Love Your Haters

Hello lovely readers. I’m sorry for my long absence. Partially sorry. I know there are blog readers who hate those kinds of apologies–you’re not waiting on tenterhooks for my next post! no one cares if I take a break! just get on with it!–and that’s fair, but I’ve yet to find a better way to begin a post after a long absence. Think of it as filler, like “how are you doing?” or “did you watch the superbowl?”

So I’m sorry for the long absence. This winter has been a succession of things that interfere both with sewing and with taking pictures. Car troubles–I got sick–my daughter got sick–our beloved little Simba passed away quite suddenly. I have lots of posts written up and waiting just for photos, but who wants to see my bleary-eyed, tear-stained, red-nosed face on top of a sewing project? Not me and, I’m guessing, not you. It will pass, eventually, as will this interminable winter which felt two years long on December 27th and by now feels like the winter in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. As if it will never end and I will be shoveling my driveway every three days for eternity.

So I thought, what better way to ease myself back into blogging then to write a non-sewing post that is sure to piss off everyone?

I mean, if you thought the fitting post was bad, or if you were offended by my feelings about the white supremacist sexual assaulter bigot who currently occupies the Oval Office, just wait.

I used to write for publication a fair bit. Mostly small pieces in mostly small publications, and it all ground to a halt a few years back for reasons that are largely incidental to this post, but which you may hear about the next time I feel like alienating my readers with a non-sewing post.

One piece, an essay about being a single mom and a type 1 diabetic, I placed in Brain, Child magazine. I was pretty thrilled. I wrote about how hard it was to take care of my chronic illness when meeting the needs of a small child without any in-house assistance, and how often what I needed to do for myself took a backseat to what I needed to do for Frances.

I didn’t think this was particularly controversial, but it inspired my first ever hate-reader.

My boyfriend at the time found her blog post, and for reasons that will remain unknown forever sent the link to me. He was very concerned for my state of mind on reading it.

This blogger–who was neither a mother nor a diabetic, by the way, let alone a type 1 diabetic single mother–took extreme issue with my prioritizing my daughter’s needs over my own. She’d never had to do it, but she was sure that if she did, she would definitely be able to make her diabetic care needs a higher priority than her daughter. I was doing it all wrong.

“Are you ok?” boyfriend asked. “You know she’s wrong, don’t you?”

“Are you ok?” friends asked. “You don’t deserve this!”

“ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?” I replied. “I wrote something with a big enough audience that I got a HATE READ! This is amazing!”

I didn’t enjoy what she had to say, and I still think she was wrong. But good lord, if there’s one thing that divides the successful from the try-hards, it’s that the successful have very large audiences, and in that very large audience is *guaranteed* to be someone who thinks you are the worst.

Some people hate Shakespeare.

What kind of hubris does it take to think that in a world where people hate Shakespeare, every good person of sense is going to love you?

There is a landmine directly under my right foot, and here I am, about to step on it. Ready? Here goes.

GOMI:

There is an undercurrent of internalized misogyny to the site as a whole that really gets under my skin. And no, it’s not because “women need to support women, always, in every circumstance, no matter what.” Women are humans and have the inalienable human right to like and dislike anything they please for any reason whatsoever. What bothers me is that it’s almost exclusively women who come in for criticism on GOMI, and much of it is incredibly sexist. “She’s a terrible mom because I saw a picture of her kids eating cheetos” and “she’s too fat to wear that” etc. I tried to start a thread once on the execrable “dating coach” and noted misogynist Evan Marc Katz (wisdom includes: sure rape is bad, but don’t let it bother you so much!) and basically no one posted in it. They were much more interested in whether or not a mom-blogger’s kids were allowed to play in an apartment hallway unsupervised for a few minutes one afternoon.

But I’ve found that undercurrent largely (though not entirely) absent in the craft section. Intersectional feminism is a Very Big Deal to most of the regular posters there and there is little tolerance for fat shaming or racism, for instance. Generally–though not always–if you’re being criticized in the craft section on GOMI it’s not because the women there are awful sexists who hate other women.

Generally it’s because they have very high standards. And I’ve gotten to know many former and current posters there, online and in the flesh; they’re not basement-dwelling life-ruiners. (I realize that all associates of basement-dwelling life-ruiners would say that.) Most of them are exceptionally skilled sewers who are very, very irritated at seeing sewing bloggers become renowned seemingly because they’re pretty young white girls who take good pictures, rather than producing clothing of actual merit. And obviously there are pretty young white girls who take good pictures and also sew well; this is the one and only time I’m going to come close to #notallmen-ing in this post.

Before you get huffy and unload on me: I don’t post there anymore. Now I hate-read it, and how’s *that* for irony? I didn’t stop posting because they’re So! Mean! though. They’re not (most of them).

I am going to suggest an alternative way of looking at GOMI to those who receive criticism there:

For god’s sake, how arrogant do you have to be to think that everyone is required to like you, love your blog, and if they don’t, never mention it where you can see/hear it?

No, wait. That’s not the tone I was going for. Let me try again:

Otherwise good people dislike each other ALL THE TIME.

Do you know which films get the worst reviews?

The big ones. The blockbusters. Because they get the most reviews.

And which books get the most negative reviews?

The bestsellers.

Seriously.

Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing was nominated for the Booker and the Women’s Prize for Fiction, won the Giller, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for English Fiction, and more. It has 51,394 adds on GoodReads as of today, with 277 one-star reviews. And another 687 are two-star.

Naomi Alderman’s The Power was one of the most-recommended, most-buzzed books of 2017 (and I personally loved it). 111,136 people have added it on GoodReads. 562 of the reviews are one-star, and another 1,701 are two-star.

Twoism, a book of poetry by Ali Blythe, has been added on GoodReads by 89 people.

There are no one-star or two-star reviews.

(I did enjoy it. This is not a criticism of Blythe’s book, only a demonstration of scale.)

Now tell me: which of those books would you prefer to be the author of?

The ones that won prizes, were written up all over the world, discussed endlessly, and sold tens or hundreds of thousands of copies?–and which also garnered hundreds or thousands of bad reviews on GoodReads, some of them probably quite mean.

Or the one with no bad reviews and 89 readers?

And can you imagine, really, either Madeleine Thien or Naomi Alderman reading those one- and two-star reviews, and going on their websites to complain about basement-dwelling meanies or haters?

Like it or not, when you write a blog, you are creating a cultural artefact, like a book or a movie, with an audience.

I can’t imagine deciding that the only reason a person might not like your blog, and might say so publicly, is because they are composed of 100% hate with no good thing to recommend them.

Yes, of course that happens sometimes. There were a lot of reviews on The Power by white boys absolutely outraged by a portrayal of a world in which they were systematically disadvantaged, and who spectacularly missed the point (that being that power corrupts whether it’s held by a man or a woman). But not all of them. Compare these two one-star reviews, both by women:

“It all sounds ok, right? Well, it isn’t. I don’t care one bit about Alderman’s link with Atwood, her ability to write a good sentence, or the fact this book has sold and sold and sold, been broadcast on BBC radio 4, and will probably end up as a movie. It’s sick. I get that the world would alter considerably if women became the big kahunas. I get that things could go wrong. I also understand that there could be a real backlash against men if women suddenly became so strong that they could do whatever they wanted to a man, but I don’t believe women would become so feral and so insanely cruel.”

