Tag Archives: style arc

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.

StyleArc Katherine pants v. 2.0: alpaca flannel

bloggish-26
Sorry about the super boring pictures right now. We’ve entered cold-and-dark season in these parts and my brain is just not cooperating with me on finding exciting photo opportunities.

At the 2013 fall Creativ(e!) Festival, I circled round the alpaca at the Sultan’s Fine Fabrics booth like a dieter around the desert table at a holiday party.

I really shouldn’t … but it was so nice … but so expensive! and unnecessary! … but soft and warm and lovely … oh, but too much, and I’d regret it later … but how often does an opportunity to buy alpaca fabric come along? and how much would I regret it if I didn’t take the opportunity?

And so on, and on, all day, as I wandered into the booth, felt up the alpaca, wandered away again to look at other less expensive things, wandered back, ad (near) infinitum.

I took the plunge. They offered me a “special deal” of about $115/yard, if memory serves. I bought 1 1/2 yards, enough to make a skirt.

And then I didn’t make the skirt.

I never wear skirts in the fall and winter, I reasoned. To use the alpaca for a skirt would be to waste it. Wouldn’t it be better to make pants? But then did I buy enough for pants? And should I use the stripes on the right side, or the reverse? Or should it be a skirt? But I’d never wear a skirt. Pants, then. But what kind of pants?

Two years, it took me. Two years.

To be decided largely by impulse after making up the wool Katherine pants and deciding that I loved them.

bloggish-34

I do, too. They’re comfortable, stylish, work-appropriate, have great pockets, and go together well. The basic modifications I used in the wool version worked very well and made for warm, comfortable pants that can be worn to work all winter and look like I bought them in a nice store.

(O/T: I went shopping for an afternoon during my impromptu vacation. I looked in all the stores, Dear Readers. The cheap stores, the mid-range stores, the young-professional stores, the middle-aged stores, the old-lady stores, the one-percenter stores. Everything was fucking polyester.

Let me rephrase, as that is giving me some unfortunate mental images: No x-rated behaviours involving oil-based synthetic fibres were going on in any stores. Everything was made out of fucking polyester. It felt cheap and plasticy and yet somehow it cost a fortune. Apparently not buying myself clothing for a few years threw me right out of the mindset of being able to appreciate what’s on offer at your standard suburban shopping mall. $100 for an acrylic cardigan. $95 for a poly t-shirt. I was outraged. In a very western, first-world kind of way.)

Anyway, on to the pattern review and construction notes:

In this version I fixed a few of the issues from the wool ones, and made some aesthetic changes:

1. Fixed the lining around the front fly.

bloggish-41

I had no instructions for this in any of my books and it’s not included in the otherwise-excellent Craftsy pants-class by David Coffin, but I was able to find a good how-to in a Threads article from 2011. Highly recommended. It works like a charm, but only if the underlap is narrower than the overlap top-stitched to the pants front. This is not the case in the Katherine pattern, so I left the underlap on the inside instead of tucking it in to the lining, and catch-stitched it down on the bottom. (If this is something you want to address in your own Katherine pants, I would suggest widening the overlap piece. I found it pretty narrow.)

I also changed the underlap pattern piece. Instead of one piece of self-fabric folded in half, stitched and flipped, and then attached to the zipper (as one does), I cut it in half lengthwise and added a seam allowance, made the top piece from the self fabric and the bottom piece from the lining. The side that was sewn over the zipper tape was lined up with the selvedge on both pieces so there’s no risk of fraying.

By the way, if you too are attempting to line the Katherine pants and want to know how I made the front lining piece, I just traced all three of the front pattern pieces onto tracing paper, lining them up along the stitching lines, and turning the resulting front princess seam into a tuck (the back dart was also tuck-ified). This version I lined all the way down; the wool ones I lined to the knee.

In order to help hold the lining in place, the bartacks on the pockets and at the bottom of the front fly went through all layers.

This version is much neater than the wool one.

2. The waistband on this version was lined with muslin.

The original wool pants used wool on both the outside and inside of the waistband, but I wanted to do something a little different here. The flannel, as thick as it was, was soft and I feared a bit malleable for a waistband, even interfaced. I wasn’t sure it would hold up over time. But the bemberg would be too slippery to hold still when worn with a shirt tucked in. Also I polled my lovely friends on IG and FB and they told me that stable cotton would be what they would do, so:

bloggish-46

It’s a good, solid muslin, never washed so still very stiff and starchy. I’ve got no plans on introducing these pants to water in any form at any point ever, so I think the lack of pre-shrinking will be ok. I added interfacing scraps at the centre front overlap so it would hold up even better with closures. And then I used a long 1″ strip cut from the selvedge of the rayon to wrap around the bottom edge so I would have to worry about flipping it under to sew it down; just stitch on the ditch on the right side and catch the inner waistband, finishing already complete.

