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.
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.
OK, and look: these are a 44.
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:
snugging the waist a bit, where I fall between sizes.
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.
using the back princess seams to take excess out of the thighs below the butt
adding a 2″ cuff to the bottom because I forgot to measure and add to the inseam before cutting it out
I took a very small amount out of the side seams–maybe 1/8″. I might put it back into the next one.
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 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.
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.
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:
Reassure beginning sewers that it’s not their fault that projects don’t fit the way they’re supposed to.
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.
Hydrated? Caffeinated? Recently snacked?
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.
This doesn’t help me decide which size to get.
2. Double check those measurements by measuring the pattern tissue.
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.
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!
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)
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!
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.
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.
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’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:
take some length and depth out of the front crotch curve
angle in the back yoke a bit more to make the waist a bit snugger back there.
add maybe half an inch to the back rise
lower the front pocket curve by about 3/8″
deepen the front pockets by an inch
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.
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.
Once again, I saw a yellow dress that I wanted to have and knew I wouldn’t be able to buy–this time because it retails for $7,260 USD. HAHAHAHAHA. (Ahem.)
But it is stunning. And I know I’m not the only one because I’ve seen it in several spreads in September fashion magazines.
As well as a live sighting or two.
Silk-lurex with a gorgeous beaded collar. You can really see the lurex in the Kirsten shot. To me it looks like a knit.
The embellished collar and shoulders are just stunning. I wouldn’t do beading on a project like this for myself as I want something I can toss in the laundry without fear, and I’d worry about wear and snagging. But this, I thought, was a great opportunity to try out a blackwork collar, and just in time for the Monthly Stitch’s collars challenge.
Which was in September. I didn’t factor in anything like enough time to embroider the collar, so this is a month late. But better late than never and it did turn out well, so…
I found a dark gold-yellow stretch silk in a store on Queen W for $59/yard … and put it back. Gorgeous but I would have been terrified to wear it to work. So instead I used a dark yellow brushed rayon, without stretch, from Fabricland on sale for under $10/m. I bought 2, and just barely managed to eke out the altered pattern pieces.
So this $7,260 USD dress was copied for about $30 CDN, if you include buttons, thread and embroidery floss.
M7351 has the shirt dress with an a-line skirt and a collar, but it doesn’t have the puffy elbow-length sleeves or the length. (It also doesn’t have the hip seam line but I wasn’t really a fan of those as they don’t seem to fit the model well.) So first step was altering the pattern:
Changing the longer sleeves to elbow length puffy sleeves, by slashing and spreading from the shoulder all the way down to the elbow and drafting a basic fitted cuff.
And lengthening the skirt by about 7″ to take it below the knees. That was all my cut of fabric could accommodate.
This is the Big 4, so of course it makes no sense.
I’m meant to be a size 16/18 according to their charts. This is a size 10D, graded to a 12 at the hips, with a small FBA.
Which is the point of the post, and also extremely technical and complicated, and therefore boring. I wrote a more detailed and technical post on embroidering collars with lots more background here, for those who are curious.
Collar pieces were not cut out. The cutting and seam lines were traced on to the fabric, and then the seamlines were thread-traced so I could embroider without worry of losing them.
The entire upper collar piece was interfaced, waste canvas attached, then basted to a piece of muslin large enough to fit in my scroll frame. I basted it around the edge and also around the cutting line for the collar, then trimmed away the muslin in the embroidery area. (I didn’t want to have to worry about differential shrinking between the rayon and muslin pieces later on, even though both were pre-shrunk.)
I doodled, researched, sketched, and combined blackwork embroidery ideas for the collar. I wanted something geometric and abstract that would echo the beadwork of the original, but also that had a recognizable motif. This was a tall order. This is what I decided on: the “floral lace” repeat from RSN’s blackwork book.
Again to echo the beadwork on the original, I used heavier threads at the front collar points. I worked the pattern from the points towards the centre back so the visible points would match. I’m not super worried about what’s happening under my hair at the back. I took photos of the first side then flipped it in editing software so I could exactly copy it on the other side and ensure the pattern was completely symmetrical.
