Stitch Twice

Recently, a woman biked past my house wearing a pink shirt and warm brown pants. I thought “I like that! Why don’t I have an outfit like that?” and so now I do*.

This is my second pair of Papoa pants in as many months and they helped me cement my new philosophy: sew everything twice. At least! I’m not going to throw good fabric after bad if a pattern/finished garment just doesn’t work for me, but I like sewing repeats and I want to prioritize that. It goes so quickly and smoothly the second time; my first pair of Papaos (including an hour and a half of pattern assembly) took me 7 ½ hours, while this second pair only took me 5 ¼. I shaved 45 minutes off my sewing time, mostly through knowing better when to finish seams. This includes the hidden tie end, which I remembered to finish BEFORE sewing it into the crotch seam, a pleasant change.

The flip side is that I’ve been feeling a bit boring lately. I’M not bored by my clothes, but I might be, I don’t know, measurably boring? So I’d also like to take more risks, for a given value of ‘risks’. Brace yourself: my back pocket – are you sitting down? – uses – do you have a heart condition? – the wrong side of the fabric. TA-DAAA.

Okay, so I’m inching past “tiny, basically unnoticeable risk” like a little inchworm. But someday I’ll wear pants on my arms with an Elizabethan ruff and one big sock and this will have been the gateway decision. Well. Maybe. 

If you take only one piece of advice from me (and who wouldn’t after that fashion prediction), let it be this: sew the butt twice. I sew the seat seam with each leg side up once. You can put these lines of stitching side-by-side or on top of each other. I don’t care. Secure your butt and thank me later!

This was especially important for this fabric, because the stitches tended to float on top, rather than sink in. It’s Kaufman fineline twill in Walnut (not the color of a walnut; I’d call it ‘old honey’ or ‘new penny’ or ‘timely chestnut’ or ‘I want that job where you get to name paint swatches’, which I felt very qualified for until my mother saw these and asked “Don’t you already have pants in that color?”. I hadn’t noticed. Last time I called it russet). Even though I used a fresh 80/12 needle and my machine purrs over heavier denims and twills, I could feel it working to punch through. I guess it’s a tighter weave – it felt, basically, like it had greater surface tension. It pressed like a sonuvagun though. Dang, I love cotton.

I made no real changes, except grading the waist facing to match my hip grading, which I forgot to do on my first pair. I also made the back patch and the tie openings a bit larger. I had hoped it would reduce wrinkling in the tie. It didn’t, but that hasn’t stopped me wearing these as often as possible!

I love this pattern, I love that there’s no interfacing or pocketing or zippers or buttons needed, I love that it was a one-bobbin project when I was low on coordinating thread, and I love my new discovery – that 3 yards of 45” wide fabric are enough yardage for my size! Hooray! I limited my fabric search the first time around to 54” wide fabric, but now the world is my (45” wide) oyster.

*Because you are as wise as an owl and as clear-eyed as a hawk, you’ve probably noticed that my shirt is, er, not actually pink. But because you are as discreet as a Bourke’s parakeet (known for your quiet and gentle nature) you were not going to point it out. Thank you. Anyway, what happened is, I ordered two rayon knits together – a pink one and this grid – and once they arrived I discovered ONCE AGAIN I had managed to online order a fabric the exact saturation and value of my skin tone. I don’t want to look like I’m wearing a Lia suit, so the pink fabric has been rehomed, and this is my spiritually pink shirt.

It’s made from luxuriously heavy bamboo rayon, which for some reason always feels a little damp. I am uneasily conscious that the reason might be: it’s damp? I try not to over-dry my clothes, but there’s such a thing as too much moderation. The pattern is the free Stellan tee, which I keep making because I find it perfect, this time with a scooped neckline – 1” wider at the neck (so 2” wider total) and 3” deeper. It’s a good start, but too conservative. Next time, more.  

More scooping. More crotch reinforcements. More repeat patterns. More, more, more!

We took these pictures on a wonderful cool evening between scattered thunderstorms. Thematically, I finished this blog post while listening to Rain; I just discovered Mika has an orchestral album and I am SOLD.  More orchestras!!

Wishing you more safety, health, and justice too. And more pants, if that’s your bag!

Pattern: RTS Papao pants

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 43 waist, 45 hips

Supplies: 3 yards of Kaufman 4.9 oz. Fineline twill in Walnut; $34.44, fabric.com; thread from stash

Total time: 5.25 hours

Total cost: $34.44

Pattern: Stellan tee

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: M, with 1″ wider neck, 3″ deeper front

Supplies: 1 yard of Telio Bamboo Rayon Jersey in Grid Print, fabric.com, $16.09; thread, Tags, $3.28

Total time: 2.25 hours

Total cost: $19.37

Papao pants

Or according Professor Boyfriend, “Pa-POW!” pants. This is a rare picture of me standing regular in these, because they make me feel very FaSHuN like I should make angles with my body.

