Stretch jeans, camisole tops and moving to Seattle!

What does the post-partum woman need? Stretch jeans that fit! I whipped up these super quick stretch denim pants (are they jeans without a fly or yoke? I can’t quite commit to the idea) using the StyleArc Linda stretch pant pattern that I knew already fit (picture is here and pattern review is here).. I had a denim-coloured stretch bengaline pair that I wore to death after Julian was born, so another pair after Tessa’s birth seemed like a good idea. This time I widened the leg, as I much prefer wide legs to skinny (anti-fashion, I know!), raised the back waist and lengthened the hem. I added two rectangular patch pockets to the back, which are useful, and serve to break up the back view.

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I wear them pretty much every day so they must be a success! (Let’s not dwell on the fact that there are not too many other choices in the closet right now). The denim is reasonably thick but has a good amount of stretch. Annoying it gets baggy after the first day of wear, but the pants are quite tight on the first day, so I wouldn’t take them in. I did discover while running alongside my two year old on a flying fox that elastic stretch pants are not really made for running, not that I do much of that right now.

Another immediate need in my post partum wardrobe was some camisoles for breastfeeding. I find that a cami pulled down and a top pulled up gives the kind of coverage I prefer for feeding in public.

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I have found it impossible to find breastfeeding camis that do not have foam bra cups in them (annoying when wearing a real bra underneath), that are suitable for a larger cup size, with a nice long length, and cotton. The best thing I have are these City Chic camis which are cotton-Lycra jersey, great long length, and I can pull the neckline down under my bust to feed. Sadly they now only sell them in vile polyester so I figured I would try making my own. I traced the pattern from an existing cami and used Fold over elastic (FOE) for the binding and straps. This is my first time using FOE and it was easy to use – I applied it with a simple zig-zag stitch.

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Unfortunately the first cami I made I cut out on the crosswise grain (I really am sleep deprived), and it’s too tight and the straps too short. The second one is a bit tight too, especially in this beefy jersey. I used 2 yards of FOE on each one, which was the full length I had. These are useful but I think I still need to make a few more tweaks until I have exactly the cami I want.

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Big news! Our family of five is relocating to a Seattle! Yup, just half a globe away from where we currently live in lovely Melbourne. The process of moving is taking up all my time and energy that isn’t being used on my tiny baby and two older kids, so this blog will probably have big gaps between posts for a while.

I’m not taking my sewing machine or overlocker, I’m not willing to risk them on 60Hz 110V power. My sister will have them. The sewing machine was my Mums so I have no more claim to it than my sisters. I have spent a lot servicing it over the years and am very sentimentally attached to my awesome Elna TSP. It’s a fabulous machine, but I had been thinking of upgrading, so now I’m being forced to. I’ve been thinking for a few years about what to get but am still undecided. Modern computerized machines are very different to what I’m used to.

Still, I’m very excited about the chance to buy a new sewing machine and about moving to Seattle in general. I hope that I will be able to connect in to the local sewing and knitting communities. The only Seattle sewing blogger I know of so far is Michelle of happilycaffienated. Anyone know of any other Seattle sewing or knitting bloggers, or sewing meet ups, retreats etc the happen in the area? I’d love to know!

P.S. I made this entire blog post on my phone – what a technical feat!

P.P.S. Here is Tessa in the outfit I made her before she was born.

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A tale of two wadders

So I finished up my first garment from the US trip fabric/pattern haul and I just couldn’t bring myself to share it straightaway because it was so bad. Unwearably bad. Hello Vogue 1333.

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Just check out the volume! Back AND front bustle. Nice. Also this

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Those tucks STICK OUT big time. It actually looks worse than the photos show. It was very windy when these shots were taken and it still stuck out.

And check this out.

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So bad. I seriously considered ripping off the elastic waist and adding a yoked waist and a zip, but in the end there really was no saving this skirt. I’ve put in on several times and I just have to take it off before I step out the door.

My husband commented that this skirt pattern is a great idea that just doesn’t work out, and I agree. Now partially this is my fault. This pattern is for a knit and I used a drapy polyester blend woven. I did this because I don’t love knit skirts and I had seen a successful woven version of this online – review here and pic here. I probably should have noted that sfshaza has a totally different figure type to me hmmmmm. Anyway I kvetched about this pattern on PR here.  Clearly success is possible with this pattern (cool stripy version) but not for me – I’m giving up on this one.

So what I really needed was some success! A quick and easy win. StyleArc Eva knit top will do the trick!

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Oh yeah. Let’s check out that neckline.

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So nice. Not. And just for full exposure here’s the back.

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The sleeves are too tight and not long enough – I lengthened the 3/4 sleeves the pattern came with, but the biggest issue is that neck band.

First of all the proportions are wrong in the size 16. The band needs to extend further down so that gathers fall across the  bust not above it. It just looks a bit truncasted and polo-ish. I know I’m full busted but still I think the grading is a bit off.

