Tuesday, 24 April 2018

French Navy Calyer pants: tacky lounge pants for the win!

Like most people these days I discover new patterns via Instagram.  I saw a few pictures of Calyer pants sneak up before the pattern was put up for sale and I was already drooling at the lovely front, the spiraled side seams and the clever pockets.  Plus the fact of no closures on pants that look so stylish had me full of fancy aspirations.

I bought the fabric at The Fabric Store in Auckland to make these pants.  The fabric is a marled grey woven in a weird blend of merino, plus linen? silk? rayon?  who knows.  When I washed it the fabric kind of shrunk in on itself, getting a bit denser and rougher feeling.  It doesn't really have stretch, but it has a lot of mechanical give in the horizontal direction.  It has basically no drape.  The fabric is also super narrow.  I think I bought 1.5 or 2 meters, which is of course less than the pattern calls for.  The pattern calls for a lot of fabric because the back piece is very wide.  So, note the width of your fabric if you want to use less!  I could not fit the pieces across the width and had to cut my front legs in two pieces and make a seam just above the knees.  I actually quite like doing that and I think of it as a design feature, but if you aren't keen on such things, then ensure your fabric is wide enough to cut the back pieces on.

My sewing friend Tessa had made Calyer pants a few weeks ago so I saw her learning process as she didn't leave the seam allowance for the pockets and had to backtrack.  She also cut a size smaller than the size chart recommended.  (Size chart for her measurements were L, but the finished measurements suggested she'd be fine in a M, so that's what she cut.)  It was also very good to see her finished version as the pattern does not make clear that the pocket lining will be visible when the pants are worn.  Tessa's fabric was extra wide, so she could fit the pattern pieces on something like 1 meter of fabric!

The directions are so precise they are almost micromanaging.  However, this is an "advanced beginner" by which they mean intermediate pattern.  That is because the shape of the pattern pieces diverges from "standard" pants, and because the order of construction is original.  By precisely following the directions you are basically guaranteed a fantastic result.  Seriously.  These look amazing.  There is basically no spot that doesn't line up, no edge that's crooked.

As for me, I cut a size XS and I am glad of it.  I considered cutting the S.  My waist is 26-27 and hips 37. I am scared, because my Orla dress was fit for (and was given to) an 8-year-old.  So I was tempted to size up.  Truthfully though I think I had a psychosis moment because on the Orla dress size chart I was not an XS or whatever I cut, but something like an M, so that was my own mistake.

I made no changes to the pattern, and I used some faded rose coloured silk for the pockets and for the front waistband facing.  That was good as the nice stable fabric was easy to work with.  I liked the pop of colour which is subtle but blends in with grey.

I did these during my sewing day, so they took about a third of a day.  I had no problems and my only pause was when Tessa went out to buy my waistband elastic.  I also did not shorten the hems, though they are drafted for a person sized 5'6" and I am more like 5'4", the inseam seems fine on me.  If you are tall these will be slightly above ankle length.  I like the length as it is though.

All my photos are taken at the Mount, aka Mt Maunganui.  The pants did well for a movie night, followed by a morning stroll and a climb up to the top of the mount, though I was pretty sweaty by the top.  (Google says it's 231 meters up.)

My final thought was that the pants look so super cool lying on the floor but when I put them on, the gathering from the back elastic makes my bum look terrible.  They are not form fitting, and so they are kind of like a pair of classy lounge pants.  However then I realised that I basically live in things that don't fit very well which are takes on classy lounge pants.  Also, it was my own fault for not using drapey fabric.

I wore these to work and they were comfortable and made me happy (I am working night shifts and thus basically wear takes on "fancy lounge pants" in order to not wear scrubs.)  I don't plan to make more now, but if I made more I might take a tiny wedge out of the front waist just to dip it down in the centre front.  Other than that, and using a drapey fabric, I wouldn't make any changes.  I suppose theoretically I could size down from the S at the hips to XS at the waist, to decrease the amount of fabric entering the waistband gathers.  But I think first trying a lower profile fabric might make a difference.  So pay attention - if your fabric has a lot of body it will not lie flat due to the elastic!  Also make sure to leave precise seam allowances when sewing the pockets.