And this one:

I think the beginning of The Power was a lot stronger than the middle and the end (minus the last few pages, which I actually really enjoyed). I think with some more editing, or perhaps a few stronger or harder hitting scenes, the book would have been better. Unfortunately it kind of drifted off into a sea of blandness and I stopped caring about any of the characters and their shenanigans.”

These two reviews were written about the same book. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?

I understand the first reviewer’s reaction, though I didn’t share it. I frankly don’t understand how someone could ask for harder-hitting scenes in a book that describes rape, torture, genocide, and the slaughter of children, but that was the second reviewer’s reaction and she’s entitled to prefer books composed of 99% atrocities if she wants. Both of them are entitled to share their opinions on GoodReads, which does not exist to reassure authors and sell books but to help readers find books they’re more likely to enjoy reading, and critical and negative reviews are a part of that.

It would be completely wrong, in every sense, to say that these two women are “haters” or “losers” who live in a basement somewhere and don’t have lives and are just jealous and like to tear successful authors down. They read a book, they are sharing their opinion, it is a critical opinion.

A blog can be a wonderful tool to build communities and make friends, just like a book.

Like a book, it is intensely personal, a long-term effort by a single person who puts a lot of themself into something that feels like an extension of their very soul.

And also like a book, it is a cultural product in the public domain which people are allowed to have and express negative opinions on–even really stupid negative opinions.

You wouldn’t support an actress going on TV to complain about how all the negative reviews of their last performance hurt her feelings and undermine the cause of feminism.

You wouldn’t support an author taking to the press to complain that criticism of their latest actions or writings meant they were jealous haters who lived to tear others down.

(Atwood tried that recently in the Globe and Mail, and it didn’t go well for her.)

You wouldn’t support a musician posting on FaceBook about how negative reviews of their last album must have been written by trolls who don’t understand the first thing about music.

So please, for the love of god, stop posting on your blog about those awful basement-dwelling GOMI trolls who are anti-feminism because they don’t like your blog. It’s childish, it’s unprofessional, and it’s deeply unattractive.

(Although I suppose if Margaret Atwood got money from the Globe to do that very thing, it is quite likely that there will always be people willing to provide an audience for mindless positivity and uncritical acceptance of every god-damned thing on the internet, so long as the ‘content creator’ is well-known. It’s not like she’s been fiscally penalized for her insistence of her every word being treated as Feminist Gospel by everyone. Yet.)

The only way to avoid negative reviews is by having no readers.

You get negative reviews because you have a lot of readers. That’s a good thing.

Since I myself have almost no readers, no one I’m talking about will see this. Alas.

Happy New Year (Please)

I think we’re all still here.

If not, this is a weird and frankly crappy version of an afterlife.

It’s an odd observation, I’ll grant you, but after this year we’ve had, even finding out that I’m actually dead and this is life beyond the grave would not surprise me.

How about you? Do you greet each day now with a “what fresh hell is this?” Do you log on to the internet braced for news of catastrophes? Do you find yourself sitting with friends in stunned silence from time to time, asking each other, “That happened, right? That was real?”

Look, if you’d gone back two years and told me that one day, I would be grateful every time the American president failed to start a nuclear war with North Korea via twitter, I would have thought you were smoking something.

But here we are, and this is a daily reality, as reported on in the press.

Other daily questions:

Does the GOP have a spine?

If so, where did they put it, and can they find it in time to prevent the destruction of all life on earth?

If not, can one be found for them? How?

North America experienced three historically unprecedented hurricanes and forest fires all over, so how is it we keep talking about climate change as something that’s going to affect us “one day?” Is today the “one day” people are talking about? Because that’s some serious and scary shit and people used to say that we’d take climate change seriously when it started affecting us and killing wealthy people in first world countries and here we are and no one seems to be taking it very seriously. Which I personally don’t find surprising, but when I said this previously, people called me a pessimist and a Cassandra. Yet here we are.

How many men who have been held up as cultural icons for decades are we going to learn have been preying on women in not-so-secrecy?

When will this (painful, potentially genital) rash of disclosures end?

When it does, how many people are going to try to shove us back in the box of “it’s not that bad” and “but why didn’t you come forward before” and “it was just a misunderstanding” and “really if you don’t want a superior at work to lock you in an office and show you his penis you should be swaddling yourself head to foot with three layers of chenille blankets every day”?

Will it work? Or is this something new?

If it is new, when is going to trickle down to those of us with predators and abusers who are not famous? Because there are absolutely some men in my history who should be in jail and aren’t, and no way no how do I yet feel like I could come forward with those stories and expect anything but excoriation and grief.

And the whole Russia thing is super weird, yes?

Did America’s former defining enemy actually buy the American election?

Are we sure that isn’t just a le Carre spy novel?

I mean, does it seem credible? Would you have gone to see a movie with that plotline, two years ago?

And Nazis?

Really, 2017? You had to bring back actual Nazis?

Strutting around in public with their faces showing giving Hitler salutes?

In America, in Europe, here in Canada?

Oh plus “I’m not a Nazi” Nazis. “Alt-right” Nazis. “Proud Boy” Nazis. “Nazi sympathizer” Nazis. I’m so glad we’ve found so many creative ways to make Nazis feel less judged about being Nazis. Meanwhile using the preferred pronouns of trans people is, apparently, an assault on freedom of speech. Because it’s good to make Nazis feel comfortable but extending the same courtesy to transgender children is special snowflake SJW ridiculousness, or somesuch.

Will I feel better if I drink more tea?

Was it just not enough tea yet?

How about wine?

Ugh.

~~~~~

Not everything is global doom and gloom.

(It just feels like it too much of the time.)

For instance, we got a (knock on wood) diagnosis for Frances.

Prenatal ultrasounds showed something was up with her bones; and here we are, 14 years later, knowing which funky gene is to blame.

It is a newly identified mutation and Frances is the ninth person in the history of humanity to be identified with it.

This is, perhaps you can imagine, really Big News. I’m still a bit wary of it. That particular rug, the “we’re for sure this time really certain about what’s up with Frances” rug, has been pulled out from under our feet many times. So I’ll believe it fully when the study is published next year and an anonymized Frances is indeed in it and I can see it all for myself. Frances, however, feels much better knowing what’s up, and that is good.

She’s taken to highschool like she was born to it, mastering the hallways and lockers and increased expectations and social demands like a pro. She’s kicking ass and taking names in art and languages, with a midterm 97% in French, as I expected; she is loved by her teachers and her friends, which of course. But it feels like a gift. The school is committed to inclusion and human rights and it is reflected in the way they’ve approach accessibility for her, and what a difference it’s made.

Good things happened this year, but I suspect that in years to come what I’ll mostly remember about 2017 is the constant daily unending stream of global yuck.

But hey, it’s January and we’re all still here.

(Acknowledging that “we” leaves out a lot: the fortheloveofgod American refugees showing up at the Canadian border, the ones Trump deported or who were never able to arrive at their destination, the diabetic guy who died for want of insulin after he aged off of his parent’s insurance, the victims of gun violence, the Rohingya, those displaced by natural disasters–all those who aren’t where they used to be, aren’t where they were allowed to be, or aren’t anywhere at all anymore. That “we” is a pretty lucky group, the ones who are still “here.” So.)

