Upcoming and Planned Projects

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Spotted Wolf Pants

Over the last few years I've made some pants but almost all of them have been workwear. Pants are always a bit daunting, so I don't make them as often as other types of clothing. But now working from home I'm not wearing normal work clothes and my jeans are getting old so it was time to make some casual pants to wear at home.

I used the out of print Peter and the Wolf pants pattern from Papercut Patterns. The original pattern has an invisible side zipper and a curved teardrop-shaped hem. I wanted to change these to more of a traditional pant shape with a fly front and straight hems. This make is basically the newer Otsu Jeans pattern but with a straight rather than skinny leg.

I've made this pattern before in a black cotton sateen. There, I used the reverse side for the pockets and front and back yokes to hint at the design lines but not overwhelm. This time I wanted to take full advantage of the piecing that the pattern could allow. This reversible drill cotton (it's not quite a denim, but pretty close) is something I picked up at Pitt Trading last year at one of their monthly pop ups they were holding in Kogarah. The two sides and the greyish-blue colour made this fabric the perfect choice.

The fabric is a stretch cotton, but has more stretch along than across the grain. Before cutting the pattern out I did consider using the cross grain rather than the straight grain, but the spots looked strange held that way. So I kept to the straight grain, cutting a size XS. The pattern is closely fitted from the waist to the hips, and when I was trying them on as I went along I was worried that they were going to be a bit too tight. But I've found the finished product is often slightly looser than it seemed - I think it's partly down to being cautious on pulling on a half-made garment, and partly overestimating when pinning or holding unfinished seams. Either way, the final fit on these is close but comfortable, with no tightness or pulling and no gaps either.

Given I'd decided to move the zip from the side to the front I was a bit worried it wouldn't turn out. I had to add the extra elements when cutting the pieces out, and also had to go to another pattern for the steps of zipper insertion. I was confident enough that if the fly didn't work I could still put in a side zipper, but really wanted these pants to have that jeans look. I used the steps from one of my most recent makes, the Nita Trousers from Amy Nicole Studio. While I'd stuffed it up slightly on that make by accidentally missing a step, her instructions are very detailed and well written. I used them for these pants and honestly, I think this is the best fly front I've ever sewn. Not quite perfect, but getting very close.

The folded cuffs was a last minute decision when I was evening out and shortening the legs. I tried them on with the legs folded and pinned to work out the right spot for them to finish at, and decided I liked the look of it folded up showing the darker side. Given I already had the darker side showing for the waistband, pocket, and front and back yokes, balancing it out with the darker cuffs seemed to make a lot of sense.

I'm extremely happy with how these pants turned out - they look pretty much exactly how I'd pictured them, and I'm incredibly impressed that I was able to successfully move the zipper to the front. They're also very comfortable to wear and go well with all sorts of tops and jumpers. These will definitely get a lot of wear for a long time.

Monday, 4 May 2020

Gathered Traffic Blouse

It's Me Made May once again, so with lots of sewists around the world I'm aiming to wear me-made clothes every day this month. Hopefully it will also prompt me to post my unblogged makes here as I wear them. Like this blouse started late last year and finished last month.

The pattern is the Gather Blouse from Japanese pattern book She Has A Mannish Style (English-language version now called She Wears The Pants). The oversized shape gives it a more masculine line which is softened by the gathered back, curved hem and close-fitted round collar. The fabric is a Liberty tana lawn from The Fabric Store. The print is Hunter Truck C which The Fabric Store don't seem to have in tana lawn anymore but the corduroy is still on their website. I thought the more stereotypically masculine car print in feminine pinks made it a perfect match for the pattern.

The piece of fabric was not quite large enough to fit all the pieces on it. So I had a look through my stash to see what else I had that would work with the print and match the weight of tana lawn. I'm not sure when or where I bought this basic black cotton, but it was exactly the right fabric to complement the cars. I decided to cut the front yoke, placket, sleeve cuffs and collar stand out of the black fabric so that it would be enough contrast but not become the focus. I think using the black for contrast helps the blouse not be so overwhelming with its print and also highlights the design lines of the pattern.

I made most of this blouse last year, except for the collar, buttonholes and buttons. I really wanted to make this blouse look as polished as I could, and collars and buttonholes have tripped me up a bit before so I put them off initially. The collar includes a collar stand, not just a basic top and undercollar piece, and my copy of the pattern book is entirely in Japanese with just illustrations to guide me, so I was a bit daunted. I did it very slowly over a number of days, doing one step or part step at a time, then taking a step back to look at it and check it looked right. Sewing the front and back collar stand down evenly was difficult and I had to redo it because my first attempt was uneven and didn't catch both layers. The curved edge at the front doesn't look fantastic, but it's not really visible so I'm happy enough with it.

I then still needed to do the buttons and buttonholes. At first I delayed because I hadn't decided what buttons to use, then had to go and buy some black buttons to match the placket. But I'm really not a fan of doing buttonholes, and had just finished making a skirt (not blogged yet) with a button front that my machine had some real issues with, so I wasn't in the mood to do another set of buttonholes. In the end when I pulled this back out last month the buttonholes were very quick and easy. The placket is interfaced and the black fabric has a slight stiffness to it which meant it was stable and smooth through my machine, so the buttonholes were all done in about half an hour. It took at least twice as long to sew the buttons on!

I used a twin needle to do black topstitching along the around the pockets, on the front and back yokes and along the hem. Because the pattern is quite busy the topstitching is not particularly visible - with the possible exception of around the pockets - but it gives a much neater and more professional finish, especially in keeping the seams flat along the yoke.

