Monday, August 30, 2010

Jalie 2908 - Blue Jean Goodness!

First, thanks to each of you who posted on my first blogiversary entry. I truly appreciate all of your comments and feedback – it definitely motivates me to keep posting. :)

I managed to surprise myself by exercising a little self discipline – I focused and I made myself a pair of jeans! Phew, jeans are a lot of work, but there is a certain satisfaction too, especially since the RTW brand I most recently purchased cost over $100 and tends to throttle me through the waist.

For some time I have been accumulating supplies and patterns for the Jeans Project. I initially planned try the current Sandra Betzina jean pattern, Vogue 1034. A month or two ago I spread the pattern out and laid my one pair of (fits-well-through-the-hips-but-strangles-the-waist) Not Your Daughter's Jeans (NYDJ) jeans on top. Wow. Even the smallest size on the pattern was much larger than my NYDJ jeans, and the shape was quite different. So I put that pattern away and ordered three patterns that have received excellent reviews online.

Left to right: Vogue 7608 (OOP), Jalie 2908, J. Stern 0037

For those not familiar with Jalie patterns, they are from Canada and they contain all sizes (from young child to plus-size adult) in one envelope. For example, the size range for the jeans was girls size 2 to size 13 and women's size 4 to size 22.

I bought a couple pieces of indigo stretch denim from JoAnns and Fabrix, and one piece in white from Emma One Sock. I searched, high and low, for a nice stretch black denim, to no avail, though I did buy some black knit "denim" from Emma One Sock, perfect for jeggings. I washed and dried all of the fabric pieces multiple times. I also purchased Wonder Tape (for the fly front, as per Debbie Cook's tutorial, though mine was sold by Dritz), a good quality metal zipper, blue jeans rivets and buttons (from Junior), a cute cotton print for the pocket lining (purchased for a couple dollars in San Diego), Gutterman top-stitching thread in several colors, and sewing machine needles specifically for jeans.

In the end, I decided to start with Jalie. This pattern has become quite famous and, as of this writing, has 70 reviews on Pattern Review, many of them positively ecstatic about this jean. I didn't read many of the reviews (it was a bit overwhelming), but I did scan through the photos to see if anyone who made them had my particular shape. I couldn't find any. Typical. ;)

I traced off a size V, View B (regular rise), based on my 40" hip, but I increased the waist considerably and I shortened the leg at the knee by 1". I made up a quick and dirty muslin of one leg only. I was using what was left of an old, holey flannel sheet and I didn't have enough for the entire pants, so I made one leg. The leg was fairly fitted through the knee, and the length seemed ok (it was rather hard to tell), but, wow, what a wedgie it gave me! I decided that I needed to muslin both legs, so I used what remained of the sheet to muslin a short version of the pant, but one that went all the way around. Again, what a wedgie!!!

It was about this time I realized I had omitted the back yoke from both muslins. lolol This shortened the crotch length by several inches, so no wonder I was experiencing a wedgie.

After both muslins were complete, I altered the pocket yoke, pocket lining, pocket facing, back yoke, and the waistband to accommodate the new waist shaping, and cut them out of a stretch denim, giving myself another quarter inch of fabric on each side of the knee where it was most tapered (front and back - a 1" increase total). I think this denim came from JoAnn's, though it might have been Fabrix. I would guess that it is an 8-9oz denim with 3% spandex. The denim is definitely a bit lightweight but had the most stretch of my available pieces, so I wanted to start with that. I have read that before cutting a stretch fabric like this, it's best to let it relax on the cutting table for awhile before cutting it out. So I did.

Before I cut my jeans out, while the fabric was busy kicking back and "relaxing", I rummaged through DD1's pant drawer. I pulled out all of her jeans, jeggings (leggings made to look like jeans), denim skirts, jean shorts. Sheesh, there must have been 15 different garments in all, and she tells me she has more at her dad's house. Previously, I had stopped by my local Goodwill Boutique and looked at their rack of upscale jeans (for $20-$30 a pair). I studied back pockets, belt loops, front pockets, coin pockets, top-stitching. The variety is so interesting, but so is the uniformity. For example, out of my daughter's 15 jean-style garments, all but one had a coin pocket. All of the coin pockets were 2 1/4" wide, except for one that was 3 1/4", but that one was a welted pocket, not a patch pocket.

In the end, I decided to leave off the coin pocket, which isn't included on the pattern anyway, not to mention that I've never used a coin pocket - my stubby fingers can't possibly retrieve coins from that narrow little opening while plastered against the body, though I guess I could take my pants off to retrieve the pocket's contents. ;) I also decided to keep the back pocket plain, but I enjoyed all the creative variety I saw in RTW.

