Super 130s Classic Pants

I’m beyond thrilled with the outcome from my second Couture Sewing School class.

I’ve grappled with pants a few times since I started sewing, and whilst I managed to achieve a good crotch curve fit on my own, it was getting the legs right that really proved elusive.

This was because of two ‘fitting’ reasons –  I have uber prominent calves and legs that don’t extend from my hips at the same angle as Ready to Wear pattern design. Pretty much every pair of pants I have ever owned, worn or sewn has had the grainline twist and distort the fabric from the knee down, where it both catches on my calves and is pulled away at an awkward angle. (You can read more about the fitting process of these pants here).

No more!

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I’ll admit to being a little anxious in the lead up to taking these photographs – in case the way I felt they looked (ie: magical) would somehow have the spell be broken when translated into pictures. Also, that so much has happened to me since I last took pictures of a finished garment that I would somehow be different, and that would be visible.

Surely I can’t be the only one harboring suspicions of the photographic process?!?

Moving on.

The fabric is dear to my heart – bought in Quito, Ecuador. It’s a Super 130s wool, amazing quality, beautifully soft, drapey but substantial. I lined it with an olive green silk charmuese from D’Italia.

They’re at once simple and elegant but also decadent.

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I can’t attribute the design to one specific pattern, as this really is a pattern mutt…
a) crotch curve courtesy of the Style Arc Flat Bottom Flo pants (If you are in ownership of a pancake butt like me, this is the crotch curve for you!);
b) Original leg pattern from the Style Arc Darcy woven pants, altered beyond any form of recognition;
c) Waistband design from Colette Patterns’ Clover pants; and
d) Side slant pockets and back welt pockets from Burda 6689.

Burda’s crotch curve is apparently famed – something about the curve having an appropriate amount of shaping at the tip, which many pattern designers leave off today because it saves on fabric in the cutting layout. And that this design change multiplied by many pants pieces saves a huge amount in fabric and therefore $$$.

Either way, if you’ve a more rounded rump – this would be a great pattern to try. You can see the difference between the original Burda (right) and my pancake butt adjustment here:

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The legs are courtesy of Susan Khalje’s fitting skillz, and I couldn’t be happier with the way the fabric sits, and how flattering the line is on me. I had rather thought such a thing was beyond my reach. You can read about that fitting journey here.

The waistband is underlined in calico, with the inner waistband hand-sewn down in the ‘ditch’ of the front waistband. The lining was then handsewn onto the waistband facing and centreback seam.

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The zipper is my first ever hand picked zip. I’m more of an invisible zip kinda gal, however I can see the significant benefits of this treatment. Namely when you forget to check alignment and end up with one side being slightly longer than the other…

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Whoops.

It certainly helped having a fabric that was conducive to being steam into submission – you’d never know now!

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The hem of the pants is catch stitched down to the fashion fabric, and covered up with a bias strip of lining that was fell stitched on top. A lovely little detail.

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I did what you probably know as a ‘double welt pocket’ on the back – a slightly new to me way of doing it under Susan’s tutelage as well. They’re not functional pockets, just something interesting to break up the expanse of fabric across one’s backside. The fabric behind the opening extends up into the waistband and is sewn down underneath the bottom welt, which will act to support the opening as time and wearing put strain it.

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You can probably expect to see a few more pairs of pants popping up on here now I’ve got this sorted, as I’m ever so curious to see if the Style Arc Antoinette Pants are something I can pull off.

I’m probably only about another 10 hours (!) away from finishing my next French Jacket – which I’m also head over heels in love with – and I look forward to sharing it with you soon.

Pants block for the win!

Couture Sewing School – Day 3, 4, 5 & 6: Basting, Fitting & Sewing

Day 3 and everyone is heads down and bums up thread tracing their pattern pieces. I’m definitely thinking I’m glad for sewing pants and not a jacket purely because there are far less pieces!

I’m finished up thread tracing by mid morning and get stuck into sewing the double welt openings on the back of my pants, after having done a test on Day 2. They won’t be real pockets – just design details. The welt lips I cut with a large enough seam allowance that they will be caught in the waistband seam to support the weight of them.

By the end of Day 3, I was hand sewing all the pieces together so you can try it on and test the fit of the fabric. Whilst a muslin can save you much heartache in the land of ill-fitting garments, it still can’t always compensate for how your final fabric will change.

Case in point – Sue’s Kay Unger dress. Whilst it is really a simple sheath dress – the sunburst of pleats at the waist mean you’re dealing with a range of different angled grainlines at the neckline. After a second fitting, there were a huuuge number of changes, which you can see in the photos below.

These changes have to be thread traced and also transferred back to the muslin pieces so when the lining is cut, it reflects the changes. You can see the original white basting lines from the muslin below, with the adjustments pinned. Eep!

