coat, top, and Lola pants

We actually got a cool front last week that made me decide to put away all the really high summer clothes – the sleeveless white shirts, light colored pants, and the like. What was left (air) made me realize I actually NEEDED to get cracking on the autumn 6-pak.

CLD_PS_coat_edited-1The first item, started a while back, was the coat from Cutting Line Design’s Pure & Simple pattern. I had made this before in a short length and knew there was no fitting work to be done, so it got to go first. This is a fairly quick and uncomplicated sew. The only difficult part was making the corded loops for the pocket buttons.

There has been some discussion on the 6-pak thread about what makes a good piece for the scheme. Many words have been used to describe the quality…”basic”, “cake, not frosting”, “simple”,”boring”….as you can see, this piece fits the description. Solid fabric with just a tiny ribbed texture and simple style. However, I don’t think this jacket will hardly even see the inside of the closet. It will probably live on a peg beside the door, so I can grab it whenever I go out.

The coat as designed has three panels that you can add/subtract/adjust to get the length you want. I used the top two and lengthened each piece by an inch to get this fingertip length. The waistline seam is topstitched and has two pockets inserted which have button and loop closures. Unlined.

BS_10_07_122_blueItem two was another piece that needed no fitting since the first version was made recently. It’s a top from BurdaStyle, July 2010, #122. This time I was able to make the 3/4 sleeves and did not cut up my fronts by mistake. I really, really liked this pattern and wanted another right now, so here it is. The original 6-pak plan called for two knit tops, which I still plan to make.  The color and style of this shirt fits right in with the plan.

This time I used a mid-weight linen. The color is royal blue. No style changes to the pattern, just the usual fitting adjustments.

And, TA-DA, I also completed a pair of pants! I’ve wanted to make Style Arc’s Lola pants for a long time, but dreaded fitting a new pants pattern. Since the Lolas are on the slim side, I was afraid I was in for an ordeal. As it turned out, they weren’t hard to fit at all.

No photos of the pants, sorry. Pants pinned to the dressmaker’s dummy don’t give any information at all, and pictures of me wearing the pants never seem to turn out. I will write about them, anyway.

When tracing the pattern, I was dismayed when I saw the teeny-tiny crotch points on these. So I got out my all-purpose pant pattern to compare, and lengthed the back crotch point a couple of inches. Lengthened the front one, too, for good measure. I also lengthened the center back seam by adding a wedge right at the top of the crotch curve. Then I added 5/8 inch seam allowances because I need the insurance.

Style Arc Lola_edited-1

Style Arc instructions are as cryptic as Burda’s, and I could not follow their steps for constructing the pocket. It seemed like a straightforward operation, so I just did it my way, but some error must have crept in because I ended up with the pants fronts not matching the waistband. A couple of pleats solved that, and they are really invisible because of the gathers. I’ll just leave the pockets out next time.

I did understand their waistband instructions, and followed them, but think it would be easier everlastand neater to make the rows of topstitching last, instead of before attaching the waistband to the pants, which is what they have you do. I also want to turn in the edges of the waistband casing instead of just serging it on. It may be an old-fashioned home sewing technique, but I like the clean finish better. I do like the little flat panel in the center front…and it makes me laugh because it reminds me of boxing trunks.

There is optional elastic at the hem of the back leg. I put this in because it’s cute.

Verdict: I like these pants A LOT and will make them again as soon as I find suitable fabric. Fabric choice is important for these – you want something lightweight, but with a good drape, and also with a good substantial feel because they are pants and you don’t want your pants to feel flimsy. I used a mystery fabric that is probably a poly-rayon, in a dark gray, so they are nice and boring for the 6-pak.

As it turns out, I don’t think I needed all the crotch point extensions and will reduce them next time. Not all the way down to the original pattern specs, though. That just looked like there was no way to get a body in there.

The other pair of pants for this 6-pak were already made, so all that’s left is one more jacket (gray) and two knit tops to complete the original plan.

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fall 6-pak

Each season there is a nice wardrobe-building sew along on Artisan’s Square. It’s the brainchild of ejvc, whose blog is here, and includes lots of posts on the topic. Each season you sew six items, mostly neutrals, and if you actually complete your six-paks, you end up with a very functional closet full of things that work together. At the beginning of this thread on Artisan’s Square, you can read her prescription for this fall. Fall 6-pak.

I have often joined up, but usually punk out after about 3 or 4 items. I think I’ve finished the whole 6-pak maybe twice. Still, even 3 or 4 planned items that go together are handy to have.

Once again, I’m inspired to give it a try. I even have a plan.

