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!

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!

Boldly going where we’ve gone before

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It’s déjà vu in blue, dear readers.

I’ve been loving my Tigerlily Mk II shorts so much, that it made sense to try and squeeze another out of the leftover fabric… I made these inbetween starting and finishing my Blue Belladone robe, so you may recognise that dastardly rogue silk chiffon trim?

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Keeping in line with my stash and scrap busting, I managed to squeeze some more pocket bags out of my leftover white cotton voile – awesome.

I did do a few things differently this time though… I whacked some white grosgrain ribbon into the waistband to provide a bit more stability, I sewed the button holes BEFORE sewing the waistband onto the shorts (great because the lack of bulk made for beautiful buttonholes), and I eliminated the ties at the leg for a band for a more streamlined look.  I also changed the orientation of the waistband a bit… but that wasn’t actually planned, I just wasn’t thinking when I started sewing. That’s always a bad sign. I think I prefer the waistband on the original pair.

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You can read all about my first pair of Tigerlily shorts here. It’s a text light post today so I can maximise my time in the sewing room… so many ideas, so little time. So – if you’ll excuse me!

The Stats:
00:00  Pattern Preparation
00:00  Toile (cutting/sewing/fitting)
01:40  Fabric Preparation (cutting/interfacing etc)
05:35  Sewing
07:15  hours

Fabric Utilisation = 1.2m 
Stash total now = 95.0m (Goal = 50m)

Tigerlily Shorts

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Summer has hit with a vengeance. I took these photos on Saturday morning – and I don’t think the temp dipped below mid 30’s (90 F) at my house all friday night. Hot Hot Hot! So it’s definitely time for some more summer sewing. I’ve had a pair of Tigerlily shorts on summer wardrobe rotation for the last 5 years – I loved them that much. And if I recall correctly, I originally bought them on eBay for $5 – quite possibly the best wear value for money a garment’s ever had in my wardrobe. Problem is, when I bought them I was about 16, maybe 17 kilo’s (that’s 37 pounds for the American’s here) heavier than I am now (long story), and I’d been getting around in them ever since with a safety pin cinching in the waistband. 

Sheepish? Just a tad.

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So I was beyond stoked when at the Melbourne Sewists Meetup back in August, I came across a fabric almost identical to that from which the Tigerlily shorts were made – a gorgeously thick, textured and thickly woven white cotton. I would show you a picture of the originals, but something exploded in my suitcase when visiting the fam up north and my beloved shorts took the fallout. (That something was a delicious curry made from scratch by me, so there was never any hope. As a result, they are not deemed fit for public visual consumption. I have no idea what posessed me to put curry in my carryon, of all things.)

I took to the originals with my seam ripper, traced out the pieces to make a toile and ‘re-fitted’ them, adjusted my newly traced pattern then got to work sewing these up! About a third of the way through sewing them, I realised that fabric I bought was actually a stretch woven. I’m a little embarassed it took me that long to realise! It caused some headaches, as well as the stretched out look on the waistband due to having to pull the bulk through my machine. Sigh.

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I recycled the buttons and zipper from the original pair (both untouched by curry), and used some leftover fabric from my Technicolour Dream Skirt to make bias binding for the trim (on the originals the trim was blue and yellow) and found some white cotton voile from the scrap stash for the pocket bags. I’m still gutted I didn’t buy more of that digitally printed cotton… But I’m pleased this is yet another creation that only required a thread purchase to make – a win for the fabric stash!

With all the gathers at the pockets and the cutouts at the sides, the front pattern piece did look a little awkward when flattened out, but the pocket bags were ungathered and so acted as the template for how much gathering was required. 

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Interestingly, the waistband was cut on the straight (a low-wastage commercial cutting ‘strategy’) then shaped with a dart at the centreback, made to look as though it was a part of the flat felled centreback seam. There was two fake single welt pockets at the back which I copied also – I decided to keep the fake factor as A) I never used those pockets anyway and B) they’ll never sag this way. I also loved how the pocket bags stretch across and connect at the fly – this stops the pocket bag from peeping out.

Speaking of fly’s, I’m getting more confident with them now – this was the first time I didn’t sew the whole thing together by accident at least once – woohoo!

Looks like I’m set for the next 5 summers. Now I have a hankering for curry…

The Stats:
02:25  Pattern Preparation (seam-ripping/tracing)
05:40  Toile (cutting/sewing/fitting)
01:40  Fabric Preparation (cutting/interfacing etc)
05:35  Sewing
15:20  hours

Fabric Utilisation = 1.2m 
Stash total now = 81.4m (Goal = 50m)