Friday, September 14, 2018

The voices in my head won't stop talking about pants!

Pants and pants details and pants silhouettes have been floating around in my brain for a quite a while now. For the longest time it was getting a woven non-stretch pants pattern to fit. What a journey that is and continues to be.... For a while I was thinking ,screw it! I'll just wear skirts!

Lets talk about pants and fit for a moment. I have had one hell of a journey with pants. Not only the challenge of fitting a changing body but also the challenge of defining what style of pants I really wanted! Plus how I wanted that 'style' to actually fit. I know I am not alone here ladies. I even had some wonderful help from sewing experts and great friends. You know you have a good friends when they are willing to get all in there and pin away!

My pants journey first took me to the extreme of wanting a pant that had not a single pull or fabric wrinkle at all. Like a glorious full trouser. I got there, I really did BUT the style was of a type that I would very rarely wear or maybe just for a specific outfit. They were so full and had so much fabric and only worked with very drapey fabrics. Not at all what I was looking for in a TNT pant pattern. nope, not at all.

So I basically work backward from there to make the fit more of what I wanted and to a point of where the wrinkles and fabric pulls were of an acceptable nature to me. I have a big ass and my calves stick out and my inner thigh is nice and fleshy and my lower legs and ankle sit too wide. These are all the things I already knew and yes, I actually tried to accommodate all those things in my fitting!! CRAZY town! I learned so much about how my body is put together.
In the end I decided I wanted the front crotch to look good, that I was okay with some pulling across my tummy and that my ass was going to be as good as I could get it. Which changes on a regular basis due to the fabric selection and how I stand. See photo below! I mean really, we move so it will never always look perfect.
Same pattern with slightly different leg shapes and lengths and 3 different fabrics.
l-r Green cotton or cotton linen/ wool fully lined/ lightweight linen
and ALL 3 look different in the rear end!

I started with a pattern that I created from failed patterns in the past and took all the parts I liked and made them into one and then tweaked it a bit and presto! A pants pattern that mostly fit! (must have been luck! hehehe) Or the knowledge of making SO MANY muslins and styles was just ingrained into my subconscious that I just made it work.

After an extra muslin or 2 I moved onto a wearable muslin of black wool/poly blend (not pictured) that I bought a long time ago for wearable pants muslin. These pants a have narrow leg, slightly cropped length with front welt pockets, back zipper, waistband with hook and eye. I wore these several times, including on work trips and airplanes and meetings, had them dry cleaned and wore a couple more times and decided they were good! I was doing a little happy dance and high fiving myself in the mirror and promptly cut into a very good length of wool and made a fully lined pair number 2! These are even more awesome.

From this base pants pattern I drafted 3 additional styles. 
- wide legged cropped just below mid calf pants
- wide legged full length pants- think just breaking on the front of the shoe
- tapered full length pants-  (slightly wider legged than the ones pictured above)

I marked pocket placements on all of these for front welt or zippered pockets and back patch if wanted for more casual versions. All have a back zipper that I do with a lapped or invisible zipper application. I find that I really like the back zipper and it seems to be more comfortable when the pancreas acts up and I have some tummy 'expansion'.

After playing with several kind of pockets and pocket bags and pocket openings, I have found that I like front welt pockets with pocket bags that extend to the waist. This gives some extra stability to the pocket and makes sure there is no sag. I was playing around with some other pocket styles but decided that these were best for business pants. Now playing with some other idea for more casual styles.

Now that I have a reasonably good pants pattern I feel like all the wool pants fabric that I have been collecting are all calling out to me going 'me next, me next!!' and that I am the mean school teacher scolding them to wait their turn. 

SO far I have made 2 'work' pants that are both version 1- the ankle length narrow legged pants, pictured above, and 2 casual pants.

Casual pant 1 is a wide legged cropped pair in a bright green linen/cotton blend, as far as I could tell from the burn test. They may be all cotton. I didn't feel any hard balls in the burn residue so no poly. These have been a great pair of pants for the summer. However, the fabric is very annoying in that they tighten up when washed and then loosen as you wear them. Which is perfectly fine for a casual summer pant. NOT so fine when trying to photograph them. when they are just washed and pressed as in these photos the rear end looks not so good at all! If I wait and try to photograph them after wearing they are all wrinkled and tend towards the saggy butt look. There is probably a magic window of 10 minutes where they look perfect and that is it! The woes of a big ass in pants.



The second casual pair are a wide legged full length pair out of a lighter weight linen, pure summer/beach/hangout pants and these have a single zippered front pocket, back patch pockets AND a shaped hemline, I believe the technical term is a lantern hemline. I did this by sewing in four 2 inch long and 1 inch wide darts at the hemline. Voices were singing in my head when I did this! LOL! Of course, it was an unplanned design addition so I will go back and make a pattern for it so that If I want to recreate the design detail, I can do it properly, with an actual facing that will hide the dart seams.

I do want to point out that the only difference between these and the green ones above are fabric and the length. That's it! and look at the amazing of this rear end view.
SO what is next in this pants journey of mine?
I have a pair of grey wool ready to go for a long pair of work pants.
then I am moving on to trying this pattern out in a stretch woven with some pocket modifications for travel.
Then real jeans and then I'm thinking of trying out some ponte jeans.
SO many pants and so little time!

I really envy all those people that can walk into a store and just buy pants off the rack!

SO now for some real entertainment! The Princess eating linguine :)


Monday, September 10, 2018

Sewing for Princess V!

The blogging has lacked a bit over the summer! The days were long and all I wanted to do was to enjoy the sunshine :) that mixed with work travel and such just meant that blogging was a bit sacrificed.

Annual 'Grandma Camp' was held the last week of August. This has to be the highlight of my summer every year!!! The princess gets to come and stay with me for an entire week, just her and I and boy do we have fun and am I exhausted. The energy of a 4 year old is just incredible.

We had so much fun and most days spent several hours out and about doing and seeing things and then lots and lots of quality time together at home.

We went to:
The Garfield Park Conservatory

Chicago Water Taxi

12th street beach- By the Adler Planiterium

The Shedd Aquarium

And one day we just stayed home and watched movies and had a carpet picnic and sewed, the weather was terrible!


Plus several things that we did not get pictures of!
Fabric shopping for purple dress fabric
Back to school shopping
to Wendy's pool, Wendy from Couture Counselor 

This year she asked me for some new dresses and making them during grandma camp was perfect timing so that she could be involved.

At 4 she is a bit small to be doing any actual sewing. However, she helped with picking out her fabrics, placing pattern weights to hold down the patterns and passing me pins one at a time.
At the sewing machine she sat on my lap and put her hands on mine as we guided the fabric (reminded me of when I was little and would stand on my dad's shoes to dance!), she removed the pins and operated the foot up/down button, turned the fabric when needed and used the snips to trim the threads. I think if someone was there to see us they would have seen a smile of delight on my face and a look of extreme concentration on her part! For the sewing the only part she helped with was to sew the kangaroo pockets onto each dress. Pockets are her favorite part!! I think it took longer to sew on one kangaroo pocket than it did to make the rest of the dresses!

POCKETS!!!!!!
The kangaroo packets are fully lined, the hot air balloon is a self fabric lining, and the have reinforced stitches so that they hopefully stand up the the wear and tear of a 4 year old!

She was so proud to show her mommy and daddy the dress that she helped make! 'GiGi and I make these! I helped GiGi! On the SEWING MACHINE!!'

Fingers crossed that she will be a new generation of sewers and makers!

First dress was made from Hot Air Balloon fabric a very nice cotton lawn and I used a free pattern from the internet called the flutter sleeve dress. (of course I didn't bookmark it and now cant find the site again) I added the kangaroo pocket and the pom pom fringe and lengthened the dress. The top edge of the sleeves and neckline has a bias strip casing that has a narrow elastic threaded through. I used self fabric bias strips for the casing.


The second dress was made form fabric that she choose at New Rainbow Fabrics on Roosevelt road in Chicago. It was a deep purple eyelet and the lining is a lavender cotton. This dress was basically a copy of one of her favorite dresses that I did a quick rub off of. It ended up with a little bit of a handkerchief hem because I wanted to keep the eyelet border. The back closure is made with a continuous bias binding and bias loops with purple buttons from my button collection.  I think it looks darling on her!


I haven't sewn many items for the princess. Only her baptism dress, a couple Christmas dresses, her winter coat and some PJ pants and now these dresses. She gets many of her clothes from hand me downs from a friend with a daughter a little older than her. Plus these little ones grow so fast! This exception was made purely because she asked for them, I will never discourage her wanting to make something! Plus... I may have a bit of a soft spot when it comes to her!

Happy Sewing!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Designing off a base blouse pattern- changing necklines, sleeves and more

I found myself in need of some blouses. As I work through my never ending quest of defining and nailing down my style I see the gaps in my wardrobe. I try to keep track of the items I no longer wear and try to figure out why. Answering this question helps determine if it is that I don’t like the fit, the color, the fabric or if it is just something that has become old, tired and worn out. I also try to jot down the times when I look in my closet and say ‘I wish I had XXX!’