Fall 6-pak_edited-1

Colors are charcoal, indigo, a lighter indigo, and dusty plum. The Burda trousers are already made. The Pure & Simple jacket is a TNT, and there are no worries about fitting the other jacket – this is view B and I have already made view A which fits just fine. The Lola pants and Helix Tee have been sitting out cluttering up my work space for a long time, waiting to be fitted and made. The second top has not pattern selected for it – I’m waiting until the fall issue of Ottobre Woman comes out to see if they have something new that fits with this collection.

This plan is not very ambitious, which gives me hope that it can be completed.

Another attraction of this particular plan is that I already have all the fabrics except for the charcoal jacket, and that should not be difficult to find. This is the fabric stack.

fall 6-pak fabrics

top to bottom:

dusty plum knit of unknown content….a flat fold purchased off a bargain table

blue “Parisian knit” from Marcy Tilton

indigo cotton/spandex with a narrow rib woven in. I bought this stuff for pants and later realized that the ribs would make a noise when I walk, like corduroy. Much better as a jacket.

charcoal drapey poly blend for the Lolas. Polyester is not good for summers here, but OK for fall.

Not pictured is the indigo denim that has already been made up as Burda pants, and the charcoal jacket fabric that I will shop for. Something with some texture would be nice.

I’d like to say a few words about the Burda pants pattern. It’s from the Fall 2008 Plus magazine, number 404, but I believe it also appeared in the regular BurdaStyle mag. It may even be offered as a PDF. For my pear-shaped figure, these pants have been a super substitute for jeans. They have a narrow leg, for a close fit, but the line from hip to ankle is straight. When I look at the line drawings in Burda and they show a cut that hugs the thighs down to the knee, and then goes straight or flares from there, I know those are unflattering to me. This cut seems to be unusual for a close-fitting pant.

Other features that make this pant a winner: there are a total of four darts in the back, excellent for fitting and eliminating a gap at the back waist. And note that the waistband in back is in two pieces. This also helps with fitting because the waistband is attached before stitching the center back seam. You can sew the crotch most of the way, leaving an opening at CB, then try the pants on and pin fit the center back so that it snugs up to your waist. Then sew the CB of the pants and the waistband all in one swoop. Alter the waistband facing to match the waistband and stitch it last.

This method of construction also makes future alteration easy. You can easily open up the waistband to take in that center back seam if you lose weight. If you leave fat seam allowances, you also could let the pants out in the back if needed.

I still had to do some fitting with this pattern, but it was a much better starting point than most patterns. You may not be able to find this exact pattern, but if you have full hips and rear and a relatively small waist, look for the same features when considering pants patterns. I think they will make fitting easier for you.

burda 404

Here is the line drawing again, along with the schematic of the pattern pieces, to illustrate what I wrote about.

Sure Fit results

The thing about working on fit is that you can’t just slap the results up on your off-the-rack sewing dummy and take photos with any meaning. You have to stage a shoot and you have no unpaid interns to do all the prep work or even snap the shutter for you.

Since the last post, I made many more muslins to complete my Sure-Fit dress blueprint.  I omitted the skirt portion to speed things along and strictly worked on the bodice. Selecting the right dart size took care of my issues in the front. The back, which looked like this…..

back blog…took more work. Glenda gave me some very helpful advice, which included adding a shoulder dart. I was amazed at how much of a difference that made. It cleared up issues that I thought were length-related. I am not as swaybacked as I thought.

I also worked on my sleevecap and armscye and eventually got them wrinkle-free, but they were also over-fitted and not right to wear. Even though I would very much like to understand the mysteries of sleeves, I was tired of making muslins, so I borrowed a sleeve and armscye from Ottobre and called it finished.

I then used my blueprint to fit and adapt a basic blouse from the first Ottobre Woman issue. I had made it before and knew that it fit better than average. Now I knew that it could fit even better. I checked the shoulder slope and pitch, waist length, dart placement, and pattern widths against my blueprint and adjusted them where needed – most of the work needed to be done to the shoulder. Here’s the blouse made from the adjusted pattern.

front
front
back
back

There’s still some room for improvement, but this is better than I was doing before. I also happen to know that one of the creases is due to a cutting error. I can do a little pin fitting on this blouse, refine the block a bit more, and give it another go. This is where the intern would have been useful, giving a little artful pull here and there so that all would hang right.

I also used the blueprint to modify the shoulders on the Cutting Line Designs Anything But Ordinary top. I had made this top before and was not happy. Here it is, much better – a simple, breezy, casual top.

CLD ABONow, my unpaid intern/stylist, had I had one, would have advised me to wear darker foundation garments before shooting. But I’m not going to do it over.

