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!

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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!

 

The Trouser. The Sequel.

Thanks for your input on my last trouser post – it was really fascinating hearing everyone’s thoughts and opinions. I don’t think I’ve had a pattern disaster quite this bad before! In the aftermath I’m left wondering if indeed my perception of fit has been overly influenced by a lifetime of badly fitting RTW clothing.

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Case in point – many of you mentioned that you could tell looking at this picture that the fit would be bad – mostly due to the way in which the side slant pockets stuck out and the pleat disappears. I’ll admit… that’s actually one of the things I like about this pattern, but I can’t explain why. I suspect it has something to do with spending the entirety of my teenage years wanting slighting bigger hips, and the optical illusion provided by those pants kinda delivers on that.

So, I turned to a variety of different resources to beef up my knowledge on pants fitting.

CRAFTSY
I logged in after what must have been two years to discover that at some point in the past I had bought the class ‘Pants Fitting Techniques’, by Sandra Betzina.

I watched the whole thing (for the first time) and it does have some excellent tips, if you don’t mind Sandra’s rather chaotic approach of explaining things, and that you already know what your areas for improvement are. There are some good descriptions of how to make changes based on your desired improvement, however what I really wanted was a before shot showing the issue, and then the correction. Visual learner here. Notwithstanding, for the small price point you pay, there’s some really useful information in this course that shows you how to adjust without delving into depth the reasons why you need to adjust (at least, beyond saying ‘because of protruding thighs).

KENNETH KING’S SMART FITTING DVD
Another recommendation left in the comments of my last post was this. I haven’t got it, but it’s something I’d maybe consider adding to my wishlist.

KENNETH KING’S TROUSER DRAFT DVD
This, I now have – and what a gem it is. I borrowed it from someone and ended up buying my own copy. He not only takes you through a very logical, easy to comprehend set of reasons why a particular adjustment is required, but shows the symptoms of the issue and the fix. I totally got his reasoning and I honestly think it’s going to change the way I look at fitting. Something about the way he describes ‘net loss and net gain’ just made my brain click all the missing puzzle pieces together – best US$25 I’ve ever spent. It also includes a detailed method and formula to draft your own pants block from scratch using the French Method. I did attempt to do this, but vowed to come back and revisit my numbers/calcs after a break because my pants draft looked really, really wrong. I must have an incorrect calculation in there somewhere, which just compounded the problem.

SO WHAT HAVE I BEEN UP TO SINCE?
I tried on Jacques again. And holy crap I must have been having a fat day of epic proportions previously, because they fit. I’ve got no explanation for that, especially as I tried them on multiple times previously.

I really, really want a pair of slim fitting trousers. Something a bit Brigitte Bardot-ish.

Brigitte Bardot

So with my new found knowledge of net loss and net gain all thanks to Kenneth, I spent several hours in front of the mirror, straining my neck and bending down to pin and back up again to check. His e-book does contain a lot of fitting information and solves, but nothing on the lower half of the legs.

Unaltered side view

Unadjusted side view

Adjusted side view

Adjusted side view

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I did initially attempt a ‘hyper extended calf adjustment’, as per what Cation Designs describes in her (really excellent) pants pattern alteration post, but preferred what I did above.

My legs aren’t straight – they curve outwards quite substantially at the knee. What I really wanted to see was how pinning out these pants to match my leg shape would translate into 2D. I was rather disturbed after unpicking everything, it looked… ugly. Not the lovely straight lines we’re accustomed to seeing from a sewing pattern! The yellow lines are the original pattern lines, the orange is where I’ve pinned out excess and the black is the final line where I’ve taken out the excess in a vertical dart.

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I then sewed my muslin back together again, this time along the new seam lines I’d marked, to see how it fit. I knew I’d still need to mark new side seam lines as they’re quite crooked in the photos above, but the moment of truth would be in how they looked now I’d been playing around with them a lot…

I’ve also sewn on the waist band here – it’s far too tight, I know. I may still grade up the waistband 2 additional sizes and see how the proportions sit then, but I think it’s unlikely you’ll ever see a finished version of these pants.

But I am really quite happy with the progress I’ve made on a slim leg!

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Waistband is too tight. Something… ?? …. is going on at the crotch. But the both legs looks good!

The side that has not been tampered with. I've noticed when I 'lock' my knees back, I get the drag lines going on.

The side that has not been tampered with. I’ve noticed when I ‘lock’ my knees back, I get the drag lines going on. These photos have made me realise that I actually quite like the leg of this pattern now. How fickle!

The tampered side.

The tampered side.

I have the waistband pinned where it's folded over because I quite like the proportions of that depth of waist band on me. It's still too tight between the waistband and pants though. Oh, and looks like I needed that hyperextended calf alteration after all.

I have the waistband pinned where it’s folded over because I quite like the proportions of that depth of waist band on me. It’s still too tight between the waistband and pants though. Oh, and looks like I needed a hyperextended calf alteration afterall.

What I’ve taken an incredibly long time and huge amount of futzing to figure out – is that I need a ‘knock-knee alteration’. I guess the benefit of taking the long way to find that out is I know exactly how knock-kneed I am. Cindy from Cation Designs has an amazingly informative post on this alteration and a stack of others (including the hyperextended calf alteration) – definitely recommended reading.

What I have veered away from is making a comfortable trouser suitable for the office environment. I can see myself wearing these (very close fitting) pants made up in a floral cotton pique on a warm spring day, but they really are too tight for the office. Time to get back on brief!

