Summer Jams

Thanks to general encouragement (especially KK of Magpie Logbook!), I finally sewed myself some fresh summer pajamas.

The pattern is Lisette for Butterick, B6296, and I just noticed it’s sold in the category “Family Sleepwear” which also includes B6338. Begging the question, why didn’t I sew frillybum sleep panniers for the whole family instead?! Oh well. Maybe next time!

My paper copy was in the higher size range, which was necessary for my downstairs, but a little too roomy for my upstairs. The dilemma of the cross-sized! I sewed a 14 top and a 16 bottom. The shirt is exaggerated by design and sewed up easy as pie. The shorts weren’t complicated, but there’s not quite enough vertical space in the back. Two extra inches, one added to the top of the back rise and one to the curved part of the seat seam, would be welcome.

The shorts are wearable as is, but if you’ve been sitting on this pattern (seat pun) and you have a bit of a bum, you might want to add volume. Also, the back yoke is narrowest at center back and is cut on the fold. Odd! Or to put it politely, unique!

By the way, I deeply dislike threading elastic into a waistband. It may technically take less time than sewing a fly, but each minute stings like poison because I hate it, and the elastic twists, and I untwist it, and then it twists again, and I hate it. After an estimated four thousand hours, I finally got the elastic lying flat and stitched a line through the center so it could never twist again. Grrr. Comfy though!

The pocket bags are surprisingly generous – they end about an inch and a half above the hem of the shorts. Next time I would consider trapping them in the cuffs so they can’t flap. I love using cuffs to finish, by the way. It conceals so many raw edges and has a nice weight. Everything else is French seamed because she’s (me’s) worth it.

I’m a little worried that these look like formal radiology scrubs, nice finishing and all. Hopefully the frilly little buttons and the piping help prevent that.

Self-fabric flat piping is sort of the Men In Black: International of piping. Maybe nobody worked that hard on it, but it stills seems like unnecessary effort for something pretty hard to see. Sewing it was good low-stakes practice, though! It’s slightly uneven but even I have trouble spotting that. Originally I planned on a ditsy floral contrast fabric but I eventually opted for monotone, both because it aligned with a traditional masculine aesthetic, aaand because I had a big ol’ free piece of scrap fabric. I still do, actually. This took remarkably little piping. I used straight grain pieces on the shorts legs and bias-cut everywhere else.

The collar directions are basically identical to these from the true indie sew-alike, CC Carolyn pajamas, including the part where you kind of fade the piping into the front + facing seam right before it meets the collar. I was surprised at how easy and tidy this was. And though I was initially hesitant to snip into the collar, it must be snipped in order to finish the center section of the seam allowance in a different direction than the ends, and it actually feels secure! Yay!

I sewed the longer version of the shirt and it was a little bit ghastly. Way too long, it covered the majority of the shorts. Instead of redoing the hem properly, I folded it up as much I could and popped another line of sewing on top. I was limited by the preexisting button hole, but I still got a luxurious deep hem (with a secret bonus hem inside).

Speaking of luxury, I bought the fancy buttons to finish this because I wanted a discreet feminine touch (that sounds like code for something, but it’s not) to balance the overt masculine influence. These bitsy enamel sweethearts were over a dollar EACH. I sewed them on FIRMLY.

Unfortunately, my buttonholes were a little too big and the shirt kept unbuttoning itself. I wore it a couple times that way before deciding that spending five annoying minutes to fix the problem represented better value than the five annoyed seconds per button over and over, forever, and I hand-sewed the buttonholes a scotch smaller.

I think this fabric might be Oxford cotton. It has no wrong side and a tiny moiré diamond pattern made from a darker blue and a white thread. It’s sturdy enough that I skipped interfacing the facings, and it holds its shape well enough that it’s still cool on hot days, no clinging. The cotton had just enough body to make gathering the sleeve cap ease kind of a pain, but it’s pajamas, so let it pucker!

I have slept in these, but they’re at their best as lazy daytime PJs. They make me want to linger in bed with a locked room mystery and a stack of hot buttered toast like an idle Woosterian aunt-botherer. These pajamas mean business! And my business is pajamas!

Good night & good luck!