Once the blackwork was done, I removed the basting stitches and cut out and assembled the collar per standard directions, following the embroidery to make sure it was exactly symmetrical.
I measure my embroidery time in TV shows, so, not including prep time and a few odd hours stitching while talking to Frances, the embroidery on this collar took the first season of The Defenders, the second season of The Get Down, and almost all of the first season of Master of None. Aka, a really, really long time.
It’s a shirt dress. Pretty standard.
Since the collar is the last piece to go on, I worked on the dress assembly while I was embroidering the collar. The rayon is very soft so I took extra care and fused some interfacing around the neck seamline so it wouldn’t stretch out while waiting for the collar. Otherwise: put the bodice together, put the skirt together, joined them, added the plackets, assembled and joined the sleeves, then the collar, buttonholes and buttons.
If you can believe it, after all that work, I made a small goof on the collar stand: I pinned it to the collar, decided it was 1/4″ inch too long on each side, took that 1/4″ off, pinned it again, and realized I was wrong and it was actually the perfect size before–but it was then too late. So I had to ease the dress slightly around the front to make it fit the collar stand without puckering. Woops. It turned out all right, but man, what a mistake to make, so close to the end and with a collar that was so much work to make in the first place.
The darts on the bodice ended up very pointy, so I took them out and did them again, twice.
It turned out the way I wanted, so yay! It’s rayon and wrinkles at a touch so this is as wrinkle-free as I can get it; also one of the lower buttons pulls across the hips when I sit down. Be careful of that if you use a soft fabric and make the narrow skirt. I’ve patched up a bit of pulling already and reinforced that area to keep it happier long-term.
This is another repeat dress inspired by a fabric purchase; this time a dress-weight poly knit with a gorgeous floral print that I made up into a heavily modified M7160, first made up earlier this year in a blue rayon knit.
1. Shortened the bodice by 1″ all around. The weight of the skirt pulls the bodice down; taking an inch out puts the waistline on my waist.
2. Swapped out the circle skirt of the pattern with the 3/4 circle skirt I drafted for the La La Land dress.
3. Shortened the 3/4 length sleeves by about 1″.
4. Did an FBA by tracing the front pattern piece and slashing and spreading from the shoulder to near the waist, to create shoulder gathers rather than darts. It worked well, but I should have then leveled the waist seam. I have a bit of tilt now introduced by this change.
There’s clear elastic in the shoulder seams and on the waist to help support the weight. Overall it was a really quick sew and makes for a practical and comfortable dress. (And this one also came to the conference in Victoria with me. I think it was $6/m for the fabric, and it can’t have been more than 2.5m for the dress–so a $15 dress. I am pleased.)
It does have pockets. The original pocket pattern for the full circle skirt worked just fine in the 3/4 circle skirt.
(When I was trying it on to fuss with the hem, Frances, sitting on the couch, said, “Oh! It has pockets!” Frances is a kid who wears a dress maybe twice a year, and yet even she knows that dresses with pockets are better than those without. If only manufacturers could manage this mental leap.)
I spent a bit of time looking up colloquialisms using the word “plum” for a punny title, because why not, and I was shocked! to discover that the use of the intensifier so many of us (or at any rate, I) are so familiar with should actually be plumb.
“I plum forgot” and “that’s plum crazy” and “we were plum exhausted”–all wrong! Who knew. English, you scamp.
But I couldn’t resist the punning so I am having it both ways here.
My search also turned up this gem, from Anthony Trollope’s Is He Popenjoy? Trollope, in case you’re not familiar with him, was a contemporary of Charles Dickens’ both chronologically and philosophically, particularly in their attitudes towards women:
“The words which his cousin had spoken had not turned him–had not convinced him. Were he again tempted to speak his real mind about this woman–as he had spoken in very truth his real mind–he would still express the same opinion. She was to him like a running stream to a man who had long bathed in stagnant waters. But the hideous doctrines which is cousin had preached to him were not without their effect. If she were as other women–meaning such woman as Adelaide Houghton–or if she were not, why should he not find out the truth? He was well aware that she liked him. She had not scrupled to show him that by many signs. Why should he scruple to say a word that might show him how the wind blew? Then he remembered a few words which he had spoken, but which had been taken so innocently, that they, though they had been meant to be mischievous, had become innocent themselves. Even things impure became pure by contact with her. He was sure, quite sure, that his cousin was altogether wrong in her judgment. He knew that Adelaide Houghton could not recognize, and could not appreciate, a pure woman. But still, still it is so poor a thing to miss your plum because you do not dare to shake the tree. It is especially so if you are known as a professional stealer of plums.“
I don’t seem able to go to Queen W without coming home with some fabric; when I was last there, introducing a local sewing friend to the joy that is the textile district, this fuschia ponte knit told me it really wanted to become a long-sleeved dress.
