sewing

Indigo Gingers

One item of clothing I’ve been wanting to make myself for ages is a pair of jeans. I love pretty dresses and skirts, but a lot of the time when I’m getting dressed, it’s jeans I reach for. When I’m not in pajamas or leggings, of course. I’m in something of a comfort rut at the moment.

I bought Ginger jeans pattern from Closet Case Patterns quite some time ago. So long ago that before I got around to making them, Heather made changes to and re-released the pattern and I lost the download link I originally got and had to get her to resend it. Oops. I probably would have procrastinated for a while longer on the jeans front, but two things forced my hand:

  1. My previous pair of jeans from Jeans West wore through at the inner thighs, and
  2. We had a trip to Japan coming up in winter and I knew I would be needing jeans

After buying myself a pair of extremely cheap jeans from Target (sorry, fast fashion, I know) and discovering they had no front pockets, just the appearance of pockets, I got annoyed enough to begin.

First off, let me say, these jeans are well worn. I wore them for 3 weeks in Japan with very few washes, and have worn them quite a bit since then! I chose view B, with the high waist and skinny legs and cut out a size 14, which was pretty much bang on my measurements. The only adjustment I made off the bat was to shorten the crotch length by 1/4″, because I am short and after measuring the crotch of my terrible Target jeans, I figured that was going to be necessary. I would have done more, but Heather recommends doing 1/4″ at a time as a small adjustment can make a big difference.

Even though I hate faffing around with things like muslins and drafts, I followed Heather’s advice and baste-fitted the jeans first. Thanks to that, I discovered the waistband was gaping terribly at the back. Not a surprise, I have a sway back and this is a common problem for me in jeans/pants and skirts. I took out 1″ in four 1/4″ sections in the waistband pattern piece to make it much more curved, and then recut it. Unfortunately I did not have quite enough of my denim to cut two pieces, so I had to pinch a bit of non-stretch denim I bought for jeans for Luke for the facing.

I had to take these jeans up a huge amount. At least 14cm, and I think then I took off some more after that. However, I am absolutely stoked with the length – I think I got it spot on!

Ah, close-up crotch photos. I think my coin pocket is on the wrong side, but I never use that pocket so I’m not bothered. My fabric was a Japanese indigo stretch denim bought from Drapers Fabric in Newmarket. I also got black at the same time for a second future pair. It’s good fabric, but it does not take kindly to having stitches removed. With the Ginger jeans fly instructions, Heather has you baste the fly closed and then remove the basting at the end. You can see along the folded edge of my fly that the removal of the basting stitches has left little marks, which is unfortunate, but not as unfortunate as what happened on the back when I basted the pockets on!

Oh god, this is such a terrible photo of my backside. Anyhow, you can see near the left pocket, there is a small repair. After I basted the pockets to try and check where they should be placed, they did NOT want to be repositioned. Pulling on the stitches at all made marks on the denim, and after a few tries, one area formed a small hole, which I had to stitch up and interface on the inside to prevent further fraying. And now I can see that the stupid pockets aren’t even level with each either (either that or I have a wonky bum). Argh. The pockets were my absolute least favourite part of the whole thing. I hated basting them and trying to check how they looked by getting Luke to take photos of my bum (we have an unfortunately mirror situation in our house and none of them are useful for checking out one’s posterior), I hated removing them and trying to reposition them, and I hated how much time I spent trying to surreptitiously check out the bums of strangers on the street to see how good pocket positioning looked.

Clearly, in the end I did not nail it. I think they’re too far apart? Possibly I even got them around the wrong way, I lost track of which side was more curved and was supposed to be facing the side seams.

While we’re on the back view, I have to say that I find the yoke of the Ginger jeans very wide. It is much wider than any other pair of jeans I’ve owned, and ones I’ve observed in the wild. I notice Heather has now released a mid-rise version that has a shorter yoke, and I’m a little tempted, but also slightly put off by the fact that it’s a whole new pattern and not an add-on. I don’t really fancy sticking all those PDF pieces together again for a new pattern, so I’ll probably just fiddle with the yoke height myself and sort it out.