Pattern: B6296

Pattern cost: $1.00

Size: 14 top, 16 bottom

Supplies: 3 yards of cotton (Oxford?), $14.97, Sewfisticated; buttons, $6.64, Gather Here; thread, $2.39, Michael’s

Total time: 11.75 hours

Total cost: $25.00

4 Denimsional

In my continued mission to squeeze value from the MN Dawn Curve pattern until it squeaks, I’ve made another pair of Dawn shorts. I’m not the only one confused by shorts this year, but I figured I couldn’t go wrong with denim – even better, leftover denim from all the other pants I’ve made recently. I had large scraps and more than a little hankering for the bi-color/parti-color/jester trend, so blammo!

These are all rigid denims. The light blue is 10 oz.; the dark blue is 8 oz.; the black used as one back leg is also 8 oz.; and the other black denim is 5 oz. I used that just for the back pockets, coin pocket, and belt loops. I cut those lightweight pieces first and set them aside. Everything else I cut improvisationally. This is the first time I’ve sewn Dawns without tweaking the fit or trying a new view, so I felt good about experimenting elsewhere.

I prioritized making the back from the dark scraps to a) minimize underwear show-through and b) in case I sat in something. I haven’t sat in something, but summer isn’t over yet. I probably could have brought one more light element to the rear, but I love black and blue together, and hopefully wrapping the dark blue to the front makes the front and back feel less separate.

I actually cut belt loops from every fabric and decided to make a call on which to use later, but there’s something to be said for sewing loops from a lighter coordinating fabric. It was so much easier to get through those layers.

You can see I’ve got buckling in the back yoke, but I’m starting to believe this is inevitable in rigid jeans. They just slump after the first day of wear (this is day 2 or 3 for these shorts – non-consecutive, if you’re asking!) but otherwise they wouldn’t fit on day 1 and I’d never get to day 2 anyway!

Oh also, when I sewed my muslin of this in the winter, I noted that the shorts back leg outseam is 1” longer than the front outseam. This time I eased them together, but is that a thing? Easing the outseams? I guess it keeps the hem parallel to the grainline, but it seemed like a lot of excess to ease over a relatively short seam (compared to a full-length pants leg).

I tried the MN button fly directions for this pair. I would class them as effective but inefficient. You’ll be switching between regular thread and topstitching thread way more than necessary if you follow them to the letter, and I know this because I did. I used a hodgepodge of bobbin threads but topstitched each denim tonally, except the light blue; I didn’t have any light blue thread, hence the gold.

Surprisingly the pattern only calls for 3 buttons or rivets on the fly, plus 1 on the waistband – and it was enough! I typically use 5 on the placket, but it’s so much faster to get in and out with just 3 that it makes me 60% more likely to pee. Oh, and my pocket bags are scrap cotton with shades of blue and grey. I’m feeling preeetty happy with the insides of these shorts.

I’ve been using a straight waistband with this pattern, which made it really easy to color block. I cut long rectangles from whatever scraps accommodated that and then placed + trimmed them to match the finished shorts.

I switched topstitching colors on each section of the waistband. Hems too. I pulled the thread to the back and knotted it instead of backstitching. Fiddly, but I like the result!

I’m actually very pleased with these shorts. They’re longer and a bit looser than I usually wear shorts and there seems to be some excess fabric in the front leg/crotch, but they’re comfortable even when my thighs are given full scope, important for such summertime activities as lying in a hammock, sitting on a picnic bench, etc. And I love these scrap colors together (not totally surprising since I bought them all in the first place). Plus it was $FREE$ (as my dad says, ‘if your time was worthless’).

Also, you may have noticed I have a low-poly paper fox head in these photos??? It’s leftover from Halloween 2020 (I made this one, Professor B.F. made a red one) and I had a case of the why-nots. One way to tell I’ve been blogging for a while – three years ago when we first took photos, I was adamant that no one could even be nearby, and for these I unconcernedly unbuttoned my shorts roughly ten feet away from two plumbers conferencing outside their van while balancing a paper fox mask on my head.

No shame in my game anymore. Woof, arf, assorted fox noises. See you soon!

