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Friday, August 29, 2008

All Together Now

I'm forming a clone army to take over the world. Or, the finished mini-wardobe in all combinations. Take your pick, whichever makes you feel better.

Nichola skirt finished!

I actually finished the skirt Wednesday, but Brandon hasn't been home while it was light enough outside to take pictures until today.

I am very pleased with the way it turned out. I should get a lot of use out of this.

I expected the skirt version of Burdastyle's Nichola pattern to go faster than the pants, since I'd already done the fly once and was more familiar with the construction of skirts than pants.

I did not count on the fact that altering the pants pattern into a skirt pattern was a little more complex than I first imagined (I'll post more completely on that soon, for those who might want to do the same type of thing), and also that I added jeans-style front pockets, which I had never made before. I got the instructions out of Vogue Sewing, my trusty first resort in such matters.

Figuring out those details of this project took up a lot of my head time. Also, I had to figure out the best layout to maximize skirt length and flare, given my very limited yardage (One 60" yard). I used a contrasting striped cotton for the underside of the pocket flaps, front pockets, and waistline facing so that I would have more khaki yardage for the skirt. This is the same fabric used for the pocket flaps and waistline facing of the Nichola pants, only on the pants it was a purely aesthetic decision.

I omitted the buttons on the waist tabs of the skirt, because when I put all those big buttons on, it was too much bling for me. I love the buttons (they've got little sunburst shapes in the center), but on the pants I had two different sizes of the same grey vintage buttons with smaller ones on the tabs, and the overall effect wasn't as overwhelming.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Twin Shirts

I finished the two shirts for the mini-wardrobe. The grey one I finished Saturday afternoon, and the green one yesterday.

I like the green tee better, especially with the grey pants. The grey shirt and the grey pants together is very...monochromatic. I feel like I need an orange cardigan or a big red necklace to go with that outfit. The green knit is also a little more substantial.

This pattern is actually a pajama top pattern. I love the raglan sleeves. They're super comfortable, even for a tee shirt.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Still working on the skirt, sort of.

I haven't finished the skirt from the Nichola pants pattern yet. I altered the pattern pieces of the pants to make a skirt, and cut the skirt out, and basted it together to make sure it worked, and then I laid the skirt aside and started work on the two tee shirts.

There is a method to this madness. I have black thread in the serger now from the pants, and the skirt will need white thread, but both tees would be better with black than white. Rethreading the serger and getting the tension right is a pain, so I decided to get the shirts done now, while the black thread is on there.

I thought I'd post a blog about a technique I used to make the pocket pattern for the skirt, and to help me determine how to alter the pants pattern, though. It's called making a ruboff pattern, and you can use it to copy entire garments without unpicking the seams. I haven't been that ambitious, but I have found it useful in the limited ways I've used it.

It's similar to what you did as a kid, with paper and a crayon, to make rubbings of tombstones and stuff (Don't tell me I was the only kid wandering around making rubbings of tombstones. And less morbidly, the brass plaques on buildings.) It's also similar to how Indy made a tracing of the inscription on a tomb in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades.

For the skirt, I wanted to add jeans-style hip pockets. My favorite khaki skirt has nice deep pockets that I wanted to copy. I turned the skirt inside out and laid it flat, then pinned an old flour-sack dish towel over the pocket and rubbed it with a black crayon over the pocket seams.

Then I cut out the rubbing and traced around it and added seam allowances to make a pattern piece. That's really all there is to it, although of course copying something that doesn't lay flat, like the crotch curve of a pair of jeans, is a little more finicky.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Nichola Pants (cue choir of angels)

I worked all day on my pants, and I got them finished. The fly was the hardest part for me to figure out - not only the Burdastyle instructions, but all of them just didn't make sense to me. I checked out Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing book from the library, since everyone says her fly instructions are great, and I couldn't get it to make sense. I think it was because I wasn't already familiar with the construction of a fly. Sometimes I'm dense about things like that, though. I can read and read and read instructions, but until I actually start to follow them and am in the middle of things, they don't make sense. My mom visited yesterday and today, and going over the instructions with her also helped.

I ended up using the Burdastyle instructions to make it (referring often to the fly of the jeans I was wearing), and the fly turned out fine, but I still think the instructions could use some work. Occasionally it was obvious a word had been left out. Luckily, aside from the fly, I didn't need the instructions very badly.

This pattern was drafted for someone a lot taller than me. I took off 5" from the legs, and they are still a little long (though it depends on the shoes I wear).
I'm very happy with the look of the pants, and the fit. I orginally shaved 1/2" off of the sides all the way down, a total of 2" off of the waist and hips. I sewed them with a 5/8" seam, and tried the pants on before I put in the waistband. They were a little tight across the hips, so I went back and sewed the hips with a 3/8" seam, tapering back to 5/8" at the waist. It worked great. I'm glad I took a lot of time to try them on during construction (6 or 7 times, at least).

I am very pleased with how these turned out. I want to make another pair sometime, in a dark denim, with front, jeans-style pockets added. And maybe without buttons on the waistband tabs.

I love the buttons, but I have a secret: they're all faux button fastenings. There isn't one buttonhole on there. Normally I am a function over form person, and I don't care for faux garment details like faux welt pockets that don't open. But in this case, I thought the buttons were better in a purely decorative capacity.