When everything else was done, I did a bit of catch-stitching to hold the bottom edge of the inner waistband down, but just along the seams so it wouldn’t restrict the ability of the tucks to expand.

And then I added an overly-precious cross-stitched sewing machine motif at the centre back of the inner waistband as kind of an “I made this” label. Not for any reason really, but if you’re going all out to make a pair of literal fancy-pants from a piece of alpaca you’ve been hoarding for years, why not spend the extra hour on a bit of unnecessary cross-stitch?

bloggish-36

3. And we’re still on the subject of the waistband…

It’s got a double-closure: hook-and-eye on the outside, and a button on the inside, to keep everything extra flat and tidy. My buttonhole foot resolutely refused to stitch a buttonhole on the inside waistband with all of that bulk in the seams, so I did a bound buttonhole. Yes, I did. Mostly by hand, too. It was so small that it was mostly easier to just do it by hand than it would have been to use the machine.

bloggish-38

And the button and hook were sewn on just to the inner waistband, before it was stitched down, so that there would be no stitches visible on the outside.

4. The pants were serged for construction. I know, I know. But I wanted a seam that would hold up for the long haul under the lining (which was also serged).

5. I used the pockets instructions from David Coffin’s Craftsy class and used Liberty lawn scraps. Good and sturdy, very light, hopefully won’t wear out, and with the lining I wasn’t worried about the sticky factor. It makes for very big pockets, but they work well for my insulin pump and I like them.

bloggish-43

In case you can’t tell, I love these pants. Now my only problem is going to be working up the courage to wear them in the winter when the sidewalks have been salted. I am already shuddering.

First Day of the New Job Outfit: Sick Day Edition

To say that the second half of my period of unemployment did not go as planned would be an understatement. Rather than a bit of a break wherein I tried to catch up on things and also had some extra fun and sewing time, I ended up spending a hefty chunk of time in the hospital with my father before and after he had emergency brain surgery to remove a tumour. Yes, you read that right. Not all eventualities can be prepared for and brain tumours, as it turns out, are one of those unplannable things.

He is recovering at home very well now. The pathology results have come back and I’m not sure if or when I’ll be talking about them here.

Sewing and making things is how I manage stress, so what will probably happen, in blog terms, is more sewing and less sleeping.  My plan is to keep this a cancer-free space, for my sanity if nothing else. Please don’t think me heartless. It’s just that most of you I don’t know all that well.

So I still did a good bit of sewing, mostly in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping. I managed not to sew through any body parts (thank goodness), but I did make a series of embarrassing mistakes, like sewing the wrong part of the crotch curve together when making up the pants. I thought briefly about making the rear fly pant closure the latest internet sensation, and then shook my head and tore out the offending stitches.

I managed to get the First Day of the New Job outfit all sewn up and ready before the first day of the new job, and I pressed it and had it all ready to go, and then Frances got sick the night before I was to start. So I spent that day emptying and cleaning out puke buckets (oh the fun things you get to read here!) instead of becoming orientated. I thought briefly of putting the new duds on anyway and taking some photos of myself, sleep deprived, at home, doing Mom On Sick Duty things, but fortunately for you I was just too tired and decided to pass.

Anyway. After much ado, here is the outfit:

bloggish-20

The top is Vogue 8689, and the pants are the StyleArc Katherine pants. The Vogue shirt I’ve made before, so I’ll skip most of the verbiage:

1. Blue rayon challis. Very soft and drapey and wonderful to wear as a shirt.
2. 1/2″ self-cover buttons. I couldn’t find any pre-made that matched.
3. Faux-french seams. Serged the seams then top-stitched them down w/ a 1/4″ foot.

bloggish-3
4. Shortened the sleeves about 1 1/2 “, and cinched in the cuffs by about 3/4”.
5. Made a total mess of the back of the collar. Good thing no one can see it.