Pattern: MN Dawn Curve jeans

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 14 waist, 16 hip; 16 rise; with lots of changes

Supplies: leftover denim medley; thread, rivets from stash

Total time: 7.5 hours

Total cost: $0.00

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

Modded Fall Skirt

I need one of those nice multi-part German words to mean “adapted from an existing pattern with substantial changes”, because I didn’t draft this and I sure didn’t hack it (“I’m in!”), but I did adapt an existing pattern with substantial changes. Anyway! I wear skirts now, I guess!

I had less denim left over from my 1970s pants than I thought (if more than I expected). I’ve been considering adding skirts back into my life, mainly because my tights are underemployed, and the timing seemed right. ONCE AGAIN I started with the Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts, pretty much treating that pattern as a lazy woman’s block. I’m the lazy woman.

Searching how to alter a pants pattern to sew a skirt yielded some pretty dire refashions but not a lot of pattern manipulation. I went so far as to visit *the second page* of Google search results without success. In the end I felt my way through adapting the pattern on paper, which yielded a wearable but blah skirt, and finally altered the fabric directly, for a skirt I actually like.

Here are my initial changes:

This sewed up fine. The seams matched, the side seams hung straight, the hem was reasonably even (it dipped a bit in back – my rear takes longer to travel side-to-side than top-to-bottom,  I guess), though it was a little loose at the waist. But it was EXTREMELY uninspiring. It wasn’t really A-line, just a lackluster triangle. I thought about widening the back darts to fit the waist, but it needed a more dramatic change. So I added a back seam, taking in the skirt about ½” at the waist, and curving the seam extravagantly under my bum to remove a full 7” in width from the back hem!

This is what the pattern pieces looked like after my on-the-fly changes:

I added a grown-on placket to the center front. On the back, the little red filled-in areas reflect where more fabric was needed. I changed my paper pattern to include those, but since I obviously couldn’t add them back onto the already-cut denim skirt, there’s a funny little upward dip in the hem, like a gradual buttcheek curve (like so: ‿‿).

I didn’t think I’d be able to hem the skirt neatly when double-folding the finished placket, so instead I tried the following technique. It uses a 5/8” hem allowance and the downside is you’re locked in to whatever skirt length you start with, but it’s low-bulk and tidy!

I had a belated flap about the placket overlap (if my finished placket is 1” wide and the seam allowance is only 5/8”, then I’m going to be short by 3/8” per side for a total of ¾” too small at the waist!!) but in the end it came up a bit big, so I’m not sure what happened there. But I’m not mad.

Oh and did she add pockets? Yes she added pockets.

Even with adjusting on the fly, a simple skirt sews up so fast! I was recently given a bag of fabric by a lovely parent at my school which included this handsome autumnal floral, and I was so pumped that my skirt design kind of worked that I immediately made another one from my adjusted pattern. That’s called science!!

I was working with a leftover piece of sturdy cotton (?) canvas (?) so I’m glad I avoided both pattern twinning and floral cheek meat.

I was worried about a flower vanishing right into the crack seam (as all the best couturiers in Paris call it), but it’s a busy design and there don’t seem to be any terrible florivorous mishaps.  

You know what makes a simple skirt even faster? Rivets instead of buttons. Buttonhole placement, by the way, was determined by how many mostly-matching buttons I could find in the ol’ Tub O’ Buttons. 10, spaced about 1.75” apart, except for the waistband button and the first placket button, which are close buddies. 10 rivets too. It’s almost enough to get a gal to invest in an anvil.

This is shopping-not-sewing, by the way, but I’m very happy with my new(ish) Kodiak Low-Rider boots. They’re city boots from a hiking company, and they took about 18 hours to break in (3 6-hour wears) and now they’re super comfortable. My one complaint is there’s no back tab to help pull them on, but I recommend them to anyone else who’s constantly on the lookout for flat boots.

Now let me sit and ponder if I got away with this post without revealing the hole in my tights…

See you soon!

Pattern: Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts, in a way

Pattern cost: N/A

Size: D at waist, E at hips (again, sorta)

Supplies: scraps of Kaufman 10 oz. Denim in Indigo Washed, scraps of floral cotton canvas (?); thread, buttons, rivets from stash; thread, Michael’s, $2.39

Total time: 5 hours/3.75 hours

Total cost: $2.39

Fern Cryin’ Out Loud

How many times am I going to blog a pair of Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts? As always, Miss Swann, at least once more. Well, twice more, actually, since there’s two pairs in this post.

