All posts by Andrea McDowell

Insulin Pumps & Social Dancing: M6173 etc.

This may be of interest to three people, all of whom know the answer already, but just in case: as a T1 diabetic with an insulin pump who likes to go out dancing in dresses without pump-friendly pockets, What To Do With The Pump is a real question.

Actually, What To Do With The Pump is a question to be answered every day, but some situations are more challenging than others. You need to keep it attached to you somehow, within the distance of the tubing.

And I have two answers: one for narrow skirts, and one for wide.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, my insulin pump is about the size of my palm and weighs slightly more than my cell phone. It has a tube about 18″ long that connects to a catheter  in my hips or abdomen, about 1cm long, that moves every few days to prevent scarring. It keeps me alive, so I’m fond of it, but little puts a damper on a dance experience–or other experience, for that matter–like finding your artificial pancreas on your shoe.

It can’t stray too far from my waist–the tube isn’t long enough. Regular skirt pockets aren’t sturdy enough to hold something this heavy (though pants pockets work fine) and it’s tricky with the tubing anyway. I keep telling myself that the next time I make a dress or skirt from something sturdy with pockets I’m going to add a buttonhole inside the pocket to feed tubing through so I can use it for the pump, but I haven’t tried that yet.

In the meantime, I make what I call pump holsters.

Narrow skirts:

With a narrow skirt, I’m just worried about keeping the pump in place, strapped to my leg.

There is an insulin pump in this picture.

I used to buy the holsters made by pump companies, but they never were quite right. They were almost always too loose, and even when they were tight enough, they’d slide down just with walking. The expansion and contraction of the leg muscles would work them down from upper thigh to knee in pretty short order, and the holster fabric tended to be slippery, which didn’t help. Many days I would pull the holster up five times in ten minutes, and then give up, and walk to work or wherever awkwardly clutching the holster through my skirt to prevent it from slipping any more.

So I bought the kind of stretchy nylon you’re meant to make supportive undergarments with in beige, and a couple of metres of sticky elastic.

9″ works for width for this model of pump

I cut just over double the width of the pump, and the length is a bit less than the circumference of my thigh. I sewed the narrow ends together, and on one half, I sewed by hand using a cross-stitch two lengths of sticky elastic.

Serged the narrow ends together
Stitched on the grippy elastic on the upper half, outside
Inside cross-stitching

Then I folded it in half width wide, sewed a pocket into it, and sewed the two raw edges together except for the pocket edges.

Folded in half, with pocket sewn in

It’s just the right size, and the sticky elastic helps keep it from slipping down. I can position it however it makes sense, and it stays nicely in place through a whole night of dancing (or a whole day in the office).

Wide Skirts

Wide Skirts have the insulin pump problem, and the underwear problem: when you spin, the skirt flies up. I can handle a bit of accidental flashing. But I prefer there to be a point to wearing the skirt, in that at least my underwear is covered more often than not. With a lot of spinning in a wide skirt, you can’t count on it.

Enter Modified Leggings or Bike Shorts.

I used McCall 6173 for this, as it’s a very basic leggings pattern with only one seam in the legs. I raised the waist by about 1-2″, and folded the fabric at about the spot on the legs that would give just enough length for the pump. This makes no sense at all. Here are some pictures:

Fold line drawn on the pattern, at a depth that is slightly greater than the length of the pump.
Pinned. Fold line is placed about the same distance from the edge of the fabric.
Top cut out.
Uncut fabric folded up at the fold line
Then legs cut. They look very odd at this stage

See? They’re shortened, but not just shortened, because there’s a spot in the legs where you’re meant to fold them up to make a pocket.

I then assembled them per instructions, and folded the legs up on the inside, and sewed in pockets on the inner thigh, much as I did in the pump holster, above.

Fabric folded up on the inside, sewn around with a zig zag stitch for most of the top, and a pocket formed that is just over the width of the pump, by zig zag stitching to the hem

Added the elastic waistband, and voila: a functional pair of something like bike shorts that has a pocket on the inner thigh on both legs just big enough for an insulin pump.

With the elastic waistband. They look weird, but they work.

It works beautifully. Exhibit A:

You can’t imagine how glad I was to have been wearing the yellow pair on the day I found out I’d been photographed by the local paper dancing at the Pier. Otherwise, my colleague’s question wouldn’t have been, “Andrea, was it you I saw dancing in the yellow dress in the newspaper?” It would have been, “Andrea, was it your underwear I saw dancing in the newspaper?” Which from a friend, mortifying; from a colleague … NO no no no nono.