bloggish-14
6. Basted the middle of the button plackets to keep all the layers in place while putting in buttonholes and sewing on buttons. But they still seemed to get all out of place when washing.
7. Oh, and I very quickly added a 1 1/2″ ease pleat to the centre back, just under the yoke. I wanted a shirt that was very drapey and loose and would give me lots of movement when driving to and from work, so I just moved the back pattern piece about 3/4″ off the fold line and notched the top seam line where the original fold was so I’d know where to put the pleat. Then I trimmed the shirt down a bit more in the waist so it wouldn’t be too baggy all the way down–just a bit extra across the upper back.

bloggish-12

Also, in proof that stylistic inspiration can be found anywhere, this was a shirt conceived after watching Deep Impact on Netflix. That girl journalist had a very nice drapey blue work shirt with a very nice ease pleat in the back.

tea-leoni-as-jenny-lerner-in-deep-impact
This one, I think, but no ease pleat view. And the internet has informed me that her name was Jenny Lerner

So that’s the shirt.

The StyleArc Katherine pants were new for me. I thought about doing up a muslin … and then impatience overtook me and I just added some of my standard pant alterations:

1. 1 1/2″ extra on the crotch curve
2. 1 1/2″ extra between the hips and waist, front and back. Lengthened the underflap and overflap pieces for the fly to match.
3. Slimmed the waist down a bit

I used the wool I bought at King Textiles last year in Toronto, a lovely dark gold with a faint plaid to the weave. To combat itchiness, I lined the pants to the knee with bemberg, but imperfectly because I had no idea what I was doing around the fly.

bloggish-19

I mean, it works, and no one is looking at my pants on the inside except me, so whatever. But it’s not elegant. And I discovered while wearing them that they really need bartacks on the pockets, otherwise they bag open, even with interfacing to reinforce the opening.

bloggish-15

They fit nicely. They’re a smidge on the loose side, which is by no means a negative when you’re going to spend most of your time in them sitting down. My doctor switched out one of my medications recently and I think it’s made me lose a few pounds; I’m never sure whether a medication-induced weight change will be permanent or not, so I left the pants a bit big. I didn’t want to make them small enough to be snug now, only to gain five pounds next month and then I can’t wear them anymore. So.

Also, I sewed in a buttonhole and then decided I didn’t want to interrupt the waistband with a button, so I didn’t slash it open and sewed hook-and-eye closures in instead.

The pattern overall was simple to sew together, and the pockets and the front seam detail add a nice touch. Pieces match up and sew well, with the exception of the smaller pocket bag piece. It didn’t match the side seam of the pants at all. I cut out four of the larger pocket bag piece and trimmed two of them down to fit instead.

And now if I can finish the blazer I have on the go from the same fabric … I’ll finally have that suit!

That’s the quick-and-dirty version. I’ll share some more details when I write up the pair I made from the alpaca flannel I’ve had in my stash for years.

Most Boring Post Ever

dvsa hike-30-6

Look, everyone! I made more StyleArc Jasmine shorts! Fiddled with the pattern a smidge more (lengthening the crotch curve, mostly) and got it just perfect. Used leftover stretch pique from the sheath dress, which is super comfortable but stretches out quickly.

Went on a hike with my camera and thought, what the hell. So here you go.

The Back. Plus lots and lots of green.
The Back. Plus lots and lots of green.

This makes my fourth use of this pattern, so I’d say I got my money’s worth.

These pictures were taken in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, which is enormous, and a five-minute walk from my front door. It still took me about an hour of hilly hiking before I got to the spot with the big mossy rocks, but it was worth it for this.

dvsa hike-18-4

dvsa hike-94-20

dvsa hike-78-17

I’m very lucky to live where I do.

StyleArc Jasmine Shorts

It’s no secret that I love my StyleArc Jasmine pants.

Another post, another goof photo. At least I'm still wearing yellow.
Another post, another goof photo. At least I’m still wearing yellow.

I wear both pairs I’ve made every week, as long as it’s pants weather.

But it is not pants weather right now. Sigh! And what I really need are work-appropriate shorts. Or, actually, shorts period.

It took me much longer than it should have to realize that I could just shorten the Jasmines and get a perfectly serviceable shorts pattern essentially for free, that has already been fitted.

Corporeal. Huzzah! I'm not invisible!
Corporeal. Huzzah! I’m not invisible!

So: leftover fabric from the pleated pencil skirt. I had just enough.

I used a rayon challis that is close to my flesh tone for the pockets and stays, per a recent Threads (I believe) article about how this is a better practice to avoid visible pockets from outside the garment. It worked just fine, and it’s comfortable and soft.

Innards. I am super proud of this fly, Dear Readers. But mostly, you know, here is the Pocket Fabric.
Innards. I am super proud of this fly, Dear Readers. But mostly, you know, here is the Pocket Fabric.

My one white pants zipper was just a smidge too long, but I was so not going to go to the fabric store just to get a slightly shorter white metal zipper. I just let it hang down a bit too long.

And this pair of shorts was a three-machine endeavour:

Serger for most seam construction.

Yes? Not bad? Also I added some bar tacks at the pockets and hips to create more strength.
Yes? Not bad? Also I added some bar tacks at the pockets and hips to create more strength.

Sewing machine to install the pockets and the zipper, hem, and top-stitch the waistband.

This hideous photo shows you the coverstitches holding the pocket facing to the pocket.
This hideous photo shows you the coverstitches holding the pocket facing to the pocket. It needs to be tidied a bit.

Coverstitch to reinforce the side and crotch seams, and attach the pocket facing to the pocket piece.

bloggish-15
Cover stitches sewing on that side seam. Perfectly parallel and FLAT.

 

I made a few more fitting tweaks for this version, mostly in making it a bit smaller in the waist (the last camel version I made is still too big after taking it in by an inch on either side). And it worked almost perfectly, with the minor exception that I failed to account for the 0 length-wise stretch in this cotton sateen (lots of cross-grain stretch), so the waist band is a hair too snug and has no give. But it’s still perfectly wearable, even when sitting at the computer for several hours and having a long, large lunch break. The rest of it is just perfect and I love it to bits. It’s a bright print but the colours all work with tops I already have, so–huzzah! More shorts!

The Back.
The Back.

My Me-Made Voyage of Self-Discovery, including a Final Recap

Dear Readers, far be it from me to pass up any opportunity for self-exploration. There is so much about myself I don’t yet know! And sure there is an entire world of books, movies, songs, science, hiking trails, locations, cities, cultures, languages, and nearly seven billion people I also don’t yet know, but I’m sure that I can’t properly figure all that out until I am chock full of self-esteem as a result of hard-earned self-examination.

And what better way that a purposeful self-voyage based on an analysis of and appreciation for the many and varied garments I have made and worn this month of May?

Accordingly, to begin, I looked for myself everywhere. I looked in the kitchen, the dining room, the front yard, the bathroom, even under the laundry basket in the basement. All I could ever find of myself anywhere were my own two hands, just ahead of me, always out of reach. My hands were all over the place (and are, even now, taunting me on my laptop keyboard), but the rest of me? Just glimpses, Dear Readers.

It was a very confused May (though a much warmer May than last year, where I remember shivering in the backyard all through the month for the selfies and wondering when it would ever be green again, and for the excessive warmth this May I am mostly grateful). How am I meant to Discover myself if I can never find more of me than my own hands? To be sure, it’s those hands that make the things I wear. But why? I can’t question them. They have no ears and if they did, no mouths to give me answers. Not that I’d want mouths on my hands. I’d never be able to go to the bathroom again.

At last I discovered the secret. And myself. In a mirror. Gazing into a mirror is, I’ve since found, a time-honoured way–nay, THE time-honoured way–of truly divining the ultimate worth of oneself and one’s purpose on this earth. The earth itself can wait. Right?

In so doing, I discovered something legitimately surprising: I wear a lot of yellow.

Yellow Vogue blouse in Liberty lawn.
Yellow Vogue blouse in Liberty lawn.
Yellow Butterick t-shirt in cotton knit.
Yellow Butterick t-shirt in cotton knit.
Yellow/citron silk-cotton voile blouse, Vogue again
Yellow/citron silk-cotton voile blouse, Vogue again
Yellow Butterick t-shirt again, with new Style Arc Jasmine shorts--mostly blue, but some yellow too.
Yellow Butterick t-shirt again, with new Style Arc Jasmine shorts–mostly blue, but some yellow too.
Vogue 8997 sheath dress--inexplicably, this dress has no yellow in it. This discovery causes me to question everything I thought I'd learned about myself in May.
Vogue 8997 sheath dress–inexplicably, this dress has no yellow in it. This discovery causes me to question everything I thought I’d learned about myself in May.
That yellow t-shirt again. Do I never wear anything else? Or maybe I just don't photograph myself in anything else? OH MY GOD. I WILL NEVER FIGURE MYSELF OUT.
That yellow t-shirt again. Do I never wear anything else? Or maybe I just don’t photograph myself in anything else? OH MY GOD. I WILL NEVER FIGURE MYSELF OUT.
Thank god there's yellow in these shorts. I can only take so many upsets to my newly emerging Theory of Andrea.
Thank god there’s yellow in these shorts. I can only take so many upsets to my newly emerging Theory of Andrea.
Yellow again! No mirror though. At least this photo demonstrates that the preference for Yellow still exists, even when it cannot be mirrorically confirmed.
Yellow again! No mirror though. At least this photo demonstrates that the preference for Yellow still exists, even when it cannot be mirrorically confirmed.

I had no idea I even owned so many yellow clothes. If anyone had asked me what my favourite colour is, I would have given the three replies, in order:

1. I don’t have a favourite colour. Any bright colour is fine by me.

2. I wear/own a lot of red though.

3. And I have a lot of blue fabric.

How did all this yellow slip under the radar?

My fabric stash is … err, stashed … in the den closet. I bought a few of those hanging Ikea sweater-storage thingies and fold my fabric up in those. It’s cheap, it keeps everything viewable when the closet doors are open, and when closed, shuts it away–except for the overflow currently serving Purgatory on the den floor. In contrast to the two full compartments of red/pink and the THREE full compartments of blue/teal, I have one total compartment for both yellow and orange and it’s not even full. Previous working theory: I don’t actually like/wear yellow all that much. Competing hypothesis: I like it so much that I sew it up as soon as I bring it home (except for the yellow cottons I brought home to make work pants–yes! it’s true!–which are still in the stash, weeping silent cottony tears).

Moreover, it’s all just so much more proof that I make a lousy 40-year-old. Yet another magazine has confirmed for me that in one’s 40s, one is meant to be wearing red. Alas.

However, it must be said that today I am not wearing any yellow at all. Burgundy pants, grey shirt. It may be that I will never Discover myself well enough to have the impact on this world that I know I am capable of. I suppose I’ll have to just muddle along the old way, without much thinking about Who I Am and How That Intersects with What I Wear. (Except for when I do. Yes, I know.)

I also discovered that I still need to make more shorts, and that it wouldn’t be amiss if I focused less on button-up shirts and more on knit shirts. Whether this will happen is as yet anyone’s guess. I couldn’t even begin to tell you, as apparently I just don’t know myself at all.

Playing with Ponte (Style Arc Madeleine Ponte top)

I wish I'd been wearing shorts for this pictures. It was so, so hot outside.
I wish I’d been wearing shorts for this pictures. It was so, so hot outside.

Here in Southern Ontario, spring is a funny season. It can last for anywhere from two months to two minutes. Sometimes it has an existential crisis and seesaws back and forth between winter and summer, alternating snow flurries and thunderstorms, for a month or so before it finally turns hot for real.

The first week of April was winter. We wore our heavy jackets, stared longingly at the dirt waiting for shoots of green, greeted every weather forecast of flurries with bitter tears.

The second week of April was summer. We wore shorts. Spring lasted for about ten hours.

bloggish-56-7
The side, kind of sort of. You can see here that the waistband is above my waist, but more on that below. You may also be able to see a fine sheen of sweat on my face; I should have worn shorts!

 

The cold will come back, of course. We’ll take out our coats again and put the shorts away for a little while longer, which is entirely fair since we’re still waiting for tulips and magnolias to bloom. (Case in point: the day I took these photos it was 21C. It’s a good one hour hike, largely uphill, to get to this spot; so you can imagine by the time I got there I was glowing, as they say. As I post this it is about 4C.)

But in that brief summery interlude, I finished my Madeleine Ponte top, and got to wear it outside. A couple of times, actually. It was great. Nothing like the feeling of hot sun on bare skin after a long cold winter.

The Back!
The Back!

The backstory is more complicated.

The Madeleine Ponte top was the free pattern in April, and I loved the style lines and the pattern sample, so I bought some of the other patterns I’d had on my wish list and got this one sent along as well. Picking a size was a challenge; I knew the construction would be complicated and wanted to pick something with the fewest number of alterations. In the end I decided to size down to a 10 and do an FBA.

Pattern sample from Style Arc. Note lack of excess fabric below the band, and snug fit of waist that does not go right up on to the bust.

The ponte is a lovely poly/rayon blend from Fabricland, on sale for $8/metre. I have it in a nice coral red too (of course) and I plan to make up the same shirt in that fabric now that I’ve worked through the fitting woes (I think).

Because there were fitting woes.