I don’t have a stash (one part smug to two parts jealous of your sweet sweet stash) but I save aaall my scraps. Both these shorts were made out of leftovers, originally from a pair of Peppermint Wide-Legs and RTS Papao pants.

This first pair was made from a mystery fabric which, while not exactly right, was very available. I wanted a pair of longer shorts for work this summer, but they ended up a hard-to-wear betwixt-and-between length, so I re-hemmed them to about a 3” inseam. It’s an improvement, but due to the stiffness of the fabric they stand out from my body more than I like and the finished silhouette is on the edge of dorky.

If not exactly in dorky territory, they’re on the Dorky Trail, headed west. I need the space for thigh spread, though!

I’d like to say the wrinkles are for verisimilitude. So I will. They are for verisimilitude, and you are welcome.

The thing that sells me on this pair, despite the fabric, is that I did a really good job sewing them. (No one will match Hercule Poirot for his humbility!) I know I’m not supposed to say so but I did, they look nice inside! I had a perfect scrap of sandy glimmer cotton for the pockets (not pictured, oops), and the only zip I had happened to be a coordinating color, too. It’s so tidy in there, it makes my heart glad.

I used the selvage for the edge of the fly shield, which I like aesthetically though it serves no purpose that serging/zig-zagging the edge wouldn’t also accomplish. Also, I’ve finally started backing my waistband buttons with little flat buttons on the inside. It really helps reduce wear and warping. Luckily I have a tin of them harvested from Professor Boyfriend’s worn-out RTW shirts.

I also hang onto decent-sized singleton buttons like this one, the ecru cherry on this beige cake!

 My second pair, in known-quantity cotton twill, has many more wrinkles, even though I just popped them on for the photos. Also, PLEATS.

I converted the front darts to 1” deep pleats – why? Oh, um, no reason. I think I slightly overfit the waist. Not to the point of discomfort, but the snug waist + pleats do mean these practically bloom open. Someday I’ll actually use a drapey fabric like the pattern calls for but right now my legs are inside fabric balloons. Super comfortable, unsurprisingly!

At this point I was out of zippers (well, I had a 5” one for Professor Boyfriend – but me and my body getting in and out of fitted-waist pants with a five inch zip? Ha ha ha HA good sir). So I was grateful for my recent experience sewing hidden button flies! There are a lot of good techniques out there, but I gave this one a whirl and LOVED it. I did the short lines of stitching between button holes to keep everything in place.

My shirt is a Deer and Doe Melilot, which is the zippiest button-up shirt pattern I know. It has no yoke, dropped shoulders, and cut-on plackets. The bit that takes the longest is turning the curvy hem.     

I used cotton voile bias tape to hem. I’ve done it by double folding before, too, but I like this better. The fabric, by the way, is a vintage Italian linen tablecloth – it was basically Professor Boyfriend’s trousseau. He brought it to the relationship and I used it to make a short-sleeve button down for him, then foraged the scraps for myself.

I should wear my short-sleeve Melilots more often. I really like them so I have a bad habit of saving them ‘for best’. This isn’t the easiest-wearing one in my closet, because of the linen, but who can say no to a basic white shirt?

I pointed the collar but otherwise sewed a straight size 42, no changes. It’s a little snug on my hips but the bust fits okay. I might retrace as a 44 with a 42 collar, because the collar fits perfectly; this was the first shirt pattern I tried that I could button all the way to the top (though I don’t right now, because I don’t like high necks + coronavirus hair together).

Speaking of buttons, I actually sewed this last summer for the Sewcialist’s logo color challenge. I got white on the wheel but couldn’t resist a little pop of something-something!

Surprise!

Also, when this post goes live I will hopefully be in the Berkshires, Q-tip up the nose permitting. Time to pack!