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Belle doesn’t manage to escape without significant alterations either – Susan ‘rebuilt’ her crotch curve after she had basted all of her fashion fabric pieces together. Belle and I are effectively sewing the same pattern (she is working with Burda 6689 whilst I have appropriated all of the design details from this pattern) however we’ve picked vastly different fabrics – mine being a rather drapey wool and hers a silk with a fair bit of body. Apart from the fact that we also have very different body shapes, it’s a great reminder of how much the fabric we work with can effect the outcome!

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I don’t escape without a few adjustments either, although mine are really very superficial. A little being removed from the waistband at the side seams and also at the centre back seam (new lines in Dark Blue).

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I think Day 4 is my favourite point in this course because it’s when everyone has their garments basted together and ready to try on for a second fitting – you get to see them coming together!

My pants are looking great – I’ve sewn up all of the adjustments and transfered the updated lines to the muslin. The legs hang beautifully – and it’s SO comfortable!

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Pants on with everything basted, ready for a second fitting.

By the end of Day four, I’d sewn all the seams in, trimmed the seam allowances back to about 1.5 inches, pulled out many of the silk basting stitches and pressed all of the seam allowances flat. One of the ladies brought this steam iron in and I’m now SO wanting to get one – it’s incredible for pressing!

Other people are having their garments checked for fit and are sewing seams on their machines.

Day 5 – I start thinking about lining, and the zip I’m going to insert along the centre back seam. I cut out the lining and pin it in. The thought being that I would sew on the waistband facing and tuck everything up inside.

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However I’d underlined the waistband with calico – and when I attempted to press everything into place – there was just too much bulk. Susan suggested trimming back the underlining to the seam line, then I trimmed and graded everything.

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Calico trimmed back to the seamline on both the waistband and waistband facing. Seam allowances trimmed and graded.

At the end of it all, it was better balanced with the waistband facing hanging down, to which I hand sewed down into the ‘ditch’ on the front.

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I then fell stitched the lining in on top.

For the zip, I did my first ever hand picked zip. I’m still an invisible zip girl at heart, but I think this fabric lent itself well to this treatment. I think the handpicked zip is rather an acquired taste!

I made the mistake of never actually checking to see if my waistband matched up along the centreback however, and was left with one side about 4mm high than the other. I cheated by steaming out the difference… hand picking the zip meant full control of the ease.

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After hemming my pants, it was midday on Day 6… which meant I actually finished a garment!!!!!

I got a kickstart on my next French Jacket for the class starting on Monday… meanwhile most everyone else was having sleeves on their jacket’s and dresses draped on by Susan.

Margie’s Marfy 3022 was beginning to show the early signs of being a stunner of a jacket:

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Helen’s Galaxy Dress is all but done, and she planned to sew in the lining on the flight back to Perth:

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She was convinced by everyone that she would need to have a matching belt made up.

Sharon’s striking silvery grey and charcoal Simplicity Blazer was finished all but lining after finishing off a pair of bound button holes. She also brought along her Cotton and Linen book, ending up with a photo op wearing the dress on the front page of the book!

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Judith’s was making significant progress on her lace sheath dress too, determining whether or not to underlining the sleeve with the same coloured silk or not.

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Oh, and the three versions of Vogue 8333 being sewn up were just jaw droppingly awesome.

I’ll be back next week with the French Jacket course, and hopefully soon I’ll be able to take some photos of my finished pants!

Couture Sewing School – Day 1 & 2: Fitting and Fabric

I ended up going in on the first day with two muslins – one made up of Burda 6689, and another that was a pattern mut of the Style Arc Darcy Pants (Legs of Darcy, Style Arc Flat Bottom Flo crotch curve, Colette Patterns’ waistband from their Clover pants, which I’ve previously made).

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I wore the Burda pants for fitting first – but whilst they are famed for their pants crotch curve, it’s not one to fit a lady with a pancake butt situation out the back. If you’ve got curves then definitely yes! It’s a much roomier crotch curve. Susan had a quick look at these before I threw on my pattern mutt pair – which she deemed a better starting position.

She raised the waistband slightly at the front, agreed that my ‘flat bottom flo’ crotch curve was pretty great, then had me rip the seams apart at the legs right up to an inch or so below the crotch.

I have really prominent calves – and getting the legs of any pants pattern to fit (meaning in this case – that the grainline hangs perpendicular to the floor) and not get stuck and end up twisted below my knee has been impossible for me to achieve so far. Susan repinned this from scratch, marking out two dead darts first which realigned the grainline, then pinning the side seams back together to leave me with delightfully straight  leg pair of pants!

Wish I had taken a shot before I got fitted!

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Front dead dart realigning the grainline below my legs. I believe this type of adjustment typically responds to a ‘knock knee’.