First off, figuring out how to do an FBA on this shirt was a trick. Here’s the front pattern piece.

 

Well, it's all of the pattern pieces actually.
Well, it’s all of the pattern pieces actually.

SA doesn’t mark waist or bust lines on their patterns so I folded the pleats in place, held it up to me in about the right position and marked the bust/waist points myself. Then I spent a couple of days tracing it out, cutting it apart and taping it back together in a new configuration, deciding I’d done it wrong, and trying again. I actually got so far as to cut out a version with a different style of FBA before deciding that it wasn’t right and trying yet again with the version you see here.

Once I got something I thought would work and cut it out for real and serged it up, it became clear that there were Issues. As in, despite the size being smaller than I should fit into, it was too big.

 

Does this look like the pattern sample to you?
Does this look like the pattern sample to you?

The Madeleine is shown by Style Arc to be a fitted top, and yet I had inches of extra fabric pretty much everywhere below my waist. The top front was fine (so yay, the FBA worked) but the rest needed major work.

I did a couple of things:

1. Opened up the horizontal back seam, and took it in by about an inch in the centre, tapering to nothing at the sides, to get rid of excess length. You can’t see the back in the picture above but, as always, it was way too long for me.

2. Opened up the right side seam and took in about 2″ everywhere below the band.

It helped a lot, but it still needs work. I need a smidge more space in the shoulders, and the front top isn’t long enough–the band is above my waist. It probably needs about another inch in length in the front. Taking 2″ out of the side seam was a very imperfect solution. I need to resize the front lower piece so that it is 2″ narrower all across the front, or even better, 1.5″ narrower, and then take another 1/2″ out of the back.

I don't know why it looks like I'm levitating here. I promise my butt is firmly planted on a nice big stone.
I don’t know why it looks like I’m levitating here. I promise my butt is firmly planted on a nice big stone.

The arms and the neck fit well, and I do like the design of the shirt. It’s different and interesting and comfortable, and I know I’ll make it up again. But do be warned that there is excess ease in this pattern. My advice is to buy at least 2 sizes down from what you think you’ll need, and make adjustments from there.

The photo shoot did get me out into the woods, where I got to see the trout lilies starting to come up and the coltsfoot blooming, and that made me happy. Life of a single mother, Dear Readers: when you combine your daily exercise, nature therapy and blog photo shoot into one outing, then pick up groceries and prescriptions on the way home.

Oh! Also:

I COVERSTITCHED THE HEM.

BECAUSE I BOUGHT A COVERSTITCH MACHINE.

More on that in a post where I did more than just the hem. But hey! It was pretty fun.

Style Arc Willow pants

Pretty Pants, No Pockets

 

So you know that suit I made? I totally forgot to post about the pants, eh?

Umm … oops.

So hey! I made a suit! The blazer was the Style Arc Sara, and the pants were the Style Arc Willow.

The fabric is a poly-wool blend from Fabricland. At $12/m it wasn’t exactly cheap, but that’s a very reasonable price for a wool-blend suiting and something I’m much happier about potentially botching than a $30/m proper wool. Plus it is an incredibly vibrant cobalt blue, which struck me as a fun suit, potentially.

I had enough fabric to make two pairs, which was good, because the first had Issues.

First pair:

Of course I'd wear it with a yellow top. Why else would you make a purple-blue suit?
Of course I’d wear it with a yellow top. Why else would you make a purple-blue suit? For reference, my waistline is about where the top of my wrist is; no, the pants don’t meet it. And yes that is an undecorated Xmas tree beside me. So that tells you how long ago this picture was taken.

I cut this up and sewed it as a straight 12. Inside seams were serged. And I added pockets. The Willow pattern is pocket-free, and I have a hard time wearing pants without pockets thanks to the insulin pump. Especially in a slim cut, because then there’s nowhere to put a pump-holder inside the pants (at least, not without an odd and conspicuous leg bump). Same pockets that the Jasmine uses; I just merged the angled pocket line with the outlines of the Willow pattern at top.

Because I added pockets, I changed the order of construction: front darts, then pocket construction, then back darts, then sewing leg seams together. I used an invisible zipper that is less invisible than I’d like because it is black. I inserted the zipper before sewing up the side seams, then put on the waistband and hemmed the bottom with their little vents. Bottom hem is a blind stitch. On the inside, the lower waistband edge is serged and then attached to the front with a stitch-in-the-ditch.

They were a bit too snug for me, especially in the back. I can sit, but sitting takes more preparation than I’d typically like to undertake.