Lastly, I used the blueprint to adjust the shoulders and compare widths to make a block for a basic sleeveless knit top based on an Ottobre pattern. I also used it to modify the Style Arc Abby cardigan, so I have a little twinset.

knit block_Abby Cardi

By the way, the pants that you can’t see very well in these photos are Style Arc’s Jasmine pants. I was not too happy with these when I finished them, but after they hung around for a month or so I finally decided to wear them. Evidently the time out improved my attitude, because now I like them well enough to go back and fine-tune the pattern to use again.

Reviews of the Jasmine pants often mention that the pants poke out where the V of the back yoke meets the center back seam. This is why:

style arc jasmineI sewed up the CB following the line indicated by the ruler to avoid the pointy poke.

Speaking of Style Arc, I have some thoughts on home garment sewing in general that have gelled because of working with some of their patterns lately. Style Arc seems to me to kind of replicate the RTW sewing experience in their styles, terminology, and assembly methods. I can’t cite anything as a real fact, but I believe I’ve read that Chloe Parker, the woman behind Style Arc, has a background in RTW and is bringing her expertise to pattern design for home sewers.

What follows here is not knocking Style Arc at all. I like and buy patterns from them. One of their features is small seam allowances – like a quarter or 3/8 of an inch, as opposed to the 5/8 inch that has long been a standard for home sewing patterns. Many home sewers are very enthusiastic about the narrow seam allowances and wonder why the other pattern companies are so old fashioned as to retain wider ones.

To me the wider seam allowances make more sense. I do not sew in a production environment, where consistency is a primary goal – that is, where the garment is being made by the thousands, and it’s important to have every size 12 be exactly the same as every other size 12. Narrow seam allowances help with that kind of accuracy. And they save fabric, too.

But I’m not trying to make identical multiples of a garment. I won’t use “couture” to describe what I’m doing, but it is “custom” work, like custom dressmakers used to do. I may make the same pattern a few times, but it’s going to be in different fabric each time, which means that I might need to let out the seams a bit. Can’t do that when the seam allowances are 1/4 inch.

Also, I’m not making a garment to a set of pre-determined size 12 specifications. I fit as I sew, and need to have enough fabric to work with. It also means that my construction steps might be different, since there are some options I want to keep open until the very end. That’s not always the most efficient (as in fast) way to sew.

Funny that 3/8 of an inch can cause you to think about what you are doing, why, and who your tribe is.

My resolution to the seam allowance question comes from becoming used to Burda and Ottobre magazine patterns. Leave ’em off. Trace the patterns without seam allowances, then add whatever you need when cutting. Makes for easier pattern alteration, style changes, and fitting. For me, that more than compensates for the few minutes it takes to chalk them on.

front

OTM shoulder alteration

I was asked how I altered the shoulder on the Of The Moment jacket so I’ve put together some diagrams to show my process. I think the pictures are clearer than photos, even if they aren’t exactly to scale. Got to add a disclaimer: I am no expert, and YMMV!

typical T shape
typical T shape

The problem – I have sloping shoulders and patterns that have the kimono-type T shape don’t do me any favors. They end up with excess draping under my arms. It’s the nature of these styles to have some of that draping, but too much is overwhelming. One solution would be to wear shoulder pads. I’ll do that for dressier versions, but don’t like to wear shoulder pads for everyday.

So…here goes. The blue is an approximation of one of the OTM front pieces, with the center front and the underarm dot marked. I didn’t draw the sleeve piece, but it joins the fronts and backs with very very little, if any, shaping to the sleeve cap and armscye. It’s basically a kimono T-shape that just happens to have the sleeve as a separate piece.

OTM
OTM

Pinkie represents the Paco Peralta asian jacket that I have made before and like the way the shoulder fits on me.

Paco pattern that has a shoulder slope
Paco pattern that has a shoulder slope

First I copied the portion of the OTM pattern that includes the end of the shoulder seam and the underarm dot. This is to be able to position the underarm dot correctly later on – so that the sleeve will still fit.

a little tracing
a little tracing

Now I laid the OTM pattern piece over the PP pattern I’m copying from. Align the center fronts and shift up or down until the points at which the neckline and shoulder seam intersect are on the same latitude.

patterns overlaid
patterns overlaid

Trace the shoulder line.

altered shoulder
altered shoulder

Lastly, get the little tracing and lay it on the altered pattern piece to determine the new location of the underarm dot.

white dot shows the new location
white dot shows the new location

The differences between the patterns are exaggerated for illustration purposes. They weren’t that extreme in reality.