90% of my wardrobe is handmade and I have no problem with the idea of sending garments to the resale shops if they are in good condition or to the recyclers if they are worn out. It wasn’t always that way, I used to keep everything I made just because I had made it! I know only do that for special garments. Like fancy dresses or French style jackets, as long as I love them.

I really found a lack of blouses for the summer. Tops that could be used for business casual meetings or evenings out with friends or just some nicer summer tops. I worked off of a princess seam pullover blouse that I really like. Originally, I had designed this top with a back neck zipper but have found that I really don’t need it for most blouses. In cases where I think I need a little extra room I have been using a small opening in back with a button and loop closure.

In these 5 tops I have played with 4 different necklines and one with a fun collar, 2 sleeves and different types of sleeve finishes. All of them use a neckline facing and a baby hem for the body.  The short sleeves are finished 3 ways. 2 are finished with a baby hem, 1 is completely faced and one has a 2-inch hem with a side split. The last shirt is long chiffon sleeves with a cuff. I also played with the fullness of the top around the waist. 3 of them have a fuller body and the last 2 have a slimmer fit.

The necklines are a simple scoop, 2 have square necklines. One is a soft V with a collar and the last is higher and what I call ‘the Stephanie Boat neck’ it is as high and as wide as I can do or rather as I like! After all, isn’t the ability to sew all about making things that I like and that I want to wear!

The first shirt is very simple. A scoop neck, princess seams with a small back opening with a button and loop, short sleeves and all hems done as a baby machine sewn hem. This fabric is a bit of a throwback to the 1980’s. It is a rayon challis that I got from our ASG chapter neighborhood group leaders meeting this spring.






Shirt number 2 is a square neck with no extra opening. The sleeves and hem are machine sewn baby hems. The front of the blouse is embellished with pin tucks. The fabric is a silk/cotton voile. This is proving to be a favorite already!
In the photo on the right you can see the pin tucks. Always hard to see details on black fabric.




Number 3 is also a square neck without a back opening. The sleeves are completely faced and as you can see, I added a ribbon embellishment. The fabric is a wonderful Nano Iro triple gauze. The colors in it are amazing. However, the overall look of the fabric is lighter and the ribbon embellishment really helps to provide definition between my skin and the garment as well as provide a resting place for the eye. The sleeve facing a neck facing are from a soft pink cotton/silk voile.  (I know, I know... lots of voiles! They have been accumulating in my fabric collection and are finally being used!)






Number 4 is a blouse that I made for a refresh of my work wardrobe. It has a higher neckline, my version of a boat neck with a back opening with loop and button, a slimmer silhouette around the waist and a mixture of fabrics. The front of the blouse and the cuffs are from a hammered silk charmeuse, the back and the sleeves are from a matching silk chiffon. The back pieces are completely underlined with a rust colored silk/cotton voile to give strength to the seams and provide coverage. The sleeves are longer than usual so that they have a bit of pooling at the wrist. I only had 2 small pieces of the matching silk, less than a yard each and I had been wracking my brain with what to do with them, this was a great use! I even managed to mostly match the like colored wavy plaid. The front and across to the sleeves came out great. The back is a little off. However, seeing as I had just tiny pieces of scraps leftover I am quite happy with the result.






Number 5. This one was also a bit of an experiment. I had this remnant piece of cotton lawn leftover from a project maybe 10 years ago. It was time to use it up and get it out of my collection! This has a soft V neck, a split rolled collar and a loop and button closure at the back neck. The sleeves are finished with a split hemline and a 2-inch hem. The hem of the body was done with a machine baby hem. The silhouette of this top is a bit slimmer then the above shirt sleeve blouses. Between the print, the split collar and the split sleeve hem this shirt has a funky retro vibe that just makes me smile! The details on this one can be hard to see due to the print.






Sorry no real photos of me wearing any of these,except for the 2 mirror selfies as I was planning my wardrobe for a trade-show convention! My work schedule has been brutal and I am racking up the airline and hotel points big time this summer! Writing this from 30,000 feet! The times I have been home have been spent with family and friends and squeezing in some sewing and relaxing time for me. Doesn’t leave much time to set up the tripod and take photos.


I really LOVE having a great base pattern to work off of and play with different details. In a class a couple years ago we worked on defining different necklines that work on each individual. When I returned home after that class I used different color pins to pin these different necklines onto my dressform. It really helps to have them handy and to check a muslin or garment neckline.

The Princess and I enjoying a nice day at the Shedd Aquarium together!