A PANTS FITTING CLASS
Then, Oanh invited me to join her in a pants fitting class she was taking. It wasn’t quite what we thought it was (which was a trouser drafting course), but after a few short hours, I had a rather well fitting, high waisted wide leg trouser outline.

The Front

The Front. One leg has been tapered a little. Ok, maybe a lot. Also, the rise is higher than my natural waist.

The Back

The Back. Nothing like a horrid muslin photograph to accentuate my lack of hip curve. le sigh.

The Side

The Side

They’re comfortable. Really comfortable! The kind of comfortable that I could spend anywhere between 8 and 12 hours straight sitting in – which means they pass the office-suitable test. They look good in the mirror. The fit even looks perfect on camera!!!

So why do I feel so ridiculously dowdy in them?

That’s something I think I’m just going to have to get over – because those muslin photo aren’t lying.

So I’m going to sew up a wearable muslin from a fabric I don’t mind sacrificing to this cause (which will be a wool crepe), which means I can effectively test drive how the style would work for me. I would like your opinions on a waistband treatment though:

1. A really wide waistband so I can work in the slanted pockets still (this is not a pair of pants I’d feel comfortable tucking my shirt into, so it would be covered. That way I’d still get the ‘look’ of hip height pants, but with the comfort of waist height.)

2. A facing and no front pockets?

3. A picked zip at the side seam, or a centre back invisible zip?

I await your advice!

The Trouser.

Say that with the accent and delivery style of May – one of the judges from the Great British Sewing Bee – ok?

So at the beginning of July my working situation changed a little bit (this is a good thing!). Even though it’s immaterial to this little sewing space, that change was enough to get me (re)thinking about the clothes I drag out of my closet on weekdays. Ever heard the expression ‘dress for the position you want, not the position you’re in’? Yep. So I’m turning my sewing sights on trying to perk up my work wardrobe a little.

I’m almost recovered from my last pants sewing effort to attempt them again – as my legs and arms must be covered in the work place regardless (it’s a construction/operations site safety thing). I’ve always preferred skirts in the office, but it’s a general rule that no matter how fabulous your skirt, it will always look terrible with steel cap boots.

On the 9th of June, I ordered these – the Jacques Pantalons, from Republique du Chiffon:

I received them on the 1st of July – which seemed synchronous, that being the first day I started my new role. I even had a little impromptu postage race with Puu’s Door of Time who also bought this pattern… although even with a 1 day handicap start, I lost by 4 days. Not bad really, when you live in a city Jerry Seinfeld once described as the ‘anus of the world’. Personally I think that honour should belong to Hobart, but hey.

This pattern has been made up by three lovely and leggy French ladies – Jolies Bobines, Les Trucs de Tatihou, and my personal favourite pair by Cosy Little World. So how would they look on a definitely-not-leggy, non-French lady that tends a little closer to stocky than lanky?

This is them in their muslined glory, unaltered in any way. It was my second muslin. (You’ll have to pardon the blurry-ness):

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Capri pants and I were never meant to be friends in the length department. Ignoring of course that I’ve pinned them up unevenly… these pants are too small. The pleat detail is completely lost, I can’t get the two front seams to meet, and the side pockets are straining open due to the lack of ease.

The ease issue starts pretty much at the crotch, and gets exponentially worse the closer to the waistband seam you get.

You can see I’ve drawn the grainline of each of the four leg pieces – I can’t confirm if this is actually the case, but I would think that a properly fitted pair of pants would see the grainline perpendicular to the floor all the way along. I’ve ordered a few books on pants fitting as I really feel the need to beef my knowledge up in this area.

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I like this photo because it makes it seem like I actually have a bum.

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Aaaand I finally got the focus right, fourth time lucky.

Firstly – lets talk size. My Waist and Hips exactly matched the measurements for the size 42 – so that’s what I cut. You can see in the pictures above I can’t actually get the front seams to meet to do them up.

I double checked the instructions to see if I did the right thing – it says quite clearly (albiet in French) to measure yourself nekkid and then compare it to the table. Which is what I did. So I double checked my measurements, nekkid. Nope, still the same. Lastly, I double checked to see if the pattern pieces I traced off were the correct size. They were.

Pretty simply, that’s a big f*** up, Republic du Chiffon.

 

 

Once I had the chance to blow off that little bit of steam, I returned to thinking logically and reasonably. There is one explanation for why this didn’t work out for me – the rate of change between my hip and waist measurement is vastly different to that used by RdC’s design fit. A diagram shows it best:

Me (left) vs RdC (right)

Me (left) vs RdC (right)

I know I’m long in the body – both above and below the waist. I also know that one of the main reason’s I sew is to have clothes that actually fit me. Once again I’m reminded of the fact that patterns are just a starting point along the way – I can’t expect them to fit me out of the packet any more than I would expect a RTW piece of clothing to fit me off the rack. Knowing all of this doesn’t stop me from throwing a tanty when it doesn’t go right, but.

So let’s talk about my second Jacques-related tanty. Let me make it clear to those not in the know, that this pattern DOES NOT have seam allowances. I found this out about 5 seconds after I finished cutting my first (and now discarded) muslin out.

” Les marges de couture ne sont pas incluses sur le patron”.

I didn’t even need to type that into Google translate before that sinking feeling set in… Entirely my fault though.

Other disappointments? The back dart is very definitely not in the centre of the welt pocket location. I’m usually one to like a bit of imperfecion though, so I’ll leave it be.

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I tried out a new thing with welt pockets though – the faux piping at the bottom – and I’m liking it a lot!

So now… do I bother trying to make them fit, or dump them and try something else?