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Front and back dead darts, with new side and inner seams as a result. Previously the legs from the Style Arc Darcy pants clung to my calves and twisted around slightly.

 

Thank goodness for large seam allowances - look at all the extra space I need!

Thank goodness for large seam allowances – look at all the extra space I need!

Still carrying about an extra 10cm around my waist following my pregnancy - so a change in the waistband was required to accomodate the pooch.

Still carrying about an extra 10cm around my waist following my pregnancy – so a change in the waistband was required to accomodate the pooch.  Also a perfect profile of said pancake butt.

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You can see the new seam lines marked in red in comparison to the blue seam lines of the Style Arc Darcy.

I took the time to make a second muslin, which took up the morning of Day 2, so I could add in the details I wanted from the Burda pattern – slit pockets at the side, double welt pockets at the back. It was a winner. So by lunchtime I was aligning my pattern pieces and cutting out my fashion fabric ready to baste.

Speaking of fabric…

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I’m working with a Super 130s wool yardage I bought whilst in Quito, Ecuador – nearly 5 years ago! I’ve been wanting to work with this fabric for aaaaaaages and it’s just beautiful to handle. The lining will be an olive green silk charmeuse I bought locally.

And here I am… basting.

By the time the day was finished, I’d completed basting my fabrics and had already completed a practise double welt pocket – and was congratulating myself on picking a pattern with so few pieces :P

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The technique for completing this welt is slightly different to how I have previously been doing it, and dare I say it, easier to do and far easier to save if you don’t get your stitching quite right first go around on the welt lips. I’m pretty stoked with the result.

Here are some pictures of my fellow sewists, and a peek into what everyone else is sewing!

Margie, from Adelaide and with whom I did the French Jacket Class in Baltimore – is sewing Marfy 3022 (a jacket I’m part way finished and absolutely adore – I need to wait until I finish losing the last of the baby weight before I see if I need to adjust the fit!) in a really gorgeous floral print cotton matelasse:

Margie and Susan contemplate pattern placement

Margie and Susan contemplate pattern placement

Three ladies are all sewing Vogue 8333 – such a gorgeous and classic blazer. Sarah is sewing her’s in a wool/silk blend tweed in purple and red tones, Fiona is working in a steel grey wool crepe, and Sandra has a grey and green flecked tweed.

Interestingly, all three ladies had to add more height to the sleeve cap on this pattern – and comparing the way in with the Vogue 8333 I made drapes from the cap, I really needed to do this as well. The way the sleeves fit me on this make have been a niggle point for practically forever… I’ve even considered taking the existing sleeves off and redoing them. I’ll probably never do it though. It gets a lot of wear, regardless!

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Fiona and Sarah

Belle is sewing pants as well – Burda 6689 (I’ll be honest I stole that pattern suggestion from her!).

Sue is working with a Vogue Kay Unger dress pattern in a red wool crepe minus the collar; Jennifer is sewing a Vintage Vogue A-Line dress in a floral silk crepe de chine; Helen, who has joined us all the way from Perth, is doing the iconic Vogue ripoff of Rouland Mouret’s Galaxy dress; Helene has a gorgeous black floral on grey background fabric which she is turning into a thigh length single breasted coat from a Lisette for Butterick pattern.

Judith is sewing a shift dress with a lace overlay (which she swears she’ll never wear, except maybe with white sneakers whilst she does her shop at Woolies!).

Two ladies are working with the Simplicity 2446 – Sharon in a really dramatic grey and black striped fabric, and Denise in a classic black crepe.

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Sharon aligns her black organza pattern pieces on her bold painterly striped fashion fabric.

It’s still early days but I’m feeling great about our work so far. Not to mention that with all this uninterrupted sewing I feel like a piece of myself has been rediscovered!

 

Couture Sewing School: Day 5 & 6

Ah, the last two days of the Couture Sewing School. Hard to accept that it was coming to an end, and struggling to keep the mojo up to get lots done.

Highlights? I broke my first ever sewing needle:

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I made my first ever hand picked zipper, too. I’ve always been in an invisible zipper gal personally, but I can see the allure with this method. You get an incredible amount of control throughout the process, and I love how easy it is to get the top part of the zipper on that slight angle, which helps share the strain on the hook and eye which will eventually be at the top:

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What’s always interested me about this method is the potential for embellishment, like using beads in each stitch:

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But, it won’t be a regular thing for me. I prefer the invisible factor, plus unless you get your stitches perfectly distanced, the uneven puckering is not for me. I may still unpick this…

I learnt a new way of sewing pin-point turns – doing it in two passes, rather than the single swipe I’d always done (hit and miss). Having both pieces stay-stitched rather than just the piece you clip helps aligning it all up, too:

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Once I’d got the bodice permanently stitched together, I had some fun with the pleats. The pattern calls for topstitching along the basted lines you see here:

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As I’m not yet decided on whether or not I’ll do that, I’ve catch-stitched the pleats from the underside which will secure it all together should I decided not topstitch all the things:

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In other, equally-as-unexciting news, I started cutting out lining…

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Which is currently holding nearly all my pins to ransom as I’ve yet to get past the align-and-cut phase. There’s the option to either thread trace the lining… or to use carbon paper to trace the outline onto (in a light colour) and get your sewing lined up perfectly so none of it shows through. Indecision rains!

