Friday, November 18, 2016

Working On The Duster Trail...with New Look

The image in my head for the last six years.
In 2010, decided to make a duster coat to enhance my professional wardrobe and wrote about my goal here. I even tried to muslin the coat at the time. If you remember (HAH, I barely remember, it was 6 years ago!), my original pattern choice of Vogue 7714 was much too large for me, even after coming down a few sizes. The photograph of the view I wanted was extremely misleading (though you could see the truth in the others) and the actual wearing ease on that pattern was ridiculous! It was so large that I was able to reuse and cut another pattern out of those same muslin pieces! I needed some more fabric only because the new pattern had two back pieces instead of one. I tried it on and it looked good even though the bust darts were in a very awkward position.

I really liked that pattern, New Look 6656, and every 5 months or so, I would try it on again and still be happy. However, I could never get myself motivated to cut it out of my final fabric, a polka dot moleskin, which I think over time developed mythic status in my stash. In the mean time, I gained weight and inches and that muslin became no longer relevant.

So, just a few weeks ago I cut that old pattern New Look 6656 and another new option, New Look 6270, out of a queen size sheet with the goal of completely finishing the duster THIS year.

The illustrations above (an altered New Look 6656 sketch) are what I wanted the final garment to look like and include the must-have details: an a-line shape, collarless, no closures, bust darts, waist definition, a back seam for sway-back shaping, and a length about 30-32" from base of the neck.

Each of these two patterns more or less had these details but the shaping of some elements were different (like the side and back seams) and that was the reason I needed to make them both up to see which would work better.

In both patterns, the front armholes were identical and the sleeve pieces had the same general shape and cap height.Though both patterns had back seams they had some room added to the upper back that seemed to allow for a slight dowager's hump. If anything, my back would require a straighter line there. Perhaps my posture is more erect than the average woman because both muslins bagged out unattractively in that area when sewn up as designed.

New Look 6270 was shown on the pattern cover in a sheer fabric; therefore, the picture was not a good indicator of its suitability for my fabric, a more substantial moleskin print. Using the printed pattern measurements I cut it first as size 16 all-over, eventually coming back to reducing everything above the waist to a size 14. Even then, the front and back were extremely wide. In fact, the front lapels overlapped by inches when there was no overlap intended in the design.

To see video of this jacket in motion, check here on my Instagram.

As you can see, altering this pattern to fit my goal of a sleek jacket would have been too much of a job. I'm still a fan of the maxi-dress in the pattern so I hope its sizing and ease will be more accurate.

New Look 6656 had a more structured design allowing for facings; however, the illustration made the shoulders seem like they might be too wide. I cut this one in size 14 at the shoulders moving out to a size 18 at hips. Comparing the pattern pieces, New Look 6656 was more nipped in under the bust; however, like 6270 it also allowed for a strange protrusion at the upper back (see at right). I cut that off leaving the back straight above the slight swayback shaping. I found the back neckline uncomfortably high on my neck so also ended up cutting the neckline and facings in a size 12.

To see video of this jacket muslin in motion, check here on my Instagram.

This muslin in motion* fit much better, I found the shoulders fine, the back was not too wide and there was adequate ease for the hips and bum. The sleeves for this design were meant to be cropped or otherwise extended with a contrasting cuff. I added the cuff to the main sleeve pattern piece and cut my sleeve out at full length.

As you can see, the muslin worked out beautifully and matches the shape of the inspiration garment shown below by Calvin Klein.
Calvin Klein colorblock jacket
I can't wait to cut my long-stashed fabric and sew this beauty up. It's been a long time coming!

*I was trying this on during the last week of the Presidential campaign and as my father filmed me we could not miss how much this jacket resembled the similar ones worn by Hillary Clinton. Sigh.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Pants: I don't need Gene Kelly to be happy...

I remember when I was a kid that on almost any day you could view an old black & white movie. Sometimes it would be a musical starring Gene Kelly (Brigadoon, An American in Paris, etc.) or a dramatic classic like The Strange Love of Martha Ivers or The Lady Eve with Barbara Stanwyck. There was somewhere in these films that I could disappear into...a world where men wore suits the majority of the time and women coordinated their shoes with their bags and hats.

Dancing and Singing In The Rain!

Today, give me a man wearing a crew-cut or high v-neck sweater with a white t-shirt and flat front or pleated tapered pants with a deep break at the wingtips (which he will also wear) and I'll be in love.

If he can dance, all the better.

When I was in college, I wanted those pants for myself and slapped inspiration pics in my fashion scrapbook:

Images I saved from an old Tweeds catalog. Remember Tweeds?

Nowadays, pants such as these can still be found at this cool company, Old Town of Norfolk in the UK. Their design philosophy is described as "simplicity and restraint with minimal styling" however, I feel these have more style than many pants produced today.

and Denes No. 5s for women!

Unfortunately, their pants are not cheap, as they are made to order from your true measurements in 4 to 6 weeks. In fact, you visit their adorable showroom, try on the styles to get an idea of the fit, and then select your fabric and color by use of fabric swatches, and then wait. No fast fashion here! You are paying for the well-done work and in addition, there is shipping if you live outside of the UK.

Another popular British-based company,  Merchant & Mills, seemed to have taken notice of this older established company. They are now selling the type of textiles and notions that Old Town might use in their completed makes. Though they are also producing sewing patterns that look to follow this industrial utility aesthetic, at the moment their designs are more minimalist in design details.

I hope that either they or another company will start producing patterns with more industrial age details like brace buttons (for suspenders), buttoning cross pockets, waist adjustment toggles, and button flies that make up the Old Town designs.  It will then be up to us, the makers, to construct them out of durable and hardworking fabrics such as heavy cotton drill, canvas, moleskin, corduroy, and 12 oz. denim.
Well...I can hope!
Jaywick Smock Dress
 Oh, but back to Old Town, they also have great dresses!

Images: Source unknown; my personal photo; the Old Town website.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Last of the Summer Shorts - New Look 6216

Pattern: New Look 6216 (2013)

Pattern Description: Misses' pull-on pants with drawstring waist and easy knit top with scoop neck and short all-in-one sleeves or higher neckline with 3/4 dolman sleeves.

Pattern Sizing: Size A (8-18) I chose size 18 based on the finished garment measurements.  

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing it? I changed them into shorts and eliminated the drawstring, but yes, I guess they do look like the picture.

Were the instructions easy to follow? These are extremely easy to make, there is one error in the pattern but it is very easy to correct.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I wanted easy pants, so the elastic waist was a plus and the pockets are just so extremely clever and easy.

Fabric Used: Sew Classics denim heather solid suiting* $6.99 per yard from Jo-Ann Fabrics; thread; and Dritz 1-inch wide braided elastic.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: This is the second time using this pattern for pants. My earlier pair no longer fit comfortably, so I had to increase the seam allowances. I originally cut a 14, so this time I added 1" to the sides to allow for the two-size jump to an 18, therefore, supplying 4" of wearing ease.

Another change needed in the original pair was that the front waistband rose too high and the back was too low. In order to fit my particular body, I slashed and spread, added 1" to the center back crotch length and eliminated the same amount on the center front. The trousers were designed to sit just below the natural waistline but on me that was too tall.

I used an existing pair of shorts to determine how long to make these. I ended up cutting them right below the notches at the hip resulting in a 4" inseam measurement.

There is an error in the pattern piece for the waistband. The waist of the shorts are smaller than the sewn waistband piece. I suppose when I first made these I believed the error was mine and I fixed it then by creating two pleats in the front. But here it is again. My remedy was to only match the side seams and the middle point of the waistband to the corresponding points on the shorts. I also basted the waist of the shorts so I could gather it to match the width of the waistband. Since this area would eventually be gathered further by elastic, I knew it wouldn't matter or look strange.

I attached the elastic waistband and as some twisting was already apparent, I top-stitched the waistband, sewing right up to the edge of the enclosed elastic. After distributing the gathers around the shorts, with the majority in the back, I "stitched in the ditch" at the side and back seams to further keep the elastic in place.

To hem the shorts I gathered along the seam line to ease them in a bit and hand stitched the hem in place. A light steam on the hem helped "shrink" up the majority of the resulting puckers.

Conclusion: The pattern made very cute shorts. There was some kind of problem; however, where the shorts rode up in the rear as I walked. Obviously, this was not evident in the long legged version, so must have something to do with my alteration of the crotch length, perhaps I needed to add some back to the inner leg seam. However, for end of summer shorts, they were fine and they did make it through an entire day of walking through Busch Gardens!