Buttons at the waist often pull a lot and the buttonhole gaps and looks unattractive, so I put a flat hook and eye fastener under there, and Velcro fastenings on the pockets. I have some pants with buttoned flaps on the pockets, and it is annoying when I want to get things in and out of them. There's no earthly reason I would want to button and unbutton the belt loop tabs, and I don't think the instructions even call for a buttonhole on them.

Now that I have a handle on how the fly works, I am ready to start adapting this pattern into a skirt. Tomorrow I hope to start that.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Most people who know Brandon would vote this the least likely vintage pattern that he would want made for him. I was totally joking when I asked him if he wanted me to make it for him. But when you look past the belts, pants tucked into boots, and the icky bare chest and chain (or turtle-neck, they're equally bad), what this is is a pair of coveralls. And he had been needing a new set of coveralls, it turned out.

So I made a few minor modifications to make it look less like an outfit from Saturday Night Fever and to make it more suitable for mechanic work: left the flaps off of the pockets, reduced the length of the collar tips and the flare of the legs, and left slits in the side seams so that my husband can reach into his pants pockets when he's wearing the coveralls. Also left the cuffs off of the sleeves, just finished them with a narrow hem.

It was a beast to make, actually. The denim was really stiff and there was lots of it, and I had quite a time getting the zipper in/front facing attached. The long straight seams and the sleeves were easy, of course. I used heavy duty thread, and was really impressed with my sewing machine, which handled the denim well.

Here is the finished product, put to use immediately:

The pattern was a size or two large, which I figured was a plus, since it doesn't look like it was originally meant to be worn over a full set of clothes. The only problem is that the torso still could use a few inches of length to allow the kind of reach that might be necessary in mechanic work. I'm foreseeing a ripped-out armpit in the future. He also wants me to retroactively put in a set of back pockets.

I worked on the pants for my mini-wardrobe today. It's going pretty good, although I had a few duh moments when reading the instructions. I think the Burdastyle instructions were translated out of another language (I think Burda is a German company) and some of the terms aren't translated exactly as I'm used to them. The back pocket pleats had me totally confused, and mine don't look like the ones on the model on the Burdastyle site. After I finished them, I looked at the instructions and their diagram made perfect sense. If I'd followed the instructions instead of trying to figure it out from the pleat arrows and lines on the pattern piece, I would have had no problem.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sewing With a Plan. A Small Plan.

I have been thinking lately that I would like to do a little SWAP-ing. I've been seeing a lot of really cool wardrobes on other people's blogs. The only thing is, I know that I would never finish such a large undertaking. But I like the idea of sewing things that go together, so that you don't end up with a skirt that matches only one or two items in your closet. I have a couple of those.

I had been idly toying around with the idea in my head for a week or so anyway, but also with the idea that really, I have way too much fabric in my stash and need to quit buying fabric. But as most of my fabric was purchased without a plan, it doesn't really go together. I'm not big on neutrals, really. When I saw that patternreview.com is running a mini-wardrobe contest, I thought, perfect. The deadline will also insure that I get to work and get the items done in a somewhat timely manner.

The rules for the contest stipulate that you sew 4 items, with a total of at least three different garment-types (In mine, pants, skirt, and tee shirt), and three different colors (In mine, grey, green, and khaki), to make a total of four separate outfits. (In my case, green shirt/grey pants, grey shirt/grey pants, green shirt/khaki skirt, grey shirt/khaki skirt.)

The two grays and the turquoise stripe are all from my stash (grey is probably my favorite neutral). I bought the khaki to make the skirt out of specially for this. Because khaki is very dull, but it does go with everything. I have a khaki skirt that is one of my most-worn skirts. I've had it for 6 or 7 years, since college, and it's starting to get stains and stuff.

I've never sewn real pants with a fly before, so this should be a learning experience. I thought about checking out Wendy Mullin's SEW U from the library and using the pants pattern out of it, but the reviews on that are less than stellar, so I went ahead and downloaded the Nichola pants from Burdastyle for free, mostly because it was more instant-gratification and I only have three weeks. About half of the pants made using that pattern have looked really good, and half look oversized and ill-fitting. Knowing the pattern runs large, I compared it to a pair of pants that fit like I want them to, and cut the pattern down a little. (about 2" off the waist, all told)

Hopefully I can get the pants to fit well. I'm very picky about pants fit. Well, if I'm buying them new, I am. If I'm taking hand-me-downs or buying cheap at a garage sale, I'm not so much, and that's why two of the pairs of pants I wear most often annoy me every time I wear them.

The shirts will go together fast.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Knit Top - It's So Easy!

This is Simplicity 3548. It was the test project for the pattern, which I bought on a whim, because I'd noticed my sister had several tops of this type (with the gathered neckline) and they were really cute. It makes a prettier change from plain tee-shirts, which I have a lot of, while still being comfortable and casual.

A very quick sew. The fabric is very soft and drapey, too.

Unfortunately, $2 a yard knit fabric from Wal-Mart isn't really high quality, no matter how attractively cheap it is (When will I learn this lesson? When?), so the first time I washed it, three holes developed on the front (which was after I took the picture). So I sewed on a little fabric embroidered applique. Like so: