A sewing blog about building a functional, cohesive handmade wardrobe, one garment at a time.

Monday, September 26, 2016

I made pants!

Here is a rare situation where I bit off more than I thought I could chew and it actually turned out really, really well.  

While on vacation last month, I saw the tester call for Alina Design Co.'s new Chi-Town Chino Expansion Packs.  Expansion Pack 2, full-length chino pants, immediately caught my eye.  I hesitated in applying because my normally busy fall, with the start of the homeschool year and both my daughters' birthdays, is even busier this year.  My little brother is getting married and not only am I sewing the kids' outfits, but I am baking the wedding cake.

I did not have time to test a pattern, especially not an involved pattern like these pants.

I really liked the look of the chinos, though, so I threw caution to the wind along with my name in the hat.  I got to work immediately after we returned from our initial two weeks at the beach.  I spent a solid week working on the pants, and not only am I really happy with the way they turned out, but I learned a ton.  They are the first pair of adult pants I've ever made, but they definitely will not be the last.

I wear jeans nearly every day in fall and winter, but like many of us, I have a lot of trouble fitting into any other RTW pants.  I always thought it was because I have thick legs, and that most pants "just didn't look good on me."


Sewing to the rescue yet again!

Testing these chinos turned out to be a great lesson in fitting.  Alina and other more experienced pants-sewing testers were very helpful in trouble-shooting fitting issues.  But perhaps even more helpful was being ablee to see other people's muslins and projects in the testing Facebook group and read diagnoses of fit issues I didn't encounter in my own pants.  It was really like a crash course in pants fitting.

These pants are a tester version size 16 and a pretty good representation of the pattern.  My muslin had a lot of excess fabric under my behind, so I had to slice a triangle off the back leg by cutting length off the back crotch curve and tapering to nothing down around the knee (funnily enough, this sort of adjustment is called a "thin thigh," something no one has ever accused me of having).  While I was fiddling with my muslin, I ended up taking more than 2" off the crotch curve.  Somehow, while this seemed to work ok in my made-of-muslin muslin, it did not work at all in the cotton twill I used for these pants. I couldn't sit without them sliding all the way down. 

To say I was bummed would be an understatement.  I was really motivated to make the pants wearable, so I mulled over how to add length back to the crotch.  I ended up putting in a crotch gusset to restore some of the back crotch length I had removed, and it worked.  My final pants had a thin thigh adjustment of about 1 3/8", and it's still a little much.  Once I redo it, I expect it to be pretty close to the thin thigh adjustment Alina made on the final pattern.

In addition to the above changes, my muslin showed me that I needed to take out 1" of height from the front crotch.  I also widened the legs of the pants from the mid-calf downwards to make the pants hang on me more like the line drawing. Despite all my adjustments, there are a lot of diagonal ripples from the back of my knees to my inner thighs.  The ripples become less pronounced after the fabric relaxes, but they are still a bit excessive.  After doing some research I have postulated that I am slightly knock-kneed, and that I need to add more length to the inseam of my pants to fix those ripples.

I used this cotton twill from Joann's, bought with a 60%-off coupon.  I used it two years ago for cargo pants for G, and those things held up to twice-weekly washing until he outgrew them.  I expect to be putting them on Niko this winter and then we'll match!

The waist is finished with a waistband facing instead of a waistband, and closes either with a button or a hook-and-eye closure (I chose the latter).   The pants have slash front pockets and back welt pockets with French seams and button closures.  I really love the French-seam feature of the pockets, and have used it since on the welt pockets of the three pairs of Oliver+S Art Museum Trousers I made for the wedding.

The day after I finished these pants, I took the kids back to the beach with my dad for a few days.  We needed a little more vacation.  It was so humid that my camera lens fogged up every time I took it outside. The resulting photos I took at the beach are pretty bad, but looking at them makes me happy so I'm posting a couple anyway.