After much deliberation, I decided to topstitch with the classic gold-colored, heavy thread. I generally like my top-stitching to match, so this was a bit outside my comfort zone, but these are jeans, for heavens sake, and I felt I should get with the program. I used two spools of Gutterman top-stitching thread (color: 865) and I set up a second sewing machine just for top-stitching. (More about the machine in another post.) I also used my serger to finish the seams, so this project had me running between three machines set up in two rooms. Because the gold top-stitching was so bold, and I was using a machine that was unfamiliar to me (so I kept making mistakes that were quite obvious), I did a fair amount of ripping - more than I can ever remember doing for one garment.

This was my first Jalie pattern and the instructions were... deficient. I can't remember the last time I made a fly front (but it's been over 20 years), and it was difficult to make sense of the Jalie instructions/diagrams, so I referenced Debbie Cook's excellent Jeans Fly Tutorial, which I hope is always available on the web. As recommended in her tutorial, I used the same cotton fabric for the fly shield as for the pocket lining. She doesn't mention this detail, but when it was time to attach the waistband to the pant, I used the wire cutters (from my jewelry-making supplies) to remove the zipper teeth from the seam line and waistband seam allowance. That way I didn't have to worry about breaking a sewing machine needle or the added bulk.

Even though I don't plan to wear these with a belt, I included belt loops. How else can I pull my pants up? :) If you follow the instructions you will end up with a few raw edges. For example, the back of the belt loops are left raw, so I used Fray Block in those instances to secure the edges. (Had I thought of it, I would have serged one long edge of the belt loops beforehand.) The front pocket yoke was sewn to the pocket lining with a 1/8" seam and left raw - so I zigzagged over that edge.

The pocket yoke is stitched to the pocket lining with a 1/8" seam. After taking this picture, I zigzagged around the raw edge of the denim.

In the end, I didn't use the rivets or jeans button from Junior. My denim was too lightweight and, after trying a sample, I realized I would have to cut down the nail portion of the rivets and the button. I was determined to finish these jeans by Sunday night, and it was more effort than I wanted to expend, so I sewed on a 10 cent brass button from Fabrix and called it a day.

I have to say it - 70 ecstatic reviewers aren't wrong. These are great jeans. My only alteration after they were constructed was to cut another inch off the bottom. The jeans fit, they are amazingly comfortable, they are flattering, and they are wedgie-free! DD1 gave me a very enthusiastic thumbs up and especially loved the pocket/fly shield fabric. I had planned to make a white pair for the summer, but since we are now entering fall, I may just wait until next spring. When I told DD1 that I wanted to make a white pair she said, "How 80s!"

Hmm... Is that a bad thing? :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First Blogiversary!!!

It was exactly one year ago, on August 25th, 2009 that I returned to sewing garments and simultaneously started this blog. Rather than look back over the year on Dec 31st, when I'm really too busy sewing to take stock, I thought I would do that on my blogiversary.

Over the last year I've sewn clothing for myself. A lot of new clothes. But how would I summarize the last year, sewing-wise?


  • I have been developing a stable of TNT (Tried 'N True) patterns. Probably my favorite top is the Sewing Workshop Teagarden T, which I have made 4 or 5 times. My favorite pants are most anything
    by Marcy Tilton - I've made about 5 pair using three of her patterns. I also love the Sewing Workshop Trio, which I have made twice, but I often migrate the crotch curve from the Trio to other patterns. My favorite skirt is probably the Sandra Betzina skirt I have now made about 5 times.

    Teagarden T with Trio pants.

    Marcy Tilton pants - Vogue 8397, view A. The top is another Teagarden T.

    Sandra Betzina skirt - Vogue 1018 (recently OOP)

  • I have dusted off my drafting skills.

  • I've gotten better at figuring out what flatters my body. This is from early in the year:

    Quel Tragique! Funky and Frumpy!

  • I've also gotten better at modeling/composing a photo. (Though it still may be the hardest part of the entire sewing process... :) ) These are also from early in the year:

    <cringe> I so hope these tops look better in person! ;)

  • I have built a stash. (Uh oh.)
  • I've had fun with the French Au Bonheur patterns! (In fact, last night I translated another pattern that you may be seeing soon.)

  • I've played with new techniques.

  • I've written 124 blog posts (this one makes 125).
  • I now have 130 of the greatest blog followers ever. Thanks to each of you for reading and giving me feedback. I really appreciate all of you!

So, what's planned for next year? Well...

  • More jackets and coats!
  • More tops! With my figure, good tops are a particular challenge.
  • More pattern drafting.
  • More new techniques. I have some ideas, including one that uses Texture Magic.
  • Jeans! (I have to really buckle down!)
  • More wonderful funkiness, but it has to be funkiness that flatters my figure. :)

Yesterday, I took my teen aged daughters to the beauty college for back-to-school haircuts/coloring. I got one too, just in time for Self-Stitched-September. Cuts for three and hair coloring for one came to $130 - such a deal! (Especially since I had DD1 pay for her red tresses.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Funky Fabric = Funky Skirt

I recently brought home a funky fabric from Fabrix. This piece is a rather heavy, crinkled, stretch cotton, black-and-grey, plaid. The plaid has a silver metallic thread shot through. On one side of the plaid, the fabric has been overprinted with a sort of faux-camouflage design. The kinda-sorta camo print is dark gray and cream and, where present, makes the fabric difficult to pin.

