Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Vogue 8499 - Marcy Tilton pants

For a long time I have been wanting to make this Marcy Tilton pattern, except I was planning to make the skirt. Then, when I finally decided it was time to tackle the Holy Grail of Sewing – the well fitting pant – I took a second look at these cute pants with the knee darts and the horizontal pockets. Though this pattern isn't designed to be closely fitted, even loose pants can be a challenge to fit.

In this case, I read the reviews on Pattern Review and, uniformly, people said that this pattern runs really large. According to the hip measurement (and I always sew pants/skirts based on my hip measurement because I have small hips and a very large waist and it's usually easiest for me to alter the waist, but YMMV) I should be a size 16.

Most Vogue patterns indicate the bust, waist, and hip location, along with the finished garment measurement at those points. For some odd reason, that is not true of this pattern, so I measured the flat pattern. I was very surprised to find that the finished garment measured somewheres around 55" for a size 6. (I am going by memory, but it was in this range.) Given that my hips are 40", which, according to Vogue, is a size 16, I am not surprised that people have been finding these pants to be oversized.

I decided to cut out a size 6, the smallest size available, and alter the waist. The back of the pant is gathered elastic, but the front uses a curved facing. This makes sense because the pockets do not lay well if the front waist is gathered.

I said I decided to cut out a size 6. I intended to cut out a size 6. However, I cut out all the pieces as a size 6 except one – the side back. The side back I cut out in a size 12. I did not notice the error at first. I made the muslin before I realized my mistake. But the muslin fit me well, so I decided to leave it this way for the final pant, but it was an accident, and I think the size 6 on the side back would have worked too. :)

I altered the pattern by increasing the waist, the front waist facing, and also the side front, where the pocket is located. The waist shaping begins in the pocket, so both the upper and lower side front were affected. Finally, I shortened the pants by 1.5" on the "lengthen or shorten here" line – I am 5'5".

The fabric I used is a Taslan that a friend gave me. She bought the Taslan from Mizono, back when she manufactured locally. It's a 100% nylon fabric, in a khaki green color, and has a wonderful drape – and these pants need a fabric with good drape.

I sewed these on a recent sewing retreat and, even though they have extensive top-stitching (even the knee darts are topstitched), they were fairly quick to sew up. Once they were finished, I found them to be comfortable to wear and flattering. Seven women at the retreat also tried them on and they fit everyone, even though they were different sizes and shapes. The only alterations needed were in the overall length, or to take in the waist. The pants fit around the hips, and flattered, every person who tried them on.

I love these pants and will definitely be making them again. And I still want to make that skirt...


Back. I had worn these for several hours so they are a bit rumpled.

Closeup of knee darts. A little hard to see, but all seams are top-stitched, even the darts.

Using the pocket

Closeup of pockets and front waist with facing

Sewing Workshop - Now Shirt

Another great pattern from Sewing Workshop!

I have recently seen several versions of the Now top, the Zen top, and a hybrid of both. I need more tops, so I decided to make the Now on my recent sewing retreat. This fabric, a wonderfully soft Italian cotton, was from Emma One Sock. I think. It might have been Gorgeous Fabrics. If you recognize it, please let me know. It is, essentially, a plaid, though of course it prominently features the circle motif that I love.

My alterations were pretty straight-forward: a dart (more on that in a bit), and I lengthened both the front and back by 4".

The most interesting feature of the Now is the collar. The pattern piece is a rectangle, and it is sewn to form a tube. You could cut the piece on the bias or line it with a contrasting fabric, though I made it as shown.

This top has no interfacing. The front bands are formed by folding the fabric over twice. They are not supposed to be top-stitched in place, but I mitered the hem and top-stitched the hem and front bands at the same time. The front of the collar is also folded over twice, but I put in a strip of interfacing because the collar was so soft – I didn't want the collar to collapse. I also made a pleat on the hem of the sleeves and sewed a button. I did not shorten the sleeves, which is very unusual for me, so they run a bit short.

You can see that the collar is a tube. You could pull a scarf through the collar, if you wanted to. The buttons are mother of pearl, but I used the back side.

I did learn one important thing from this pattern. I have not been adding my darts properly. I mostly focus on adding enough width, without thinking as much about the length. My sewing friends pointed out, very correctly, that I need to add at least another 1.5" to the length at center front. I am very glad to learn this and will modify the pattern correctly next time. Thanks, you guys. :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sewing Retreat 2010

View from the living room, aka "Sewing Central".

Moving in. Sewing stations not yet staged.

Who doesn't enjoy an intense session of sewing? But add in friends with the same passion, a beautiful coastal setting, with verdant hills, aged barns and fences, and scads of picturesque bovines, piles of delicious food, and hours of companionable sewing, sewing talk and laughter. Yup, Shams is a lucky girl.