*I can't say more great things about this fabric, I now have four garments made from it. Yes, it's polyester but I love the feel and how hearty it is, no wrinkles (!), dries quickly, and takes a good press. Luckily, Jo-Anns has been selling it consistently for the last six years.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Stretch Pant Trial Run - Style Arc Barb's Stretch Pant

Pattern: Style Arc Barb's Stretch Pant (2014)

Pattern Description: Pull-on pant with elasticized waistband made in a stretch woven.

Pattern Sizing: Size 12-14-16. I cut the size 14 (W: 33.5 in. H: 42.5 in.) and made some changes to the pattern.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing it? Yes, exactly. However, mine were a touch too small!

Were the instructions easy to follow? Extremely! This is a very simple pant which makes it ideal for trying to nail down what kind of fitting adjustments you may need to make to pants in general.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Most importantly, the company offered it as a FREE PDF download here. This allowed me to try out the company's pants draft before making a monetary commitment. Two, this seemed like a very simple pattern, no zipper insertion, or lined waistband.

Fabric Used: Cream stretch suiting (95% polyester 5% Lycra) from Jo-Ann Fabrics on clearance, Dritz 2-inch wide knit elastic.

Cut and spread to add room for the stomach
Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Current sewing situations have taught me that it wouldn't hurt to do a full tummy adjustment and a protruding seat adjustment when making pants so I first made a tracing of the pattern for my muslin.

Page 57 of Sewing Pants That Fit.

I added an inch wedge to both the front and back just to be safe. As it turns out, perhaps a full inch at front was not necessary.

However, the adjustment at the back was perfect and I like how the ole bum looks. I believe the wrinkle problem there in back is because my inner thighs need more width so I will add a full thigh adjustment to the front for the next muslin.

A plus of the pattern draft is how they handled the waistband. Note the angle from the top of the waistband down. This shows an awareness that this is a wider than usual waistband and that the body is going to widen out from that top point but that you still want a slim as possible waist.

Note the angle of the waistband at the sides and how it meets the pants.

When I first saw this waistband sewn up and placed next to the pants in the image above I doubted that it would fit over my hips. However, being cut the way it was it expanded the right amount to fit the pants, even before any elastic was involved.

The elastic was placed inside the completed waistband and basted closed before it was attached to the pants. This allowed the elastic to fit snug in the casing and eliminate any excess room that would allow it to twist around inside the casing.

Not loving this view!
Here is the finished muslin from the side. Note the protruding abdomen, (and then feel free to forever abolish the image from your brain!) the tautness of the fabric below it, and that crooked side seam. This muslin is too small. All of these pictures were taken months after the pants were first completed. At that point, they were really too small. I have since lost some weight and dietary changes have somewhat adjusted my abdominal bloat, so there has been a great improvement to that original fit. Unfortunately, the picture is so washed out but you may be able to see where the side seam indicates where more width in the pattern is needed. Try hard you can also see the beginnings of those diagonal wrinkles towards the back indicating the need for the full thigh adjustment.


The view from the front is where you can see the high waist and how they fit at the front thigh with a few radiating markers of fitting issues. Also note that once on, despite the 10" difference between my hips and waist, the amount of visible gathers from the waistband are minimal and don't add too much bulk. So the waistband works, but the rest of the pants do not.

Last little note, since these were never meant to be finished, I cut almost 4 inches from the length in order to try them on. I am 5' 4" inches tall, so definitely compare your desired pant length against the pattern pieces before laying and cutting out your fabric. I would hate for you to lose that much fabric needlessly.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Since this is a muslin, the real question is will this pattern work well enough for a final version? I believe so, with a minimum of changes. The waistband is a keeper and the use of 2" elastic creates a comforting and supportive waistband; especially if you have some girth you wish to control in that area.

Unfortunately, my muslin did not fit, but then that's the purpose of a muslin. I don't know how much can be blamed on the fabric choice since the Lycra content of this particular fabric was a mystery and I did not know exactly how much* stretch the pattern required. According to the company's posted measurements (waist: 33.5, hip: 42.5) I did choose the right size and should have had 1" positive ease in the waist and .5" in the hip. However, my full abdomen and inner thighs may have affected the ease distribution.

Conclusion: I will make these pants again and not only to adjust and correct the pattern before attempting the other two Style Arc pants patterns I own. This was a more than decent muslin compared to other pants patterns I have tried. If I hadn't made them out of a see-through white fabric I could even see finishing them off and wearing them out on my "no bread and dairy" days.

*Instead of suggesting a Lycra/spandex content percentage, Style Arc instead directs you to purchase their own stretch gabardine that possesses a 30% vertical stretch (?).