Pattern: Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts

Pattern cost: NA

Size: D at waist, E at lower hip + thigh

Supplies: leftovers of mystery TMOS fabric/leftovers of cotton twill; thread, buttons from stash; zipper, Sewfisticated, $1.28

Total time: 4.25 hours/6 hours

Total cost: $1.28/$0.00

Pattern: Deer and Doe Melilot

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 42

Supplies: leftovers Italian linen tablecloth; thread, Michael’s, $3.75; buttons, Gather Here, $6.00

Total time: 5.75 hours

Total cost: $9.75

Can’t Elope

First, real and urgent: here’s an efficient way of contributing money to multiple bail funds and advocacy groups, and also an article (with further reading linked) that I found useful.

Now, back to trifles – sewing. I like to buy fabric in person (who doesn’t?), but the coronavirus stay-at-home order has put a geas on that and will for a while. I live in the most densely populated city in New England and we’re taking reopening slow (except for protesting! Okay, trifles again). Anyway, I made a misstep when ordering the fabric for this top. It’s perfectly nice in terms of quality, and I’m often attracted to these pale oranges and buttery yellows, but I couldn’t ‘try it on’ in person so I forgot that they’re a little nudie on me.  

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Much like Rogelio de la Vega, I don’t pop in peach. Actually it’s ‘Cantaloupe Check’ by Carolyn Friedlander, so I guess I don’t pop in cantaloupe. Oh, well! The fabric is soft, stable, and firmly woven, with no wrong side; the layout left a lot of scraps, and the 1/4″ square checks made it extremely efficient to cut and sew those into masks. And I got to try a new-to-me pattern, so the time and materials weren’t wasted, really! Except for paper, since it has a wasteful layout. If they marked both necklines and hems on the same boxy body piece it would save at least a dozen pages.

The pattern is the free Fibre Mood Frances top, and the war on trees aside, it’s fine. I like it on the model a lot, but her fabric is much drapier! My cotton is poofy, not drape-y. Add the check and I might be a farmer, possibly in the dell? The shirt as drafted is almost exactly a box.

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Except the front hem is curved, a little optimistically for my shape!

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Given that I wear my shirts knotted or tucked, I could have skipped it. Still, that wouldn’t have conserved much yardage. Because the sleeves are grown-on, I needed a full 2 yards of 45” wide fabric to fit the pattern pieces, with a lot of wasted space whether I cut them on the straight grain or the cross grain. But I really, really liked the look of those elastic cuffs. (No way the Fibre Mood model is comfy with them stuffed into a blazer, though.)

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By the way, if you know a way of French-seaming a right-angled armpit without clipping into the seam allowance, please let me know! I couldn’t find one. I stitched the seam a couple times for extra strength, but I still feel funny about the two tiny raw spots when everything else is enclosed.

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The shirt tips back on me. I have to fiddle with it more than I’d like to keep it symmetrical/covering my bra straps (the peep through the large armscye of my quite sensible bra is fine; I pick my battles). I briefly considering elasticizing the waist as well, which I think would keep it in place, but that would be a deliberately poof-forward solution!

One random thing I liked about this pattern: the neck binding length is provided. It saved me a step (normally I pin, measure, un-pin, join my binding in the round, then pin, then sew…I could skip right to pin and sew, nice!).

I’m wearing this shirt with the first shorts muslin of my Perse-phony pants draft. The buttons are waaay under the overlap (too far!), but as the denim relaxes, I’m having an easier time getting in and out.

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The back pockets are in extremely the wrong place. They were the spontaneous product of a couple large scraps and a desire to hide my pointy dart ends, but seeing these pictures, I might actually care enough to drop them a good 3”.

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I love my butt! It deserves better!!

I have no grand pronouncements about the Fibre Mood Frances; I think I still kinda like it, but my iteration needs a new home (or I could get a tan, but actually I can’t). I’ve got some ivory rayon leftover from a long-ago project and I’m waffling over trying again in that.  And if I do, you’ll hear it here first on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!

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And, why not make that donation recurring? See you next time. xo

Pattern: Fibre Mood Frances

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: M

Supplies: 2 yards of Cantaloupe Check cotton, $18.00, Gather Here; 3 yards 1″ elastic, Gather Here, $5.40; thread from stash

Total time: 4.75 hours

Total cost: $23.40

Buzzwords

Hi all! What’s the buzz?

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Oh, is it the base of my Halloween costume? It is!