In part this is because of my high waist. My back-waist measurement is about 14″, which is shorter than a standard petite size 4. Am I petite? No, I’m not; I’m tall. Yes, I have the upper torso length of a small child. Anyway. The waistband is supposed to be on the waist here, but it’s not. So the waistband pulled everything up uncomfortably.

Second pair:

Added 1 1/2″ to the crotch rise and about 1/4″ to the seams to add a bit more ease in the hips. Otherwise the same. Nice blue zipper that is more invisible, with a beautifully matching purple-blue button. It’s much more wearable and more comfortable. The legs are also a bit looser in these photos than I would have liked (I’ve since snugged them up a bit, but so sorry so cold; pictures of that will have to wait).

You've seen these before, I know.
You’ve seen these before, I know.

I’ve already started on suit 2 (which you’ll know if you follow me on IG). What do you think, Dear Readers? Is this a pants pattern you would use for suits? Or would you go for something more conservative and less slim? Keep in mind that the blazer will be fairly fitted.

Silly photo time!
Silly photo time! Oh my god. I look like a cadaver.

Blazer! Prequel

So. I made a blazer!

Such is my dedicated to my blog, Dear Readers, that I took these pictures outside in the dark and the cold.
Such is my dedicated to my blog, Dear Readers, that I took these pictures outside in the dark and the cold. Oh, and yes, that is my silk-cotton blouse underneath

It is not perfect (and this is where you will come in), but I did make it, and it is not completely embarrassing.

I used Style Arc’s Sara jacket pattern, with some modifications: widened the hips by about an inch, and broadened the shoulder by half an inch on each side.

I used fusible cotton interfacing, with the seam allowance snipped away first.

I also watched this Craftsy class–the whole way through, twice–in order to get a solid grasp of what I was about to do. And just in case you’re wondering, which you probably aren’t, I’d been tackling cutting out the jacket, lining and interfacing pieces over about 6 weeks.

One thing I learned from Ms. Howard was that fusible interfacing is not suited (ha!) to suits made from finer materials, and that I could expect bubbling or separation if I used a wool. This is a poly-wool, and there is definitely some separating, which is irritating. So next time, with the wool, I’m going to go for the full pad-stitching-with-hair-canvas approach.

My Blazer! has welt pockets.

Very bright welt pockets.
Very bright welt pockets.

It has an ease pleat in the back.

You can't see the ease pleat, but it's there!
You can’t see the ease pleat, but it’s there! Also, please excuse the weird colour change. It’s the camera, not the blazer.

It has jump hems.

blazer-3-1

It has vents on the sleeves.

The pattern calls for three buttons, but I'll be damned if every store I looked in failed to have more than four buttons in an appropriate size and colour.
The pattern calls for three buttons, but I’ll be damned if every store I looked in failed to have more than four buttons in an appropriate size and colour.

The shoulder seams sit on my shoulders. The waist and hips fit fine–and the waist would have fit better if I hadn’t mistakenly placed the buttonholes too far from the placket edge. Oops.

Accidentally super serious suit pose, in the dark. I figured if it's getting dark early this time of year, I'd just go with it.
Accidentally super serious suit pose, in the dark. I figured if it’s getting dark early this time of year, I’d just go with it.

The sleeves, however, are too long. Next time I’d have to take 1.5″ out of the sleeve length. How do I have such short arms?

And the bust is too snug.

See that pulling? Yeah. Not ideal, really.
See that pulling? Yeah. Not ideal, really. Also not comfortable.

Now this is where my Dear Readers come in:

HOW do you do a full-bust adjustment on THIS?

Very satisfyingly jigsaw-like front jacket piece, all interfaced and everything
Very satisfyingly jigsaw-like front jacket piece, all interfaced and everything

Bottom slit is for the welt pocket. You don’t want to change that at all. Top slit is the dart. This is where I need to add space. But where do I cut it too, and how do I remove the excess from elsewhere? Do I just turn the upper part of this into a princess seam so I can adjust that fit?

I also did not add shoulder pads. I hate shoulder pads, and normally they make me look like a linebacker. But I think it did affect the fit in the shoulders a bit. It all looks a bit more gathered than it would have with some stuffing in there. That’s ok; I can live with that. Or if it comes down to it, I can open it up and put in a shoulder pad. No biggie.

