Tag Archives: jalie patterns

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.

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.

I made jeans!

And they’re not Gingers!

Not that there’s anything wrong with Gingers, I’m sure, but I already had a Jalie jeans pattern so that’s what I made, and here is my Jalie jeans offering in the midst of this current Gingers maelstrom.

Doing what I do, when I wear jeans. Yep, that's a pile of magazines on the arm of the chair.
Doing what I do, when I wear jeans. Yep, that’s a pile of magazines on the arm of the chair, and fuzzy socks on my feet. Hey, it’s cold!

I suppose a more accurate title might be “I made ANYTHING!” but actually, I’ve been sewing quite a bit. I just haven’t been the slightest bit interested in taking off my incredibly comfortable lounging-around clothes to make any kind of effort in blog photographs whatsoever, as you can see above. I’ll get to blogging them, hopefully before spring, but no timeline guarantees here.

I made them on Christmas Day, because my daughter was at her dad’s house, and all the stores are closed so what are you going to do? Yes, I know, other people visit family or friends, but as far as I’m concerned it isn’t Christmas without my girl, so I’d rather not.

I know the theory is that blue jeans are super hard to sew. But really, they’re just pants with a lot of extra top-stitching. I did a quick muslin on Christmas Eve, just waist to knees to get the fit right, and then Christmas Day sewed the whole thing up. Jalie has their own sizing, and I think these were a U in the waist and a W in the hips. I also added 1 1/2 inches between hip and waist, and changed the leg shape from the dramatic flare to a more relaxed bootcut. And as is de rigeur in the SBC, I used Liberty lawn scraps to line the front pockets.

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A word on this jeans pattern, though I have shared this before: The good thing about it is, that every size from preschool girl to 3XL womam is in the same envelope.

The bad thing is, that they’re all on the same piece of paper. So there is a lot of tracing required.

But I can theoretically use this same pattern for blue jeans for both Frances and myself until we both kick the bucket. That’s a pretty good plus.

The other pretty good plus is that it’s a well-drafted pattern that goes together nicely. Notches line up, instructions make sense, and so on. I didn’t follow them completely, as I prefer the join-inseams-then-crotch-then-outsides method of pants construction. But whatever. It all worked. And I enjoyed using the bartack stitch so much, and pounding in a nice metal jeans button.

Oh, and I totally ignored the markings for rear pocket placement. I put the jeans together, and tried them on, and then figured out where I wanted the rear pockets to sit. I sewed one on one side, took off the jeans, and folded them in half carefully along the centre back seam, making sure that the waist band and hips lined up properly. I then stuck pins through all layers, at the corners and points of the one pocket that was sewed on, and used those pins on the other side to align the second pocket for placement. Easy peasy–but apparently something that is often overlooked either in the rush to completion or an urge to be completely faithful to the pattern markings.

Here is my butt, in the jeans that I made. No fancy topstitching this time, but next time for sure. The slight offness of the back yoke is the only thing I'm not really happy with, but it's usually covered by a shirt, so whatever.
Here is my butt, in the jeans that I made. No fancy topstitching this time, but next time for sure. The slight offness of the back yoke is the only thing I’m not really happy with, but it’s usually covered by a shirt, so whatever.

Since then I’ve worn them every day I can get away with. They are incredibly comfortable. It’s 94% cotton & 6% spandex, starts off fairly snug and then bags out a bit over 3-4 days. The photos in the post are from the point with the most bagging out, so there’s some additional wrinkles that aren’t there when they’ve been freshly washed, but they’re still snug enough that they mostly stay put (I can sit down without showing my underwear! THERE IS NO MUFFIN TOP!) and given all the rolling around these things tolerate, I can’t complain.

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And yes, there’s also a pile of books on the floor, and more books on the table.
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You should see the pile of books beside the bed. And the one in the night table.
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But at least I just gave away a box of books …
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… because that means there’s room for new ones! Ok, not really.

I love them.

And I will make more–but not until the projects pile is a bit smaller.