It did a fantastic job holding the insulin pump, too.

I have a white, black, and yellow pair, and will likely expand as wardrobe dictates. And very likely wear them to work in the winter, because the regular pump holster is not as grippy on tights; I think these might work better. The white and yellow are made from a regular poly jersey: cheap, but not particularly breathable, which is an issue, but not as much of an issue as either misplacing my pancreas or displaying my undies for any journalists in the vicinity. The black pair is made from an athletic, wicking spandex, and is accordingly more comfortable.

Sizing Note

The first holster is self-drafted. Just use a tape measure and you can make a good size for you.

The second is based on M6173. According to my body measurements and the BMV sizing chart, I should be a size Large. I made up a size Medium, took it in a bit, and it is in no way too tight for the purpose.  Any leggings or bike shorts pattern would do, though. There’s no magic to this one.

Objects are less pregnant than they appear: Burda 5/17 Top #110

This was actually meant to be a test top; I wanted to make this pattern in the Mariner Cloth with the stripes going different directions. But I wanted to try first with something a bit less expensive, so this swiss dot cotton voile–again on sale from Fabricland. It’s super soft and I love it.

The Front

Generally the pattern went together well. I did a 2″ FBA on each side, leaving the giant side dart alone and removing the waist dart from the side seam to keep the proportions approximately the same. White cotton voile bias strips were used to finish the neck and armscyes.

I moved the ties down about 1″ as it was a bit too empire at the original position, and I probably could move it down a bit more. And I think the FBA lengthened the front a little too much; I might take some of that length out if I make this again.

Overall I love the shirt. It’s soft and cool and comfortable and extremely comfortable. But there’s no getting around that it makes a bit of a baby-less baby bump on the front that I’m not super keen about, and which would probably be more pronounced in any stiffer fabric. So it wouldn’t work for the Mariner Cloth. Sigh.

The Side, and The Problem. I am not pregnant.

The princess seams in the back and the side seams are all perfect; the thread loop and button closure at the back neckline worked out well, though I don’t think it’s strictly necessary. I never bother to undo it when I’m putting it on.

It’s a good pattern that went together well and I love the colours and how well they match everything, but choosing a fabric with lots of drape is essential to heading off any baby bump issues.

Sizing Note

This is my standard Burda 38 with a 2″ FBA on each side. I left the side darts in, and rotated the waist darts out of the side to reduce excess volume. And good thing, considering there was plenty of volume regardless!

Pink Avalanche #6: A Ponte Blazer (Burda 6587)

I’d initially bought this ponte to try out a boxy, unstructured jacket pattern. But I kept running into the fact that I hate boxy, unstructured jackets, so it languished in my stash. Part of it became one of many tries at pink pants, and what was left was just enough to make up this Burda knit blazer pattern. [in June. That’s the size of the project backlog, Dear Readers.]

Squinting brought to you by a free hour for blog photos at 2 pm in the summer. Oh well.

It’s not hugely complex, so there’s not a lot to say about it. Everything went together beautifully and it only took a few hours using the serger. And it is a perfect match for the pink in this dress, so when I want a nice comfortable combo for work that looks professional, this does it. I’ll be making more.

Sizing Note

Standard for me with Burda: size 38, graded to size 40 at hips, FBA on the bodice.

In this case, I traced the shoulder line both back and front out to the largest size. In the back, I scooped it back to the 38 by the bottom of the armscye. In the front, I kept it out, and then traced it back in a size or two from the bottom of the armscye to the waist. I then made the dart bigger at the waist seam to remove the rest of the excess. It worked! I have a bit of excess fabric around the shoulder, as you can see, but otherwise it fits just right.

Gloriously Disgraceful

Calamity Jeans

I love books, and I love sewing, so of course I signed up for Following The Thread‘s Literary Sewing Circle challenge.

You read a book, and sew something inspired by it. Fun. Yes?

Also the book she chose was The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopkinson, a Canadian author I’ve been meaning to read for ages. This novel is somewhere between Magic Realism and Urban Fantasy, set in a Caribbean Island, and with a very complicated protagonist at its centre.

Calamity–the book’s heroine–was fascinating. She has a mix of self-loathing and narcissism that was perfectly engrossing (who names themselves “Calamity”?) and combined a determination to do the right thing (so long as it didn’t inconvenience her too much) with an utter inability, at times, to figure out what the right thing was. And a spectacular gift in getting it wrong, and wounding the people who love her most.

She’s fascinating.

Front-ish, tucked in

It was hard to think of clothes inspired by the novel, as clothing didn’t feature in it largely, except for Calamity’s endless harping on Ife for not dressing sexily enough and her appreciation for what a certain handsome male character wore.  I am not sewing myself a scuba suit, So.

The Back

I went back to the First Date scene, where Calamity was trying to decide what to wear out to dinner. She tried on a dress, a skirt, and finally settled on jeans with a green blouse. Which she originally wore tucked in, but then the partner of her best friend from childhood, who she’d attacked rather viciously in a homophobic rant the day before, told her it looked better untucked.

Tucked or un-tucked?

I do have a long-sleeved green button-up blouse, but it’s August in the GTHA. Way too hot for sleeves. So here we have a blousy green t-shirt with my Calamity Jeans.

The Side, tucked in

I realize it didn’t have to be such a literal interpretation, but I couldn’t think of anything else that would fill a legitimate hole in my wardrobe and also fit in the book. I do have other jeans of course–with low waists–but I wanted one pair of high-waisted snug jeans nice enough to wear to work.

These are the Jalie stretch jeans, based on the regular rise, but raised a further 1-2″ all around. I did add about 1 1/2″ to the crotch extension, which I think may not have been quite enough, and I wish I’d also added about 1″ to the back hip width, where it is a bit snug. Of course it’s stretch denim, so it’ll relax with wear, but I really feel it when I put them on.

And I don’t think jeans that are a smidge on the too-tight side are inappropriate for Calamity, either.

Actual Front, tucked in. Yes, those are rivets. Apologies for the number of photos: if Calamity can’t figure out how to dress for her date, neither can I!

The denim is a heavy-weight 98% cotton 2% spandex blend from European Textiles on Ottawa St N, I believe. It’s been in the stash for a long time, so I’m not 100% sure on its provenance. It has enough stretch to give a bit without so much that it feels like jeggings, and despite the photos is a very dark indigo, not black. I did the topstitching with regular thread as I wanted a good colour match and none of the top-stitching threads were dark enough. The topstitching on the waistband and to attach the back pockets was done with the coverstitch machine on the chainstitch setting, to keep lots of stretch in the fabric.

Innards

For the pocket linings and fly facings, I used this Tula Pink bumblebee print. Not because bees are a feature of the book (I don’t think they come up even once), but because they seemed to me vaguely Bumble-ish, and Calamity’s search for love is very much a theme. So it’s tangential, but I think it works, and it’s also pretty and comfortable. And just to complete the theme, I embroidered a bee on the right back pocket with some metallic embroidery cords.

It’s a Sublime Stitching pattern. From the Big Flowers set, I think.

And just above the bee–though you can’t read it–I stitched Voglio Il Core.

I don’t think Calamity speaks Italian, but I got the phrase from a book on historical English clothing, where apparently a nobleman in the 1500s had the phrase embroidered all over a pair of his underwear. It means “I want the heart” or “I want the core,” and stitched on a pair of intimates it has a certain connotation, doesn’t it?

One of the things I enjoyed about Nalo Hopkinson’s interview for the sewing challenge was this bit:

… I guess one of my main goals was to depict a mature woman being gloriously disgraceful, instead of trying to fade away into invisibility, which is what much of the world still seems to expect of older women.

Calamity certainly didn’t fade away into invisibility, and I loved the line “gloriously disgraceful.” What a commentary it is on society that women are supposed to fade away, become invisible, age ‘gracefully’–which often seems to mean to stop wanting things. Stop wanting attention, stop wanting romance, stop wanting visibility or success. And Calamity has certainly never stopped wanting, especially love. From her daughter and grandson, from her mother and father, from Michael (who loves her, but not romantically), from the little boy she finds on the beach, and from men generally. It’s unclear how much she actually likes the two love interests in the novel, at least at the beginning, or if she is responding to their apparent interest in her. And she wants them to, just as she wants the little boy to think of her as his mother, to love her best, to want to stay.