Repeat with the back and the other front piece and you are ready to go. I hope this is of help!

ready for fall

photo has been enhanced, but it's still black and hard to see
photo has been enhanced, but it’s still black and hard to see

Ready for cooler weather with 3 jackets!

First up, yet another By Popular Demand jeanish-type jacket. This one was lengthened a lot, and a little shaping was added to the sides. I’m coming to realize that my back-to-waist length must be at least 2 inches longer than this pattern line is designed for.

This is a TNT pattern, so no other refinements were needed. I did change the construction a bit in order to include an underlining that also hides the seam allowances, a variation on the stitch & flip technique.

Fabric – cotton pique. I really thought it would be nice and stable to work with. Surprise! Wrong! This stuff grew on every edge. I’ve never used pique before, so I’m not sure if that is characteristic of the weave or if I just ended up with a very “special” piece.CLD BPD black 2

Underlining – printed silk charmeuse that I bought long ago for another project that never made it to the cutting table. It works great for this little jacket, though. I’m glad to finally have it out of the stash. Stash is like compost – it fertilizes your mojo, but it’s better if you turn it over once in awhile.

I used gunmetal grey snaps from Snap Source for this jacket. These were the last of a large-ish order I placed many years back. Time to get some more as they are nice to have on hand.

CLD OTMThis one is another Cutting Line design called Of the Moment. I had muslined this jacket before and thought it looked sloppy on me, so I put it away. I really wanted to make the style work, though, so made it the first experiment in developing blocks with different shoulder fits. The original OTM design has a sleeve seam, but without any shaping. It’s essentially a straight kimono/dolman shoulder and sleeve.

I overlaid the Paco Peralta asian jacket that fits me well and altered the OTM shoulder & sleeve to match it. I’m MUCH happier with the fit of my altered version – this one now can move into the win column! Again, the pattern was lengthened at least 2 inches. For this version, I used two left fronts (as designed, the pattern has more drape to the right front, less on the left). Topstitching was done with the machine’s triple stitch using rusty orange thread, like on jeans. It only shows when you view the jacket close up, but does add a nice little detail.

The material came from Fabricker and had the nice quality of being the weight of a denim, but soft and drapey – right in the Goldilocks zone for this style. This pattern would really show off double-sided fabric, and I hope to find some to make it again.

An unusual thing about the OTM pattern is that the neck facing is the most important piece! How often does that happen? If it becomes distorted or is not sewn accurately, the mitered effect of the turnback lapel is ruined. The rest of the jacket is straight and very easy sewing.

V7975_finishedThen there is this one, the snakebit project. Finally finished after more than a year. It started life as V8804, but ended up V7975. From pattern errors to notions sourcing difficulties to design indecision to seamstress mistakes to inevitable compromise, this one dragged me through it all. Here it is – quilted lining, chain at hem, not perfect but complete at long last.

I cursed this thing so much that the negativity permeates the fabric like cigarette smoke. How do you exorcise evil spirits from a garment so that it is safe to wear? Seriously, what do you do when you are sick of something by the time you finish it?

A Cute Angle

It seems like Cutting Line Designs patterns are being issued more frequently these days. That’s good news, because I usually like them very much. But now it is easy to get behind with trying them out. And since they are expensive patterns, we can’t have them just piling up on the corner of the cutting table!

A Cute Angle

A Cute Angle is one of the ones I hadn’t made yet. There are two patterns in the envelope: One is a long sleeve blouse with hidden button closure, and the other is an asymmetrical jacket. I was curious about how the blouse differed from some similar recent offerings. The Artist In Motion top looks similar, and I wondered if the front closure was the only difference. A quick muslin later, I had my answer. The ACA top is cut slimmer – there is much less volume than the AIM top. It also seemed like the shoulder is squarer. I didn’t care for the way I looked in it, so I started thinking about the jacket.

The asymmetrical design is kind of “out there” for me. A wrap or an off-center line of buttons is about as far as I have gone. But this one seems like it could hang with a lagenlook collection, so it needed to be tried.

I’d also been wanting to order from the linen specialty shop, fabrics-store.com. So I picked out a pretty blue and ordered yardage plus some swatches of other colors and weights to get an idea of their inventory. The mid-weight (IL019) linen that I bought seems like good quality for the price. Beware, though, they send lots of e-mails. Many of these are about sales and special prices (good), but they seem to come every other day (bad). I’ll give them another week to see if I have to send them to the spam folder or not.

CLD ACA frontHere’s the finished jacket. I like it a lot – and wish I had lengthened it just a little bit more. You don’t want to go making these really distinctive styles multiple times. When the hemline is all over the place, it’s hard to know where to take your length measurements.

