Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
My newest sewing book

Sewing with less stress back cover

Sewing with less stress back cover
What my new book is about

Clothesmaking mavens

Clothesmaking mavens
Listen to me on the clothes making mavens podcasts

About me

My photo
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



Follow me on Instagram

Follow on Bloglovin

Friday, August 19, 2011

Good ideas and things that are not making sense in Vogue 1264

O.K. We have already established I love this pattern because of the fit of the pants. I want to make this clear before I make comment on some of the construction advice. 

You know, I have a fantasy. In my dreams, someone at a pattern company appoints me pattern instruction proof reader - you know I would be paid to say what your average sewer would find confusing. I would love to tell the instruction writers how to make things just easier and more successful.

How many sewers, new sewers in particular, have been turned off the whole process of sewing because they couldn't manage to do what the instructions said, or what the picture looked like? They quit sewing because they thought it was them when in fact it is instructions anyone would have trouble with.

In my view, one of the main purposes of any instruction, sewing guides in particular, is to make the user feel smart and not stupid - that is, if you want them to keep coming back. In fact, I would argue one of the things the independent pattern companies  have going for them, even if they are sometimes limited in the styles and currency of what they offer, is that their instructions are generally helpful.

O.K. let's talk about Vogue 1264's pants. Then I better go to bed.

Good things first.

The nice thing about a designer pattern is the details. This one advised me that the waistline facing (and BTW even though it is a faced waistline it is right up at the real waistline no more of the dangling stuff) needed to be bound rather than say serged. I did this and used an old silk tie I bought at a second hand store for $1.50. The tie like all ties was of course already cut on the bias so it was easy and fabric economical to just cut a strip from the middle of it.

I cut this binding much wider than I needed rather than using the pattern piece. I did this so I would have something to hold on to while I stitched it down from the right side. I hate turning things over and finding I have missed catching something. Of course I will trim the extra off and the net effect will be as if I had used a narrow binding in the first place but was a really good sewer:

Now onto Things Make No sense.

Things that make no sense #1:

Construction order.

These pants call for an invisible zipper which of course is inserted before the seam below is sewn (I might do an invisible zipper tutorial sometime - they are the easiest zippers for beginners). This of course is easiest done with two garment pieces, in this case the left front and back legs.

So why then are you asked to do it after this step, pictured below?  If you do this you are going to have far too much random and out of control fabric around your sewing machine and as a result are in danger of applying the zipper to one leg and say one hem, or waistline, or something even more creative:

Makes no sense #2:

In this step, and in the final one in these instructions, you are told to sew the inside button tab to the back of the pants, meaning that it comes forward on the inside and is buttoned on the inside of your front waist. Maybe there is a good reason for this but to me a tab and a button should go towards the back, just like you would if there was a waistband that buttoned. I changed mine to the back because I don't see a button on the front of my side, even on the inside:

Makes no sense #3:

The continuation of the above with the button sewn to the front part, but note that you are also told, as the nearly last stage, to make a button hole in the tab.

Now really.

That little tab was made all on its own a while ago and that is the time to put in the buttonhole, when you have the option of making another little tab or several if you have to in case you mess up this up. Who wants to unpick that facing and that invisible zipper just because you made a crummy buttonhole because you were nearly done and you were tired? Why instruct in stress?

This is probably not the way to have the Big Four hire me as an instruction proof reader is it?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Clown butt illustrated

Susan asked what the back pattern piece looked like once it had been clown butted.

Well here it is:

This probably looks messy to you, but to quote my niece that's how I roll, and this is an excellent alteration for a large, prominent rear end.

The thing is if your butt is clown like and prominent you have two problems. First you need enough fabric to go over it. That's why you need to add to the centre back crotch seam (I added 3/4" and cross-hatched it in case you missed it). Of course all the fabric you add for your prominent clown butt has no where to go afterwards which IMO is why we get those most annoying folds at the back of our legs under the butt shelf.

This alteration deals with both those issues.

1. Draw a line 3-4" down from the crotch point perpendicular to the hem in aways, exactly how far in doesn't really matter.

2. Do the same kind of line in the middle of the centre back crotch seam.

3. Join these to make a block you can move down.

4. Move it down.

5. In my case I moved it 3/4" which made a gap a.k.a. length in the back crotch length and also overlapped a.k.a. shortened the back leg inseam.

6. Ease the back leg seam into the front when you make your pants, it has steamed away to incognito in my gabardine.

I could have save myself a lifetime of about $20,000 of wasted pants fabric if I had known about this alteration years ago

On other completely unrelated news I saw The Help with my daughter and husband today. 

My daughter's friend emailed us a critique of it that I sort of agree with, but I still enjoyed the movie. There were some wonderful performances in it. 

Viola Davis for instance says far more with her face than any script could, and Octavia Spencer owned the screen when she was on it. I found the character of Skeeter more annoying in the film than the book, a little superfluous, almost, but then again it wasn't about her. Worth seeing though and despite a bit of Hollywood spin at the end it is always good to see fine acting and to see the stories of strong women told.

But I still can't get over the bridge crowd. Those girls needed jobs and a whole lot else.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Getting it together

I should have mentioned that the title for this morning's cartoon was "The original senior's moment."

But I forgot.

Moving on. I got some boots to go with the pants in process which are going to have to be short, because that is how I cut them, as per pattern, although I will try to stretch them a little.