~~~~~

2018, here’s what I’d like:

  1. Trump no longer in charge of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. Please.
  2. Whoever replaces him to be an actually better human being, not just a slicker friendlier face on the same venomous snake.
  3. A provincial election outcome that doesn’t undo all of the work of the last 10+ years here in Ontario on climate change and LGBT rights and health care and education.
  4. For Frances’s diagnosis to stick, and for her to be able to begin to connect with some of those other 8 people, and please for them not to be douchebags.
  5. For this long-overdue reckoning on sexual harassment and assault to continue; for the balance of power to shift so that men and women and everyone else share the reins; for women to no longer be safe prey.
  6. For outrage against racism and Nazism to continue to grow, and knock that hydra to the ground.
  7. For my girl to be as healthy, happy and loved a year from now as she is today. For her to keep that miraculous self-confidence. For her to never have a #metoo story of her own.
  8. For continued progress on climate mitigation. Any progress at all, please; no more backward steps.

I have no resolutions. No magic words. I want 2018 to be a year worth living, and I have some ideas of how to make that happen for me and for my girl and how we can do our bit for the wider world. If it ever becomes specific or tangible, it may turn into a blog post.

For sewing, I swore up and down that I wasn’t going to do #2018makenine, but then not only did I do a plan, I did a Plan, complete with drawings, paints, and ink pencils. Sometime in November I’ll look it up and I full anticipate to be posting a #2018madetwo around this time next year.

I spent all day Jan 1 tracing and cutting out patterns; needless to say, not one of them is in that drawing.

At any rate: 2018: oh god, please don’t suck.

I wish you all your very own Happy New Year–a 2018 served up on a bed of thornless roses, which you can look back on with some contentment in future years.

The Old Year

A Year In Sewing

I tend to be wordy even when I try hard not to be, Dear Readers, so no recap. Just a few links to some favourite projects and a couple of duds.

Things I Wear All the Time

Favourite Dress to Wear to Meetings, Warm Weather Edition

bloggish-137

It’s super comfortable, a bit different, eye-catching and–of course–it has pockets.

Favourite Accidental Favourite

bloggish-264

Technically this was a practice project, but I wore it all the time this summer.

Favourite Flounces, Times Three

bloggish-132
I Need A Nap

And I’m thinking of making it again with long sleeves, for the cold weather.

Favourite Floral

bloggish-43

For obvious reasons.

Favourite Dress Maybe Ever

dress

Which made all of the practicing worthwhile.

Favourite Dress to Wear to Meetings, Cold Weather Edition

bloggish-1

In ponte. Yay for ponte! I wear this one at least a few times a month now that it’s cold out.

Favourite Knit Shirt

untitled-77

Except not really, because I also like a lot of the altered Renfrews I’ve been sewing, but I haven’t blogged them (yet). Of the ones I have blogged, though, this one gets a ton of wear.

Yes, this is seven; it was still hard to narrow down, and there are so many more I wear all the time and are either too new or just narrowly less loved than these ones.

Duds

Why Is Yellow See Through?

bloggish-240

Size is wrong; needs altering before I make it up again; haven’t worn this version even once. Sigh.

Not the Flounce You’re Looking For

bloggish-96

Maybe in a different fabric; not in this lawn.

 

A Year In Reading

2017 was a fantastic year for literature; this tends to coincide with political and cultural turmoil, so I can’t say I’m 100% wholly happy about it, but I did really like a lot of books. I’ve made a GoodReads shelf for this year’s reads, and below are my top 7 with reviews.

Amatka

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

The Lonely Hearts Hotel

The Stone Sky (Broken Earth #3)

The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate #1)

Her Body and Other Parties

The Break

If there’s one that you must, simply must, make time for, it’s N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, of which The Stone Sky was the conclusion. It was stunningly, brilliantly good and a perfect comment on and antidote to our current moment.

A Year in Greening

This used to be a green blog, and in my actual day-to-day work life I’m still a professional tree-hugger, and this has been a year for environmental issues and happenings. I won’t dwell–in this post–on the climate change clusterfuck of 2017 of wildfires and hurricanes and Trumpster and his disaster cabinet leaving the Paris Accord (lucky you! something to look forward to on zoopolis next year), and will instead dredge up a few moments of hope.

I’m really looking forward to being a part of this initiative, recently announced and long worked-towards.

And I’ve spent a good part of my work time over the last year working on climate change impact adaptation planning in the community, which has been a mostly fulfilling way of combining intersectional politics with my climate change work. We* all know that climate change impacts vulnerable populations the most, globally and locally; but vulnerable voices are notably absent from climate change adaptation plans generally, which tend to be based on assessments by technical experts, who tend to be professionals and engineers, who tend not to be members of vulnerable communities. Starting the process of getting out into the community and finding those voices has been slow and difficult but mostly great.

(*”We” being those people not so stupid as to believe that 99% of climatologists globally have been somehow bought into supporting the theory of anthropogenic climate change.)

A Year in Quoting

One of my (admittedly geeky) habits is to reread A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, and one or more of the other Dickens Christmas books over the holiday. In all of the fighting over what Christmas is, what it means, and who it’s for, we tend to overlook how singularly important Dickens’ ideas of what it was about are to how we celebrate it today and the importance it has in our modern holiday calendar–and we have almost completely lost sight of the ways he used the holiday and his writings about it to focus on the less fortunate. Dickens’ Christmas books are not about middle-class happy families enjoying turkey and a nice bottle of wine after opening welcomed and appropriate gifts; they are about the vast numbers of people who can only dream of that. Dickens was a Victorian Social Justice Warrior, and he used his Christmas books to affect change in the attitudes of his contemporaries. (Except, of course, notably, for women.)

If I were you, I’d bypass The Battle of Life and The Cricket on the Hearth (the latter of which was more popular than A Christmas Carol in his lifetime), and read The Chimes or The Haunted Man. Here, to round off this year, is a bit from The Chimes, which takes place on New Year’s Eve:

The Year was Old, that day. The patient Year had lived through the reproaches and misuses of its slanderers, and faithfully performed its work. Spring, summer, autumn, winter. It had laboured through the destined round, and now laid down its weary head to die. Shut out from hope, high impulses, active happiness, itself, but active messenger of many joys to others, it made appeal in its decline to have its toiling days and patient hours remembered, and to die in peace. Trotty might have read a poor man’s allegory in the fading year; but he was past that, now.

And only he? Or has the like appeal been ever made, by a seventy years at once upon an English labourer’s head, and made in vain!

The streets were full of motion, and the shops were decked out gaily. The New Year, like an Infant Heir to the whole world, was waited for, with welcomes, presents, and rejoicings. There were books and toys for the New Year, glittering trinkets for the New Year, dresses for the New Year, schemes of fortune for the New Year; new inventions to beguile it. Its life was parceled out in almanacks and pocket-books; the coming of its moons, and stars, and tides, was known beforehand to the moment; all the workings of its seasons in their days and nights, were calculated with as much precision as Mr. Filer could work sums in men and women.

The saddest thing about The Chimes for me is how utterly contemporary so much of it feels. The wealthy assholes who pepper the book with their observations on the low character and ingratitude of the poor can be found any day of the week in a modern newspaper–now together with immigrants, refugees, and millennials. Inequality is rising. We seem so determined to repeat the mistakes of the Victorian era (in some cases literally, eg. the Trumpian’s determined clinging to a coal based economy, ffs); there may be lessons still to learn from the authors who took that society to task.

Santa Sewing

Santa Sewing being the presents you sew up to give people over the holidays, or to make for special holiday occasions. And there was a pile in December, mostly for Frances, who is not super keen on modelling so this will mostly be pictures of garments on hangers.