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One of these days I’d like to cut loose and make a COSTUME, we’re talking something that needs super specific underwear and maybe you have to crouch to get through doorways, but in the meantime (as in, as long as I stay in my beloved but closet-less apartment) I pull together costumes from daywear. You could be forgiven for thinking “This? A costume? No, no, sir” which, like, fair enough. Though there are more posterboard components for the night itself.

Anyway, I’m a Spelling Bee! (Professor Boyfriend, not pictured, is a Spelling Beekeeper. His veil is dotted with yellow and black striped capital letter “B”s.). Whereas I’m, basically, a nerdy bee? The sewn elements are a pair of Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts, which I covered thoroughly here, and a Seamwork Natalie blouse.

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Nothing much to say about the shorts except that they’d match the concept better in black, but I found this grey linen locally for $3/yard, so yeah, SOLD.

One of the best parts of working in an elementary school is that you can have serious in-depth conversations about Halloween costumes. During one of these, a six-grade visionary suggested I add suspenders to my outfit, which: yes! They really cinch the Poindexter vibe! It’s just suspender clips and black ribbon, so only aesthetic, no support. I actually already had these – a couple years ago I got smitten with the idea of suspenders just long enough to order the clips, and I wore them maybe twice before the day I paired them with culottes and a leotard and had to reenact The Great Escape when I wanted to pee.

The ‘bee-siest’ piece is this top. I’ve been thinking about the Natalie blouse for a while and I’m glad I finally made one! In recent months I’ve been glibly converting regular collars to camp collars and then moaning that they don’t sit right, but actually following directions to learn a new skill seems to have worked better, TELL EVERYONE. I think the trick is in the width of the facing. The plackets curl open close to, but not over, the edge of the facing. It mildly stresses me out that it’s just tacked down inside and not topstitched, but maybe that’s an important ingredient too?  

I did add three additional buttons between the four recommended ones. More stitching is better stitching.

This top certainly fits, but I should have picked my size more wisely. I sewed an 8 bust graded to a 10 waist. Thanks to the boxy fit it’s not tight anywhere, but the shoulders are too narrow.

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Ideally, the shoulder seam would sit 1/2” – 1” further out. I think I’ll retrace the pattern in a straight size 12. The good news is I know already that I won’t need to grade for my hips!

Oh, a note on plaid-matching – I remembered to match the side seams below the bust dart, but completely forgot about the sleeves. Oh, well. Though, it’s been a while since I’ve set a sleeve in the round, not to mention I French-seamed it, and it is sitting pretty smoothly! So it might be in the wrong place, it might not match the plaid, but I’m calling it good!

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I probably won’t wear these bits as an outfit together after Halloween (contrary to everything about my personality, I’m not actually putting effort into being a nerd), but separately, yes, for sure. Do you dress up for Halloween? And if you do, do you try to keep the pieces wearable in daily life, or do you go wild?

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Either way – Happy Halloween! 😈

Pattern: Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts

Pattern cost: NA

Size: D at waist, E at lower hip + thigh

Supplies: 2 yards of linen blend, Sewfisticated, $5.98; zipper, Sewfisticated, $1.40; thread, rivet from stash

Total time: 4 hours

Total cost: $7.38

Pattern: Seamwork Natalie

Pattern cost: $3

Size: 8 at bust, 10 at waist

Supplies: 2 yards of Kaufman Sevenberry: Classic Plaid Twill Plaid Yellow, fabric.com, $24.24; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 5.25 hours

Total cost: $27.24

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

Thick Thighs Save Lives

Several of our friends and family members are having or have just had children, so Professor Boyfriend and I took an international bambini tour! Plus we took advantage of this baby-greeting travel to revisit Oxford, a city we lived in for four years (him) and a year and five summers (me). This has nothing to do with my new shorts, but everything to do with these photos, since we took them in beautiful Port Meadow. I got nettlerash! Because I was wearing shorts. Sooo. Duh, I suppose?

To be specific, I was wearing the Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts. I experienced an interruption of shorts service this summer; my body got bigger and all my existing shorts were suddenly up my crack. I couldn’t think of a shorts pattern I *had* to have, so I used The Foldline’s Pattern Database and rustled up the Ferns.

Pros: turn ups, high waist with a traditional waistband (I’m not hating on elastic, I just don’t like sewing it), and I saw it modeled on plenty of bloggers with a similar heft to their hips and thighs to mine.

Cons: invisible side zipper.

OR IS IT?

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the invisible side zip to a full pirate’s booty of front fly buttons. I needed this pattern to work with a front fly if we were going to be a thing long-term, as every invisible zip I’ve ever installed looks like poo and breaks immediately.

I was mildly hornswoggled to print and assemble my pattern and discover all sizes shared one outseam line. My most meaningful grading, then, would occur along the crotch curve and inseam, and that’s where I proposed to make major changes.

Luckily I had a long enough straightaway on the crotch, grading from D to E, to pop on a ‘self-drafted’ fly extension (it’s a rectangle with a curved bottom, I wasn’t exactly designing a rocket ship). I made a decision on the fly (HO HO HO) to use my crotch to display a golden rivet trove and then enjoyed this very excellent button fly tutorial and did so.

My fly is actually longer than necessary! I don’t have to unbutton the bottom button to get in and out of these. But if you’re going to have four shiny gold eye-catchers up your front rise, why not have five?

I extended the waistband by 4” to accommodate the over- and under-laps. It’s a rectangle, so, again, ‘drafting’ seems like a strong word. I also cut two belt loop pieces and divided them each into thirds, instead of one piece into fourths, as directed.

First try-on was a success. I was really very happy with the crotch curve! It’s comfortable and stays the hell away from both North and South Wedgieville. And hooray, the buttons buttoned. The legs were a smidge too wide at the bottom for my liking, so I took an additional ¾” seam allowance on the outseams, starting from the hem and blending at the hip.

Hey, why is no-one talking about front darts? Front darts are THE BUSINESS. My diameter changes by a foot from waist to hip, give this girl some front darts. I look forward to playing with these – there are pleated shorts in my future!

Basically, I’m a happy bunny! I made this trial pair in leftover rigid Cone Mills denim, and I liked them enough to immediately cut into my other large denim scrap.

I had less of this dark denim so these have a 3” inseam and no turn ups. Also, a traditional fly zip. On this pair I curved the waistband slightly, removing about an inch from the top edge. Sorry for the lack of detail in these photos – we had to run home to change (I wasn’t getting my pins out in Public Nettle Meadow) and we lost the light!

I do have a fun story about this pair of shorts. I got to England right before that series of record-breaking hot days and tried to change into these shorts right away, only my dang button had broken at the shaft. Not the thread, the actual shaft. So no more button! I was staring down the barrel of 97°F with only one pair of shorts in my suitcase when I remembered…OXFORD HAS A JOHN LEWIS NOW.  

I’m not sure anyone who DIDN’T move away from Oxford months before the opening of its John Lewis can understand the slow but certain blossoming of joy in my heart. To those not yet lucky enough to go, it’s like an employee-owned Mega Target. And crucially, it has a haberdashery! So I could buy a button!

THIS BUTTON!

Separately, before setting off for England I bought a new watch (I don’t have a smartphone, so it’s a pretty crucial tool, especially when travelling). My last one was a $15 stopgap that lasted two years while the band slowly dissolved like wet cardboard, so I’m pretty pleased with the new guy.

It’s from The Horse, for any other analog fans.

To sum up: I dig my new shorts, sewing them was a snap, fly fronts + front darts 4 life.

I’ll be back soon to talk about the top I’m wearing in these photos – with other, nearly indistinguishable photos!

Pattern: Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts I & II

Pattern cost: $8.14

Size: D at waist, E at hip, with changes, above

Supplies: scraps of Cone Mills denim in Mint; scraps of Wrangler overstock denim; 1/2 yard of Dear Stella Aweigh North Sailor Toile Sand Fabric, Gather Here, $5.75; thread, Michael’s, $2.39; zipper, Sewfisticated, $1.40

Total time: 6.5 hours/4.5 hours

Total cost: $17.68 for both pairs

Summer of Love, Part Four

Why hellllooo, here’s the fourth entry in my self-declared Summer of Love series! This outfit is sort of a round-up of my greatest hits: slouchy linen-ish outerwear, short shorts, and a wrap top that needs a safety pin so my bra doesn’t fall out. And guess what? I LOVE IT!

