23 September, 2010

Thoughts on Trousers

It's a seasonal thing, isn't it?  In spring many of us are eager to make dresses, but as soon as Labour Day is behind us and the temps begin to drop - perchance  precipitously - we like to reach for something to protect our gams from the elements.

Let's face it, making trousers - pants for us North Americans - can be intimidating.  You're forced to put together something that smoothly covers a short wide cylinder set atop two long and narrow ones.  As if that wasn't bad enough, the wide cylinder is ridiculously misshapen:  narrow at top but wide at bottom (your butt) in the back, and, relatively speaking, fairly narrow at bottom but wider at the top (your belly) in the front. 

When I jumped on the "sewing for me" bandwagon, it was in a very large measure to increase my work wardrobe (jackets, yea!).  In my previous endeavours as a lab scientist and then a prof, jeans were all very well as the daily uniform for all, but became unacceptable when I swapped hats to be a senior egghead at a large non-academic institution, where jeans are outright verboten except for Fridays (more on that later).  A pair of work-worthy trousers was high up on my initial sewing agenda. My mother, who has sewed (extremely well) all her life, advised me to stay away from Vogue, and try Burda :  thanks, Mom! So my trouser-making odyssey started with Burda 8283:  a classic semi-fitted trouser with diagonal pockets, bottom cuffs, and front pleats.  

Why did I pick this pattern?  probably because it was a fairly relaxed style, and that seemed a good thing for a job demanding a protractedly seated position.  But, in retrospect, the pockets, cuffs, etcetera, were too much of a challenge for me the trouser newbie. I've been tweaking this pattern ever since - shifting the pleats, changing them to darts, changing the shape of the crotch curve (to a flatter one), lowering the waistline, ditching the cuffs.... I even use it to make one-seam casual at-home pull-on slacks, by overlapping the side seam and adding an inch to the top for the elastic. That's the easy part. 

Over time, the pattern has evolved to a straight-leg front-dart trouser with no cuff and no pockets, a straight, narrow (3/4") waistband that hangs lightly a little below my waist,  a concealed inner button plus hook & eye, and a zipper shield.  I've made 3 versions of it in the last month:  at-home one-seams out of a black ponte-de-roma from Fabricland;  a flowy wide-leg trouser from some greyish-black RPL freebie in my stash; and a somewhat narrower, straight-leg pair out of a tropical plain-weave stretch wool, also black.  I have this pattern pretty much under control, but I still err occasionally in the order of construction & serging of the zipper area:  you want to do things in the correct order so as not to end up serging & re-serging the same area, or fighting with tight spots that were accessible at some earlier stage. 

This year, I've become a little bolder.  In the spring, I made 3 pairs of the Jalie stretch jean (the first, knee-length).  I'm all psyched to produce another, maybe even this weekend, in a heavyish black denim with red topstitching, as part of my casual - and not so casual, since it includes my red boucle Chanel suit ;) - "wear red on Fridays" wardrobe.  

This week I upped my derring-do ;) another notch, and began this month's fourth slacks pair, then cut it out from a very nice microfibre fine wale black corduroy from Candlelight Valley Fabrics - also for my casual Fridays wardrobe.  It's Jalie 2909, a flat-front no-pockets pattern with a slight flare in the lower leg, size U (39" hip).  The pattern calls for 4% lycra, but since the corduroy is non-stretchy, I added 1/2" to each side seam, and 1/4" to each inseam.  I also chalked the pattern onto each piece, to be able to follow, at least in the basting stages, the original 3/8" (1 cm) seam allowance.  After sewing "per design" and trying them on (they fit!) I decided to widen the upper legs a smidgeon: a teeny 1/8", just because the fabric's not stretchy, and I'm no longer 21, and don't want to be thought forgetful of that fact.  At the moment, though the waistband pieces are still cooling their interfacing on the ironing board, yes I'm already wearing them.... and hubby, not even realizing the pants I'm currently wearing aren't even finished, and supportive as always, says they fit better than any other I've ever made.  How can a gal NOT sew when she has this much of a fan club?

I'm not going to show you all these black slacks - whatever for?! you'd never see past the two-legged black hole in the photo anyway.  Suffice to say, there's a reason for this pants-making push, and it's that I have a bunch of beautiful, super-120 and better wools on hand, and am really really truly ready to start wearing them*.  And practice makes perfect, and making four, or five, or more, sets of slacks in a (very!) short time, really but really gives you a sense of the all important "I really DO know what I'm doing here".  Hah!

* (last year hubby took some of these lovely wools overseas on a business trip, and had a bunch of slacks made to measure! I'm just plain jealous of my guy's too-well-clad nether regions! )

22 September, 2010

Psst! Spring 2011 fashion shows are here!

Ok, you know perfectly well that they've been on for a while - among other places, you can see them on Style.com.  But have you seen Duro Olowu?  Go on, do;  it'll make you smile. 

04 September, 2010

Self-drafted, with stripes

One centimetre stripes are like a new puppy:  they yank at you, distract you, make you sit up, they beg for your attention.  And, let's face it, who isn't kindly biased towards a puppy?  The key word here is bias, of course.

Late last spring I sprang for a few of the fine merino knits on offer by Fabric Mart - two of them in 1 cm stripes.  And, of course, they were begging me to to make something on the bias.  Ergo, the self-designed dress.

Bias fold, 155 cm tape and 100 cm stick.  Fabric is 150 cm wide.