For this retreat, I pre-cut five garments:
  • Pajama bottoms using Louise Cutting's One Seam pants pattern
  • A Sewing Workshop Now top
  • A Sewing Workshop Liberty top
  • A pair of Marcy Tilton pants
  • A pair of Sewing Workshop Hudson pants
I managed to get all of them finished, but, as my camera battery died, the only photo I have is of me wearing the pjs, after sleeping in them all night.

One Seam Pant PJs, a bit rumpled after sleeping in them.

Over the next few days I hope to get photos and post reviews of some of these patterns. I am particularly loving the Liberty top, the Now shirt, and the Marcy Tilton pants. With daylight savings time, I hope it will be easier to get photos in the evenings.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Apparel City

Most of you know that I live in San Francisco. Most of you know that one of my favorite sewing-related haunts is FabriX, a discount fabric store that can be very hit or miss. It's not a place to go for a specific fabric, or the latest pattern (though they have some really old patterns), or sewing notions (though they have some), but if you go with a spirit of adventure, you can sometimes find real gems.

But there is another place in San Francisco that gives my little sewist heart palpitations of delight. Apparel City has been around forever, primarily servicing the ever-shrinking local garment industry, but they are more than happy to cater to the home sewist.

I first discovered Apparel City back when I took fashion classes at Canada College, twenty years ago. When I returned to sewing after 17 years, I was so sad to see some of my favorite establishments for servicing sewing machines had closed, like Mr B's, the Bernina dealer extraodinaire, and The Place That Sells Sewing Machines, which had won awards for its excellent customer service. But I am glad to report that Apparel City is still around and is happy to service any brand of sewing machine or serger.

When you first enter Apparel City, you see Sapporo irons, Juki and Janome sewing machines and sergers, and boxes of huge cones of thread. (They also sell professional machines.) To the left is a wall of more thread cones, huge rolls of elastic, enormous cones of twill tape. You come to a desk and behind the desk are many more goodies. First, there is a display of scissors, including Kai and Gingher. Behind the desk is a wall of metal rulers and curves of all types. On the desk, like candies, are boxes of marking chalk, the kind you see Marcy Tilton, Louise Cutting, and Linda Lee use. They sell sewing machine oil by the gallon. They sell oak tag by the roll, or by the yard. This is where I buy rolls of 36" pattern drafting paper ($40). The only fabric they sell is muslin, by the bolt or by the yard. They sell those hooks for hanging your patterns. They sell those wonderful Clover silk pins.

There is a wall, behind which they do the servicing. The repair guy is right there, available and easy to talk to, and he really knows his stuff. They can order parts for you, or service for you. They also service Sapporo irons.

Apparel City is not that far from Union Square, but it's on the other side of Market St, in an industrial part of town. Best of all, they open at 8:30am, Monday to Friday, and 9am on Saturday, so you can go nice and early, when there's loads of street parking, and you can park right in front.

Can you see why I love this place? It's the "Home Depot" for sewists. The place has the same aura as your local auto mechanic. And, no, I get nothing for my unsolicited endorsement, except, hopefully, seeing them continue in business when their customers, these days, are primarily small local designers and fashion students.

(At some point I'll go back, take photos, and add them to this entry. :) )


Some of you may have noticed I have mentioned once or twice that I don't have a working serger. Note how carefully that is phrased. I do have a serger that has been in storage for the last 17 years. And by storage, I mean it's been sitting in an open box, in an unfinished basement laundry room, exposed to humidity and damp. Well, I finally got the nerve up to face the serger.

Wow, my White 534 is in bad shape. I cleaned off the cobwebs and the grime. The thing has lots of rust, and the mechanism was fairly frozen. This is the reason for my most recent trip to Apparel City. I purchased industrial cleaner (and got advice for cleaning it), some sewing machine oil (a small bottle, thank you very much, since I don't need a whole gallon), and spools of serger thread (thinking hopefully). I hope to get this puppy back in working order, but if I can't do it, I'll take it in for servicing. I may also ask them to order me a new blade – they've already confirmed they can get it.

Wish me luck. :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Good Ironing Board Cover is a Joy Forever

Year ago I inherited a nice, sturdy ironing board from my mother. It used to have one of those nasty Teflon covers, sold by so many sewing supply places. I hated that cover, and then, during the years I was not using the ironing board, it was exposed to moisture and something metallic rusted all over it. It was a nasty mess and I threw the cover and padding away. I was left with a very nekkid ironing board.

For the last six months or so that I've been sewing again, I just threw a piece of wool yardage over the ironing board and ironed away. It wasn't very satisfactory, not thick enough, and was always shifting around, but I made it work.

For the last couple weeks, I have been preparing for an upcoming sewing retreat, and I decided it was high time I made a proper cover. Years ago I had a wool army blanket intended for a ironing board pad, but it was lost to the mists of time. (An old wool blanket makes a perfect pad! So, check army surplus stores, flea markets, your basement... Just toss it in the washer/dryer and it's ready to cut out.)