Well, who am I to stand between a bolt of ponte and the deepest desires of its knit heart?
And after working out the fit issues with V8685 with the red bamboo jersey dress, it seemed that it would be a fairly quick and rewarding project. Which was true. And because I could alter the tissue in advance rather than trying to alter the fabric pieces after they were cut, some of the difficulties with the red one were solved nicely (like the shoulders).
1. Removed 1″ from the armscye, front and back.
2. Cut a 12 everywhere, except grading to 14 at the hips
3. Did an FBA on the front, rotating the darts into the tucks
4. Took out 1″ from the centre back length
5. Took out 1″ from the sleeve cap, and then another 2″ in the sleeve itself. Which turned out to be about 1/2″ too much, but I can live with it
6. And took out about 1 1/2″ in width from the sleeves, which at first were baggy as hell. Even now they are pretty loose
Because the ponte has a decent amount of structure, and because the fitted skirt on this version doesn’t have the weight of the full skirt on the last one, I didn’t have to interface the bands or yokes and I didn’t need to make it quite so tight. I replaced the neckline facing with a strip of bias tape cut from a matching cotton satin, to prevent the neckline from stretching or sagging out over time and reduce bulk. The dress holds it shape nicely and is super comfortable. And I got to wear it for the first time presenting a talk on my community climate change impact adaptation planning project as part of a panel on community engagement strategies.
(“Community Climate Change Impact Adaptation Planning project” is, to be fair, half the talk, since the project title is so bloody long.)
It was a nice little confidence booster, and I’m betting I’ll be getting a lot of wear out of this one over the winter.
According to the BMV size chart, I am a size 16/18. This dress was cut in a size 12 with an FBA on the front bodice pieces, grading to a 14 at the hips. As you can see it is still not too tight. I love this pattern, but be warned: size down.
(I’ll be posting a project shortly with an embroidered collar, and rather than clutter that post with a lot of background information on embroidered collars, here is an info-dump to be read in conjunction.)
A nicely-embroidered collar can be a fun and fairly easy way to work some embroidery into a clothing project, taking a basic neutral garment and turning it into something a little special.
A badly-embroidered collar can be a fun and fairly easy way to turn a basic neutral garment into something that looks so unbearably amateur in six months you’re not sure you can wear it.
Collars have a big advantage for beginning embroiderers: They’re small, so it doesn’t have to take long to stitch up even if you’re new.
Collars also have a substantial disadvantage for beginning embroiderers: They’re highly visible and right near your face, so you will be carrying any mistakes around in a prominent location.
What’s a newbie to do?
You can make a regular collar and be extremely careful. Or you can make a detachable collar.
Of course, a detachable collar presumes you have a collarless shirt, dress or sweater (or several) to attach it to. I’ll assume you can manage that part, being enterprising sewers who know how to make collarless garments on which a collar would not later look completely foreign. I’ll also assume that you’re basically familiar with collar construction, and then gently nudge you towards David Coffin’s instructions on making plain detachable collars. And then we’ll get into the business of embroidering them (which of course also works on regular collars).
Here is an incredibly fancy detachable collar:
It’s hard to picture it being worn, ever, with anything but a cocktail dress. I can’t zoom in enough to be sure, but my guess is a stiff black silk, stabilized, backed with a lighter black fabric on the reverse. The silk would have been embellished before attaching to the reverse, and given the bulk of the embellishments that may have had to be done by hand. It would be heavy, for one thing, and stiff, for another, but it is beautifully done. It looks like clear crystals outlined in goldwork.
