February 27, 2012

Decoding the Derriere, or, have you read the word "crotch" enough today?

Here's something you may not know - Google scours the internet reading key words on websites to decide how important and relevant that website is in search results. If you have too many no-no words Google might confuse your site with say, a p*rn site. So if you notice that I use a lot of euphemisms for your backside - it's not that I can't bring myself to say certain words - it's just that I don't want to upset the Google gods!

Ok! Back to our regularly scheduled program.

Ever since Colette launched their Clover pants pattern it seems that the sewing blogosphere has been gaga over making pants with an equal number of successes and failures along the way. I'm no exception although I feel like I've had more failures than not.

Every body is different but while bodices and skirts seem to be relatively simple to fit, pants are tricky. And the main struggles revolve around the crotch line - depth, inseam, length, curve, etc.

I've made three pairs of shorts and three pairs of pants (and one pants muslin) in my sewing career with varying results. I've noticed that the looser the pants/shorts the easier they are to fit and the shape of the crotch line is a big deal.

I've taken it upon myself to research and compare a bunch of pants patterns with my own RTW pants and the differences, to me, are mind blowing! Maybe this can be eye opening to others facing a similar problem.

Here are a bunch of patterns all from different companies. From left to right - Butterick 5682, Simplicity 3850 (which I showed you yesterday), Kiwk Sew 3854 (these shorts), New Look 6100, McCall's 6405, and Colette Clovers. Click on the pics for a bigger view.

Now here are two pairs of my fave skinny jeans and the last is a pair of wide leg, mid rise jeans. I traced the back crotch line. These are Gap and some other random company.

And now here are all the crotch lines together. The black line is a composite of my jeans (they were nearly identical).

See how different each one is? No wonder it is hard to find a good fitting pants pattern!

And a bigger problem for me - some of these patterns dip too far back to even let out the back seam for a good fit. The J shape in both the Colette and Butterick patterns are way too deep for my behind. Now I know that if I sew up the Clovers as is I'll have a big blob of extra fabric under my bum. That also explains why I had some major backside problems with the Butterick pattern before.

You have to remember that some of these patterns have back darts and others have yokes so that changes the waist lines. The curve at the center back waist on the Simplicity pants is so sharp because the only shaping comes in the side and back seams.

When you take into consideration the darts in the New Look pattern that crotch line will look a lot more like my RTW jeans. Just by looking the Kwik Sew crotch line seems to match up the best. To make a good fitting pair of skinny jeans I think the Simplicity pants give me the most room to work with in the derriere.

Looking at this I feel like I suddenly understand my problems and what to do to fix them. MIND. BLOWN.

Now I know why the Kwik Sew and Simplicity shorts fit much better than anything else I have tried and hopefully I can save myself some headaches next time!

***Have you tried this comparison? Are you one of the lucky ones to find a good pants pattern that you guard with your life?

February 26, 2012

Simplicity 3850, or, a very wearable muslin

 Simplicity 3850

I'm thinking about organizing my posts a little differently from now on. Rather than just writing up all the details however I want I'll have little sections on the fabric and pattern and alterations and what not. What do you like reading more- a kind of pattern review style or "the facts" on sew weekly, or do you like a more leisurely few paragraphs on whatever points I want to talk about?

Simplicity 3850

Goal: I wanted to make a good fitting pair of pants after my last jeans making fiasco. Someone in my sewing group very kindly let me borrow a Hot Patterns skinny jeans pattern to trace. I also bought the Colette Clovers recently. But looking at both of these patterns reminded me of what I learned last time I tried my hand at pants. My crotch line doesn't resemble most pants patterns at all and I needed a completely different approach! Then another sewing group person reminded me to try out this pattern I had used previously to make shorts.

Pattern: That previous pattern was Simplicity 3850, a Built by Wendy "slim pants, capris and shorts" pattern that I had made two shorts variations from with relatively no fit problems except for which size I chose to cut. The first shorts I made a year ago. I had cut the pattern and fabric out a couple years before that but I had forgotten about them. When I finally made them up they fit technically, but they were a little too tight over all. Those were a size 14.

The next shorts I made about 6 months ago and I sized the pattern up to about a 16. Those fit but were almost slightly too big. I really took for granted that I didn't have to make any changes to the fit.

Simplicity 3850

This time I went back to the original size 14 and made the pants version.

Simplicity 3850

Fabric: A medium weight 100% cotton twill from Joann. I purposely bought this green color because I wasn't that enthralled with it. I thought that if I bought a good fabric in a cool color I'd be really upset if my garment didn't turn out nicely and I'd feel like I had wasted my fabric.

Simplicity 3850

For the inside of the pockets and the waistband I used leftover orange dyed batiste from my Darling Ranges dress which is finished but I haven't taken photos of it yet.

Simplicity 3850
(blue jeans zipper, navy buttons and orange lining - nope, nothing matches! oh well!)

Changes: I started out trying to make a bunch of fitting changes along the way but by the end I resorted back to the original pattern and the only changes I made ware making the front center 1/2" higher and leaving out the belt loops.

Simplicity 3850

Results: They fit! Mostly. The pattern says they are "slim" fit but this design is about 4 years old, slightly older than the popularity of skinny jeans so my idea of "slim" and 2007's idea of "slim" are probably a little different. They fit well in the front but because of my idea of the "skinny jeans butt" the back is more like a straight leg pant than the curve hugging look I'd be going for. But they're not gigantically baggy and any bagginess I think comes from the stiff fabric. I'd say that for the style they fit! If there is any problem it's that, like most pants, they've stretched out even in the short time I've worn them. Maybe next time I should make a 12 knowing they'll stretch.

Simplicity 3850

I feel like this whole pants thing is one big face palm. All that work on my other jeans and I just could have adjusted this one pattern! I'm going to make a whole separate post on why these pants fit me better than any other, because really, it blows my mind!

Simplicity 3850

In the mean time I'm going to celebrate having a very wearable pants muslin. Hooray!

***So here is a question - how has popular style changed your idea of how pants should fit?

February 23, 2012

The Big Reveal, or, now I remember why I hate painting so much

Painted Craft Room

You've seen my craft room before. I did a big post on how I organize everything a few months ago. You also saw my sneak peak. But now you get to see it WITH STRIPES!!!! (insert maniacal laugh here because this paint job drove me insane)

Forgive me, the room has been finished for a few weeks but it wasn't clean enough for photos until recently.

What do you do when you want to paint your room but can't decide on a color? You use all of the colors!

Painted Craft Room

I like the stripe effect because I get a little bit of every shade. The dark is on the bottom so it doesn't overwhelm this small room and I think the lighter shades leading upward make the room seem taller. Well, that's my personal non-interior designer impression of it.

Painted Craft Room

Someone noticed last time that the paint colors match the blog design and she's right and I can't believe I didn't make the connection when I picked these colors. I must really really like coral. The bottom three colors were taken straight off a color card and the top pink was an oops paint at the store as a discount and it just so happened to be the color (or close enough) to what I needed.

I've painted a lot of apartments in my life (and painted them back to white when I left) but over time I've grown less and less inclined to spend a few days buying supplies, taping, painting layers, cleaning rollers and waking up with a stiff shoulder.

Painted Craft Room

I think this is the pinnacle of my disdain for painting. I did two walls at a time and shoved everying up against the other walls so space to paint was limited. I used two rolls of tape and because of the lines I could only paint two stripes of wall at a time like the top stripe and the third. Then let those dry then re-tape and paint the second and last stripe. Because I had to wait for stripes to dry the process took far longer than a I had enthusiasm for.

Now I remember why I didn't buy a fixer-upper house - because I hate painting! If Justin wants to paint any other room in this place he can do it himself.

Painted Craft Room

But the result is pretty cool so I guess I'm glad I stuck it out and finished!

February 22, 2012

Fabric by Fabric One Yard Wonders Neck Pillow

Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders Travel Neck Pillow

In January I bought the new Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders book and a woman in my sewing group, Susan, came up with the idea to have a sewing book club and we chose this book for our first meeting in March.

I've already made the wallet from this book and this pillow is my second project.

Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders Travel Neck Pillow

The "Work in Comfort" Travel Set includes a neck pillow and cushioned lap desk but I only made the neck pillow. I could have used one of these for my long car ride/plane trip last Christmas because all I want to do is sleep when I travel but can't in those darn upright seats. I'm the poster child for someone who needs one of these neck pillows!

Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders Travel Neck Pillow

The pillow was so easy to put together - just one pattern piece, cut two, cut the little loop, sew the pillow, trim seam allowances, stuff and then stitch up the opening. This was a less than 45 min project and Justin even wanted to help stuff the pillow with fiber fill.

Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders Travel Neck Pillow

I used fleece leftover from a dog coat that I made as a Christmas present last year for a friend. I realize I never posted about that, sorry! I get such a good feeling when I create something that both uses up my stash and is very practical.

Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders Travel Neck Pillow

And since I haven't posted any pictures yet now that I'm back to brunette, here's me testing out the pillow on the couch.

Yesterday Susan sent me an email. As it turns out the One Yard Wonders people are making a new book - this one will feature all kid related sewing projects and they're looking for contributors! So if you've got a great sewing project for toys, clothes, decor, etc for children you should submit it for the book. The deadline is April 15th. If I have time I might send in a project idea.

February 19, 2012

Pin-Up Girls Classic Bra Pattern, or, making things awkward for my real life friends

Pin-Up Girls Classic Bra Pattern

For some reason I keep copying Colette - first it was my black and white Jasmine top that mimicked their sample, now I'm making the same bra pattern Sarai made about a week ago. Next thing you know I'll be making light blue capri Colvers.

Pin-Up Girls Classic Bra Pattern

In my defense, none of these things were intentional. In my desire to learn more about swimwear sewing I found myself at BraMakersSupply.com looking at bra kits and patterns because swim suit sewing and lingerie sewing have much in common. The next day I bought a kit and found out Sarai (and others) had already done the same!

Pin-Up Girls Classic Bra Pattern

I bought the red kit, a set of underwires and the Pin-Up Girls Classic pattern with the full band across the front (as opposed to the partial band).

Note: If you don't live in Ontario it might save you some money to buy supplies from another site like Merckwaerdigh. They are a Dutch company but they have an easy to navigate Etsy site and a harder to navigate Ebay site (in my opinion). On their Etsy they sell notions kits for $7.43 USD with $4 for shipping vs BMS's $17.60 USD notions kit with probably $4 for shipping. And Merck's kit is for one bra and one brief while BMS is only for one bra. Merck also has more color combos for notions. BMS sells individual underwire pairs for $2.20 USD while Merck sells 6 packs of wires for $6. Merck's full kits (notions and fabric) are also cheaper.

Pin-Up Girls Classic Bra Pattern

Excuse me if this admission is TMI (or really shows my age) but I seriously have never owned a non-foam cup bra. This is my first soft, seamed bra ever so this is kind of a new wearing experience for me. Now when you think about it, I'm 24 and shaped cups became popular in about the mid 90s right? I can't be the only one who's been foam-only.

Pin-Up Girls Classic Bra Pattern

Ok - on to the nitty gritty! Sewing this bra was very rewarding. Sure, I made many mistakes but none that couldn't be corrected or done better next time. And for some reason my 3 step zig zag looks more like scallops than points. But even with mistakes and do-overs I still finished the whole thing in only a couple hours!

Pin-Up Girls Classic Bra PatternPin-Up Girls Classic Bra Pattern

I didn't have any fitting issues (I'm a pretty standard size) and the directions for the pattern were pretty easy to follow. The images for stitching the elastic could have been clearer, though, but I figured it out eventually.

Pin-Up Girls Classic Bra Pattern

The only problem I have with this bra that I will fix next time is I didn't stretch the elastic enough in the under arm area so it doesn't fit as snug as I'd like. But other than that, it fits (even if the cups look a little baggy on my dressform) and looks great and was a snap to sew!

Pin-Up Girls Classic Bra 

If you have any fears about jumping into bra making I say go for it! I think I'm hooked now and I'm on the hunt for new fabrics and elastics. I want to try more bra styles and add pretty lace and details. And of course I'm going to try to adapt this pattern for a supportive bikini top.

Pin-Up Girls Classic Bra Pattern

The only problem with bra sewing and blogging about it is that several of my friends and family read this so, um, yeah, next time we get together they'll probably be wondering if I'm wearing this bra at that moment. Awkward.........

***Have you ever sewn your own underwear? Do you have any resources that I should know about? What about a favorite pattern?? Best place to buy fabric?

February 17, 2012

Victory Patterns' Lola Dress, or, red hot Valentine's love!

Red Lola

Look at me! I got all dressed up for Valentine's Day.

I love Victory Patterns’ design style so much. This is the second pattern I’ve made from their pattern line (See my version of the Anouk dress here) – the Lola Dress – and in red! Who needs some frilly lingerie for Valentine’s Day? I’d rather have a super comfy (and super cute) sweatshirt dress!