And lastly… I got the little overcoat fitted :) This is the part of the garment that would have been a lace overlay, but which I’m going to sew as a separate piece in this lovely mottled fabric. Had I made it in the macrame lace (as recommended), the darts would have been intentionally lost in the detail. To make a bit of a feature from them though, Susan converted them to two ‘french’ darts on the diagonal (in blue). It softens the shape and I really like the effect!

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By Saturday afternoon… people were leaving and there’s nothing I dislike more than having to say goodbye, especially to such wonderful, inspiring people!

I all but lost the mojo and spent the afternoon relaxing by starting to hand sew the first row of trim on my French Jacket… and just like that – it was all over. :)

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Couture Sewing School: Day 4

Since getting back home I’ve taken a break from sewing and blogging…  and I’ve probably been banned from leaving the country for such a long period ever again (nearly a month!) without taking the hubby-to-be along with me! In good news, I’ve just finished sewing my French Jacket, more on that another day soon. So it’s time to finish the Couture Sewing School series!

On Day 4 I focused pretty much entirely on inner foundations. First I basted together the Marfy corset to have it fitted – this was from a pattern a size smaller than I usually go for, so I was curious to see how it turned out, especially as it’s such a fitted garment. 

The trickiest thing with this style is the cups. You really can’t fit such a thing unless you’ve got some underwires in it – which I didn’t have. So the four changes marked below generally relate to the fit around my torso than anything. I’ll eventually take this apart, sew over the new adjusted seam lines, add in some boning and appropriately shaped and fitted underwires and then tackle the cups.

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But to be honest, it was a pretty awesome fit! Such great lines on this pattern, I really can’t wait to properly tackle it.

Meanwhile, Leisa next to me was also making this pattern to go as a foundation structure for her ballgown. I took a happy snap to document the location of her boning channels:

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She also brought along a new-to-me fabric – Sea Island Cotton. This stuff is apparently the bomb for creating lightweight inner foundations, and something Susan often used when she was a Wedding Dress couturier.

This cotton is biologically different to normal cotton because the length of the fibres used to make up the strands is much longer than in ‘normal’ cotton – which gives it the super smooth texture. Oh, and it’s breathable, lightweight and tightly woven with virtually no give along the grain or cross grain – making it perfect for foundation garments. It actually feels a bit like silk against the skin – incredibly smooth – and Susan says it doesn’t pill.

So I trace out my front bodice pieces onto some of this cotton – changing the three pieces on the bottom half of the bodice to be a single piece, then get to thread tracing. The structure will be sewn into the outer fabric bodice, and held in place by the side seams (this structure doesn’t extend around to the back).

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There’s going to be two layers of cotton here, which are sandwiched wrong sides together then sewn along to create the boning channels. Once it’s together, I get to play with ‘Bone-o-rama’ (the name of Susan’s case carrying the pre-cut lengths of steel spiral boning):

IMG_6503It’s the first time I’ve touched this stuff and I’m pleasantly surprised at how light, flexible and strong it is.

Quickly I realise I should have graded the seam allowances to have one shorter than the other, because that would have made it much simpler to slip the boning through… one particular spot didn’t want to behave and it took a lot of manipulation, pleading and shoving to get the bone through there.

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And the final result:

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As yet un-pressed, of course. The bizarre thing about sewing in this environment is that progress seems to trump getting the little things as good as they could be, where you can get away with it with little flow on effect, of course.  Trying to get as far through a garment as possible so as to learn as much as possible meant my sewing was a little sub-par for my usual taste. Ah well!

As this will only fit into the front of the bodice, I use the silk organza and the seam allowances at the back of the bodice to create some boning channels:

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And then I pin the foundation into the bodice and try my hardest to get it so there are no wrinkles from the outside when being worn:

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And all of a sudden it was 6pm.

As a bunch of us were staying at the same place, that night we organised to get together in the lobby to watch Project Runway, so I thought I’d have a night off homework (and to be fair, I was starting to feel a little thin on the ground…), but then  came downstairs to find Sarah busily sewing away on her French Jacket and Leisa sewing as well, so I raced back upstairs to grab mine in the add-break for a little sew-in in the lobby:

Tim Gun on the screen!

Tim Gun on the screen!

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A great way to finish another long day :)