Here is a much less fancy embroidered collar:
This one’s not detachable, but you can see your range of options pretty clearly. Assuming you can transfer the script neatly to the collar piece this would likely take about an hour. It’s just a backstitch in plain black cotton floss.
Mark the area to be embroidered
The easiest way to do this is if you haven’t yet cut out the collar piece. Trace the cutting line and the seam line onto the right side of the fabric where you can clearly see them. Interface the whole thing as you normally would. If the interfacing is non-woven or a stiffish woven, you’re probably fine; if you’re using a loosely woven interfacing on the collar, stabilize the area to be embroidered separately.
If you have already cut out and interfaced the collar piece, trace the seam lines on to the right side. You can baste the whole thing to a stabilizer and hoop that, and just cut the excess stabilizer away when you’re done embroidering.
If you really, really don’t want to have to do this and really, really have a problem with hoops, you have a few options: either embroider using a pattern or style that minimizes any travelling threads on the reverse (this is what will cause pulling and warping) or resign yourself to being very patient as you go. Stop periodically and give the collar piece a good stiff tug to ensure that the embroidering threads are loose enough not to pull or warp the collar. Still stabilize, but just the area to be embroidered.
2. Pick your pattern or motif.
Colour contrast, size of pattern, heaviness of stitches, heaviness of threads, and any light-reflecting embellishments will have the biggest impact on how much attention the collar draws. If you pick something heavy, either because the stitching is very dense or the materials have weight (beads etc.), this may affect your choice of stabilizer, so be prepared to use something stronger if you choose an embellishment style that is very heavy or dense.
3. Ensure it fits nicely within the collar.
You won’t just be sewing the collar piece to the under-collar; you’ll also be topstitching or edgestitching. It’s best if you can leave at least 3/8″ of empty space between your motif and the seamline. If not, you’ll be topstitching on top of the embroidery. That’s not necessarily a problem, but it does affect the look of the collar and it’s best to choose your preference in advance of stitching.
4. An iron-on transfer or tracing/freezer paper is your best bet.
If you have an iron-on motif already, figure out how you want to position it on your collar, then trace the collar cutting lines or seam lines around it before you cut the motif out.
If you are tracing your own motif, same: trace the cutting lines or seam lines as well. This will let you get a perfect mirror image when reversing the pattern on the other side of the collar.
If you’re doing a cross-stitch or other canvas embroidery style, you can use waste canvas instead and count your stitches. This is a bit more work as you’ll have to baste the waste canvas to the collar piece and remove it afterwards. A higher number on the waste canvas equals smaller stitches; keep in mind this means more stitches, and more time stitching. A lower number means an easier, faster project, but maybe not quite as elegant or neat.
5. Hoop and stitch
Or use a scroll frame etc. Scroll frames have the advantage of holding the entire project flat and taut, and the disadvantage of extra steps if you want to use them for a small piece. In this case I basted the collar piece to a scrap piece of muslin and cut away the embroidery area in the back. But once the set up was done the stitching was a lot easier and there were no hoop marks on the finished piece.
6. When you’re done, and you’ve pressed the collar piece nice and flat, and it’s ready to be attached to the under-collar, I recommend using a regular zipper or piping foot to sew them together. Then you can stitch as close to the embroidered area as you need to.
Don’t press your stitches. If you need to press the embroidered area, treat it like velvet and use a needleboard or a towel so you don’t flatten your work.
Embroidered collars can be delicate.
(satin stitches, mostly)
They can be pretty.
(From here. satin stitches and french knots–and by now you are probably seeing that this was done a) on a purchased shirt, after collar construction, b) by a beginner (look how much neater the left hand side is than the right) and c) without stabilizing or a hoop, causing those bits of pulling and warping.)
They can be shaped
(machine embroidered; shaping of the collar also done by machine satin stitch. You can shape a collar with the same set of techniques you’d use for a scalloped hem, but I won’t get into that here)
They can be a bit cheeky and odd
(all satin stitch–check out how neat the borders are and how flat and shiny her floss is) (also: deliberately assymetric is a nice choice if you’re not sure how accurate your mirroring is going to be)
(satin stitches, back stitches, french knots, and some straight stitches it looks like)
(satin stitches, back stitches, french knots, maybe some buttonhole stitches; it’s cute and graphically it’s a lot of fun, but as embroidery it is not stellar. Still, it’s totally wearable.)
They can be ornate and dimensional
(I love this one. The work is gorgeous, the colours are fantastic, the collar is nicely put together–wow. She’s got fern stitches, fly stitches, a ton of woven picots, and pistil stitches. The fabric is a bit wobbly, which I think is a result of embroidering at least part of it after the collar was assembled, and the weight of the thread on a fabric that looks fairly light. From Senorita Lylo.)
(Another one by the same person, this time on a printed fabric. Just to give you a sense of how you can work with embroidery on a printed fabric.)
They can be incredibly fancy, like the D&G one.
A warning on the fancy stuff: The plus of using colourful and casual threads like cotton floss or crewel wool, as a beginner, is that mistakes (so long as they aren’t too numerous) look intentionally-wonky and charming rather than slipshod. The same does not apply for thread painting, goldwork, stumpwork, beading, or other fancier embroidery techniques. Then mistakes, even in selection of materials, just look sloppy and translate pretty directly to becky-home-ecky. The fancier the materials you’re working with, the less room for error you have.
One more Edna St. Vincent Millay. Then I promise I’m all done with her for a little while.
So it’s been a busy summer, in the best possible ways. Lots of dancing, bunch of concerts, lots of time with friends old and new, and a good smattering of dating. Plus, of course, sewing. Not necessarily as much sleep as my doctor would advise but that’s what we have caffeine for and I can always catch up in the fall.
Four of those five are nothing but pleasure. Dating–oy.
I like being single. February workday mornings after a major blizzard, ok, I wouldn’t mind having a guy in the house. But most of the time I love having my little house all to myself and my girl. I like being able to decorate it any which way I choose. I like not having to answer for how I spend my money. I like having the bed to myself. I like being able to leave an emormous pile of fabric and a stack of sewing projects in progress on the dining table for weeks on end. I like never feeling any pressure to spend my evenings watching a TV show I really hate to make someone else happy. I really, really like never ever having to pick a grown adult’s dirty underwear off the floor so I can move it two feet to the right into the laundry hamper. It’s well worth doing the yard work for. Or as Frances tearfully said one day when she was (needlessly) terrified that I was going to bring an xy-person into our lives, “I really love our single lives together!” I love it too. Maybe somewhere out there is someone even better than all of that, but he’s going to have to be. Better. Than all of that.
Which means dating, for me, is just getting out of the house, meeting new people, doing something fun, and who knows, maybe at some point finding the someone who’s better than all of that (it does seem unlikely that such a person would just materialize in my living room while I sit there in my pjs working out the fit on a new dress pattern). But I’m in no rush, and if it doesn’t happen that is perfectly fine.
But oh, Dear Readers, the number of times I have wanted to vent here about the assclown(s) I just ditched. It amazes me that in 2017 so many guys still seem to have the expectation that a single woman of 42 must be so desperate to be with somebodyanybody that they can behave any which way they please and a girl will just lap it up.
Most recently I had the pleasure of informing someone of why I, and I suspect most women in Canada, are going to be uninterested in dating a man who spends most of his time as a semi-professional internet troll, hating everyone except a very narrow band of straight mostly-white conservative guys who belong to the Proud Boys and read Rebel Media. As you can imagine, that excludes most people. It certainly excludes everyone I care about (so far as I know).
He actually provided me with his full name in a message and begged me to stalk him, which was how I found out about his online activities.
I harbour no illusions that being turned down for a date by a woman on a dating site is going to result in the kind of wholesale character transplant that would be necessary to encourage someone like this to start treating people with courtesy and respect, and if someone expresses a single off-colour opinion or even revolting come-on, I either block and delete or ask them a polite, pointed question or two before blocking and deleting. And most of the friends I asked about it recommended blocking and deleting, saying that they feared how someone would like this would react to anything harsher.