It took a long time but I'm incredibly happy with how this blouse turned out. I think the fabric and pattern complement each other perfectly. The style is also good for the current social distancing work from home situation - it's not a formal workwear blouse, but it is dressed and a few steps above pyjamas. It's a relaxed style but with professional touches, and I'm sure it will get lots of wear for many years.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Nita Trousers Tester Version

In another lifetime at the beginning of the year I agreed to be a pattern tester for Amy Nicole's Nita Trousers pattern. I made these up and gave feedback to Amy but it's taken me a couple more months to write it up here. Initially, I hadn't posted these trousers because I had planned to make a pair to wear to work. I had a nice wool blend ready to go, but made this wearable toile first to make sure I got the fit right. Now with COVID-19, there's no real need for new work clothes, so that turned into laziness and I haven't made the work pair yet. Still, it was about time to put this version up.

I made the pattern as close to how the original was meant to look. I'm long waisted so I added 3cm to the rise to get the high waisted fit. I made size 0 but graded to a 2 between the hips and waist as part of the lenthening. I wanted to ensure my make was as close to how the pattern is meant to be to give the most accurate and useful review. The rise sits at the correct spot for the pattern, but I have to admit I personally prefer a slightly lower rise. I find with pants - especially fitted pants - that a high waist is a bit less comfortable and free to move than a slightly lower waist. I tend to fidget a lot so ease for comfort in movement is important. But this isn't a problem with the pattern itself, just a personal preference. Given I had to make an adjustment in order for the pants to fit "correctly", I'm pretty confident that removing the extra rise will be easy and suit my personal preference.

I wasn't paying attention when doing the fly and forgot to topstitch the right fly allowance and didn't stitch the zip down properly on the left fly allowance. Unfortunately I didn't notice my mistake until I was trying on my almost finished pants, so I had to do what I could to fix them but it still pulls slightly open at the top. But I've since made a different pair of pants and used Amy Nicole's instructions - followed properly! - and it's probably the best fly I've ever sewn.

The pattern also has a back welt pocket. There was an option to add a button, but I chose not to. I hadn't done a welt pocket before and thought it would be tricky, but Amy's instructions are very easy to follow. I did however use pins to make sure each layer was aligned correctly. Most of the time I did follow Amy's no pins method, but for a few of the trickier steps I found pins essential for keeping things in place.

One thing I particularly like about Amy Nicole's patterns is she gives the instructions twice - a cheat sheet of written instructions and then illustrated instructions. This makes them accessible for both those who know all the techniques and just need the order of the steps and those who are new to it all and want to see every detail. Amy's instructions are well labelled, so this is a good choice of pattern for someone who's making their first attempt at a pants pattern.

A couple of extra thoughts about the pattern. First, the pockets are excellent and deep. Too many women's patterns either have no pockets or shallow ones, but these are genuinely useful. The pattern is designed for a non-stretch but mine is a stretch woven. The stretch is fairly minimal, but is enough that the cuffs don't quite hold their shape properly without extra tacking stitches to hold them in place. I think if you're nervous about sewing pants it's probably best to stick to a light or midweight woven like the pattern recommends, but if you are more confident you can make it work with some stretch.

Overall I like how these turned out. I found the cut had no fit issues, it is easy to make basic adjustments, and the instructions are very clear. And, once there's a reason to make work clothes again, I will be making these again.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Wagtail Dress

It's been a while since I last blogged, but it's not because I haven't sewn. I made this dress back in August and have worn it a dozen or more times since. It was even photographed in December, just waiting for me to get around to writing about it on here.

The fabric is a Jocelyn Proust design from Spotlight, with a Willy Wagtail print. Jocelyn Proust makes great fabrics, mostly with Australian flora and fauna prints. The pattern is Vogue 9199. It's a Very Easy Vogue pattern, and I don't think I've made one before. I was looking for a simple knit dress pattern and this was what I could find. I almost dismissed it because the illustration on the front isn't great, but I was wanting a pattern to make a dress to take on holiday so had to go with what was available.

Because the print is directional it turned out I didn't have enough fabric to make the dress exactly as it is in the packet - the pieces were slightly too wide and the fabric slightly too narrow, and the print wouldn't work with some upside down birds. So I decided to cut the bodice half using the pattern and then use the leftover fabric to do a simple rectangle skirt. It wasn't enough to be able to do even gathers around the entire waistline, so I just did gathers at the four princess seams - two at the front and two at the back.

The fabric is lovely to sew with. It's a relatively thick jersey with moderate stretch that retains its shape well but isn't too hot to wear. It goes through the machine smoothly, and has kept its colour and stretch through multiple washes (the benefit of not writing a post until six months after finishing a make is I can review how it holds up in real life). 

 The pattern is a slightly looser fit than I had originally planned, but I do still like it. I think it works better with the rectangle skirt than it would with the full length princess seams as it gives it that slight bit more shape. But I really like the neckline and the sleeve shape and length. A good cap sleeve that is fitted but still allows movement is often hard to find in sewing patterns - too many are restrictively tight or far too long but these are just right.

Given I've worn this dress many times I'm obviously happy with the outcome. It's a comfortable, easy to wear dress, and the print is fantastic. I'm not sure if I'll make the pattern itself again, but might use it as the basis for making t-shirts, removing the princess seams. At the very least I will use the sleeve pieces in the future.