Another issue I had (and it doesn’t seem apparent in the photos) is that the left inner leg seam twists towards the front from the knee down. I cut all my pieces out on a single layer of fabric and was very careful with the grain, so I don’t think that’s the issue. The lovely Amanda of Bimble and Pimble also had the same twisting issue and got lots of useful comments on her post about it, and I’m thinking I might need a knock-knee adjustment. I am a bit pigeon-toed, always have been, and I never thought about how this might affect the fit of my pants! I wonder why just the one leg, though? Bodies are weird.

There are some wrinkles with these jeans, particularly behind my knees and under my butt. I know some wrinkling under the butt is normal and needed to actually sit down in close-fitting jeans, but how much wrinkle is too much?

Jean guts. I made the pocket/tummy stays from a Japanese cotton I got from Spotlight with corn on it, in the clearance rack. I’m in love with the corn fabric, and I kept it around just for this purpose. Whimsical corn ftw. I bound the waistband with my self-made bias tape that I made two years ago now. It’s the bias tape that keeps on giving, I still have loads of it left. You can see the interfacing on my back pocket repair, and if you’re wondering what that square of fabric is on the jeans button, well. Let’s just say my first attempt at putting a jean button in these jeans was less than successful. It went on crooked, and I could not get the bloody thing off, and in the process of trying to remove it, the hole for the button got so big it slipped through and I couldn’t insert another one. So I added an interface, fray-checked patch on the inside of the waistband to give it more stability, and attempted a fresh insert with a new button, and thank God it worked. Unfortunately, that corner of the waistband got stretched a little when I topstitched it, and pokes up a bit and is a bit visible under closer-fitting tops. You win some, you lose some.

All in all, I am satisfied with these jeans. I wear them a lot, and I find it easy to forget about the slightly wonky pockets and under-bum wrinkles when I’m wearing them because they’re comfy and I think they don’t look too bad. And I know what to change for next time when I make my black pair! Do you have any jeans-fitting or making tips that you’d like to share with me?

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sewing

Sewing for the husband: Colette Negroni Mk II

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This is the second time I’ve made the Colette Negroni for Luke – the first being nearly 3 years ago. This time around I made the short sleeve version for summer. I didn’t change anything else except instead of using the XL length, I went with L (and in my opinion it’s still quite a long shirt, but Luke’s happy with it). Oh, and 1 pocket instead of 2. When Luke requested summer shirts, I suggested the Negroni because I think the camp collar style fits a casual summer short sleeved shirt well. He agreed, but later, after I’d cut the fabric out, said he didn’t like the large facings. Unfortunately, with everything already cut out, I couldn’t do much about it, so the facings are unchanged. But he’s right, they are huge – and I can’t really see why they need to be. I’m not sure if I’ll make it again – I could convert the facings to a button band, but why bother when I already have at least 2 other shirt patterns I could use?

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As you can see, it’s quite roomy – Luke’s lost about 10kg since I last made him a Negroni, but he insists he’s still happy with the fit of his original one, so who am I to argue?

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The fabric is this amaaaazing lightweight cotton I bought at least a year ago from Stitch 56 – my brother bought me a birthday gift from there and they sent him a discount voucher, which he promptly passed on to me and I promptly used! Stitch 56 says it’s part of the Rajasthan Express collection, Miss Maude (who lovely Wellington sewing blogger Emma reminded me sells this fabric closer to home) says Little India collection. Let’s just agree that it’s hand block printed in India and we’ll call it good. It’s made by Merchant & Mills, and it is the best. It’s so light and breezy, it’s absolutely perfect for a summer shirt. It was great to work with – pressed beautifully, and sewed up like a dream (once I stopped fighting with my shitty modern sewing machine and employed my vintage Pfaff, anyway). Stitch 56 have increased their shipping prices to NZ substantially since I bought this fabric, so I’ll definitely be checking out Miss Maude for some more instead! I didn’t have quite enough for the stupidly huge facings, so I supplemented it with some Japanese cotton lawn from Spotlight in a dark blue that was *almost* the same weight – I used this for the inner yoke as well as the bottom 3/4 of the facings (but not the top, because I didn’t want it to be visible).

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We found the perfect buttons in Spotlight – my beloved Masco Wools where I used to buy all my buttons at amazing prices disappeared when they decided to renovate the Britomart shopping centre 😦

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Last year I bought some personalised labels from the Dutch Label Shop with my Christmas money, and they were waiting for me when I got back from Japan. I love them! If you’re wondering why “yes mice” – well…short story, it’s something Luke and I say to each other when one of us comes up with a particularly excellent suggestion. E.g.

Me: Shall we get some cheesecake for dessert tonight?

Luke: Oh, yes mice!

Longer story – this came about because when I visited the UK in 2004, I bought a small Bagpuss plush toy that, when you pressed his stomach, said, “Oh yes mice, I love you all!” I was not familiar with Bagpuss, but I was taken in by his scruffy charm and his odd catchphrase, so he came home with me. After Luke and I had been dating for a while, he too got introduced to Bagpuss, and was equally delighted by him. Bagpuss lives in my Dad’s shed with a lot of my belongings now (such is the nomadic postdoc life), but he’s with us in spirit 🙂

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sewing

Foray into Japanese sewing patterns

I’ve got a bit of a backlog of sewing projects to share – last year before our trip to Japan I churned out a pair of Ginger jeans for me, another pair of Jutland pants for Luke and a merino Ensis tee for me, thus proving to me once and for all that I work best with a deadline in sight! But since it’s summer here in NZ and I’m not currently wearing jeans or merino tops, here’s a project I sewed up today instead.

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The pattern is one I bought from Miss Matatabi last year, on a whim. I hadn’t heard of the pattern company before, but it was cheap and something about it intrigued me. It seems right now she’s only stocking the blouse in a kit, however. It consists of 3 pieces – the front and back are identical, and then the sleeves/yoke are a separate piece for front and back. The pattern is entirely in Japanese, however there are diagrams to help. I have been teaching myself Japanese for a while now (and previously studied it for a year at University) and so my prior knowledge together with Google Translate helped me to understand most of what was going on. Unfortunately I’m never very good at visualising how to rotate pattern pieces and how everything comes together in English patterns, let alone Japanese ones, so there was definitely some head scratching at first.

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The end result is…well, it’s different. Japanese fashion always looks effortless and elegant on Japanese people, but on me? Not so much. I’ve wanted to give Japanese sewing patterns a go for a while, and I own a couple of books, but up until quite recently I’ve been larger than the largest size, and I can’t be arsed grading up. This particular pattern is one size, but that size is huge so no worries there. I haven’t altered it at all. I’m carrying some extra kilos from eating ALL THE CAKES in Japan, but hey, I could be 6 months pregnant under this dress and no one would be any the wiser.

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It’s a very simple silhouette – a bit kimono-esque. The sleeve/yoke pieces are joined together to make the entire top of the dress, there is no shoulder seam, and they’re just rectangles. The first front seam hits across my high bust, the second somewhere across my upper back/shoulders, and the third around my armpits. The inside is very neat, everything is overlocked, turned and stitched in place. And, in a minor miracle for me, all the notches and hems lined up everywhere. Seriously, this never happens!

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The fabric is a rayon challis (most likely) bought from a fabric bin at my local Red Cross op shop. It’s got fantastic drape, and is light and flowy – perfect for the sudden onset of warm weather Auckland is having. All that said, I’m a bit on the fence about it. I mean, it’s not flattering. At all. But it is supremely comfortable, and I feel weirdly stylish wearing it. I ventured out to my local dairy (convenience store) this afternoon in it and felt a bit confident, even. I don’t think I’ll make it again though – for starters, I think 1 muumuu in my wardrobe is enough, and I have a list of things I want to sew that just keeps growing, so no time for repeats!

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Just one of the delicious treats I ate in Japan – already wondering when I can return!

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Sewing for the husband: Mustard Jutlands

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A while ago, Luke decided he wanted a pair of mustard pants. A bit of an odd request, but one I figured I could fulfil. Turns out getting the fabric was the biggest hurdle – at the time he decided this (a good few months ago now) I could not find any mustard denim in NZ. I tried all my local stores, Trademe, and the very few online NZ fabric shops. I even tried some Aussie stores, but no luck. I found this a little baffling, as the number of people I saw wandering about in mustard pants suggested to me it was quite an “on trend” colour! Eventually I found exactly what I wanted at Ditto Fabrics, located in the UK. I ordered some samples and was very pleased with how they looked and felt, so I bit the bullet and ordered. It was £8.99 a metre, and I got matching thread, too. I ended up using Youshop to get it here, as despite the efforts of a very nice man at Ditto named Gill, it was just too expensive to get it shipped directly from them. It still wasn’t cheap – I think all up with shipping costs and exchange rates, this fabric was around $80. I think good denim is worth paying for, though, so I wasn’t too upset. I got a matching zip from Miss Maude’s, and the buttons and rivets (not used) came from there, too. Turns out mustard zips aren’t easy to find either, so I was thrilled when she started carrying denim notions!

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The pattern I ended up using was the Jutland Pants from Thread Theory. I’ve made them before for Luke in cargo short form, but I’ve never made them as pants. It’s probably clear by now I’m not *that* fond of Thread Theory patterns, so I was keen to try a different pattern at first. I made a test version of the FOP 07 jeans, after seeing the amazing ones Very Purple Person made her husband. I was a bit worried as Japanese people tend to be slim and their sewing patterns small, but the measurements for the very largest size seemed like they would work. The pattern is in Japanese, however I figured I’ve made pants before and have some knowledge of Japanese, how hard could it be? The answer is, harder than you’d expect, but manageable. The fly gave me the biggest issues as it’s drafted differently to the Thread Theory pants or the Ginger Jeans, for instance, but after some research I found it’s actually drafter the “proper way” and I was able to find a video to help me work it out. At any rate, I made them using some cheap black denim and they were okay, but they had issues – the butt was saggy and way too roomy, the coin pocket was sewn into the pocket facing curve and didn’t fit Luke’s flashlight, and the denim shrank (despite prewashing) and they became too short. I also attempted to install rivets in them (my first time) and nearly threw the jeans, hammer and rivets into the bin. What ones I did manage to install came off in the first wash anyway. And yes, I did do practice ones – it seems the margin for error is very small with those little things.

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So I used the Jutland Pants in a size 36 that I’d used previously for the shorts, and I placed the front and back pattern pieces against the FOP pattern, and made some adjustments. I slimmed the legs down to 32, because Luke preferred the slimmer leg of the FOP jeans. I also shorted the crotch curve a little for the same reason. I actually took some length off the leg, because even though Luke is 194cm, they were too long. I baste fit the jeans together and had him try them on, and then took 5cm off the waist/hips. With all the changing of the sizes, I wasn’t quite sure which dart placement to use so I left them at the size 36 position, and the back pockets too. I think they look fine. The denim is not stretchy, and Luke’s measurements fit the 36 on the Thread Theory size chart almost perfectly, so I don’t know why they were too loose. I feel like I cannot rely on the Thread Theory size charts at all, as I had an issue with their latest pattern too, the Fairfield Shirt, where I carefully measured him and picked a size and it was too small (this is something they have apparently corrected though, as I wasn’t the only one to complain).

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The Jutland Pants don’t come with a coin pocket, so I’ve made my own that I use, copied from a pair of Luke’s RTW jeans. It fits his flashlight perfectly! I went with tonal topstitching everywhere on these pants, because a) I’m still not that great at it, b) my machine hates topstitching thread and c) Luke preferred the look of it on these pants. I just used the same thread I used everywhere else, no special thread or stitch length. I also didn’t decorate the back pockets with any kind of design at Luke’s request.

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Antique nickel button from Miss Maude’s – wish I’d taken a little bit more care to line up the waistband across the fly! Always room for improvement…

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Guts. Speaking of improvement, I sewed the fly shield on the wrong side. I was using a combination of the Thread Theory instructions and the Ginger Jeans instructions and somehow got confused. It doesn’t really matter too much, but I wish I didn’t always stuff something up in every project! I bound the waistband with my own bias binding made from an Art Gallery cotton, and I used proper pocketing for the pockets, which I bought from the fantastic Hawes & Freer. Luke is especially thrilled with the pocketing, he says it feels luxurious. And you can see the lovely matching zip, too! Luke loves these pants a whole lot, and he said they’re the most professional thing I’ve made yet, which is a pretty big feather in my cap!