Secondly the band is interfaced. All the back neck ickiness is caused by the back piece not fitting smoothly onto the band, which it won’t because you can’t stretch it on as it’s interfaced and not stretchy. This also causes the band to stick up and not conform to the body. There is also not enough fabric in the gathers for them to look like gathers, they look like mistakes.

The pattern says that the interfacing is not mandatory, it depends on the weight of your fabric. This is a very lightweight jersey that I picked up as a remnant from Clear It on Brunswick St, Fitzroy, where they sell the Alannah Hill leftover fabrics. Surely this lightweight stuff needed it? I cannot imagine being able to sew those square front corners on without it, and anyway the patterns suggests running stay-stitching around the neckband before insertion which would make it non-stretchy anyway.

You can see from the RTW top (City Chic) I’m wearing with the dud Vogue skirt that vertical bust gathering can look quite good on the busty girl. This top does not get that look.

So two duds in a row. I really hope that my next project works out!

A palate cleanser – Sorbetto – and a denim skirt

I’ve been feeling really blocked with my sewing lately. I’ve been working on an eight panel, yoked godet skirt (StyleArc Janet) in black rayon twill for work. It has incredibly time consuming and frustrating to sew and I just know that fitting it is going to be even more painful still. It’s been sitting up there unfinished for weeks. One time I found a spare 30 minutes and made negative progress, forgot that it was 10mm seams not 15mm, ended up unpicking, ripping a hole as I did and then having to mend it.

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So I decided on a palate cleanser – a quick, easy project that would hopefully be an inspiring win, because I really need one. Given that it’s stinking hot right now I decided on the free Colette Sorbetto top. This has been made many, many times before, there’s only, like 101 reviews of it on PatternReview. And you know what, I didn’t read copious reviews and I hardly made any alterations, not even a FBA, I just said damn it, it’s a loose top, I’m going to see how the other half lives and pick the size based on my bust measurement, cut and sew. And guess what, it’s not perfect but it’s totally wearable.

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The fabric is a Japanese cotton that I bought at Spotlight years ago. It has a very 70s vibe and I never made that shirt I planned because I had second thoughts about this small floral print on me. This small sleeveless top is really about as much of this floral as I’d want to wear.

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I made a size 14 for a 42″ bust and the only alterations I made were letting out the shoulder seams to 5mm seams and making it the length of the size 18. I made self fabric bias tape using Colette’s super nifty continuous method. The bias trim and front pleat are lovely details – Sarai, she knows how to draft a nice pattern. The pattern states it takes two hours to sew but this project took me a solid 4 hours including making the bias tape. I am very pleased with it.

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In fact, I was so happy and inspired that I dragged out my Sally Jeans skirt that had been sitting almost completed, but without a waistband for many months. I abandoned it when I realised that the fit was going to be very disappointing and I was so far in that I couldn’t bear to unpick it, and couldn’t see a good way to fix it.

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See that wrinkling and bagging at the back waist? Well it’s not nice but I’m going to live with it. This area is a huge problem for me, as attested by the ugly back waist darts that I add into my RTW clothing and the darts I deepen and add to me-sewn clothes. What I did here was reshape the yoke panel to incorporate the darts. Can’t say it was a huge success. I think the yoke is too narrow to take the full transition – if they were real darts they would be longer than that.

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This skirt is great apart from that. It is really very me, if you know what I mean. The contoured waistband is comfy and the shape is good for me. In fact I like it so much that I actually wore it to work today, even though a jeans skirt is really a bit casual for my office.

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Yes that’s the dawn. It was 7.15am. So I think I’ll round that off to sewing win.

Corduroy Chelsea Pants

Years ago I had a great pair of wide wale navy wide leg pants. They were mens pants and from Colarado (now defunct sadly). They fit me really well as they had a narrow waist and generous fit everywhere else and I wore them to death in my early twenties. Now I have recreated something similar from the StyleArc Chelsea pants pattern.

I intend to make these pants many times, perhaps as longer-length shorts for summer. This pattern is very me. In fact I have just put up a construction tutorial and a fly front tutorial so that I can whip these up forevermore!

They are perhaps not the most glamorous pant but they are sooooo comfortable. I’ve worn them for the last three days. Since wide wale non-stretch corduroy seems to be a pretty unfashionable fabric I was forced to shop at Spotlight. At least they stock it when no one else does (well Rathdowne Fabrics or GJs anyway).

I also think that I may be winning the pants fitting war after many years of pants failure. Success seems to lie in lengthening the back rise significantly before I start and then fitting as I sew. This is how I lengthened the rise with wedges.

Here is my previous version.

Pattern review is here.

Fly front construction for the Chelsea pants

I’ve made the StyleArc Chelsea pant twice now and the StyleArc Sally jean skirt. Both patterns have a fly front with a facing and a separate fly bearer which covers the zip on the inside, protecting you (and your underwear) from the zipper teeth. I really love this fly front – it seems like a ‘proper’ menswear style fly front zip, rather than most women’s sewing patterns which often leave off the bearer (compare to the Colette method here). The front topstitching for this method looks very much like it is constructed in the same way as my factory-made jeans.