The pattern also suggests that you sew the entire jacket together rather like a large purse–lining to body all the way around, leave a small gap, and then turn it inside out and close up the hole. This I did not do. I followed along with the lining installation on Modern Jacket Techniques, which worked just fine. This means I ignored the part of lining sleeve construction where it tells you to leave a gap in the seam.

There’s only one thing I must complain about on this pattern, and that’s the notches on the sleeve lining pieces. They  make no sense.

There’s a notch on the lining undersleeve pieces that says “to side seam.” Dandy. But which side seam? There are two of them on each side. In another spot, there is a double notch that corresponds to nothing, as there is no double-notch on the armscye opening at all. I did my best to install the sleeve lining in a way that made sense, but it was still puckered in spots. It doesn’t affect the way the jacket fits or feels, though.

Everything else on the pattern worked out really well. All of the other notches lined up; the cut-out darts shaped things nicely; the welt pocket pieces all matched up well.

Overall, though, the bust fitting issues and the way the pattern is constructed leave me thinking that I may be better off starting over with a new pattern for jacket #2. The Sara jacket is really innovative and it was a fun puzzle to put together, and it works so well, but it’s not as adjustment-friendly as a princess seam. And sadly, I need adjustment-friendly.

Postcards from the Island of Muslins

It was super exciting when I managed to finally finish the muslining/underlining/fitting/french seaming adventure that was the floral shirt. I celebrated bursting out of my self-imposed prison with a couple of speedy makes, including the beaded shirt (yes, in comparison, that was speedy), a long-sleeved shirt for Frances out of the same fabric, and some fleecey pajamas for Frances which she had been bugging me for for weeks. Both together–shirt and pajamas–took a day. And she likes both of them and wears them regularly. This is the pinnacle of mom-sewing–making things you do not need to force your children to wear.

However, I’ve made progress on the muslins:

The leather skirt.

I sewed up a test garment in old cotton/poly twill to test for fit, basted in bright yellow thread to make the seamlines extra visible. It’s a size 16, and it’s loose. Only a bit at the hips, but quite a bit at the waist, and the waist isn’t even at my waist. So for the next muslin, I’ll cut a size 14/16 at the hips and grade to a 12 at the waist, and raise the waist/hip line by about 1.5″.

Yes, that is my not-yet-decorated tree in the background.
Yes, that is my not-yet-decorated tree in the background. Also, that is me pinching out a couple of inches at the side waist, but you can’t see them because I’m pinching them out. Well done, me.

I really like all of the seamlines. It’s an interesting skirt to put together.

I got some super shiny copper faux-leather to sew the second muslin out of. It doesn’t fray, so I can experiment with some of the leather finishing techniques and practice on something less high-stakes. Should be fun.

Oh, and I got the faux leather half-price. It’s pricier than the cotton-poly twill, to be sure, but still not expensive and hopefully I’ll get something wearable out of this one.

The Suit: Pants.

I started with a muslin in bright purpley indigo poly-wool twill (not a heavy twill; a suiting weight) of Style Arc’s Willow Pants.

Yep, they're really that bright.
Yep, they’re really that bright.

They were much, much too tight.

Not the pattern’s fault. Apparently my hips are two inches bigger than I thought they were when I bought the pattern. Oops!

So I added some ease to the hips. And as with the skirt, I raised the waist by 1.5″. This may necessitate nipping it in a bit as well; I’ll have to measure and see.

I also added the pockets from the Jasmine pants to these (the Willow pants do not have pockets in their natural state), which worked out pretty well and I’ll do that again.

Otherwise, this was another successful Style Arc pattern for me. One of their differences from other pattern manufacturers is that all of the notches, match points, dart marks, etc., are done as clips in the seam allowance. There’s very little to transfer to the fabric in terms of markings afterwards. And all of the marks lined up well; it came together quite easily. I just can’t sit down in the muslin and breathe at the same time.

Fortunately I had enough of the fabric left–even after cutting out and sewing a Blazer!–that I could make another pair of pants slightly bigger. And I did. I’ll do a separate post about them later.

The Suit: Blazer!

This needs its own post. Making this muslin was a three-day undertaking, and even though it’s “just a muslin” there’s too much to pack it into a postcard. So more soon. I used Style Arc’s Sara jacket pattern and two watchings of Craftsy’s Modern Jacket Techniques class, copious pots of Dorian Grey tea, many many chocolate coated cookies, two spools of thread, and approximately half of my monthly wireless download allowance. But it ended up in this:

blog-29-7

with welt pockets! An ease pleat! A jump hem! Sleeve vents!

blog-26-6

And that’s all right.