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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon



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Saturday, September 20, 2008

The issue of pants test fabric

As I get my head and supplies together for my pants testing I have to make a decision about fabric. I know it is traditional to make a muslin out of, well, muslin but the fact is that I don't wear pants out of muslin like cotton fabric. When your aim is more to skim the body, or at least the lower part of this body, stiff fabric just doesn't work. The fabrics I like in pants are crepes, wools, linens and rayons, or a cotton, if it is a soft twill type. I also know from sewing that a pattern that works in one kind of fabric can be totally wrong, and fit quite differently, in another fabric. So I have decided to make my tests in a rayon blend. I will also need mega yardage, so cost is a factor and I fully anticipate producing multiple wadders in my quest.

Currently under consideration is this from Fabricmart a rayon pantweight herringbone crepe, and I am having good luck with Fabricmart this week. The colour is right. I am well aware, from having posted pictures of black garments, that it is impossible to really see the detail or to judge fit in them. The muslin colour is the right thing. 

Now I know in the back of my head that there are lots of good arguments for traditional muslins, like stable fabric when measurements are transferred back and forth, but I think myself that there is some value in testing in the category of the final product.

We will see.

Of course I have about 200 miles of black test type fabric in my stash and nearly as much red but I don't think that will do for testing purposes, although it will be nice to have that back up for emergencies.

Friday, September 19, 2008

On fabric

I love fabric.

I wish there were more local fabric stores but they aren't so I do a lot of my shopping online. Fabricmart is one of my favourites, even though the shipping to Canada can be pretty steep. The fabric too can be a surprise, and mostly it is a good surprise. If you scroll down past pants to my vintage coat plan posted a while ago you will see a print lining, the image taken from the  Fabricmart website.

Well I ordered that fabric to line a coat with considerable ambivalence, but here is a picture of it, arrived today. 

I really love this fabric, first of all it is silk and secondly the pattern is far more retro than I thought it would be and so just perfect for a vintage pattern. I am partial to character linings, it's one of the joys of sewing for yourself to add a surprise. As soon as the pants project is done, this coat is next, I may do the red coat or I have a black and white tweed that would be cool too. 

Typical sewer, mental sewing about seven projects ahead.

Off to bed, my daughter, who has insisted that it would be hot in Nova Scotia for her September 27th wedding, has called to say that we are going to have to go out shopping tomorrow for a warm wrap. Ten to one I will be serging this time tonight.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pattern candidates

For two of my test projects I am going to have to find basic pant patterns to work from. I have already decided to use a Burda to test the Murphy method and another commercial pattern for pivot and slide.

So far these are my Burda candidates. Off course the green pants, Burda 3114 have a fly front, but all
 other details are what I am looking for and I think I can just transfer the zipper to the side without distorting the pattern. The leg on these pair of pants is slightly flared and I know that wider is fashionable this season so I will have to figure out if they are still appropriate. The second Burda, 8087, has a wider leg. I will have to choose one for testing purposes - anyone have an opinion on the remaining shelf life of slightly flared legs? I find the line flattering but don't want to date myself any more than I already do on a daily basis.

Finding a basic pants pattern from the other pattern companies is in fact harder than I thought, have a look for yourself. Lots of fiddly detail and trendy shapes, but a pair of pants that might end up as possible repeat items - not so much.

Finally I did what I always do and looked in the Wardrobe section of the pattern collections for a simple pattern and came up with this for a plain, side zipper, natural waist pant, Simplicity 3539. One step forward in the planning process. Now maybe I can find time this weekend to nip out and pick these up (once I have made my Burda decision) between heavy duty housecleaning, more baking and things I promised I would do weeks ago like book a coffee urn.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pants research

With all that is going on in this house at the moment any sane person would not be thinking about sewing.

But I am, maybe that is keeping me sane; I just thought about that. The way I see it if you can't sew with your hands you can still sew in your mind, and housecleaning leaves a lot of mental space for thinking.

So I have been planning and researching the pants project. 

One decision I have had to make is what patterns I am going to use for the pivot and slide and Joyce Murphy techniques. I have been pondering the Burda crotch as so many great sewers swear by it and decided to email Joyce to see what she thought. Here is part of that exchange, reproduced with her permission:

Start with my JSM Pant 1 pattern or a Burda. The crotch curve in my JSM Pant 1 pattern and a Burda pattern are almost identical. They have the long back crotch shelf and the short front crotch fork which puts the back inseam from knee to crotch on the bias and leaves the front inseam closer to the straight of grain. I use this bias if I need to lower the entire back crotch shelf straight down to give more room low in the seat. This shortens the back inseam making it necessary to stretch the back inseam to meet the front in sewing. The JSM Pant 1 pattern is deigned with the back inseam slightly shorter than the front out of the envelope.

Interesting. Since a baggy front crotch is one of my pant fitting challenges, I will definitely be testing one of the Burda patterns. I have looked at the JSM pant but because is missing some of the design features I like and has some I don't (tapered leg, fly front and slant pockets) I think that adjusting all that might get in the way of fitting. So I think what I will do is use the Murphy method on a Burda pant and Pivot and Slide on a pattern from the Big 4.

At least that is today's plan. Looking forward to October 1 and getting this project launched.

Monday, September 15, 2008

More on pants

I have emailed and heard back from both Karen at Wild Ginger and Joyce Murphy. It seemed to be fair to me to let them know I was going to do an Ordinary-Woman's test of their pants patterns and also to see if they would be willing to comment. I highly expect that there will be some operator error in my execution of this project, and if I don't get the instructions right it won't be the first time, and that really isn't the pattern's fault, so publishing their feedback to me seems both fair and useful.

That said I am going to be absolutely honest in my assessment of the different methods. I have about 40 years of pant sewing failures behind me and getting this right is important.

I have also decided that I will make up each pattern initially as per pattern, without me mixing in any of my own ideas as to what alterations I need to be doing before hand - in other words no flat pattern alternations except as suggested by the method as appropriate pre-construction steps. I am thinking of Pivot and Slide here.

There is a distinct possibility (see 40 years of failure above) that one of the problems I have had is that I don't know what I am doing, so I will let the patterns as they are have the first say.

I do have an opinion as to the style of pant I am looking for though and I think it is fair to impose that on the project. What I want to make is based on what I can't find in the stores and this means:
  • No weird extra bulk added by novelty waistbands, loops and pockets on my rear end. No explanation needed.
  • A side zipper. Fly fronts are a man's tailoring detail and necessary if you are a man. Why would a woman add all those extra layers, not to mention something with plastic teeth and twill tape involved, to the one area of her body where she already has her own extra? Am I ever going to look like a man in pants? No. So why the fly?
  • No side pockets. See above. If I have pockets in pants what am I going to put in them? A cell phone, car keys, lipstick and and a bank card. Add all that in and what do I have? More bulk.I put pockets in jackets that are looser and less attaching of objects and bulk to my body.
  • Pleats. Mine always pouf out when I sit down. I don't need that either, they may be back in style, but I believe this to be temporary.
Now what do I want apart from a side zipper? Fashionable leg shape but fitted through the hips and not too baggy at all in the thighs (so many pants I have made look like PJ pants) and a thin waistband at my waistline. Lowered waistlines are on their way out and I couldn't be happier.

This stomach did not need to be bisected.

Oh and darts front and back, one or maybe two each side.

Did I miss anything out?