Olive Morellas

Sometimes my sewing falls accidentally into a vertical schedule; this year, like last year, I shared elastic waist pants in January. Actually it’s the same pattern, the Pauline Alice Morella pants. These are pretty freshly made but they’ve already had quite the workout. READER!! Did you know…IT FEELS NICE TO WEAR SWEATS?

Basically I’ve been pulling these on whenever possible, and not just weekends and evenings. And I can, because they’re my *dressy* sweats. They’re made from the second length of my recent Kaufman Trainers French Terry Fleece order from Hawthorne Supply Co. I got 2 3/8th yards of this color, olive, and I have over half a yard extra (20.5″ full width!), plus scraps. I cut my waistband in two pieces to maximize the yardage, but even so, whattah savings. I might try to squeeze out a warm tee or something from the remainder. It’s dicey, but it might just work!

I’ve wanted a really cozy pair of winter jimjams for a while, and here they are, but you can go ahead and call these pants a topographical survey because they are finding aaall the bumps. You can see my hems through them (multiple).

In a non-layering season the bum would probably look less busy, but right now I’m wearing an outfit on an outfit (long-sleeved undershirt, fleece-lined tights, then a turtleneck and socks and fleece-lined sweats); it’s 8°F (-13°C!!) so you’re getting whatever the opposite of a Full Monty is. A Cavernous Montgomery. Also, in New England, talking about extreme cold is whining AND bragging. 😎

Even though this fabric is a knit, I treated it like a woven – I used a straight stitch everywhere and sewed my same size unadjusted, 44. The fit is noticeably looser than my cotton/linen pair, surprising no one. Generally this is a good outcome for sweats. Unusually, though, I have too much fullness in the front thighs. So far I’ve led a thigh-forward adulthood, so I was surprised to find excess fabric there in particular! I’m not sure if this is being revealed by the fabric or caused by it.

Either way it’s worth it. These are really, really comfy. They’re one of those “I’ll wear it right off the machine, thank you shopkeep” kind of makes. I did climb out of them long enough to sew over the back waist elastic because it was twisting a lot. Originally, I found an elastic piece of the right width and length in my shoebox of notions (sorry, cookie tins), and I thought it was the fancy non-roll stuff, but boy did it prove me wrong! Happily, topstitching makes it behave itself!

Twist no longer, waistband.

I used different scrap elastic in the ankles; it was the Gallant to my waist elastic’s Goofus, so the ankles remain un-topstitched. Thanks, ankles (thankles).

The cuffs are author’s own, by the way. I cut two rectangles 16.25” x 5” with the stretch going around the leg. Then I folded them in half, attached them and ran some 1.5” elastic through, basically following this waistband tutorial…but on ankles. I did not remove the hem allowance from the pants pattern, so my finished legs are about 3” longer than drafted.

Obviously the main feature of this pattern is its wraparound pockets! I promise you won’t be mad at yourself if you reinforce those corners. After a few wears I found some popped threads, even though I sewed over each corner twice, so I added these Merchant & Mills rivets. Technically they’re bag rivets, but I liked the color.

I had forgotten nearly everything about constructing these statement pockets except that I wanted to add some stitching to the pocket edge, so this time I followed the directions and understitched it. It helps the pocket opening stay neat, though the bag itself still gets rucked up inside the sweatpants’ leg sometimes. Either way I can’t keep my hands out of the pockets so I’m really glad they’re reinforced.

There’s a lot of clipping to the stitching line when making these. My woven pair has survived over a year of washing and wearing, and I’m not very gentle on my clothes, so I’m hopeful this non-ravelling fabric will survive too! They won’t get used in the summer, but I plan on wearing them hard enough for the rest of the winter to make up for that.

Once again I’m a little out of sync with the world; I think people are looking forward to getting dressed up again, but I’ve only just discovered the joys of fleece lining. I’m probably set for sweats for now, but I might add another sweater at some point. In this reporter’s opinion, my winter knits sewing twofer was a success!

Stay warm! 1 month of 2022 down, y’all. 11 to go.

Pattern: Pauline Alice Morella pants

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 44

Supplies: 2 3/8 yards Kaufman Trainers French Terry Fleece in Olive, Hawthorne Supply Co., $35.04; thread, Michael’s, $2.39

Total time: 6 hours

Total cost: $37.43

Tamarack jacket

All last fall and this spring I found myself reaching for a transitional jacket that didn’t exist – have you ever had that happen? I hoped my missing layer would be warm but not too heavy, with full-length sleeves, and easy to wear with jeans. I picked the Grainline Tamarack right away. However, I stalled on choosing fabric and made zero steps towards a finished jacket until September, when a bighearted friend gifted me her leftover wool in the perfect color, weight, and yardage. Hooray! This justified my spending philosophy – when in doubt, go without.