Next up is another pair for Luke in dark denim (when I get around to buying some) and some Ginger Jeans for me. What are you all sewing at the moment?

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sewing

Scribble Flower Named Kielo Dress

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Hello hello, how’re we all doing? Another inadvertent break from blogging, but I’m back with a new dress – the Named Kielo wrap dress. I’ve been aware of this pattern for ages, but I didn’t think it would suit me, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. But after a few failed projects that I *did* think would suit me and ended up being swiftly donated, I threw caution to the winds and decided to go in a different direction. And you know, I’m so glad I did, because I love this dress!

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I hesitated over what size to make – my measurements put me at a size 44 in the bust, but my fabric was quite stretchy and I wanted a flattering fit, so I went with a 42 in the end. Speaking of the fabric, I really struggle finding nice knits in NZ, but I liked this scribbly flower one I found on Trademe because it’s not your typical floral. It’s polyester, but it does drape nicely and that was my main concern. Unfortunately it’s also a little sheer, so I have to wear tights and a camisole underneath (or a slip, if I owned one) for modesty.

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I didn’t want a maxi dress, so I cut a whole heap off the length. I don’t even know how much, even if I’d wanted a maxi dress I would have had to cut heaps off as it’s drafted for tall people and I’m 155cm. I also cut length off the sleeves, as I wanted them elbow length rather than full length. I sewed the entire thing on my overlocker, because I got a new one that I can actually use! I was using some janky old Babylock previously that was a bitch to thread and frequently snapped threads and other business, so I sold it and bought a Brother 1034D second hand (which came with an instructional VHS!) that I love. I paused when it came to finishing the neckline and the hems though, as it’s quite a drapy knit and not very stable. I didn’t want it to stretch out, and I was out of that fusible knit tape everyone thinks is so great. I came across a blog post somewhere about making your own out of fusible interfacing cut on the bias, so I overlocked all the raw edges and applied the interfacing to the hem, turned it under and tried sewing it with a twin needle, but just as I was thinking it was going well, my machine had a fit and refused to deal with it any longer. I tried rethreading it several times, but nothing worked, so I unpicked it all and peeled off the interfacing and just left it as an overlocked hem – the same with the sleeves. I kind of like it, honestly, so I’m leaving it that way.

I just made a binding for the neck from self-fabric, and made it 3/4 of the length of the neckline and attached it with my overlocker, gently stretching it the whole way. I’m very happy with that finish!

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I think my style is changing a bit. Before this I tried making another Colette Moneta out of a purple jersey from The Fabric Store, but I forgot how wide the neckline is on that dress and hated it the minute I put it on, and it was way too purple. Before that I made a Sewaholic Granville shirt from a grey linen with contrast orange birds, and I hated that too because it looked stupid and didn’t flatter my figure at all. It can be hard to find motivation to keep sewing when everything turns out badly and you start to wonder if you can even sew properly or make trustworthy decisions about your wardrobe, so thank goodness for this dress – a much needed win.

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It’s perfect for hugging the neighbour’s cat, too!

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clothing, sewing

Cherry Pie wool skirt

Hey ho, it’s been a wee while, hasn’t it? Never mind though, I’m back with a finished skirt that’s only been a work in progress for 4 years!

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When I was living in Berkeley, back in the days when I still used Pinterest, a stylish friend of mine pinned a skirt by a French clothing designer that I fell head over heels for. It was a circle skirt, made of woollen fabric, with two velvet bows on the front. It was also about €300 and not anywhere near my size, not that I would have bought it anyway. So I set about making my own. I bought some red Melton wool from fabric.com, and used the Circle Skirt App by By Hand London to make the pattern. I “pre-washed” the wool by taking it to the laundromat and tumble drying it with a damp towel – not having my own washing machine in the States was infinitely annoying when it came to pre-washing fabric! I cut out the skirt and the waistband, and then it got set aside and suddenly we were moving to New Zealand!