I started with the above bias fold, then moved the fabric so the near apex of the right triangle hung over the table at the 18" mark (the width of my shoulders).  I rotated the fabric so the folded side (the centre front) was nearly vertical, and, 28" further down, marked 23" width from CF (for hips plus lots of ease:  skim but not cling!), and then cut from that point to the fold at the near end of the table. So, my starting dress block (not counting the folded triangle overhang) was a folded trapezoid, 28" high, 18" at the top and 23" at the bottom.  I sewed (& serged) the vertical edge together, and this became my centre back.  Because of the very different angles of the two sides, there's no way the stripes could be made to match up.
Centre back seam, with armscyes and shoulder seams drawn in.

You can see my original 18" horizontal "shoulder width" high water mark in the pic above.  I used my Jalie 2805 tee for the shape of back neck, shoulders, and armscyes.  The little chalked notches on the shoulder seams mark the theoretical maximum width of the neckline that would ensure full undergarment coverage.

Front, with cowl excess folded out, and armscyes marked.

The centre front is on a perfect bias, you'll note.  At this point, I cut vertical lines in the armscyes, slipped the block on, and marked the chest-arm hinge with pins.  I then referred to the Jalie pattern for front armscyes.  I raised the armscyes (front & back) about 1.5 cm.

Side view: CF at left, CB at right
I then drew the sleeves onto the rest of the fabric:

Since neither sleeve was oriented across the preferred stretch direction (should've been with horizontal stripe, selvedge-to-selvedge) I added a subtle design detail: an under-sleeve 1.5" strip of cross-stripe: 

....did you buy that? really?!  GREAT! to tell the truth, when I sewed the sleeves as drawn, they were too tight; I could put them on, but just barely. I have skinny upper arms but normal elbows and forearms... so I could barely bend my arms.  The "subtle design detail" added much-appreciated freedom of movement.

Ultimately, the shoulder seams were omitted:  the front bias-fold triangle tucks in and forms a  cowl, and the rest of the fabric free-falls on the shoulders.

I used the rest of the fabric to make a long and wide bottom ruffle:

If I get tired of the long dress look, I'll remove the ruffle, turn the dress into a tunic, and wear the ruffle as a scarf :)))

So, this is how I wore it today.  The heat wave is finally over, and I'm loving the feel of wool  on my skin.

Can you tell I'm enjoying each and every nanosecond left in our "true north strong and free" summer?

03 September, 2010

Green Linen Jacket

It's linen, and though I pressed it oh so carefully during construction, it wrinkles like all linen is wont to do.  So I'm embracing the wrinkles, and hoping like anything that it'll do its job in the heat.

It's the McCall's Palmer/Pletsch Classic Fit "The Perfect Suit" M5396 jacket.  I made a straight size 12, with size 10 sleeves (shortened by 9 cm/3.5") , and slightly flattened by 1/4" sleeve caps.

Beautiful little pattern - and the daughter  opined, "it looks effortless".  I really like the small lapels, the princess bust seam, and the shoulder to hip dart.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that I'd have done as well if not better to have made a size 10 back and sleeves, and then added 3/8" to each side front at the side seam to allow for my upper front.  I intend to shanghai a certain person...shhhhh! to help me really fit it, so I can use it again and again. 

This is my first unlined jacket.  I've always made lined ones before.  So, being that this is really a shirt-jacket, I used shirting technique to put it together.  All the seams are flat-felled, except the under-sleeve seam, which is a french seam, because I want to be able to roll 'em up without embarrassment (they're rolled up in the pics).  Even yoke and dart seams are top-stitched.  Despite that, you'll see no raw edges anywhere.  Better yet, this jacket has seen NO serging, none, nada!

Flat felling & top stitching close-up

Flat-felling isn't as laborious as one might suspect (and much faster than bias binding) , once you get into the press-press-trim-press-press-sew groove).  Still, it would've been nice if the pattern had matched the under-sleeve seam with the side seam, and instructed them to be inserted in the flat, as with a man's shirt.

The pattern instructions tell you to bias bind the sleeve inset, but frankly I just gave up at that point, and simply used the triple zig zag on it.  I omitted the shoulder pads as well, and took in 3/8" of the outer front-shoulder yoke seam to allow for that.  I could probably have reduced the shoulder space some more by re-drawing the shoulder curve - next time!

I gave the jacket 3 buttons instead of four, and used my snazzy Singer buttonholer with  1+ 1/16" keyhole buttonhole template to make eye-popping buttonholes that match three big look-at-me-look-at-me-now 1" white buttons.

Big question now is, what to do with the rest of all this lovely green+white cross-dyed linen?

02 September, 2010

She came, she sewed, she conquered!

Her self-designed, self-directed sweet little project, which was a silk-lined sacque ;) for the boyfriend's smoking (licit!) paraphenelia.  Mother provided a little direction, the standby sewing machine, some of the corduroy that was meant to be little bro's fall slacks, and a bit of mom-dyed silk twill that matched the brass clip perfectly IRL (in real life, Katie dearest!) though not apparently so in the photo due to the sun's reflections.

"I never thought sewing was so mathematical!" exclaimed the young lady, while calculating the circumference of the circular base so that the sac's vertical walls - a perfect cylinder - would match it.  After that, adding all the seam allowances was a breeze. 

But then came the question of how to make the base as stiff as a baseball cap's peak (love the readily-relatable reference!).  Solution:  fusing to it two layers of horsehair interfacing,  at right angles to each other. 

We know the BF will be thrilled - how can he not be, with the sacque matching his rosebriar pipe so perfectly?! 

And what did mother do all the while?  Enjoyed the banter and blather, and finished her 3-day (that she thought would be a 1-day, but got severely distracted) green linen jacket.  Yes, the green linen that on Monday was meant to be a dress.  It still might become one, as there's green linen here aplenty.

Tomorrow, we sew dresses.  Stay tuned.

PS.  Draw for the O de la R coming right up!