In contrast to the little top, the jacket has a relaxed but neat shoulder/armscye/sleeve draft. If I do make it again, the shoulder could be just a tad narrower.

Maybe the lapels could be made smaller and I could do it again as a button-up top. As designed, there’s a single button and you have the option of making a buttonhole or a loop. I went with the loop and a big vintage mother of pearl button.

CLD ACA backYou can’t see it very well here, but there’s a little pleat running the length of the center back that is very cute.

One of the good things about sewing is that we get to define our own goalposts, and move them whenever we like. Much as I like the CLD patterns, the ones with the very square shoulders look pretty sloppy on me. Shoulder pads would fix that, but that’s not going to happen for everyday wear. It occurs to me that what I need are three different blocks so I can refine the fit of the shoulder and sleeves, and use them to modify the patterns. A dolman block, a drop-shoulder block, and a slightly-extended shoulder block ought to cover my needs for these relaxed styles.

Paco Peralta’s dolman draft fit me beautifully, so I’ll use it for the dolman styles.

For the slightly-extended shoulder, I can use this jacket (with the shoulder narrowed a bit) or the jacket from another CLD pattern, Pure and Simple (it’s out of print).

That just leaves the drop-shoulder, and I may look to Burda for a solution. Will need to examine some of the other CLD patterns to compare the shaping of the sleeve caps for styles that fall into this category.

So, a little project is born – I need to prove to myself that I can make those pattern modifications and that they will turn out the way I want them to. I’ll report on the results.

The jacket in this post was made on this machine…

sm_Raquel

Cutting Line Designs – A New Dimension

A New Dimension is the latest pattern from Cutting Line Designs. I started looking forward to this pattern when I first saw the samples. In the thread devoted to CLD patterns on Stitcher’s Guild, Louise let us know when the patterns were going to ship, so I was able to shop for fabric and have it all pre-washed in time to cut out the day after the pattern showed up in the mailbox.

The pattern

Both views have shoulder princess seams front and back. Dolman sleeves, swingy flare at the hem. The shorter version has a deep v neckline with a collar band and a tab button closure – good opportunity to use a showstopper button. The longer version has a collar with an interesting origami fold and optional pockets in the side front seams.

For this line of patterns, I like fabrics with interesting textures. Those can sometimes be hard to find. During my fabric shopping for AND, I found a light-weight cotton with a woven-in plaid pattern that was further texturized with an embroidered design. It was the right weight for a breezy dress with lots of gathers, but not exactly right for a jacket. However, Super Textiles also had a selection of brightly-colored cotton batistes. The two fabrics used together would be weighty enough for the design and would also give me the opportunity to hide all my seams in the underlining. I thought of the colors available, I’d like the fuschia combined with the navy fashion fabric.

I also planned from the start to make a bound buttonhole because I still don’t have a good buttonhole machine, and toyed with the idea of using the fuchsia for the buttonhole lips. Then I thought maybe I’d also pipe a seam or two with the fuchsia. Thank goodness for photo software that lets us try out our ideas before we actually spend precious time executing them.

 

YUCK
YUCK

I didn’t like any of those options, not even example “a” with the barely-visible accent buttonhole. So I just proceeded with the idea of making an unembellished jacket.

CLD ANDSingle layer cutting helped me match up the plaid texture. I didn’t bother trying to match the embroidery as well.

This went together pretty quickly, and since there is plenty of flare at the hemline, it didn’t require much in the way of alterations, either. I did a forward shoulder and lengthened it 3 whole inches to make it the length shown in the illustration. If I had made it the original length, it would have reached my waist. Maybe. It is a very cropped jacket. If you are average height or above, be sure to check the length before you cut, because there is only 7/8 inch allowed for hem, and if you want extra length you’re not going to pick up much there.

The buttonhole tab has a seam running down the center of the back of the tab, rather than seams on the 3 sides. This eliminates a lot of bulk in the corners and gives you a tidy tab. I wanted to have a bound buttonhole, and wanted the seam to fall exactly in back of the opening – so that the folded-under seam allowances would form the back buttonhole opening. That required re-engineering the tab, and was the most laborious design change I made.

CLD AND buttonI had a huge vintage mother-of-pearl button that I attached using rouleaux made from the fashion fabric. The rouleau? rouleaux?  was threaded through the buttonholes and knotted on the front, stitched to the jacket on the back. The ends were cut close to the knot and will be allowed to fray. Maybe I should just say “bias tubes” and not try to get all fancy with French.

The fuschia will be our little secret, OK?
The fuchsia will be our little secret, OK?

And here’s a photo showing the shape of the collar and tab against the BRIGHT underlining.

I like this pattern and look forward to making the long version.