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(I pressed it, I promise – it got crumpled in the moving process and is being stubborn about unwrinkling)

Of course, I had to bring my unfinished skirt with me, so I packed it into a ziplock bag in my suitcase and once I got a sewing machine here in Auckland, I took it out again and assessed. I wanted to interface the waistband, but I was unsure what to use, so I went to the local fabric shop and they sold me some quite expensive interfacing that worked beautifully, and in fact I only used the last of it up recently! I wish I knew what kind it was but the fabric store employee was unfriendly and I just wanted to leave, so I didn’t ask. It was very soft, and grey in colour, and fusible. After that, I attached the waistband and inserted a lapped zip from my newly acquired op shop stash.

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For the hem, I knew I wanted it full and swingy. I had bought horsehair braid from the now-defunct online shop run by Sunni from A Fashionable Stitch and knew I wanted to use that. I used Gertie’s tutorial on how to attach it and shape the hem, and after folding it up I did a catch-stitch by hand to secure it.

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And then, I was stumped. I had bought some velvet ribbon to try and mimic the original skirt, but it was only velvet on one side and I couldn’t figure out a way of forming the bow where none of the non-velvet side was showing. The skirt ended up getting put to the side again after I got a job, and for a while I thought about it and toyed with the idea of embroidering something around the hem. For two years.

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I wish you couldn’t see the outline of my top under the skirt – the photographer should tell you such things!

Finally, last Monday was Luke’s birthday, and he wanted to take some photos of me (among other things), and I wanted to look nice. I came across the skirt again, and decided to try it on. I wasn’t even sure if it would fit – I hadn’t ever tried it on! Thankfully, it did – but it didn’t have a button. Ever resourceful, I found a brooch Luke’s mum had given me a while back and used that to pin the waistband closed – you can see it in the side-on shot above.

Oh, and the top I’m wearing? I made that, too! It’s the Ensis Tee by Papercut Patterns, made out of black merino from The Fabric Store for our Iceland trip last year. A black long-sleeved top is a must for me, and this one is really comfy. I have fabric to make a few more, just need to find the time!

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Silky Asaka for MIL

As we all know, it was Mother’s Day recently in the southern hemisphere, and for the first time in about 5 years, Luke and I were actually in a position to see our mothers on the day! I figured the occasion deserved something a little better than flowers or chocolates, so I decided to make each of our mothers a handmade garment as a gift.

For my mother, I chose the Oslo cardigan from Seamwork. Unfortunately, I have no photos to show you because I was working on it right up until the night before our flight to Australia, and my mother is extremely photo-shy, and wouldn’t allow me to take any pictures of her wearing it. I’ll tell you, though, that it was in a black boiled wool knit with handmade buttonholes (because my machine refused to even contemplate stitching them for me) and bronze walnut buttons, and she absolutely loved it and it fit perfectly.

For my mother-in-law, Kim, I decided on the Asaka robe from Named, which I bought a year or so ago and hadn’t used yet. I wanted something pretty, and also something that was forgiving when it comes to fitting, as I wasn’t sure of Kim’s actual measurements and didn’t want to spoil the surprise by asking. I cut out a size 44 with no adjustments and traced them off, as this was sadly just before their announcement that they had converted it into their new layered sizing PDF format 😦

20160515_103326Kim was more than happy to pose for blog photos!

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The fabric I used I have been hoarding for quite some time. I bought it in an op shop in Hahndorf, a lovely little Germanic town in the Adelaide Hills – it was on a bolt, and it was only $5! I liked the pattern, so I bought it. When I got it home and unrolled it, there was about 10 metres of it there…and it was by John Kaldor! What a bargain! It’s very light and silky, but not see-through. I’m not sure if it’s a silk blend or what it is, as I haven’t done a burn test, but it feels delightful on the skin so I knew it would be perfect for this robe. I prewashed it in warm water in the machine and it held up just fine (I didn’t want to give Kim something she would have to hand wash all the time).

Construction was fairly straightforward. I French seamed everything I could so there were no raw edges visible, and I hand stitched the collar down on the inside for a clean, neat finish. That took forever, but it was well worth it! I also used a starch stabiliser to stop the fabric from shifting to make sure everything was neat and straight, particularly for the belt and the sleeve vents. Then I just washed the completed garment at the end to remove any traces of starch, and it was good to go!

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Kim really loves it, and it fits her perfectly, so I’m pretty happy it turned out so well, and I was able to give both our mothers gifts they love and will hopefully use for a long time to come!

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