But to me, this is exactly the kind of behaviour that enabled the win of Trump, and is exactly the kind of behaviour since then that Trump’s win has emboldened: proud, public displays of hatred. This idea that we can just Nice awful people into better behaviour, that if we talk to them in exactly the right magical way they’re going to change everything about themselves and become good after a lifetime commitment to being horrible, that the important thing is keeping the conversation polite and on some mythical high ground–hell no.
We don’t do this with other antisocial behaviours. Sure, we hope people are going to do the right thing and pay their taxes, but if they don’t, we have an entire enforcement apparatus to ensure that they do regardless of whether they think taxes are good or neutral or evil or a sign of the apocalypse. And we spend a lot of time in kindergarten teaching that violence is wrong; and for those people whom the lesson did not stick, we have large, well-funded police departments to deter violence and prosecute violent offenders. (Its efficacy and fairness being up to serious debate.)
Yet when it comes to hate, we just … smile and keep talking until every individual’s mind is individually changed and they do right out of the pure goodness of their hearts? Just no.
Some people are hateful. Who they hate is going to change, but they’re going to hate. No one can change that. You can only change the cost/benefit analysis of acting on that hate.
Being one person, I can’t enact or enforce legislation; but I can confront this kind of thinking and behaviour when I see it. I think as individuals oftentimes the only thing we can do is make it clear that there is a social price to pay for being this kind of person, and it’s important to, because not doing so ultimately reinforces their ideas that everyone actually thinks the same way they do and they’re the only brave souls willing to express it. But I do really hate it when this kind of thing intrudes on what is supposed to be, basically, a fun social activity.
I was very careful not to call him names, and I was also extremely blunt.
It did not go well.
Mind you: “well” in the traditional sense isn’t what I was aiming for. But this was a guy who’d been very careful to keep all of the misogyny, racism, islamophobia, violent threats, homophobia etc. off of the dating app. So I thought if I engaged him I might be able to flush him out and report him. And while he obviously had made serious investments over the years in being an awful human being and is unlikely to change, he might pause before expressing it if he knows it’s going to interfere with his orgasm supply.
He was stunned and heartbroken to find I was not impressed with his digital footprint.
Dear Readers, to call these things walls of text would be a disservice to the construction feats that texts are capable of. These things were the motherfucking Donald Trump Mexican border wall of text. They stretched from horizon to horizon. I’d get one monster message, and stare in astonishment as the little typing-bubble popped up immediately beneath it.
It took me seventeen screenshots to capture his last message to me.
I reported him.
HE WANTS ME TO SPEND A YEAR ARGUING WITH HIM ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT HE’S A BAD PERSON.
Oh my god honey. Why don’t I take the stuff you post on the internet and run with that idea now.
The funniest part was him going on and on and bloody on about how at least he puts his name on what he writes and stands by the consequences, unlike antifa–a word I never used but he could not stop talking about them–and then tagging each message with this disclaimer:
And then any specific tweet or post I pointed out as being gross, he has since deleted. Not to mention that this Proud Boy, who has listed Proud Boys as his employer on LinkedIn and has a Proud Boys tattoo on his shoulder, started distancing himself from the Proud Boys philosophy as soon as he found out he might not get laid on its account. His bravery and conviction are truly astounding.
These assholes are why we’re all suffering through Trump.
Millay wrote a poem that I think is perfect for the age of internet dating (so about 100 years ahead of its time), possibly because being in a lifelong open marriage gave her lots of experience in brief encounters.
I shall forget you presently, my dear,
So make the most of this, your little day,
Your little month, your little half a year,
Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
And we are done forever; by and by
I shall forget you, as I said, but now,
If you entreat me with your loveliest lie
I will protest you with my favorite vow.
I would indeed that love were longer-lived,
And vows were not so brittle as they are,
But so it is, and nature has contrived
To struggle on without a break thus far.
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
Is idle, biologically speaking.
I think it’s safe to say that I’m not going to forget this one–but I won’t remember him fondly, that’s for sure.
So in addition to the regular pleasures of online dating including dick picks, inappropriate come-ons, regular harassment, and guys who mistake it for a therapy app–let’s add the odd conversation with out-and-proud neo-nazis.