To create the pattern, I took my ironing board, placed it on the floor, upside down, and traced the shape onto paper. I used that shape to cut out five layers of wool – three from the green wool twill I had been using as an ad hoc cover, and two layers from a piece of wool I fulled in the washer. The resulting yardage was very thick and very pink. (Yes, the original yardage was pink, but it seemed even more pink, if that were possible.)

I layered those five pieces together and pad stitched the heck out of them. Not so tightly as to compress the loft, but very thoroughly so they won't be shifting. I then loosely whip stitched around the entire piece. Voila, an ironing board pad that will hold heat, but not get too hot.

The pad, consisting of 5 layers of wool, pad-stitched together, with the raw edges loosely whipped. Yeah, it's ugly, but who cares? No one will ever see it. ;)

I cut the cover itself out of a fairly heavyweight piece of denim that was lying around. It's a light-colored denim, so I wouldn't be using it for clothing, as I prefer the darker blues. I laid the pattern on the denim, added 3" all around, and cut it out.

Next, I found a half yard of a pretty quilting fabric, mauve with a paisley design, and I cut 4 or 5 bias strips, 1.5" wide. I joined them together to make a continuous length. This would form the casing for the elastic. I folded it, wrong sides together, and stitched it around the cover with a 1/4" seam allowance. I zigzagged over the raw edge, but you could serge it as well. At the beginning and ending of the casing, I just turned the raw edges under twice, and topstitched (before attaching to the cover).

Attaching the bias binding, folded wrong sides together, to the cover. I then zigzagged the raw edges.

I threaded a narrow elastic through the casing, placed the cover on the ironing board, and pulled tight! I tied the ends of the elastic in a big bow and tucked them out of the way.

Wow, I LOVE my new ironing board cover! It has the perfect amount of loft and it's hecka sturdy, not to mention it's a very pretty shade of blue. I'm now ready for the sewing retreat!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sewing Workshop - Valencia Jacket

So many Sewing Workshop patterns yet untested! Just as I try one, they release a new one - this time it's the Verona jacket. I can't catch up. I guess I have to sew faster. :)

I know several people who like the Valencia jacket and pant, but I was surprised to see so few reviews on Pattern Review – there is currently just one review of this pattern! (I will be adding my review.)

This jacket is a very interesting design. Here are some of its features:

  • A generous shawl collar that folds back to expose the reverse side of the fabric. The only facing is the back neck. Well, there is a facing for the sleeve hem, but I didn't use it. :)
  • The jacket front is cut so that the hem is on the cross grain up until the "point", then it angles up on the bias. So the side seam on the front piece is on the bias. However, the side seam on the back is on the grain. Just make sure you sew with the on-grain edge on top, and the bias on the bottom against the feed dogs, and you won't have any problems. :)
  • The back is narrower than the front, and the top is rather narrow through the back between the armholes. Well, it's not narrow, exactly, but it's deceptive in that it's true to size. I made a Large, which is pretty normal for me, and it's none too generous through the upper back. If you are tempted to cut a smaller size, thinking it's yet another oversized SW pattern, you might be disappointed with the fit. If you do remove fullness, you might want to remove it from the front only.
  • It's a dropped sleeve design. I am really NOT a fan of the dropped sleeve. I don't know of any body type that is flattered by the drop sleeve, including my "busty apple" shape. The sleeve head has a very minimal curve.
  • The sleeve is a two-piece sleeve. The under sleeve ends in a triangular point, which behaves functionally like a gusset, though it's easier to insert than a standard gusset. :) (This also adds to the difficulty of measuring the pattern at the bustline.)

Because of the funky design of this top, it is very difficult to measure the pattern to determine the actual garment measurement at the bust. (I really wish SW would indicate the bust point along with the finish garment bust measurement like in the same way as Vogue patterns – I find that simple feature incredibly useful.) Therefore, it is essential to make a muslin or a sample garment from a non-cherished fabric.

I purchased a fabric at Joann's that looks like a handwoven, but is not. I liked the green/blue/black/white colors used in this fabric, it's machine washable, and has a very nice drape, but this is a tricky fabric. It ravels worse than anything I've ever seen, and one of the fibers is a synthetic that melts when the iron is too hot. (Though it is mostly natural fiber.)

I decided to take advantage of both the attractive selvedge and this fabric's natural desire to ravel. I placed the selvedge along the front edge and decided to fringe the bottom of the garment and the sleeves. This worked well except for the section on the front hem from the "point" to the side seam, which is on the bias. For those sections I applied a self trim from the fabric that is cut on grain, so it could be fringed.

I shortened the sleeves by 1". I could have shortened them 1 1/2" or even 2", and will do that next time I make he pattern. Because I fringed the sleeve, I did not use the sleeve facings. Also, because of the extreme fragility of this fabric, I neatly finished all seams. Either by flat felling, or turning under each edge and top-stitching. Other than this, I made the pattern exactly as designed.

I am still waiting for my dressform to arrive. I am soooo ready!