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Obviously it helps if your friends are the perfect combo of generous and tasteful! The wool is Rag & Bone and I know she got it at Mood – this wool seems similar (different color though), so I’m guessing it’s wool twill? Anyway, it’s gorgeous stuff, very soft and cooperative. The lining is quilting cotton from Gather Here. It’s a bit staid, but I’m happy with my choice. I almost picked a geometric pattern, but I’m really glad I didn’t, as my lining got wibbly while quilting and it’s much less obvious on this organically marked pattern.  

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Oh the quilting! It was prolonged! I’m freshly impressed by anyone who’s ever quilted a quilt on a traditional sewing machine, as I was struggling with these relatively small panels. I used black masking tape to mark my quilting lines. Actually, I only marked two at a time, since I’m a complete tape accountant (poor Professor Boyfriend has more than once been forced to defend using 1” of Scotch tape when ½” would do). It kept me moving – tape, sew, stand, measure, move the tape, sew, repeat…

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I planned my diagonal lines to move consistently around my body in one direction, since I knew I didn’t have the skills to match a perfect chevron and I worried than an imperfect one would give me the screaming jeebies. The lines are about 1 ¼” apart, and I can safely say “about”, because I surrendered perfection there pretty quickly. I think of these vertical lines crossed by diagonals as shortbread slices or pieces of brownie crisp. That is the full and detailed explanation of how I chose that design. Now you know!

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After wearing this a few times I leaned over a chain-link fence to holler at a student and ripped a hole in my finished coat! But I’d used up my coordinating thread – one spool to match the shell and one spool to match the lining, perfect amount, no leftovers. Instead of buying another spool (are you surprised? Did you read the tape thing?) I went with this coordinating tone.

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To mend, I poked a piece of fusible webbing into the hole with a wide needle, ironed it in place to discourage fraying, and stitched a big wide bartack over the whole mess. It’s okay. It’s part of the story of the coat now. And it was difficult to get riled up about a wee hole after the whole pocket debacle.

Oh, what pocket debacle?! I’m glad you asked!

There’s a part in the Grainline directions – after a dozen hours of quilting, when you’re about to sew a welt pocket, and after hand-basting all the pocket markings like a good girl – when you’re instructed to snip very, very carefully through the finished front panel, because if you mess up and snip too far then you’ll ruin your coat.

WELL, I SNIPPED TOO FAR.

AND RUINED MY COAT.

KIND OF!!

Pocket 1, I sewed and snipped and turned, only to find my welt flapping free. The long raw edge was attached but the two short folded edges and the long folded edge of the welt were just hanging loose on the front of my coat. It looked fine otherwise so I just hand-stitched the short edges down and followed the rest of the instructions as normal. Pocket 2, I had a tricky decision – do I sew the pocket to match my first, wrong pocket exactly, or do I sew it right?

I did what any sensible person would do which was accidentally and irreversibly cut my welt opening a full half-inch wider than my welt flap. AND the short edges were loose. AAACK. In the moment, I became very calm and philosophical and just sort of wandered away. When I came back, Prof. BF helped me brainstorm and suggested a little coordinating tag of the lining fabric to cover the excess opening. Bing!

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Later I thought about adding a rivet or a snap to make it look even more deliberate, and chose a snap. It’s kind of stupid but it also makes me laugh – that snap is functional.

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Despite my self-created drama and, in my opinion, the ungenerous seam allowance at the top of my pocket, they’re still totally pockets. Be warned, though. If my fabric was any thicker I would not have been able to turn or stitch that top seam allowance, the one usually concealed by the welt flap. It might be user error but something to pay attention to all the same!

I sewed the first pass on all my bias binding by machine and the second pass by hand. It seemed simplest. I also stitched my bound pocket bags to the lining so they wouldn’t flap around. Actually, the most unexpected time suck was just fiddling the mitered corners on the front into place, and even at A FULL FIFTEEN MINUTES per corner, some are better than others. In general, though, the hand-sewing didn’t seem to take long. But I’m sure many very nice people machine stitch the whole binding! You do your thing.

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Full disclosure: at first I didn’t like this jacket!! I thought the neck was too wide and scooped and that it looked kind of schlumpy. But on the first cold day, there it was when I needed it. And now I love it.

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Sometimes I even wear it indoors with a hot water bottle snapped inside, like I’m trying to revive a little baby Dalmatian. I’ve worn it to three separate apple orchards this fall (yes that’s too many orchards). Professor Boyfriend says it’s not so much a quilted jacket as a jacketed quilt, and I concur! I’ll be reluctantly trading it for a warmer layer soon, but I’m glad it will be waiting for me in the spring.

Stay cozy out there!

Pattern: Grainline Tamarack jacket

Pattern cost: $18.00

Size: 12

Supplies: Rag & Bone olive wool, gift, originally Mood; 2 yards Home Dash in Shale cotton, 2 yards cotton batting, $35.22, Gather Here; thread, Michael’s, $3.58; snaps from stash

Total time: 20.5 hours

Total cost: $56.80

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