One of the interesting parts of her very complicated personality is how very much she wants to be loved but how very hard it is for her to be loving, though she can and does turn on the charm when she is interested in someone.

Anyway. So no, I don’t think she understands Italian, and if she did I don’t think she’d write “I want the heart” across her butt, but I do think it fits in with her character, so there it is.

For embroidery nerds: the back side of the pocket is reinforced with fusible stabilizer; the pattern was traced onto freezer paper and then ironed to the denim. I embroidered the bee and the words first, and then cut out the pocket and finished it. The inside is lined with the same bee fabric to protect the ends of the embroidery threads.

You’re probably going to get sick of these jeans, by the way. I took pictures for at least five shirt projects at the same time as I took these ones, so they’ll be showing up again … and again.

Sizing Note

I love Jalie. Their sizing is a thing of beauty. I went by body measurements, Dear Readers, and picked that size, and except for changing the height of the waist, I made no other changes. So this is a size T at the waist, U at the hips, and in retrospect I could have gone to a V at the hips and given myself a bit of room (given that the pattern recommends a denim with 4% spandex and these only have 2%). But! No weird ease issues. I’ve now had the pleasure of sewing up a few of their patterns and so far, going by body measurements is a completely reliable way to choose a size.

Pink Avalanche #7: Stay Put, Dammit (Burda 2/18 Top #107A)

(I did tell you this was an avalanche)

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This shirt pattern had so much to recommend it: the cool twist, the interesting sleeve construction, the simplicity. But in the end I can’t see wearing it much.

107ab_large

The fabric is a lightweight rayon/spandex jersey that is super soft and drapes beautifully.

I can’t comment on Burda’s instructions, since per usual, I didn’t look at them. It wasn’t hard to put together, though, and wouldn’t take more than an hour if you have a serger. No bands so the edges are all hemmed.

The Side

And it does look pretty neat when you first put it on, but here’s the problem:

The Front, Grumpy Version

As soon as I move my arms, the neckline bunches up.

The Back

You either need to accept it as a gathered cowl-like neckline, or be constantly pulling it back to where it’s supposed to be. But it doesn’t stay put.

Sizing Note

Standard for me with Burda: Traced out a 38 grading to a 40 at the hips with an FBA in the front (and that was a fun time with this pattern). Overall fine, though I did end up taking it in a bit through the sleeves to get them to stay up when I rolled them up.

“Winter” Skirt: Burda 1/18 Skirt #121

I’m not sure what about this pattern makes it particularly winter-ish, but so Burda has named it, and I won’t quibble.

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The Front, with extra squinting on account of daylight.

Regardless, in linen, the Winter Skirt is very summer-appropriate. Thanks to Dressmaking Debacles for her recent inspiration. Her version was so lovely, and seemed destined to be made up in this fabric.

(It might not be recent anymore by the time this is posted. We shall see.)

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Pockets!

The linen is a Nani Iro from my favourite local fabric store. It wasn’t cheap, but it’s Nani! Iro! Linen! The print is so gorgeous, and it’s a lovely light linen. The only downside is that it is a smidge narrow, so to cut out the front pattern piece I had to go selvedge to selvedge, and so there is a smidge of text from the selvedge on the lower right front of the skirt. Worth it, though.

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The Side

The pattern went together beautifully, as Burda patterns do. The pockets are high enough to be stitched into the waistband on the inside, which is a nice touch–I try to modify pocket pattern pieces to do that where it’s not included, because it’s a good anchor that means the weight of anything you put in it is hanging from the waist instead of the side seam, which looks and feels a lot better.

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The Back. Wrinkles are from pre-washing. I have tried but they won’t be ironed flat. !! But hopefully the first time it goes in the wash, they’ll be relaxed out.

I can’t comment on the instructions as I didn’t look at them, but it all worked out. The seam allowances are serged to prevent raveling. The hem is blind stitched.

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Close-up of the front pleats and waistband. This pattern is made for linen, really.

Happily I have several shirts in my wardrobe that go with the print nicely, so I’ll be getting a lot of wear out of this skirt.

Sizing Note

As I usually do, I sized down by one from where the body measurements would put me in Burda: instead of size 40/42, this is a size 38/40, and it worked out beautifully.

The Hoard Metamorphoses

On the plus side, the fabric-shopping limitation I proposed in The Hoard lo these many years past has achieved its first goal: the fabric stash fits in the one closet, with a few manageable exceptions.

