity.

I’m also warded against evil in my new Danny Brito pins, which is always handy.

Finally, this is the face I make when I’m quoting The Sandlot at Professor Boyfriend and he quotes The Goonies back at me. They’re both great flicks, but I was TALKING about BENNY THE JET.

FOR-EV-ER.

Pattern: Style Arc Baseball Cap

Pattern cost: $5.88

Size: NA

Supplies: scraps of Kaufman cotton/linen in Forage; thread, interfacing, snaps from stash

Total time: 3.5 hours

Total cost: $5.88

Pattern: Tessuti Romy top

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 95% of M with changes

Supplies: scraps of linen blend; thread from stash

Total time: 2.25 hours

Total cost: $0.00

Summer of Love, Part Three

This dress was pants! Briefly! Well, culottes. This is the tale of its transformation. Welcome to episode 3 of the Summer of Love!

This was very, very temporarily a pair of midi-length Tania culottes, size L in old money. I’d been wild to make them for a while, but I rarely buy 3+ yards of fabric at a go. Happily Gather Here had a summer sale at the beginning of wedding season, and the Tanias seemed just right for an upcoming casual-nice engagement party!

I finished the culottes with about 18 hours to spare (maybe you’ve sung this song yourself) and popped them on for a triumphant fashion show. Twist!! I must have fudged the grainlines because instead of falling from the widest part of my hip, they hugged my leg to about mid-thigh and then abruptly belled out. NOT triumphant. Not even close. Triumph sent its sincerest regrets but would not be attending my legs.

Without a back-up plan, I unpicked the ol’ leg-bags and freestyled a dress. The culottes became its skirt. This was simple to engineer – I cut off the crotch extension of each piece and smoothed the waist, like so.

Then I pieced the skirt front and skirt back at the center seams. Since the Tanias are so full, that left a respectable amount of swing and flare, even sans crotch.

Unfortunately, I ended up with four little holes, from what used to be the ends of the big box pleats (the red dot on my diagram above).

Using about a square centimeter of scrap fabric and fusible hem tape, I ironed a jiffy patch to the wrong side of each hole. So far they’re holding!

For the bodice, I used the Workroom Social Tate Top (free to newsletter subscribers) in the cropped length. I had previously made this pattern as a scrap-buster. As a crop top, you can really squeeze it onto random odds and ends, especially if you add seaming. I got this from the culottes off-cuts with nothing to spare!

Rather than using a zip, as the pattern recommends, I divided the back bodice horizontally about 5” down. Then I cut the two upper pieces and hemmed the vertical edges separately for a simple opening. It closes with a thread chain and mother-of-pearl button, but I can get in and out without unbuttoning. I’ve definitely made versions of this with no opening at all, but you know your own coconut best!

Then I just gathered the skirt top to fit (it didn’t take much gathering), stitched them together, pressed that seam up, and topstitched. Crossed my fingers for another first try-on and hey presto! A dress!

With a handy belt leftover from a Halloween costume (I was an Egyptologist, Professor BF was a curséd mummy, it was adorable, we’re very proud), I was party-ready.

Oddly I find the Tate cropped length borderline too short for a shirt but definitely too long for a dress bodice! But by then I was sleepy. So I wore the finished dress to the engagement do, and then forgot to adjust it, and then wore it to other Summer of Love events – a bridal shower, another engagement party. It’s not quite fancy enough for a fancy wedding, but it worked great for these Bacchanals/Burning Mans/just kidding we ate finger food in a backyard.   

I wore my Halloween belt with this each time, but I might prefer it casually unbelted!

You know what – seeing this steadily and seeing it whole, I’m gonna tweak it again. I love the color and the weight of this fabric, but the bodice never sat quite right, especially in the back, and it’s a smidge tight at the underarms.

Once more for the chop, dear dress!  

Previous Summer of Love found here (part one) and here (part two).

Pattern: MN Tania culottes

Pattern cost: $9.50

Size: L, in the old MN system

Supplies: 3 1/4 yards Kaufman Essex linen/cotton in Seafoam, Gather Here, $28.60; zipper and thread, $4.60, Gather Here; button from stash

Total time: 5.25 hours

Total cost: $42.70

Pattern: Workroom Social Tate Top, as dress

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: 8

Supplies: disassembled Tania culottes + leftover fabric

Total time: 5 hours

Total cost: $0.00