Working on my theory that if you have to be comfortable it is wise to counter that with funky, just to keep yourself this side of the white tennis shoes with velcro for daywear, this is what I got to wear with them. You can tell I am no longer corporate. Most comfortable thing I put on my feet today. We will see how it all looks together:

Made me smile

I have a friend who has been making me laugh since we were 17. This one arrived from her in my inbox this morning. Worth sharing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vogue 1264 early days

I feel bad about slamming that Vogue top, not for shape mind you, just for the destructions, but it appears that Vogue and I are going to be reconciling over 1264.

Once I had figured out I actually had the right fabric to make the pants, I cut out and machine basted up the pants for this pattern. I just slammed on the alterations I figured out from my trail pairs of Simplicities which were:

1. Use a 14 pattern, this is 2 sizes smaller than I need but fits my legs.
2. Forget about the front darts as I don't need them and this automatically adds to the waist.
3. Add 1/2" to the centre front seam to accommodate my belly.
4. Add 1" to the top of the centre front seam for the same reason.
5. Add 1 1/2" to the centre back seam at the top to deal with my womanly rear.
6. Do the infamous "clown butt" alteration to add a further 3/4" to the back crotch seam but also takes that same amount out of the back inseam so I don't get bagging under this clown's butt.
7. Add 1/2" along all side seams (see point 1)

I then basted the machine basted the whole thing together, didn't press a thing because these were wool gabardine and I wasn't going to press in what I might have to take out, stood in front of the mirror with my eyes closed and then opened them and then called my husband to go get the camera.

Now I realize that to you, or any normal person, these look like a real mess, but they aren't done right and not pressed etc. but I can see the shape and I am in love.

I haven't worn these wide thigh tapered pants in years and I had forgotten how comfortable they are. And these fit pretty well, construction incompletion apart.

Man, am I happy. I have decided to let my job and my family slide over the next few days and finish these. On the fence about the flood hem, will decide that later.

Here are the shots so far:

The all important bum shot. My right leg is how short they would be if I hemmed them as specified. I have thoughtfully styled this with a fireplace that's due for renovation and my trusty purple suede sewing slippers.

The all important front shot, disregard the unpressed legs and note that I am lacking the usual crotch wrinkles which is all that matters.
The side shot, interesting as it appears an insane person pinned them closed or at least someone in a hurry. Note the tapered leg. Welcome back 1982. Note too that I do not look as fat as I am in this, not quite 1982 again but maybe spring of 1998 or early fall 1999, better than winter 2015.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Let downs

In cleaning up a today I found an old notebook from a job quite a few years ago. Scribbled in the back, doodles when I was supposed to be paying attention at a meeting, where lots of numbers while I tried to figure out my life. 

At that time I was doing a very stressful job that gave me little joy. My math represented how many more years I would have to work, how much money I would have, how well I could manage if I found a less demanding job for less money. I was trying to find an escape route and trying to make the numbers work. At that time they just didn't.

It made me feel really funny to read this today because I could read in all the rows of calculations just how trapped I felt.

The thing is a few years later, completely out of the blue I got an offer to teach and this job suits me perfectly. I laugh every day and although the students sometimes wear me right out, I love them, I care about them, and so often I hear back from them that something I said (usually an off hand comment I hardly remember making) got them through a tricky professional situation.

I wish that person who wrote down all those numbers could have known that it was all going to turn out just fine.

There are times in every life when it's hard to keep your spirits up. I was at a benefit over the weekend for a student who is really going through some very tough health challenges. There are time when a person is sick and can't imagine feeling better again. There are times when you need a break and that break just refuses to come. There are times when your particular story just isn't turning out the way you thought it was going to.

But you never know, you just never know.

I tore those pages out of that old notebook and threw them away and went on my day. Times change, I'll remember that.

The small print

Thanks Audrey for pointing out what was written in the small print on the back of that envelope - jacket wool crepe, pants gabardine. Didn't read line two and got all excited over nothing, not to mention the extra fabric I picked up today - it will get used so nothing really serious there.

I have students who do exactly this all the time, don't read the obvious " Hey professor what day is next Monday's assignment due?" but I am not 18 and my first semester away from home.

I've really got to clear the decks of life around here and get going on this project and calm down.

And Audrey you really were very gracious, thanks.

Thinking through Vogue 1264

I cut out the pattern pieces last night for Vogue 1264 after a busy weekend when I was out most of both days. It all looks good but I discovered I am a little short in both the black wool crepe and gabardine I was going to use to make it.

The question is do I really need the fabric to match as in a pants suit? I think probably yes, and so I am going to see what I can do for a match. Fabricmart still has the same gab I think but not the crepe. I am not sure if crepe is a good choice in narrow pants. I can see it in wide pants but I am wondering if in these they will catch, and I will have to line them even though that's not in the pattern. And the big question is will they be comfortable?

I am also thinking through these pants they are very much above the ankle and I think it looks great in the picture but I am never going to wear those shoes. At work I run up and down a lot of concrete stairs between classes in a hurry and often stand on my feet teaching for four hours straight. Plus the fact I usually walk to work, part of it through a field, very pretty but not good for elegant shoes, although I can wear other shoes and change them. The point is my feet have to move.

Also if I am going to make wool pants of any kind they are going to get worn in Nova Scotia and that means bare ankles are not going to work. What would go with these pants? The old flats and socks are not going to cut it. Some kind of boot I think although I don't have a picture in my mind.

These are all very serious questions and you know what's going to be going on in the rich inner life of my mind today at work.

I will let you know how the fabric hunt goes.