On the down side, rather than achieving this by buying less fabric, I’ve mostly just sewn faster, transferring the Hoard problem from the floor to my bedroom closet.

Which is now very full of things I like and enjoy wearing … and is also totally excessive. No one needs that many clothes. And rather than focusing on the items that will actually fill holes in the wardrobe, I end up focusing on the things I can make up quickly so that the stash can fit in the spare closet. Unintended consequences, Dear Readers.

I don’t feel badly about it–except for the part where I do feel badly about how many lovely pieces of fabric I have that I would like to wear only I haven’t made them up because they’re fussy and I need to sew down the stash quickly so it can fit in the spare closet. So I don’t feel *very* badly about it. Sewing is my therapy, and the past few years have been enormously challenging, what with job worries and my dad getting sick and passing away and the family unpleasantness that went along with that and Frances’s medical issues and eventual diagnosis and just working in a sector that has a fair bit of stress built in. And yes, buying fabric creates environmental impacts and waste–but in comparison to many other things I could have been doing to deal with all that stress, it’s not so bad.

It’s funny–to me–because Frances and I were talking/mocking me about this just the other day.

Andrea: Frances, Goodreads says I have read 50 books so far this year. [ed: it’s 58 as I write this]
Frances: That’s a lot of books.
Andrea: It is. It made me think that I need another hobby. But then … I already sew, and frankly more than I can wear, and I sew for you …
Frances: True.
Andrea: And then I thought, maybe I need another another hobby? But then, I go out dancing basically whenever I can and take classes ….
Frances: [laughs at me]
Andrea: So then I thought, maybe I need another another another hobby? But really? Isn’t that enough hobbies? So maybe what I need to do is spend some time underneath a tree this summer, staring at clouds.
Frances: That sounds like a good plan to me.
Andrea: I think this summer I am going to work on my unproductivity.

Sadly, this productivity problem has not translated into a house in a perfect state of tidiness, because that’s work, and work is not stress relief or therapy of any kind.

First efforts in unproductivity were promising: I spent an afternoon on a boat with a friend accomplishing absolutely nothing. Second efforts were fun, but less in line with goals: I spent a day making an enormous mess with acrylic inks and stamps and ended up with a mass of bookmarks. (Anyone want a bookmark?)

At any rate, I’ve been thinking about the amount of money, effort and time I spend on sewing. It’s telling to me that I can’t actually say how many pieces of clothing I’ve sewn up in the past month or so, but I know it includes multiple dresses and shirts, and shorts and pants, and pajamas and clothing for Frances, and a few things for friends, and that with just what I’ve already sewn up and not yet blogged, I could keep posting one project per week for a few months at least. And while sewing has had a good and useful and very helpful role now for a few years, it may be time to take another approach both to Hoard Management and Life Goals.

I mean obviously I’m not going to stop sewing, as there’s very likely nothing that will ever get me to stop sewing. But it would be nice to sew more intentionally, and see what takes the space in my life when it’s been freed up a bit.

So here’s my idea:

Limit myself to two sewn garments for me in any month.

Gasp!

Notice the loopholes:

  • I can sew things other than garments.
  • I can sew garments for other people, like Frances.
  • And I think I’m going to say it’s ok to finish up things I’ve already cut out without counting them.

But only two new garments for me in any given month.

It’s not a rule. More of an experiment–does this work better than not buying new fabric if it won’t fit in the spare closet?

I guess we’ll see.

My first casual jacket: Burda mag 4/17 jacket #114

Friends, this constitutes the second of two actual completed projects on my 2018 Make Nine list.

A floral bomber!

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This started, as it so often does, from the fabric purchase: the shell is a linen/cotton blend bought at Fabricland at 50% off for a jacket. I got 1.5m and spent at least a month trying to find a good pattern for it. Eventually I settled on the bomber jacket from the April 2017 Burda magazine issue.

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I would have preferred a zippered jacket, but it had everything else I wanted: the raglan sleeves, tabs at the bottom, use of cotton ribbing on the cuffs and collar, welt pockets.