Overall I am really happy with these and the pattern.  It was sort of a mystifying experience as I went along but it came out great.  I still don't really get whether the weird angle at the hem of the pants mattered, but I guess it's good when life leaves us with a few unsolved mysteries. 

Monday, 16 April 2018

Madalynne's free Barrett Bralette, x 2

When this first cropped up on Madalynne's instagram I was very impatient for the pattern to be made available - which in short order, it was!  I haven't been sewing much, and I've been choosing rather carefully what to sew also because I've been sewing only weekly at my friend Tessa's, but this pattern alone revived my lingerie sewjo which has been lurking at nil due to last year's lace-based catastrophe and an overdose in other bralette patterns.

Size small which fits me correctly. The sizing chart seems accurate.

I went into it a bit pessimistic, because I quite like my findings - all from Elle Joan via etsy - a local NZ seller so very awesome to get fast service and be able to support local.  I reckoned no way could it end up as good as I hoped.  Plus it's not an easy bralette to make.  Despite the popular sewing bloggers all optimistically waxing poetic, this bralette has lots of little tricky bits and the instructions are very wordy - a thicket of words often obfuscating what the actual next step might be.  Going into it I felt a bit nervous due to those instructions but as long as you have made bras and are used to dealing with picot elastic it doesn't hold major surprises.

I did the first cup wrong - sewing the lining and the outer material of the vertical seam separately, but by the second cup I realised what the instructions were trying to say and I sewed all four layers together correctly.  Indeed it creates a much better result as the seams lie flatter, and I can see the difference when wearing the bralette.

I thought the instructions for putting together the straps were bad, and I referred to the Marlborough bra for those, because it's an easy thing to get confused on.  In the end one can always figure it out.  But this is one of those cases - which reminds me of Tilly and the Buttons patterns - where a multitude of pictures and words can cause more confusion rather than clarity.  I also really hate colour pictures and strongly prefer drawn diagrams.  I think that people are polarised on this : )

As I was making the bralette, the open V of the front didn't seem to sit straight.  It is improved once the straps are on and does not influence the fit but I think I could have changed the angle with which I attached them to that bottom elastic.  I realised once I put clothing on that it is very important because it creates a lumpy silhouette if you don't have that v totally flat.

It's the bottom elastic that makes this a particularly not simple sew.  Because you have to overlap and maintain the SA - I think that is an intermediate skill.  Madalynne assumes that you have glued the layers together and that they will act as one.  I didn't use glue so I had more layers to manage and I had to undo and fix some areas where all three layers didn't catch in my stitching.

The stitching is really visible when it's lying flat but not visible when its worn, so it actually miraculously looks quite decent on.

My sewing machine is borrowed and the needle is offset from what looks like centre.  It has a terrible system for adjusting the width of the zig zag.  So I need to pay a lot of attention to choose the right zig zag and to correct for this visual error I kept making which meant I was stitching off the side of where I wanted to be, which added to my grumpiness.

Overall it was still under 3 hours. This is a fantastic pattern and I really love the fit, so for once despite some errors along the way I'm both happy with the result (yes I will wear it) and I am excited to make the next one, and make it better.

And the second one:
I discovered the width adjustment for the zigzag.  Haha, oops.  Things are better now.  I also got in the habit of putting the needle down into the fabric so I'd know where it was starting, which has also helped. 
I didn't stretch the elastic quite enough under the arms.
To improve the underbust elastic problem, I measured 1/4" down from the top of the bust elastic, and drew a horizontal line to pin the fabric to.  I left this alone at the center front, put the bra on, measured where those 2" should be at the V of the front, and then pulled and gathered in order to get the V to lie flat.  Bra 2 is much nicer looking under clothes - it doesn't stick out weirdly.

I think I've had enough of these, though they were fun.  I have been inspired to go back to an old plan of making a Noelle-Mallori Lane mashup...

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Patterns for Pirates Linen lounger shorts in ikat

Sewing day, episode 3.

My friend Tessa has been inviting me over once a week for a sewing day.  This has been very instructive.  First, to see how someone else sews.  Tessa is prolific.  Also she has returned my faith in just taping pdf patterns instead of tracing them.  But I have mostly been buying A0 printouts which is fantastic.