Yes babies, ignore the stink-face (why do I always have such a stink-face? I promise I’m very smiley in real life), I finally worked out a dressy(ish) outfit I feel comfortable and happy in! First, the creative brief: I needed something to wear to a rehearsal dinner with the equivalent fanciness of an average wedding, but since it was immediately followed by, you know, the actual wedding, my Kielo had to keep. Also, it was in a country club! First and only time I’ve been in a country club. Country club tip: forge an alliance with the man who holds the crab cakes. Yesss. Now you are ready.

Also, I was being romantically haunted (think Phantom of the Opera, Patrick Swayze as Ghost, basically those but with boundaries) by the idea of a Summer Suit. And I figured what the hecko! If not now, when! And because I love ongoing usefulness I decided to sew another Victoria blazer. I made all the changes listed in this blog post, and also I swapped in pockets purloined from the Lupin jacket (mine here).

Here is a picture of a pocket for anyone who is recently born or very forgetful. You’re welcome.

Another Patented Poundcake tip (I’m sure that crab cake thing is already paying dividends): make sure your shorts are at least a little longer than your jacket, so you don’t look like a flasher from behind.

So that’s the outermost layer of my onion! Next is a sleeveless Anderson blouse, and I made the adjustments listed in my post here, except for the armscye because this was my first draft in fact and I hadn’t noticed that issue yet.  Simple pimple.

Finally, the third piece of the ensemble – pants. I imagined cropped, pleated trousers with a tapered leg. “But Lia,” I hear you say, “Surely that’s your knees I see before us?”

PATIENCE.

Exactly at the equator, these are MN Flints. I used its (dare I say iconic?!) waistband and pocket construction.

There’s a hook and bar fastener inside, and the ties outside. Also, for once, my waistband isn’t crumpled horizontally by my mighty middle. I used BanRol! I’d bought some in a hazy panic when a local fabric store was closing, with the vague sense you put it in bag straps, but it’s for waistbands. It really stays flat! I only realized its use because of the magically impressive Shauni (she’s so cool).

So I had my waistband figured, but I wanted tapered pants and the Flints, well, aren’t. So I used the leg (sans pockets) of the Turia dungarees! I darted the back to fit, and pleated the front. It was actually pretty straightforward to get these patterns to mesh.

Then, an eagle-eyed observer might be able to spot, I just went ahead and cut the legs off anyway.

Frankly the pattern mash-up made for a nice pair of dressy slacks, but when paired with the blazer, I was getting major zoot suit vibes! So chop chop, now they’re shorts. The finished inseam is 2.75”.

This isn’t my finest sewing (those pleats are not centered on the front crotch seam, for one) and there’s some practical issues (the shorts wrinkle like crazy where they’re crushed by my butt, the blouse is a little too short to tuck in *really* securely), but for once, I don’t care. Because I feel like myself in this outfit and that makes me happy.

You may also notice, despite my claims, that I have HEELS ON! These were grandfathered in because I bought them for my sister’s wedding in 2012. Even just taking these pictures reminded me why I only wear them once every 20 months. They gave me that lift to spot my crab cakes friend from a distance though. Plus who can resist a classic grey…beige…combo? LISTEN I’m good at wearing normal clothes, okay!

My embroidered pin is from Coral & Tusk, by the way.

And my face, as apparently always, is right out of stink-ville!

See you soon!

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

Pattern:  BHL Victoria blazer

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 10/14

Supplies: 2 yards of Brussels Washer linen/rayon blend in grey, $20.78, fabric.com; 1.5 yards of Cambridge Solids cotton lawn in Grey, $13.20, Gather Here; thread, $1.79, Michael’s

Total time: 7 hours

Total cost: $35.68

Pattern: SOI Anderson blouse

Pattern cost: NA

Size: XS (!!!)

Supplies: 2 yards of ivory rayon, $15.00, Gather Here; thread from stash

Total time: 3 hours

Total cost: $15.00

Pattern: MN Flints/Turia dungarees

Pattern cost: NA

Size: L (Flints)/44 (Turias)

Supplies: 2 yards of Brussels Washer linen/rayon blend in grey, $20.78, fabric.com; thread, hook and bar from stash

Total time: 6.25 hours

Total cost: $20.78