Jalie Stretch Jeans for Frances, Theoretically

So I mentioned a few posts back about how Frances now wants to be wearing jeans again, and if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen the picture of the jeans I started making, realized were the wrong size for her, and ripped apart.

And here is part 2 of that saga. I’m hoping it’s the second part of a trilogy, as I’d hate to have Jeans for Frances turning into a Wheel-of-Time-esque fourteen-volume epic fantasy. But time will tell. At any rate, it’s not done yet.

On the recommendation of some online sewing friends, I decided to give Jalie’s Stretch Jeans pattern a try. Jalie is a french Canadian company, and what’s more, there’s a small fabric store in Hamilton that sells their patterns, so hurray for no shipping fees. Also, their patterns have absolutely crazy multi-sizing: they start at about a girl’s size 5 and go all the way up to a woman’s size 3XL or so. All in one envelope.

In fact, all on one piece of paper.

This makes them very cost-effective, but it introduces its own challenges: for one, all of the nested pattern lines can be difficult to follow; this I solved by first tracing the size lines I wanted in a dark Sharpie pen so that I could then trace it onto pattern paper more easily. (It worked, if you’re looking for a solution yourself.) Also, the pattern pieces–some of them, at least–come kind of in a jigsaw-puzzle style, with for instance the top of the front leg on one piece and the bottom of the front leg on another piece, and you have to put them together before cutting out the fabric. It’s doable and laid out well, but it does take more time.

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Proper metal blue-jeans button, pounded in with a hammer and everything.

I have no one to blame but myself and the dozens of nested pattern size lines for this goof, but: I accidentally traced and cut out the low-rise view.

It took me a while to figure this out, though, and by then I was already invested in them, emotionally and physically, in the form of cut-out denim pieces partially sewn together with front pockets and everything. But I’m getting ahead of myself:

I do like how the back looks. Too bad they're too low.
I do like how the back looks. Too bad they’re too low.

So, to deal with my bunny-girl’s sizing issues, I went with a straight size-7 for the back pieces, and at the front graded out a fair bit, as I usually do with knit pants and dresses (and it works well there). For these, it did not work. I’d assembled the front pieces and back pieces, done the top-stitching along the seams, and joined them up along the inseam, when I held them up to see how they’d fit. The front pieces seemed fine, but the back pieces were a good inch too short on each side.

Thus followed the very tedious process of ripping out the double top-stitching on the inseam and the serging.

I was lucky to have just barely enough of the denim left to cut out another set of back leg pieces and back yokes in a wider size (this was when I realized I’d accidentally cut out the low-rise versions of both the front and back, but I didn’t have enough to cut out new high-rise versions for the whole jeans, so I cut the low-rise again).

You can see why this project took forever.

Anyway. Sewed them up, did the double top-stitching again, assembled the front-fly, and basted the front and backs together and …

…it was too big. Not much, but too big.

Figures.

Serged it down a bit on the sides for the final seams and back-tacked the side seams at the hips. It was also becoming clear that the low-rise version was not going to be high enough, but I wouldn’t know for sure until I got the waistband on, so I made up the belt loops, and put the last of it together, with a proper metal blue-jeans button and everything. And yes, it is too low.

It’s also too big. As in too loose. Which it really shouldn’t be, given all the trying-on we did while I was putting it together. But it’s the first time I’ve made blue jeans, so I expected some goofs and learning experiences.

blog-4-1Because they’re too loose and too low and I know Frances won’t wear them, I’ve decided not to finish the hem. I’ll just cannibalize them for denim scraps over time, and get some more stretch denim when I have the chance, and try again: high-rise; snugger in the waist.

The good news is that the rest of it went together pretty well and I got some decent practice on the contrast top-stitching and the assembly of the belt loops and waistbands and pockets etc. So the next pair will hopefully not just fit, but also look better. These ones were a bit messier than I’d like.

It’ll have to wait until I get more denim, though.

And hey, maybe after the conclusion of the Frances Jeans trilogy, I can make my own!