Second is that when I have a day to sew, and I really can only sew during that day, but it's also fun and social, I am very clear on what I plan to do.  And I do it.  And then afterwards I go home and I honestly assess if I care to wear that item and whether it was worth driving around and not surfing all day.  It's helped me to stay honest with myself about how sewing really should not be the centre feature of my existence. 

I decided to make some shorts for Sewing day, week 3.  Last week I was doing some pattern testing which was very stressful, and in fact Tessa will be lending me a sewing machine so I can do some sewing at home to finish all the pattern testing. So, will I turn back into overstressed sewing Sonia?  Remains to be seen...

These Linen Loungers looked great - so many options.  In fact other than the overly bubbly pattern presentation, my big problem with P4P is that there are so many options for each product that it can be hard to tell what you're doing, or follow instructions in a linear fashion.  For these shorts, you can make them short, longer, even longer, or as pants, with two different types of pocket, with or without a fly, with two different types of waistband...egad!

My fabric is a scrap of ikat I have been saving for shorts - purchased in Thailand.  It was a big step to go ahead and make untested shorts out of it!  But in a way that's why I sized up (if anything; my hips shrank in Nepal so now maybe they are 36") - because I reckoned for sure they would fit on my body, at least. 

I cut a size S based on my measurements.  I used the inside pockets and followed all the instructions for the bias binding despite initially thinking it seemed unnecessary.  It gives a great finish, and means the pockets are solid.  I used the curving hem bottom which also was a bit of work but is a nice finish.

And of course I went crazy over-overlocking, just because I could.  I now understand that you are supposed to straight stitch the seamlines, in order to get the correct seam allowance, and then overlock to finish things.  I get it now.  : )

My personal opinion is that there is a lot of fabric in these.  They are very relaxed fit.  And because of the waistband, and the ikat fabric being relatively thick, I feel like I ended up with a lot of fabric between my legs.  For people, anatomically speaking, who have thighs that don't touch, this is great.  But for those of us whose thighs rub together, I do not want extra fabric, because it turns into a big puddle right in the front of my crotch when I am walking.  So I was suspicious.

However everyone on instagram loved these right away and I have gone ahead and worn them every day to test them out...and they certainly function fine.  Nonetheless, for a second pair, were the right fabric to call my name, I would make the XXS, using the yoga style waistband, and lengthen them somewhat.  This length really is a bit on the short side.  Hah, ironically that means the excess fabric is sort of a comfort, if they are short at least they are baggy...

So at least for now looks like my friends hankering after these won't get them. 

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Chalk and Notch Pony tank and a sewing day!

I am whiling away time in New Zealand waiting for my Australian visa.  It's all pretty good, but my luggage...is in Australia.  So I am knitting.  But it's been over a month and I started to get a little itchy for some sewing.  I wrote up a friend who sews locally and she invited me over for a sewing day - something that she does weekly.

I prepped the Anima pants and the Pony tank.  She offered to show me how her serger worked and of course I was jumping with excitement!!  So a mix of a new pattern and an old pattern seemed about right.

Nothing to say about my Anima pants.  I have made this so many times that I could basically do the changes in my sleep.  What I could add is that the new, updated A0 pattern came out...literally 10 minutes after I got to my friends house...so I spent the next hour cutting and taping.  I make a size XXS, remove 10 cm of the length, remove the fly and the pockets.  And no drawstring.  For this version I went with tulip cuffs.  I added 2 cm width to each cuff and then visualised the tulip shape, cut all four ends together and then just sewed the edges shut before flipping it right side out.  I realised afterwards that I didn't need to add any width, because my overlap was the same amount as the seam allowance would have been.  So the cuffs are loose, but look great.  I love this little feature that makes my SERGED Anima pants the best ones I've ever made.

The Pony tank is basically as advertised.  I cut the size 2 based on my measurements.  There is a lot of commentary about how high the armscye is.  It is high.  I was all proud of not trying this top on before I applied the armbands.  Don't be like me.  I still need to fix them - I took it home and tried really hard to wear it and the armholes just are not working out.  Unfortunately stuff that has been overlocked...is not much fun to undo.  But it will happen soon!