The excitement of figuring out how to fit Frances for pants went to my head, Dear Readers: After the jeans, I made her three pairs of leggings: one black bamboo jersey (so soft!), one taupe cotton jersey with fun animal heads for pj pants, and one a really plush grey stretch velour (even softer!). The velour pair is one half of any needed fancy-pants holiday get-ups, as Frances is a girl who generally dons a skirt or dress only under intense social pressure.

To go with it, I made her up a drapey long-sleeved top I’d previously made her in bamboo jersey, this time in a sparkly gold foiled spandex. No chance at a photo of this one yet, but soon!

A red sweater–some kind of textured poly knit, bought in the summer for dirt cheap, and finally sewed up. Frances loves this one and has been wearing it constantly since finished. This is a raglan sleeved Ottobre pattern (I can look up the issue for anyone who’s interested).

A large-loop cotton terry sweatshirt in the same pattern, slightly long to be worn with leggings.  This fabric came from Needlework and was a bit on the pricey side but so worth it. It is super soft and comfortable and very, very warm. Unfortunately even with differential feed turned up to max and the longest stitch length on my machine, and even after throwing it in the washer/dryer, the hem bands werestill super wavy. !!! Lots of hot steam and pressing has mostly repaired it, thank goodness.

Finally finished this very colourful cardigan. I think it’s acrylic but I’m not 100% sure (ends table). You could have knocked me over with a feather when she chose this fabric and the red sweater one above, after so many years of wearing nothing but blue, grey and off-white. Also an Ottobre pattern.

Pajamas. It’s impossible to find pajamas that fit her well in stores, and we have a tradition of new pajamas plus reading materials for a Christmas Eve present, so: flannel pajama bottoms, yarn-dyed plaid, with an ivory cotton jersey pajama shirt. Coordinated, and extremely comfortable and warm. Somewhat Christmas-y but still wearable all winter.

“Label” in the back of the PJ pants

And then another pajama top out of the same animal-print cotton jersey to match the leggings/pj pants.

I don’t know–do you think that’s enough for one person?

She’s just about all done growing so I can finally sew her things without fear of them becoming too small, hence the deluge.

A couple of drawstring bags for wrapping gifts. French seams to ensure that the bags last forever. I mean–come on–animals dressed up for an ugly sweater party. How could I resist?

There was another one with owls in Santa hats but I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of it

A couple of cross-stitched gift tags to accompany them. Yes, I know, work–but the tags and bags can be reused endlessly and with essentially no effort.

A new tree ornament.

I made a card for a dear friend, Jenn, who is (if you can believe it) largely committed to a social-media-free existence, so I can’t link to her. But she does read here, so Merry Christmas, Jenn!

Cross-stitch front of the card. No chance to take a picture of the finished card, but I folded a few extra inches for framing back, tacked them flat, and then used temporary glue to afix it to a piece of xmas-patterned red cardstock.

And this–which I’m still not exactly sure how I want to finish. It’s supposed to be for a gift tag but the aida count I used made it a bit too big for that.

But come on. Who doesn’t love an owl in mittens and a Rudolph costume?

(The cross stitch patterns all came from The Cross Stitcher magazine; mostly back issues, except for the card which I believe was in the December 17 issue. But it might have been January 18.)

A thematically-appropriate pencil/pen/brush/crayon/whatever holder  and zippered pouch for my Aunt Heather. If you click through to her author site you’ll understand immediately. Poor woman’s going to be swimming in seahorses (no pun intended) someday.

And hey, a few things for me, too:

This lovely pale pink foiled spandex, turned into another gathered-neckline Renfrew. Can be paired with skirts or jeans, so good both for dancing and holiday festivities. This and the gold I used for Frances were both bought at Fabricland on sale for $8.something/metre, and this was the 0.7m at the end of the bolt, so it was a $5 or $6 shirt. The foiling basically is plastic so sewing, and particularly hemming, were challenging. I had to redo one portion of the bottom hem four times. But it finally turned out and I like it, though I’m petrified to press the seams and melt the foil.

And a velour long-sleeved shirt, the softest ever raspberry polyester (not a phrase I imagined myself ever using) turned into a dress, a finally completed hot pink foiled panne velvet dress and dusty pink lurex stretch velvet dress–which will have their own posts at some point.

Still needed hemming at this point.

This is a metric tonne of pink. Maybe I should branch out.

It was a lot of sewing. And while I’ve enjoyed taking a bit of a break over the holidays so far and catching up on some reading, I can’t wait to get back to it.

Blazer-y: McCalls 6996

My office(/cubicle) is weird.

I’m either sitting there sweltering in short sleeves (or worse, long sleeves) or freezing my butt off. A colleague of mine actually bought herself an enormous work shawl for the freezing days so she can be swaddled as she types.

I supposed I’ve just described most offices throughout history. So “weird” may not be the word, but “unpleasant,” certainly.

So I made a cardigan of the “looks enough like a blazer I can wear it at work” sort.

I’m not in general a cardigan person, but this has been very useful so far.

untitled-5
The Front. And no, no bird in the house–just sneaking a peek at my daughter doing homework upstairs.

It’s an M6996, made up by many, beloved by most. View A, with the higher rouse and the flouncy back. I do like it. It’s pretty, comfortable, and most importantly warm.

untitled-11
The Side, plus a Very Messy Bookcase

The sizing, of course, is bananas. This is a small, or a size 8/10. I should be a large, based on the sizing chart. Fortunately there were a few reviews mentioning the sizing issues so I was able to buy the right envelope.

The Back. Flouncy.

The back is a bit weird. As you can see there’s excess around the armscye, and the bicep is still a bit loose even though I snugged it down (…from the small), but the side seams are overall towards the back (which you can’t see, but it’s true). I’ll have to think about how I want to handle that for any potential version 2. Maybe a higher armscye and a slightly slimmer sleeve?

The fabric is a remnant cotton rib knit. It has just the right amount of structure to hold the shape while still being soft and very stretchy.

I have a lovely heathered purple rib knit I’m considering for a second version, but if there are other good business-y cardigan patterns out there I’d happily consider those too.

Sizing Note

Again, I’m a size 16/18 based on their size chart, which for this pattern (though it’s not described on the pattern page–!!!) is a size Large for this particular pattern. This is a Small (8/10). There’s an FBA brought to you by the magic of pivot-and-slide, on the front pieces. It worked quite well for this pattern.

Burda 10/2017 Top #119

I’ve been making a ton of t-shirts this fall, but don’t plan to post about most of them. They’re largely FBA experiments based on a Renfrew I altered to fit me, with darts rotated into gathers at the shoulder, neckline, or centre front. Mostly I got bored of basic t-shirts and could never find the patterns I wanted, so experimentation it is. It’s worked out fairly well and you’ll see them in posts about skirts or pants.

This one was an actual pattern, though, so it gets a post.

The Front-ish

The pluses are the waist tie, which obviates the need for fitting in the waist seam, and the distinctive seam lines (drop shoulders, triangular waist panel, peplums); the negatives are the d-ring, which I was not sure I would enjoy having attached to a shirt I’m wearing. But it was worth the risk to see if it worked.

The Side

It did! Here it is, made up in a plum rayon/bamboo jersey bought at Downtown Fabrics on Queen W.

Alterations on this one were minimal:

  1. FBA, some of which was rotated into the waist above the peplum waist gathers, some of which was eased in, and some of which was removed from the side waist as an impromptu “dart.” Next time I’d do more of this latter and less of the gathering/easing.
  2. Shortened the back by 1″. Sadly I goofed and shortened it also by 1″ at the side, which was way too much and raises the waist all over: not what I wanted.
The Back. You can see the tilt.

Otherwise, this is the pattern as drafted, d-rings and all.

Next time I’d lower the neckline in the back a smidge.  I might also extend the drop shoulder just a tad. But overall I love it and wear it all the time.

Also: you don’t need the zipper. I put the zipper in, but I don’t use it. I just pull it on and off.

Sizing Note

I should be a 40/44 in a Burda shirt; this shirt is a size 38 with an FBA. The upper front is cut on the single layer due to the asymmetrical seam so I did a parallel FBA on both sides of the pattern piece. Side darts were rotated into the waist seam, and then removed during cutting & sewing along the side seams. Remaining excess was eased into the waist seam; particularly under the tie detail.

Sewing Pants in Spanish Part I: Patrones 370 Pants #3

The saddest thing about this whole post, Dear Readers, is that I finished these pants weeks ago and have been wearing them regularly but have not had a spare moment to take a picture of them. I had the best intentions this past weekend to find an hour on Saturday afternoon–and then what with holiday shopping, two birthday parties for me, one for Frances, and two other social outings, plus groceries laundry etc.–it didn’t happen. Sunday afternoon found both Frances and I napping. But I’m determined not to be the one who always posts on Amnesty Day, so! midweek evening inside pictures with messy backgrounds it is.

The last time I bought pants for work was at least five years ago. If you haven’t yet blocked it out of your memory, at the time even nice wool pants for office work, even in pantsuits, were so low-cut as to graze the hipbone.

I’ve never, ever been a fan of the low-cut look, particularly at work, but when you don’t sew you’re at the mercy of the manufacturers, so I have a few pairs of pants like this. Then I started sewing, and made pants which reliably covered my underwear when sitting down. Then I lost weight, and none of them fit. Now the only pants I have in my wardrobe which stay up are the ones that don’t reliably cover my underwear. Yet the patterns I have–mostly from StyleArc, which only sells one size per envelope–are too big.

(I did make myself another pair of Jasmines as I’d adjusted them a bunch for shorts previously, but you don’t really need to see another pair of Jasmines from me.)

(Woops, you got to see them anyway.)

This is a problem. I hate going back to the drawing board with pants because the fitting is so finicky, but you know, I need pants!

The ones in my Burda magazines are either too casual, don’t have pockets (which I need for my insulin pump) or have large and dramatic front pleats, which I’m not a real fan of. But there are two patterns in one of the Patrones issues I bought that look fantastic: one with cool pockets and interesting seamlines, and one swishy without pleats and a nice high waist. The one with cool seamlines was too low-cut for my taste, and the high-waisted one had slash pockets that I’m not really a fan of, but either seemed like doable fixes.

(They don’t appear to have a website and they certainly don’t offer individual patterns for sale, so my apologies for the lack of links in this post. You can buy individual issues through this website in different langauges–but alas, not english.)

I traced them both out in the summer and they sat, languishing, in the back of the magazine. Once again The Monthly Stitch provided the kick in the butt I needed to get working on a project I’d already planned–and this time, actually needed.

First up: cool seamlines. Which I was delighted to learn, while translating the instructions, is meant to be made out of stretch cotton. I happened to have this stretch cotton sateen in my stash, destined to be pants and waiting for a pattern, for years.

The Front

I traced the size 44 as the best match, then measured key points to make sure it would be in the ballpark. With the multiple seamlines front and back, I figured further fitting would be a piece of cake. I raised the waist 1″ front and back, and added 2″ to the crotch curve. (Note: Patrones skips some sizing in their patterns, so this pattern for example is listed as “size 40-48,” but the pattern sheets include sizes 40, 44 and 48. You’ll need to grade between the sizing lines if you fall between.)

Pocket linings and waistband facings are a very bright floral scrap quilting cotton. I can’t have the whole thing be neutral. They just wouldn’t be my pants. But also, using a non-stretch woven for the waistband facing means that the waistband stays the original size all day.

Also note the inside button in addition to the hook-and-eye closure.

OK, and look: these are a 44.

The Back. Fitting perhaps a shade too well.

AND THEY FIT.

No mountains of excess ease.

I know the photos show some wrinkling at the seams but that’s a factor of a) contrast settings on the photo editing program and b) sewing each seam with a serge and with a regular sewing machine stitch to make sure they are good and strong. They are good strong seams, but they are also seams with some introduced wobbliness.

I did make some alterations:

  1. snugging the waist a bit, where I fall between sizes.
  2. taking most of the 2″ I put into the crotch curve back out again–I’m thinking Patrones may be drafted for someone a bit closer to my shape, because it seemed mostly unnecessary. I figured this out after I adjusted the fit on the back princess seams so it’s now a bit too snug back there, but still wearable.
  3. using the back princess seams to take excess out of the thighs below the butt
  4. adding a 2″ cuff to the bottom because I forgot to measure and add to the inseam before cutting it out
  5. I took a very small amount out of the side seams–maybe 1/8″. I might put it back into the next one.
  6. about 1″ out of the centre back waist to keep the waistband snugger (it was gaping quite a bit), which is why it dips a bit.

Surely if Patrones can do it, other pattern companies that shall remain nameless can also do it.

The Side.

The tissue has been adjusted and I’m ready to make more; a teal stretch denim is all washed up and ready to go.  Next time I might raise the centre back maybe another 3/4″ but otherwise I’m happy with them. They’re comfortable, they don’t need lining, you can make them out of twill or sateen and because of the seamlines and the pocket shape they don’t look like blue jeans. They’re easy to fit because of the princess seams. The only downside is that by the end of the day they do bag out a little bit in the butt. I’m not sure if there would be a stretch fabric with good enough recovery to guarantee this not happening if you have a job where you are sitting and standing all day long, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Sizing Note

According to the Patrones sizing chart, I am just under a size 44. These pants are a size 44 as traced, with personal fit modifications and a higher rise.

How to Sew Something that Fits: AKA, Why I Always Include Those Sizing Notes Now

Putting the Conclusion at the Beginning

Everyone who sews knows there are big sizing inconsistencies with the Big 4 pattern companies, and that these companies have no intention of admitting to, let alone fixing, those problems.

So let’s help each other out.

I’ve written a novel here about how unpredictable Big 4 sizing is, and how none of the information available publicly ends up being helpful in deciding what size to purchase. But this isn’t just venting. There are two things I’m hoping to do:

  1. Reassure beginning sewers that it’s not their fault that projects don’t fit the way they’re supposed to.
  2. Encourage those of us who write pattern reviews online to be more detailed about how we ended up sewing the size we did. I’m willing to bet none of you make up the size you’re supposed to be, according to the sizing charts. But in reviews, most sewers only include what size was eventually used, and not how that compares to the size we’re supposed to be according to the charts. Unless someone has been following a particular reviewer for a while and knows what size they are supposed to be, that’s not helpful; a sewer still can’t pick a size for themselves.

If this post can inspire you to always include information about what size you used and what size you are supposed to be in every review, whether on blogs, review sites, instagram, or facebook, we can make this a little less frustrating for each other.

Ready?

Hydrated? Caffeinated? Recently snacked?

Ok:

How To Sew Something That Fits

In theory, one should be able to buy or trace a pattern according to one’s measurements and the published sizing guide and, barring individual body idiosyncrasies, make up a garment that more or less fits. Alas, this is not the case, as you’ve read me bitching about more than once. Over many years now of sewing clothes for myself and my daughter, I’ve developed a way of choosing a size and making it up that will end up with something close enough to a good fit that I can alter it with a few tweaks, so long as its construction is fairly standard. (i.e. basic darted skirts and bodices, pants or shorts with front fly construction, princess seams, etc.)

It’s a total pain in the ass.

1. Choose a size based on the finished garment measurements.

If I can get them. Indie pattern companies are pretty good about putting those measurements on the pattern envelope and/or the website. Big 4? Not so much. With Butterick-Vogue-McCalls, the finished measurements aren’t even necessarily on the pattern tissue. I recently tried to make up a BMV knit pattern where the finished measurements were not on the tissue; it wasn’t worth my time and I threw it away. I just opened the packet for a Vogue knit dress pattern, and the finished garment measurements aren’t on that tissue either.

On the BMV website, the finished garment measurements most often available are back length and hem width.

finished garment measurements
From a butterick pattern I recently bought. Good thing it was only $2

This doesn’t help me decide which size to get.

2. Double check those measurements by measuring the pattern tissue.

Because sometimes they’ve done the math wrong, and it’s better to find out before you’ve cut the fabric. Or they haven’t included the measurements at all.

3. If I’m between sizes, I size up.

4. Alter in ways that I always have to alter everything because bodies are weird.

For me, this means shortening bodice backs, measuring back widths and ensuring there isn’t too much excess along the zipper, doing an FBA, adding to the rise and crotch length for pants and shorts, checking hem lengths, and usually reducing the armscye (particularly with the Big 4).

4. Cut and sew.

Having done the above in advance, the fit on the first garment will usually be good. No muslin required. Again, that wouldn’t apply to something complicated, but even there starting with this will get me a lot closer than starting with the pattern tissue out of the envelope.

The only part of the fitting process that is, or should be, inevitable is altering for my body’s specifics. No pattern company is going to get that right. But steps 1 and 2 should be unnecessary. It should be possible to choose a size based on body measurements and know that the resulting finished garment will relate to the body’s measurements in a predictable and useful way.

What Doesn’t Work

People have developed a number of work-arounds that they feel quite passionate about, but none of them work for me.

  1. Pick a size based on your high-bust measurement!

The theory is that if you choose your pattern size by comparing your high-bust measurement to the published full-bust charts, you’ll get something that fits in the shoulders, back, armscye, etc., and the rest is easier to fit.

I wish. First of all, there’s still way too much fucking ease. This would only work if the size charts were reliable in the first place. Secondly, this will work only for women whose bust is approximately where the bust point on the pattern is. If your boobs are higher or lower than average, this will increase or decrease your high-bust measurement, making the approach utterly useless.

Speaking for myself, my high-bust measurement is about 36″. This is still a size 14–two sizes bigger than what actually works for me with most (but not all!) BMV patterns.

2. Look at the measurements charts and the ease charts and pick a size based on the measurement plus the ease!

Nope.

ease chart
From the butterick website. You may be surprised to learn that a “fitted” shirt can have 4″ of ease around the bust. Also note their use of language: “exactly what to anticipate when it comes to fitting.” Also note that they have a column for “bust area” ease that includes skirts, which have no bust component, and a “hip area” ease that includes shirts, even though they have no hip component.

Below, find a handy chart showing the ease and finished waist measurements of what is supposed to be my waist size of my most recent BMV projects. (Click to enlarge)

Let’s pause and share a moment of silence for the sheer amount of work it took to put this chart together. Also: the knits are highlighted green to make them easy to find and compare.

Of the twelve, a full eight have finished garment measurements that are either below or above the predicted range based on body measurements plus ease. That’s 2/3.

Moreover, they don’t always err in the same direction. While M7351 has 1 1/2″ more ease than it should, V7937 has 3″ less.

The ease charts no longer reflect reality, and a “close-fitting” garment–in jersey! FFS–can have multiple inches of ease, and that ease may or may not be what was predicted in the ease chart.

This chart is only available on the Butterick site. I’ve used the first column of ease because it is a confusing mess of a table (why are skirts in the bust area? What are shirts in the hip area? What about waist ease?) and also because all or almost all of the garments I’ve listed here fall in the first category of garment and/or have a bust measurement.

(One garment, V7937, is a skirt and so could arguably be considered to fall in the last column. But the actual ease in the hip area is still far under the ease chart guidelines, so it would fail no matter which I chose.)

3. Once you know what size works for you with a company’s patterns, just buy that size and then make the same alterations with all of them!

Nope.

Looking at the same chart, you can see that for Buttericks, Vogue and McCalls–all operating as part of the same company, using the same measurement and ease charts–anywhere from a size 10 to a size 14 will work for me.

There’s no pattern for which size will work based on fit, style, fabric, or anything else. Knit garments (highlighted in green) could be anywhere from a 10 to a 14. Woven garments can also be anywhere from a 10 to a 14. Whether it’s close-fitting, fitted, semi-fitting or loose also results in no predictable sizing. The one thing that is predictable is that whatever size ends up fitting me, it won’t be the size 16+ that is supposed to.

And it’s often not possible to get size 10, 12 and 14 in the same envelope, so I have to guess. I often guess wrong, which is what all of those “14 but quite big”s are about: 14 was the smallest size in the envelope and it was still too big.

I don’t like guessing, so I rarely buy BMV patterns these days.

(Simplicity is no longer available in Canada, so I have no Simplicity results to share. I’d be happy to include/link to yours, though.)

Why The Hell The Big 4 Pattern Companies Suck at This

Decades ago, clothing retailers cast off the shackles of standard sizing for women’s clothing and we entered a brave new era of vanity sizing.

What is a pattern company to do? Keep the sizing and ask women who wear a size 8 in a store to sew up a size 16? Or change their sizing to keep pace with changes in the manufacturing industry?

While they won’t admit to it publicly, they bravely opted to do … both.

They kept the sizing charts the same, so that nominally a woman who buys a size 8 in a store will need to sew up a size 16. But they (appear to) design for RTW sizing, more or less, so that if a woman in a size 8 buys a size 8 pattern and sews it up, it will often (but not always!) fit.

This is often described in short hand as “too much ease,” but it’s not really an ease thing. If it were, if I made up a 16, the basics (shoulders, back, armscye) would be essentially correct; it would just be loose or baggy. But the shoulders and backs are often too big, the armscyes too deep; it’s clear that the size 16 is designed for a woman much larger than I am, even though that size 16 reflects my smallest measurement.

This worst-of-both-worlds solution created a system so confusing for the average beginning sewer that it remains, to this day, the single number one most common and controversial issue among home sewers. The pattern companies don’t admit it, of course, but it is blatantly obvious to anyone who’s been sewing for long enough to have experienced this (unless they are brick stupid, and have managed to convince themselves that sewing is supposed to be so hard that sewing up a muslin for every new t-shirt or blouse pattern forever makes some kind of immutable and inevitable sense). (I mean–you know all of your storebought clothes were made by third-world teenagers who likely don’t have a high school education and have never received formal training in fit or alterations, right? Please someone explain to me why what is so simple that companies on the one hand justify paying poor girls pennies an hour to produce them, on the other hand is so complex that different companies state we should have to make multiple versions of a simple t-shirt before we get one that fits reasonably well.)

End result is that the sizing charts are garbage. They provide no valuable information for the purchaser. The information that the purchaser now needs is the finished measurements for bust, waist and hips, so that they can select a size based on how big the piece of clothing is going to be. But this information isn’t available, for most of their patterns, until after you’ve bought a size; and even then, sometimes it’s not printed on the pattern tissue. And when it is provided, it may not be accurate.

One might think that this enormously disrespectful manner of dealing with one’s customers would result in a complete absence of customer loyalty. I mean, if you were trying to buy a pair of shoes, and you weren’t allowed to try the shoes on or open the box first, and there was a published size chart measuring the width and length of feet but that, you found after purchasing a few pairs of shoes, had no relation to how big the shoes were so they were constantly falling off your feet, and you tried to find out how much room they added to those measurements so you could use this a guide to picking a size but the company acted like this was a fucking state secret, and then when you found the information it too was completely inaccurate–would you ever buy a pair of shoes there again?

No. And indeed customers have switched. Indie companies have sprung up in the wake of this (they have their own sizing issues, idiosyncratic to each company, but the dissatisfaction with sizing in the Big 4 has created a market niche that has been amply exploited) and many home sewers have abandoned the Big 4 pretty well outright by moving to pattern magazines or self-drafting, purchasing Big 4 patterns only when they are deeply deeply discounted and resigning themselves to a certain amount of guesswork in size selection.

It would be one thing if the Big 4 would say something like, “We know we’ve made sizing choices historically that have resulted in a confusing mess for customers. We’re not sure how to best fix it yet but we are committed to doing so by [date].” But no. Customers hear instead, “Choose a size based on your measurements and the ease guidelines that we no longer will share with you! You can always pick a size based on the finished measurements that we keep in the envelope and won’t let you see until after you’ve bought it! If we even bothered to put it on the tissue! And then you can’t return it when it’s not the size you need! Just sew a bunch of muslins for every garment you make! It’s normal to have to make the pattern half a dozen times before you can get it to fit! Obviously you don’t REALLY want to sew, do you?”

Pattern Magazines Suck a Lot Less

BurdaStyle does have ease issues, but considerably less so. Their charts put me in a 40/44, and I typically cut a 38/42, with the ever-present FBA. Still, that’s only off by about an inch.

burda sizes

Also, because there are no seam allowances in the patterns, measuring to confirm the finished garment size is a piece of cake. There are no ease charts to mess with. You pick a size based on your body measurements, and then adjust as needed. So here’s the chart for my last five Burda projects.

Look at all those lovely n/a’s! I don’t have to worry about the predicted ease. I don’t have to worry about finished garment measurements. It doesn’t matter if it’s a knit or a woven, a coat or a swimsuit. While it’s off by one size, it’s a predictable one size; I can trace out the 38/40/42 (or its tall/petite equivalent), measure the key points to ensure it’s the amount of ease I want, do my standard alterations, cut and sew. And at the end, it will either fit or be close enough to fitting that I can adjust it.

Moreover, I’ve so far found this to be true across european sewing magazine patterns, comparing between Burda, Knipmode, La Mia Boutique and Patrones. If I used my body measurements to pick a size, it will either fit or be off by one size. (So far. If longer experience shows I need to take that back, I will.) I’m making a pair of pants from a recent Patrones magazine; I traced off a size 44 based on my actual measurements compared to their size chart; and the only sizing issues I am having are for my own idiosyncratic adjustments (crotch length, inseam, etc). Otherwise, IT FIT.

Let that sink in for a moment.

I have an easier time getting a pair of pants that fit out of a sewing pattern when I start with a magazine published in SPANISH, where I can’t even read the damned instructions.

Indie Pattern Companies are Variable

 

There are a few indie companies that are much more reliable with sizing and fit. Grainline, for instance, tends to be baggy in everything. She puts the finished measurements on the website so you can check before you buy; they’re consistent and accurate, in my experience, if you like that aesthetic. How To Do Fashion is, so far for me, pretty much bang on. I can pick a size based on body measurements and it will fit really well, even through the shoulders and armscye, so that all I have to do is an FBA and shortening the back etc. (I’ve made one blouse muslin so far, and another pattern was almost done but it’s for summer so I may not finish it before next summer. Posts will come eventually.)

Once you know how big the garment is going to be, compare: to things you already own and like, or have tried on in a store, and to your own actual measurements. Find the size that is most likely to fit the way you like. Start there.

It shouldn’t be this hard. But it is.

In the Meantime

When you write a review of the pattern, help your fellow sewers out.

Include the size you made.

Include the size the measurement charts would put you in.

Maybe discuss how much ease there actually is, how many sizes down (or up? Does that ever happen?) you had to go to get it to fit. Compare to the ease indicated in the pattern description. Did it say it was close-fitting but then you had to go down three sizes and it was still big? Did it say it was loose and then you made it up and it was not so loose after all?

If a pattern company consistently produces patterns that fit you well based on body measurements, please tell us! They deserve our business.

Make it so that a beginning sewer, finding your review from google, not knowing anything about you or your size except for what you put in that one review, can make an informed decision about what size they should purchase for themselves.

I’m planning on making a page sometime soon to summarize all this and keep it in one handy place. If anyone else would like to contribute with your own sizing/fit adventures, let me know.

Frances’s Fancy Pants

Making pants for Frances that fit is one of the reasons I got into sewing clothes.

It’s also one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever worked on.

I’ve tried so many patterns and so many alterations, and most of them, Frances couldn’t wear. They were too tight here or too loose there or too low-cut or fit on the legs weird. So in the meantime we bought a lot of very loose blue jeans in bigger sizes and hemmed them shorter.

Frances does not want her image shared online without her permission so the photos will not be modeled.

Frances’s body grows differently; it’s part of her genetic condition. Her bones are a lot shorter, the joints are a slightly different shape, her back is quite curved, her ribs (and therefore torso) are bigger. Relative to other kids her age, she needs pants with a bigger waist, a snugger back, shorter legs; and then of course she likes things to be in her own style, which at this point in her life means “casual.”

It’s been an incredibly long project to get a set of alterations that fit her well and she enjoys wearing. But by George, we’ve finally done it.

Theses are the first pair of proper blue jeans I’ve made for her that she actually wears, and that fit.

They are not perfect. My sewing machine was incredibly unhappy about sewing through all the layers of denim and interfacing on the waistband and at the seams, so the topstitching is crap. One of the belt loops was sewed on a bit crooked.

Otherwise. I LOVE THESE. And so does Frances.

The pattern is a custom hodge-podge of Jalie stretch jeans, an Ottobre denim shorts pattern, and a trace-off of Frances’s favourite Old Navy Jeans, all with her alterations. The denim is very heavy, 97% cotton 3% spandex, from European textiles on Ottawa St N in Hamilton. $9/m, I think, so they were overall cheaper than Old Navy jeans. Nice metal jeans zipper. The pockets are quilting cotton with an adorable fox pattern on them, because Frances loves foxes.

I rigged up a buttonhole-and-button setup on the inner back waistband so we could get some buttonhole elastic and ensure that the back waistband is as snug as she wants it to be. It’s not as tidy as I would have liked, but it is functional.

My sewing machine went on strike over the buttonhole at the front: too many layers of fabric. I tried four buttonholes and ripped out three; the last one only completed halfway. So half of the buttonhole is by machine and the other half is by hand. It turned out pretty neatly, I think.

They fit her well (YAY!) but I have a list of small tweaks for the next one:

  1. take some length and depth out of the front crotch curve
  2. angle in the back yoke a bit more to make the waist a bit snugger back there.
  3. add maybe half an inch to the back rise
  4. lower the front pocket curve by about 3/8″
  5. deepen the front pockets by an inch
  6. and use angled pockets for the back rather than the rounded ones that came with the Ottobre pattern.

I can’t emphasize this enough, Dear Readers: rounded back patch pockets in thick fabric with contrast topstitcing are the devil. The fabric doesn’t want to fold in nicely to match the curve, even with gathering stitches to help; and the sewing machine has no interest in moving smoothly around that curve while topstitching afterwards. Angled pockets. They’re the way to go.

Exhibit A. These are not the back pockets to use on jeans.

The important thing is that now we are a hair’s breadth from having a perfect pants block for Frances. So I can make her pants that she can wear, hallelujah.

Also hallelujah: Frances has decided that the next pair of pants she wants, is leggings. That should be a much faster and easier project than blue jeans, even having to trace and alter a new pattern. (And in fact they’re already done, traced out and sewn up in a single day. Thank goodness.)

But after that: more jeans. More leggings. Fancy pants to wear when she needs to dress up and doesn’t want to wear a dress. Pants forever.

I cannot wait to make All The Pants for Frances. Frances now has a lifetime Pants Avalanche coming her way.

V7937: The Mullet Skirt

craft supplies
Same with fabric. Thanks to Laura for sharing the image.

I keep trying to make them the same hobby. Mostly by buying something bright and shiny and cheap and then shoe-horning it into a sewing pattern for a garment that I don’t actually need but will (hopefully) wear often enough to make it worth it.

Business in the front

Anyway: Saw this–I think it’s a light boucle? Definitely it’s woven loosely from chunky yarns and ravels at a touch. It’s wool; I can tell because it’s super itchy. It’s also shiny thanks to a beautiful gold lurex thread running prominently through it. Regularly $12/m, but half price. I thought I might make a full, pleated skirt from it and bought 1 1/2 m.

Then had about a hundred second thoughts. (Thoughts two to 102.) Do I really want, will I ever wear, a neutral metallic full pleated skirt anywhere, let alone to work? Maybe not. Pencil skirt? Too plain? This is the downside of treating fabric shopping as its own separate hobby.

A friend suggested a pencil skirt with a kick pleat. I didn’t have a pencil-skirt-with-a-kick-pleat pattern but I did have this pattern in the stash, which I’d never had a chance to make up. (It was a toss up between this one and a burda straight skirt with a front pleat, but their skirts are often very boxy and hard to peg, so I went with this one.)

Party In the Back

And that 1 1/2 m was just barely enough, length-wise, thanks to having to worry about stripe-matching and the length of the flounced pieces in the back. I do have about a fat quarter left.

It’s a straight view D except for pegging it in an inch on each side of the hem. The back flounces provide lots of room for walking. It was a straightforward pattern and I didn’t even look at the instructions (so I can’t comment on them at all); even drafting a lining from my skirt sloper was easy (short form: cut them out, treat the darts as tucks, serge the bottom of the pattern’s facing pieces, baste them to the lining pieces, sew the right side together; attach to the skirt; understitch; join the left side below the zipper; attach to the zipper; serge the hem to a consistent length; done). (By the way, the lining is a chocolate brown bemberg from the stash.)

The Side Doesn’t Know What It Wants

What made the project challenging was the loose weave of the fabric and the fussiness of the stripe matching. The first two pieces I put together I matched every second stripe with a pin and sewed it with a regular foot, and it was ok but didn’t match as nicely as I would have liked. So for the rest of the seams (and to be clear, there are three pieces on the front and six on the back, then sewing the front and back together) every horizontal stripe was matched with a pin, the pins stayed in while I sewed–slowly–over top of them, and I used the walking foot. That worked a lot better and I am super proud of how nicely those stripes match up.

Stripe Matching, aka, A Damned Lot of Work

The seam allowances were serged separately after I sewed the pieces together to make sure that the seams would be a good consistent 5/8″. I hand-sewed petersham ribbon to the inside of the waist facing for extra stability–it’s such a loose weave I worried about the waist growing over time–and did a catch-stitch by hand on the hem to prevent that from stretching out under the presser foot.

There’s lots of room for more pegging. Given the stripes on this one, I didn’t want to take it in more than an inch, but if you want a good fitted skirt with a dramatic back flounce, you can certainly do it here.

Even with the stripe-matching, sewing-plus-serging, drafting a lining, and pegging-after-the-fact, this was still a one day project. And it’s very much an Andrea-netural, so I expect I’ll be wearing it to work a lot over the winter.

I’m calling it my mullet skirt because it’s business in the front, party in the back. Get it? I know, not actually that funny.

The Shirt

Just in case anyone’s wondering: it’s a Renfrew hack, with the FBA rotated into a very, very gathered neckline, squared off a bit, and a 1″ neck band for something a bit different.

Sizing Note

The centre back, middle back and centre front pieces are identical for all three sizes in the envelope; all of the extra for the larger sizes is on the side seams. This meant that I could give myself a bit of a break and just cut all of the pieces out and cut the side pieces a bit big, rather than trying to measure the pattern tissue first and choose the right size. So I cut between a 14 and a 16, sewed the fronts and backs together, and then measured the waist and hip widths on the assembled pieces to see what I’d need. As it turns out, I needed something about a 12 or maybe a bit smaller, considering I joined the sides together with a 1″ seam allowance.

Oddly, the facings ran true-er to the sizing chart than the pieces did. It’s possible that the skirt pieces stretched out a bit while sewing, I suppose; but while the size 14 facings were about 14 1/2 ” each, adding up to the actual published finished measurement, the front and back skirt pieces, once assembled, were closer to 17″ in the waist. That’s a lot of stretching.

Again, I should be a size 16/18 according to the size charts. This skirt runs a bit big, but not as big as many of their other patterns–definitely the facing is off by only about one size. If you want to sew this one up, I’d choose the envelope that contains the size one down from the one you “should” be. Then cut yourself a size up on the side pieces and adjust accordingly once the front and backs are assembled.

PinkyLux School for Girls

presents 'What is a Woman'...because it's absurd to be a woman on planet earth, etc.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Enjoying a RTW FAST since 2015! Creator of "DESIGNIN' DECEMBER!" Addicted to sewing since the 70's! In a few words, I want to try everything, learn everything and talk about it with you!

Whatever

THIS MACHINE MOCKS FASCISTS

Doctor T Designs

Costumes, Cooking, and Crafts

Craftastrophies

Craft: (old English) 'power'. 'strength', 'might'.

Captain Awkward

Advice. Staircase Wit. Faux Pas. Movies.

The Monthly Stitch

Come sew with us...

Pigeon Wishes

Learning to sew and delearning compulsive shopping habits

knitting soul

turning the knots into something beautiful

Freshly Sewn

A sewing blog

Climate Change Hamilton

Be a Climate Change Champion!

trishburr.wordpress.com/

Insight into my work and inspirations

3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

Design Inspiration, Sustainability, Sewing, Style & Cake

Symon Sez

Passions gone public

Sew Pretty in Pink

Andie's sewing & crafting adventures in Toronto, Canada

THORNBERRY

Things I make and holidays we take