And this entire post’s only tangential connection to the sewing project is this:
I said no to a date (to someone else who is safely non-bloggable) to stay home and sew this instead because I knew it would be more fun, not to mention the garment won’t make inappropriate demands on my person or my patience. If I don’t want to wear it one day, it’s not going to pout or throw a rage-tantrum. It’s fun to wear and it’ll never send me dick pics. It goes without saying that it’s not going to post hate speech on the internet.
(I do have a Sewing Rule when deciding on a date: If I know or reasonably believe I would have more fun staying home sewing or reading a book, I say no.)
It’s the skirt half of a Sewaholic Cambie view B, sewn up in and lined with a silk-cotton voile (bought half-price because that’s the only way such a thing is cost-effective). It’s airy and unbelievably flouffy. I could have five kilogram bags of flour strapped to my thighs under there and you’d never know. It has pockets in the front that you completely can’t see except as extra flouff. The construction was standard: join, gather, attach to waistband, install zipper, join lining and outer, finish hems.
There’s a second half to this project that will hopefully be done and posted sometime soon, so you may see this skirt again.
You probably won’t be seeing anything about dating again, unless and until someone exceeds the neo-nazi. Please join me in hoping that that never happens. I feel like I spent the weekend dragging my brain through sewage.
But of course I couldn’t make it black and white. Friends would probably worry about my health if they saw me in clothes without colour. So instead:
Where the white was replaced with a large-scale multi-colour floral on a black background. Both are cotton satins, not at all stretchy–and despite Burda’s directions, given the ease and boxy fit, you don’t need stretch. This is my now-standard 38/40 combo and it is nowhere near tight. I probably could have gone down another size, particularly given the faux-wrap in the front and the walking room it provides.
It’s not a really complicated pattern, once you have it traced and cut out. Tracing the pieces out correctly and cutting everything out on grain so that the print is aligned over the bands is the hardest part. Also a note of warning, in case you overlooked it as I did: Both sides of the front have a facing on the bottom rather than a hem, so don’t add a hem allowance, just a regular seam allowance. And the instructions will try to tell you that underlining the facings will keep them in place, but the skirt will laugh in your face if that’s all you do. Some extra stitching is needed to keep them from flopping down at the bottom.
The skirt front is two pieces when constructed: the right hand side with all the bands on it, and the left hand side underneath that is all cut out of the main fabric with two standard darts. You then baste them together across the top and treat them as one piece for the construction of the skirt.
I really like it. It’s boxy but comfortable and striking with the large print and the bands. Plus it has so many bright colours in it that it kind of matches by accident with half the shirts in my closet.
It might also be fun to make up with a solid for the main skirt and the print on the bands, if you like the overall pattern but find this a bit much. I’m a fan of a Bit Much personally, so this works for me.
The extent of my Spanish is the very small amount that penetrated through the two-foot-thick barriers I erected around my skull when Frances watched Dora as a small child. Which is to say: not much, and nothing specific to sewing.
I’m also not generally a fan of midi skirts or hi-low hems. But here we are: a hi-low midi-skirt in light yellow cotton twill, from a Spanish sewing magazine.
And you know something? It was pretty easy. Getting the pleats pointed in the right direction was the hardest part, but arrows are fairly universal in meaning and otherwise it was just–you know–a skirt with four pieces, pleats at the waistband, side seam pockets (that you do have to draft yourself but hell, it’s just a standard pocket shape, drawn to the waistband so that it’s nice and stable). Sew the front together to the notch to make the front slit. Invisible zipper extends through the waistband. Front slit was serged and turned once to make it neat, as was the hem.
And now I have yet another yellow garment.
(It amazes me that once upon a time I thought I didn’t like or wear yellow much.)
(I mean, I have three yellow t-shirts, two yellow blouses, two yellow skirts, two yellow dresses, and a predominantly-yellow striped skirt. I wear yellow the way other people wear black. Apparently. All I need now is a pair of yellow pants, and I mean that sincerely.)
The one downside of yellow being, again, that it is always somewhat see-through, and this is no exception, even though it is fortheloveofgod COTTON TWILL. That’s like denim. See-through denim. How is that possible? But I don’t care, I love it, I’m wearing it.
Now I’m trying to fight the temptation to get a subscription. I should fight that temptation, right? I don’t need another sewing magazine subscription.