The welt pockets are finished with buttons, but you'll notice there are no pocket buttons on these pants.  That is because when I lengthened the back rise on the pants, I did not think to adjust the pocket bags.  As a result, the interfaced part of the pocket back, which is meant to support the button, doesn't line up with the buttonhole.  I left them off and actually prefer my pants without pocket buttons, but if you want buttons on your pants and are also messing with the back pattern pieces, be sure to adjust the pockets correspondingly.

It's been a few weeks since we returned from our impromptu half-week at the bach and summer is finally over.  We wore sweatshirts and socks to the park today.  I'm in mourning, but at least I have some nice new pants to cheer me up.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Purple Kool-Aid cardigan

I finally got around to sewing another Lisbon Cardigan (affiliate link).  This is #4 and I am planning a few more.  What can I say, I'm just a cardigan kind of girl.  

Like my last three, this one is a size 12 graded to a 14 at the hips.  I was tempted to cut a size 10 shoulder on this one, but I had not yet used a cotton/lycra for the pattern and suspected it might sew up a little smaller than the drapey rayon French terry and bamboo jersey I had used on previous versions. 

So I stuck with the pattern pieces I had already drafted.  I had lowered the neckline on two of my previous Lisbons but I decided to leave it as is for this one.  It did sew up smaller, but the shoulder is still too wide.  Also, because the fabric is less drapey than the fabrics I used before, the cardigan is shorter than the others and feels a little boxier.

It might seem kind of surprising that it would take me four iterations of the same pattern to figure out what alterations I'd like make, but different knits really sew up so differently.  No two of the four cardigans I made fit the same.

And now I know that, for next time, I am definitely going to cut a smaller shoulder.  I have to go back and look at the pattern to see how much narrower the shoulder is on the 10; I might go down to an 8.  I'm unsure as to whether I'm going to do an actual FBA or just grade out at the bottom of the armscye.  I also want to experiment with the sleeve - I think I'd like to do a long hemmed sleeve instead of a cuffed sleeve.  I won't want to lose any width in the upper sleeve, but I have a good bit of ease beneath the elbow, so I'll need to narrow that part.

Like on my French terry version, the front hems dip when the cardigan is worn open.  I wonder if that is just what is going to happen with a cardigan, or whether it indicates a fitting issue, because it's not noticeable when the cardigan is buttoned.

And speaking of buttons ... I recently picked up another bag of buttons from the thrift store, and it happened to contain about two dozen 1/2" purple buttons that match the fabric perfectly.  You may have noticed that they are not on the cardigan.

That is because I could not get my machine to sew buttonholes on this fabric for love nor money.  Whomp whomp.  Although my machine generally stinks at sewing knits, a layer of interfacing on the fabric has always been enough to get it to make buttonholes.  I was out of knit interfacing when I sewed this, so I used two strips of knit stay tape instead.  My machine didn't like that, nor was it cowed when I attached some tear-away stabilizer to the underside of the placket.  So I bought some Dritz snaps, grabbed my hammer and got to work.


Yeah, so that wasn't so easy.  I've never used metal snaps before, and it was a pain.  I had a pack of 12 snaps and had to use them all to get 7 useable snap sets on my cardigan.  I kept hammering the male sockets to the side, thus rendering them useless.  I have a Kam snap press from my diaper-making days and am considering buying the dies I need to install metal snaps.  Or maybe I'll just get a Snap Setter - I've heard good things.  I don't mind the look of the snaps on the cardigan, but as I don't trust my snap installation, I'm very, very careful when I undo them

The fabric is Robert Kaufman Laguna cotton/lycra jersey knit in Amethyst.  I've used Laguna a few times in the past and have found it to hold up pretty well.  But I'm not the biggest fan of the available colors.  This purple seems a little juvenile to me - not much depth and it reminds me of the color of artificially "grape"-flavored things.  But one can never have enough cardigans (at least, not if one is me), so this has already gotten plenty of wear and will continue to do so.

Even if it does remind me of purple Kool-Aid.