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It took less time than I thought, but this was mostly because I was determined to have it wearable before it became too hot for jackets. It was not without challenges, however:

  1. The armscyes were enormous. I had a moment of misgiving after tracing the pattern out, but had never before made a casual jacket and didn’t want to size down too far. So I only took out 1/2″ on the front and back armscyes, and it was not enough. I ended up sewing the seams together with 7/8″ instead of the 5/8″ I traced, and that made a big difference. Unfortunately it also made the jacket shorter. It’s still long enough to wear, but I would have liked that extra inch in length.
  2. The jacket is not lined. That would have been fine with a normal jacket fabric, but with the linen/cotton, it was too sticky and clung to all the shirts I tried it with while fitting. So I bought some coordinating bemberg for $7/m and quickly sewed up a matching lining. Figuring out how to install it while enclosing seams was a challenge, but in the end it worked out.

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One challenge I’ve had with storebought jackets for lo these many years is that a jacket that is loose everywhere else will be snug across the bust. I was determined that this would be loose everywhere, just like in the sample photos, so I did a 2″ FBA on both sides. I left the side darts rather than rotating them out, and just gathered the waist darts into the ribbed hem. And it worked! No straining or weirdness. Nicely baggy, just as a bomber jacket should be.

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Also, I’m super happy about how well the collar points lined up:

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Right in the middle! Just as they should.

I’ve worn this a ton already. It’s super lightweight since it’s linen, cotton and rayon, so just perfect when you need something to cut a breeze or for a chilly evening. I am not a scarf or shawl person, so this works for me. And it’s super colourful. And it crosses an item off the Make Nine list. It all makes me very happy.

Sizing Note

I should be a size 40/44 in Burda; this is a 38 with a 4″ FBA across the front (2″/side). I kept the side darts, and gathered the waist darts into the cotton ribbing.

Fruity: Burda 6468

One of the advantages of always buying fabrics in super bright colours and prints is that eventually, they start matching each other. Case in point: I bought this fabric at Needlework as an impulse purchase because a beefy cotton jersey in super bright fruit prints was irresistible, and when I got it home I discovered I had shirt-weight jerseys and wovens that match at least half a dozen colours in the skirt.

I thought about making up the Burda pencil knit skirt again seeing as this jersey does have a lot of stretch in all directions, but Instagram convinced me to try something swishy instead–so here it is made up in Burda 6468, a pull-on elastic waist knit skirt with fitted from waist to hip, with a flouncy yoke. It’s got a cool seam detail on the front that’s a bit lost in the print, but it does make for a nice shape.

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And it is really easy to sew up. From cutting to sewing up the elastic casing, I think this took me around 75 minutes. And it looks just like the envelope. The seams lined up just right at the sides; the side seams matched to the hem. The only thing a little bit tricky was sewing the front pieces together, and even that was pretty quick. (Marked the spot where the two asymmetric seams match; joined them with a pin; pinned and sewed the right portion together from centre out, notched the top part, and then repeated on the left; then serged, again separately starting from the centre.)

I can’t comment on the instructions as I didn’t look at them, but really it’s so simple, it would be hard to mess up.

Given that this is a beefy cotton jersey, it has a bit more body than the fabrics shown on the envelope, and less drape. A drapier fabric would probably be more swishy and clingy but this works for the office and casual wear, and it is incredibly comfortable.

Sizing Note

Standard for Burda: 38 in the waist, 40 in the hips. I should be a 40/42 based on body measurements. I love how reliable they are; I did quickly double check the finished measurements on the tissue with a ruler, but as always–knock wood–it worked out beautifully.

Pink Avalanche #5, in which I hate slash hip pockets

There are two things I’ve been trying for a few years now to add to my work wardrobe: yellow pants and pale pink pants. Something like these:

The yellow ones haven’t happened because I wasn’t able to find a bottom-weight fabric in a shade of yellow I like, but I finally did recently and hope to have those sewn up over the summer.

The pink ones haven’t happened because I keep buying bottom-weight pink fabric in a shade of pink I like and then trying to make them up into trousers with slash hip pockets, and then hating them. I’ve made four initial pairs; one of them is wearable, sort of, and one of them is good, and two of them are garbage.

This possibly represents an excessive dedication to pink slash-pocket work pants, but I think I can finally put it behind me. The fifth one is, I think, good.

I tried trouser patterns with slash pockets by Vogue, Burda and Patrones. And they have all sucked. Not because the patterns themselves were terrible–well, with the Vogue pattern, it was terrible also–but because slash hip pockets are the absolute worst. Two of these tries (Vogue & Patrones) were with pink fabrics that I had high hopes for; one of them (the Vogue) is an absolute wadder, and the first try of the Patrones was ok … but just ok. And that’s after a whole lot of alteration.