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A good feeling! These are the new Ready to Sew Papao pants, part of a collection of three patterns. The trio was released with eerie prescience, because they all look super comfortable and none of them require notions beyond thread. I might just surrender and buy the Patsy overalls, too. The patterns all call for natural, stable, lightweight fabrics, so it’s basically a tiger trap with my favorite sewing fibers on top and Paypal at the bottom.

Anyhoozle, big surprise, I love them.

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I had a little trouble sourcing an ideal fabric. The samples are sewn from 30€/meter hemp fabric and the designer’s self-dyed cotton bedsheet, respectively, both of which are inaccessible to me for different reasons. As those weren’t options, I wanted cotton twill. I had trouble scrounging up non-stretch non-polyester fine line twill (fan favorite Ventana twill is about 2 oz./70 g heavier than recommended), but I ended up finding it at Fashion Fabrics Club, a.k.a. Denver Fabrics.

Whether that name makes you shudder or cheer seems entirely up to chance. It’s a true gamble (try searching either business name + reviews, and strap in), but this Ash Brown Fine Line twill was as promised. The second fabric I ordered (cotton denim) was very much neither cotton nor a denim, but their return policy is deliberately obstructive, so I’ll bring it to the next Artisan Asylum’s swap and just tell myself I paid more per yard for this fabric which I DO like. Caveat very emptor, my shopping experiment is complete, I won’t order from them again.

I do love this color, it’s such a neutral team player, though when I make a second pair I want it to be bright pickle green. Send up the Bat-signal if you know of a fabric like that!! Pattern prep and sewing both went pretty smoothly. I obviously chose the view with the front pocket.

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Wide though not deep, a true pocket-of-all-trades! I graded from 43 at the waist to 45 at the hip (my measurements: 31” waist, 43” hips). I forgot to grade the facing pieces accordingly and cut them in a straight size 43, so the bottom edge is unfortunately a tiny bit short, and I have some puckers in the pants fabric here and there. Honestly the grading was unnecessary; if you’re just a few sizes apart, choose whichever size is larger. If your hips are larger, you could cinch the waist more, and if your waist is larger, terrific, the pants are meant to be loose through the hips anyway. And there’s generous crotch clearance!

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I have mega drag lines and I fully do not care. It’s a relaxed, body-friendly design, and a little extra fabric is all good.

This was one of those fun puzzle-patterns where I wasn’t totally sure how things would turn out, so I mostly followed the directions with a couple trivial changes.

1. I topstitched the ties.

2. There’s a ‘belt loop’ (more of a belt patch) on the center back. You’re supposed to sew two pieces right-sides together and then turn them right-side out to make a self-lined rectangle, but I think my corners look a little mushy when I do that. So I sewed the long edges of a tube right-sides-together, turned, tucked in the short edges, and topstitched. (Side note: that belt loop/patch is extremely helpful for identifying where to put my legs! Trickier than you might think!).

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3. If you follow the directions, you end up with the short serged edge of the inner tie poking out of the front of the pants. It’s hidden inside the wrap, but I knew it would bother me, even when I couldn’t see it. Next time I’d turn the ends in, like I did for the belt loop. This time I had already topstitched and serged, so I tucked a little patch in between the front crotch seams, over the tie. Its finished size, after I turned in one long and one short edge, is about 1” wide by 2” tall; the seam allowance inside the pants is serged. I topstitched it in place to hide the serged end of the tie. And now I share my crotch secret with you.

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Is it really for motivated beginners, as the old song says? I’m not sure. It’s easy to fit and it uses friendly fabrics, but by the end I was manipulating a lot of fabric in the machine. But they also come together pretty quickly. And there are moments that delighted me, like flipping the facing over and finding the little strap openings really lined up! So something for everybody, I hope.

And I am deeply motivated to wear them! I actually like getting dressed (look at the rule-follower thriving on structure, bless), especially when my daywear is as comfortable as loungewear, and these pants are that comfortable. And I’m happy to recommend a pattern that accommodates waist sizes from 24” to 49” and hips from 35” to 60”. And I do mean accommodate; due to the wrap closure you can adjust this to be comfortable throughout the day (and I assume over the course of many days, but I made them, like, a week ago, so we’ll see).  

Now POSE!

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See you later, be excellent to each other!

Pattern: RTS Papao pants

Pattern cost: $11.37

Size: 43 waist, 45 hips

Supplies: 3 yards of Ash Brown Fine Line twill, $34.05, FFC; thread from stash

Total time: 7.5 hours

Total cost: $45.42

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