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Sew House Seven Toaster sweater in double faced merino

This is one of the final projects that I made last winter before going off to Nepal.  It hasn't been worn much yet but it was an easy make and I really like it, so I expect it will eventually gets lots of wear.

The fabric is double faced merino from the outlet fabric shops in Auckland.  It's dark olive on the outside and a more subtle dusty aqua on the inside.  I went with version 1, and size S.  I loved the inside colour but I couldn't think of any nice way to use it as accents, as the olive is very clearly an exterior sort of fabric - it won't catch on anything, but it's also not as nice against the skin, whereas the texture of the aqua inner is more like usual merino.

A raglan sleeved sweatshirt is pretty simple as sews go.  The fit is good, and I'm glad I didn't bow to temptation to make an XS.  I wouldn't make any changes to this pattern for fit. 

Monday, 26 February 2018

By Hand London Zeena dress in upcycled Marimekko flowers

I planned to make this dress when I was in Ukraine, but somehow I lost the traced skirt piece and that put it on the back burner.  There are always many fun dress patterns to try out...

Finally I decided it was time.  I used a Marimekko sheet that I found at the Goodwill in Seattle. 
This dress is not lined, uses a facing, and has pleats to create the structure.  I didn't shorten it because it's meant to be very short for BHL - I just used about a 2 inch hem to shorten it somewhat.  I used size 6/10 which is my general size in BHL. 

I found nothing difficult in the tracing, cutting process.  I knew ahead of time that I would hate the facing, but I also hate making bias tape.  Unfortunately I should know better.  I really hate facings. 

I didn't do a lot of careful details with this because it was pretty primarily a muslin to see what I thought, although I did pay attention to the flowers not to have them in inappropriate places, or repeating oddly.  My Mum thinks it's cute but I don't like it at all.  The waist bothers me.  I really need to do an adjustment to the back to remove the extra fabric.  The pleats don't please me.  The fit is acceptable even without a swayback adjustment, but the style feels too cute.

As for the bad photos, my Mum needed cataract surgery and couldn't focus so I reckon they were still impressively good : )  (She's had it now and is doing great.)

Luckily I have enough left in this sheet to make something else, like a nice Willow tank! 

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Muse Jenna Cardi in merino sweater knit

When this first came out I was interested.  Cardigans are a big part of my wardrobe and I wasn't sure if I would ever achieve knitting one myself, or be dependent on Anthropologie forever for cool quirky knitted items.  So a pattern for sewing a cardigan, I immediately thought of sewing up some sweater knits, and also right away had a lot of modifications in mind.

Which was why I thought over this pattern for a very long time.  It seemed like a slippery slope of a pattern: make one, assess, then make 4 more with various modifications.  This is indeed exactly what is going to happen, but I managed to make that first one right before moving to Nepal, so the mods will have to wait a bit.

The fabric is heavy merino wool sweater knit from The Fabric Store, which I also used for one in my endless supply of undercover hoods (see here).  This would also have benefited from a double layer of fabric, both to give it more body and to make it thicker and cozier.

I very sadly don't know what size I chose.  But it was consistent with the size chart so I would say don't expect to be surprised if you follow the size chart.  The surprise is the sleeves, they were very very long and I lopped off a decent bit and they are still longish and a bit loose.  I would consider tapering them more in the future.

It took me a million years to get the button holes done, which was a terrible terrible experience.  I recommend topstitching that seam allowance down on the far side of the button placket, so that it's out of the way of buttonholes.  I could also have interfaced the placket, but didn't.  On loose fabrics, consider that!

This first cardi is as I expected.  There are many things I plan to tweak for my Magical Perfect Cardi to be.  I'll make another version in something stable, to update these pattern changes like the sleeves.  I will eventually raise the front neck by a solid 3" because I like my cardigans to have full front coverage.  I would lengthen it above the wide hem band by 2" and then add pockets!  And eventually I plan to also add a hood.  And try the other version with the cool little shoulder gathers...

Overall I do like this first version and I am pretty pleased I found a use for these glass buttons.  I am looking forward to that slippery slope of pattern modifications which I also expect to be a fantastic opportunity for some upcycling.  My op-shop-addicted self starts literally drooling at the idea of all the different bits that I could mix and match to make more of these...