These pants are a second try of the Patrones, with the back modified based on my StyleArc Katherine pants (as I know it fits); two inches added to the length, waist raised an inch all around and more at the centre back, pocket shape redrawn, and a lining drafted and inserted.

There’s a tl/dr at the bottom for anyone who can’t wade through all these details. I don’t blame you, either.

My Slash Hip Pockets Journey

Storebought

The pockets always gaped. Just a little, but enough to annoy. And then of course being storebought pants, if the hips fit the waist was too loose, and if the waist fit the hips were too tight. Once I started sewing my own pants, I rarely wore them, and they were the first work pants I gave away.

But that’s ok because I could totally fix this by sewing them myself, right?

Burda

Back in the early days of my sewing journey, I downloaded a Burda pdf pattern of a high-waisted pair of pants with hip slash pockets. I had such high hopes for them–they looked great in the magazine–but on me it was an utter disaster. Everything was too big. This was before I understood that I needed to size down by one in Burda, and I’d also chosen a fabric with way too much body, so they looked like big puffy clown pants. With gaping pockets.

With the combination of poor size selection and poor fabric selection, it’s possible that I would have had more success if I tried again. But I’ve since discovered I really dislike pdf patterns, so for me, this is not an option.

I traced out and tried a pair of pink ponte pants from a recent-ish Burda, and they were ok, but the waist is too big to be really functional if I’m going to put my insulin pump in the pockets (it’s just heavy enough to pull them down just enough to not look right). Plus I kind of botched the top-stitching around the pockets. So I wear them on weekends sometimes, but that’s it.

Vogue

I first made these up in a lightweight grey wool, a few years ago, before I understood that I can’t actually make up any Vogue patterns without measuring the pattern tissue to determine the actual ease/fit. At the time, I liked them and wore them a lot, but in retrospect the fit was pretty shit. And the pockets gaped.

Last year, I tried to use the proper size to make a pair of pale pink pants, and they were still shit. This is when I learned my first important lessons about pants with hip-slash pockets:

The fit is critical. It needs to be perfect.

  • It needs to hold snugly around the waist to prevent slipping.
  • Below the waist, it needs to have some positive ease, or any pulling will open the pockets.
  • The back needs to be just right–enough positive ease for the side seam to hit the centre of the leg, but not so much positive ease as to push it forward and out.
  • You can’t take the waist in at the sides. If you do, what happens is that the pocket opening, meant to be an inch or two forward of the centre of the body, is now sitting at the centre–the pocket opening is where the pants seam should be–and the pocket opening will stick out like puppy ears.
  • But if you’ve already done the front fly, you can no longer take it in at centre front. And if you pull the excess in at the back it will make the pocket situation even worse. So if you don’t get the fit, ease, angle of the pocket opening, and sizing just right before you cut anything, before you install the pockets, and before you do up the front fly, you are well and truly screwed.

This was as far as I got with this first pair of pink pants. Dear Readers, the pocket opening sat straight up and down on my hips. They were practically a semi-circle seen straight on. I felt like I was carrying Dumbo ears around on my butt. I opened up the pants, tore out the pockets, re-drafted and recut pockets with more of an angle so they would sit on the front, and it helped, but not enough to make them salvageable. Ultimately, I discovered that for myself, if a hip slash pocket is to start at the bottom at the centre of the body and end a few inches forward at the waist, I need the back pieces to be bigger and the front pieces to be smaller, and with this Vogue pattern, the front pieces were bigger–the centre side seam ran down the leg towards the back by an inch or two. The pockets were never going to sit where they should.

At this point I abandoned this pants pattern permanently. Nothing is worth this much work for so little reward.

Patrones

After my first pants experience with them, I figured this would give me a better starting point.

And it did. I traced off the size given for my body measurements and the pattern tissue added up in hopeful ways. I made the front pattern piece 1/2″ smaller and the back 1/2″ bigger. I angled the pocket more inward so it wouldn’t sit right on the hips. I used fusible interfacing on the bias edge of the pocket opening to stop it front stretching out. And I cut it out and sewed it up in another cut of pale pink bottom-weight fabric.

And the pockets gaped.