The pattern is a twist on on your good old fashioned sweatshirt only much more stylish. I liked the curve seams which make it less boxy and the big fat side pockets are fun.

The fabric is a sweatshirt fleece from Fabric.com and the ribbing is from Joann.

Red Lola

If you remember my New Years Sewing Resolutions (which BTW, I think I'm doing a pretty good job keeping up with) and what I learned from my Closet Catalogue  then you'll notice that this dress fits many requirements: it's a dress, it has long sleeves, it's a solid color, it's from an indie pattern company and it is a different style that I wouldn't normally sew for myself.

Red Lola

Let's talk body consciousness! I’m much more inclined to make dresses with cinched-in waists or at least with a belt to define a shape. I have a slight fear of looking like a balloon in designs like this. I’m also not used to wearing such a bold color but I’m so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone!

Red Lola

You have no idea how much I love this dress. It is so comfortable but I don’t look sloppy. And, best of all, I don’t look or feel like a big fat balloon! I wear this thing all the time, and I even really like the red color. I don’t have any other dresses with a solid bright color all over. I love my Lola!

On a more technical note the dress was  fast and easy to sew and with the loose fit I didn’t have to make any adjustments. I just cut a straight size 8. The only slight problem I noticed was the neck opening in the line drawing and sample pictures seemed slightly wider than mine and the ribbing puckered a bit, although after wearing the dress so many times I never really noticed it so I guess it's not that big of a deal. The front triangle is a nice touch. The pattern calls for serging it onto the dress but I didn't want to figure out how to remove my serger knife so I just zig zagged it on. Still looks good!

Red Lola

Justin and I have never been much for doing traditional activities for Valentine's Day and we never really plan anything either for the event, but we always seem to do something fun. This year we explored a car graveyard which is pretty cool if you like adventure and have a fascination for the rusted and the abandoned like I do. What did you do for Valentine's?

***In other news, I'm back to brunette. These were my last sewing related photos with purple hair. The purple lasted a good month but faded pretty badly and I was tired of not being able to wash my hair as often as I liked so today I reverted to my natural state. Goodbye purple! It was fun while it lasted!

February 14, 2012

An Exercise in Sewing Skill: Going Pinless!

(Pin Nazi says, "No pins for you!!")

I'm doing an experiment as I sew my Darling Ranges dress - sewing without using pins. Most home sewers use pins, at least when first learning. Pinning pattern pieces to fabric to cut and pinning fabric to fabric before going under the presser foot, you know the drill.

But really good sewers or professional sample makers/factory workers don't use pins when stitching - they just line their pieces up and use their hands to keep everything in place. Obviously this saves time - no putting in and taking out pins. And using pattern weights and a rotary cutter for cutting out pieces can be a time saver, too.

But here's my fear - what if I mess up if I go without pins? What if my fabric gets all tangled or the top layer gets longer than the bottom by the end of the seam? What if it's a complicated convex on concave curve? How do I keep it all straight?

(Peanut guards my machine when I'm not using it.)

In sewing this dress I thought it might be a good chance to try out going pinless. It's a lot of straight lines and few curves.

Turns out, it's not so bad! At least on the straights. I only used pins as place markers (like side seams when attaching skirt to bodice), not to hold everything together.

Things got tricky at the armholes. Do the pros even sew set in sleeves sans pins? Because that was pretty hard. I admit, I resorted to pins.

For hems I was pretty proud of myself. I pressed and measured my hems but no pinning! Even on the sleeves!

On the neckline, which uses bias tape as a facing, I did alright at first but when I discovered a slight problem and had to re-do the whole neckline I gave in and used pins as it was easier.

All I have left on the dress now are buttons and buttonholes - no real need for pins there.

Verdict: The pros might be on to something with this no pinning thing. I may have broken my pinning addiction, at least for straight lines. I could definitely tell a difference in my sewing time with pinning vs. pinless. Even though I sewed slower and with more concentration without the pins (because I was afraid I'd miss-align the layers) I still completed a huge chunk of the dress in faster time than what it would have taken with pins. Imagine how much faster I could be with more practice?

***Now, I can't be the only sewer still dependent on pins. Do you sew with or without? Have you ever tried sewing completely pinless? Have you been without pins for years? I tend to view pinless sewers as highly skilled craftspeople with whom I could never compete... maybe I'm wrong?? I want your input!