StyleArc provide instructions and several diagrams for this method. but I found that it wasn’t quite obvious enough for me, so I wrote down these steps and took some photos (which are intended to augment the instructions in the pattern) so that I could do it perfectly when I make these again. I also added when to finish edges. I hope that this helps you too!

1. Overlock/finish curved edge of fly facing.

2. Sew fly facing to right pant front.

3. Turn to face and press.

4. Sew zip to left pant piece using zipper foot. You can line up the edge of the zip and pant piece due to 10mm seam allowance. Don’t sew to close to zip, I like a 2-3mm gap between teeth and stitching.

5. Fold fly bearer in half wrong sides together and press, overlock/finish bottom edge.

6. Cover zip with bearer and sew.

7. Turn to face and topstitch.

8. Zig zag finish inside seam raw edges on both right and left sides. (I find it too narrow and fiddly to overlock)

9. Attach right and left sides of pants along crotch seam, right side up so you can meet the seam line at the zip opening. Back stitch securely at zipper opening.

10. Attach fly facing to zip keeping bearer and right front free. Use a zipper foot.

11. With bearer still folded out return right front to its place and topstitch up to start of curve using zipper foot. (The straight line of stitching on the left in this image.)

12. Return bearer to its place and topstitch curve connecting right front to bearer, narrow zigzag to secure. (This curve is shown in white chalk in image above and below.)

Done!

Construction method for Chelsea pants

So I’m making the StyleArc Chelsea pants for the second time. I have devised my own method of construction that allows me to fit as I sew. This is tailored to my particular fitting needs (adding back darts, taking in the waist etc) but I’m putting it up here so that it may help others. I hate it how instructions never tell you when to finish seams, or choose a construction order that makes it really hard to fit as you sew. This method is just one I made up as I sewed along. I’m hoping to power through all subsequent pairs now that I have this worked out and documented!

1. Interface waistband pieces.

2. Stay stitch upper edges of pant pieces to prevent stretching.

3. Construct fly front. See separate post here. After this step the zipper is inserted and the front crotch seam is sewn and finished.

4. Sew and finish back crotch seam.

5. Sew and finish inseams.

6. Pin outseams (outside leg seams). Try on and adjust to fit. Check that the side seams sit straight on the body, I usually need to take in the front pant pieces at the side seams to get the seam to sit straight.

7. Sew outseams, try on to check, finish seams.

8. Try on, pin in some back waist darts (the pattern doesn’t have any but I always need to add them). Measure darts, straighten and repin, try on, sew darts.

9. Iron belt loops piece into thirds lengthwise.

10. Topstitch both sides of belt loops piece, cut into four equal pieces.

11. Pin loops to right side of waistband pieces at the top where indicated by notches.

12. Sew belt loops on, noting 5mm seam allowance.

13. Sew centre back waistband seam to bottom of cut out notch (10mm seam). Press open.

14. Sew same seam with waistband facing pieces.

15. Pin waistband pieces to pant top matching notches (10mm seam), keeping belt loops free.

16. Pin waistband side seams to match pant pieces (in my case this will involve quite a bit of taking in). Try on to check.

17. Sew waistband side seams, trim allowance, press open, repin to pant.

18. Sew waistband to pant (10mm seam), pant piece up so that you can see the stay stitching line.

19. Press seam, press allowances up towards waistband.

20. Pin waistband facing to top edge of waistband (5mm seam).

21. Pin and sew facing side seams to match waistband, trim allowances and press open.

22. Sew facing to waistband along sides and top (5mm allowance on top and diagonal seams, 10mm allowance on vertical seams but adjust allowance so that waistband centre front and back seams match pant pieces).

Sew very close to point of notch at centre back.

23. Press seam, clip corners, turn and press.

24. Turn under bottom edge of waist facing, press and pin.

25. Stitch in the ditch from the right side, removing pins as you go. I like to sew this in sections from right front to centre back, and from left front to centre back so that if I get any bubbling it is at the back where I it won’t be as noticeable.

Check that the facing is caught in the stitching all around.

26. Press under ends of belt loops. Pin and sew securely.

27. Mark and sew buttonholes.

For me this involves following this entire page on instructions – you may have a machine that does automatic buttonholes, I have heard about such newfangled devices. I do love my machine, but the buttonholes suck.

Sew on buttons. (Apparently some machines do this, I obviously do this by hand).

28. Try on pants, mark hem length, finish hem, pin and press hem, try on, sew hem (I like a hand stitched hem).

Whew! Seems like a lot but really it wasn’t too bad at any step. I hope that this helps someone else make these great pants! I intend to print this tutorial and then whip up a few pairs quickly without having to think over each step.

Sick….

Sewing and knitting and well, having fun, has been on hold for a while. I’ve been sick, just a random virus but a nasty lingering one. The kids have had it too but not as badly, thankfully. Last night I rang and cancelled all the fun stuff I had planned and went to bed.

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I did get a pair of StyleArc Chelsea Pants cut out on Saturday just as I was succumbing to the lurgy. I’ve made these pants pants once before and am hoping for an easy satisfying sew. Hopefully…..