It was better than the Vogue pants–way better, an order of magnitude better–but it still needed a lot of work. The waist fit just right. The full hips were fine. But in between was a bit of a mess. So further learning on hip slash pockets:

Round hips are a problem. I have round hips, meaning that there is a substantial difference–over 5″–between my high hip measurement and my waist, and it’s all sitting on the back. This pulls the back of the pants backward and forces the pockets open. The solution to this is extra ease in the back of the pants over the fullness of the hips–i.e., rounded darts as opposed to straight. (The sign for this was a side seam that ran perfectly perpendicular and straight down the middle of my leg from the floor to the full hip line, and then curved toward the back between the pocket opening and the waist.) So I redid the back darts, and then the line ran straight down. But the pockets still gaped. Not much. It was way better, but they did not lie flat or stay closed. I opened up the side seam a bit to provide a bit more ease through the hips, and they still gaped, but now with extra puffiness at the hips.

Anyone else would have decided that this was just not going to happen. And possibly I also should have decided that this was just not going to happen. But in fact what I did decide was that this was absolutely going to happen, so the next time Fabricland had a members’ sale, I went and bought 3m of the same pale pink suiting so I could make another pair and, if they also were messed up, one more after that.

I know, I know…

But it worked!

This final version is the Patrones pants front, with the reduction mentioned above.  But also:

  1. Traced it out again from the hips up so I could redraw the hip slash and trace out new pocket pieces that were a) deeper and b) extended to the centre front.
  2. Cut out the pants front entire, traced the pocket opening on the wrong side, staystitched narrow strips of lining selvedge and then sewed them adjacent to the pocket opening, and then cut the opening off. This prevented there ever being an unstabilized bias-cut opening at the pocket edge, so it didn’t stretch out at all.
  3. I cut out the pocket lining as if it were the yoke–all the way to the side seam and up to the waist–traced the actual pocket seam, staystitched it, then cut away the opening.
  4. Then attached it to the front pants piece, and understitched it.
  5. Then added the yoke piece; after basting, I compared it to the pattern piece I made that was the entire front so I could make sure that, assembled, it matched precisely before doing the fly and attaching it to the back.

It was a lot of work. It worked, but it took a fair bit of time.

The back pattern piece is my modified StyleArc Katherine from the full hip to the waist; from there down it’s the Patrones pattern.

I used Liberty cotton lawn scraps to line the pockets and the waistband. I find using a non-stretch woven on the inner waistband of a stretch-woven pant helps keep the waist from bagging out, so it fits better and stays in place with wear. There are bar-tacks at the pockets top and bottom about 3/4″ from the side/waist seams respectively to hold it a bit flatter.

And I do like them a lot.

And I’m never sure I’m ever going to want to put myself through this process again.

All of the pants patterns I like, make more than once and enjoy wearing have horizontal pockets of some kind. It’s time to just learn this lesson once and for all for me: no more hip slash pockets!

TL/DR

Hip slash pockets on pants are tricky.

You need just enough ease so the front and back aren’t pulling apart, and pulling open the pocket.

You need not so much ease that excess fabric is pushing the pant away from the body.

You need the side seam to run exactly down the centre of your leg, so that the pocket opening doesn’t sit right on what should be the seam line. This may mean using different pattern sizes for front and back pieces, depending on where you want that seam to sit.

The angle of the pocket opening needs to take your waist/hip difference into account. A greater waist/hip difference means a sharper angle on the pocket.

You need to reinforce the pocket opening in some way to stop it from stretching out.

The darts on the back need to take your shape into account. Fit needs to be perfect from the waist through to the bottom of the pocket opening. If the back is snugger than the front anywhere in there, it will pull back, forcing the pocket open. For me, I needed to alter a straight dart into a curved one.

Ideally the pocket pieces will run from the side seam to the fly, to help prevent that from happening–but many don’t, and even if they do, that won’t be enough to solve a gaping pocket on its own.

You cannot take the waist in at the sides if what you’ve cut turns out to be too big for you, so it is important to make sure that the waist will fit before you cut out the pieces and assemble the pockets. After that, it’s too late to change (at least, without many hours of work). Measure the waistband, measure the top of the front and back pieces and the visible pocket opening, and if you can tell it’s going to be too big–alter that first. See where the top of the hip slash will hit wrt the side seam.

And good luck. They don’t work for me, but maybe this will help someone else.