Plain plaid on the left, reverse side of fabric (with the kinda-sorta camouflage overprint) on the right.

The kinda-sorta camo print seemed odd to me, but I liked the reverse side of the fabric, even though I am not a big fan of metallic in my plaids. You see, I remember all too well back when I worked retail in the early 80s and I wore those oversized plaid shirts with metallic threads shot through - it was quite the fashion - you would roll the sleeves up and then hold them in place with a button tab. I had to shake off the memory - I decided that the fabric was neat enough that I could live with the silver thread. :)

But what to do with this fabric? I couldn't see it as a top. I couldn't see it as pants. I couldn't see it as a jacket. I washed it and tossed it onto my bed, where I keep other fabrics with which I am communing...

Then, one night I had horrible insomnia and during those hours of trying to sleep it came to me. The fabric wanted to be a funky skirt! It might have occurred to me sooner, except I haven't been wearing skirts for the last several months. For me, skirts are more of a fall/winter garment, worn with boots, or tights/leggings.

This skirt is inspired by a RTW skirt I saw about a year ago. I was lucky that I had bought 3.5 yards of this fabric (it's fairly wide) because I had requested 3 yards and was asked by the clerk if I wanted the last half yard. Good thing I said yes, because this skirt used pretty much all of it.

Self-Stitched-September is getting very close, so I really need to buckle down and make those jeans I have planned. Do I have enough discipline? We shall see. I don't actually wear jeans all that much anyway, so I guess it isn't the end of the world if I don't get them made. ;)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Technique -- Bias Fringe

Earlier today, I blogged about my latest jacket, and how I inserted self bias fringe into some of the seams. I volunteered to make a tutorial if anyone was interested. Gwen was interested, so here you go, Gwen. :)


  • Silk organza, cut into 1" bias strips and a little longer than the seam. The organza is inserted into the seam and, for me, a 1" piece of organza created a width of about 3/8", so if you want a wider width, cut your organza wider.
  • Fashion fabric, cut into 1-1/2" bias strips, also a bit longer than you need. I made a separate strip for each of the six seams I was embellishing.

Instructions for sewing a strip:

  • Iron the 1-1/2" bias strip of the fashion fabric in half, the long way. This crease becomes the stitching line.
  • Center the bias organza strip over the bias fashion strip and machine stitch along the crease.
  • Bring the edges of the fashion fabric together, so the raw edges meet.
  • Likewise, bring the edges of the organza together, so the raw edges meet. You have re-folded the fabric along the line of stitching.
  • Iron the strip. The fashion fabric layer is now doubled, as is the organza layer.
  • Zigzag along the previous stitching line. This anchors everything and keeps it flat. The organza edge is inserted into the seam and, because silk organza was used, it creates minimal bulk.

Instructions for fringing a strip:

  • Separate the fashion fabric layers - you will be fringing one layer at a time.
  • Start unraveling the fabric, using an awl, or the back (non-cutting edge) of a seam ripper - a sharp tool of some kind.

  • Once the first edge is unraveled, do the same on the other edge. At this point, you will have fibers that go every which way.

  • Spend some time orienting the fibers to the correct direction. It can help to use a comb to "groom" them.

At this point, there will be errant fibers that are too long. I gently trim these after sewing the strips into the garment.

Vogue 1036 - Sandra Betzina Jacket

I love fringe. Whenever I have a fabric that ravels nicely, I want to incorporate fringe into the finished garment. I can't help myself. I hear that fringe may be "out of style", but... pfffft to that. :)

Last fall I attended a local BABES meeting and a very experienced sewist passed around a sample of bias fringe. I had never heard of bias fringe, but it produces a very thick, lush trim. I was quite taken with the sample and planned to one day use bias fringe in a project. When I bought this fabric at Fabrix, I immediately saw it's fringing potential and decided to make this Sandra Betzina "jeans" jacket, using the red plaid and incorporate fringe. I made two fringe samples, using standard fringe and then bias fringe – the lush bias fringe was the clear winner.

This SB jacket has the most amazing sleeves - the pattern is worth owning for the sleeves alone. They are pieced at the bottom and gently flare out. Because this fabric is a plaid, I placed several pattern pieces on the bias. I did match the plaid elsewhere, but this made the process a bit easier and added some visual interest.

Auditioning the fringe samples: bias on the left and standard (double layered) on the right.


  • The main fabric is a red plaid rayon blend from Fabrix for $3.99 a yard. I cut the side fronts, back fronts, the collar, and one of the sleeve pieces on the bias. I fused interfacing to the bias pieces, as well as the front facings, back neck facing, and collar.
  • The lining is a poly silky from Fabrix. I purchased three red prints (at $3.99 a yard) that would work as a lining and I had a heck of a time choosing between them. After some difficult deliberation, I cut into my favorite of the three - a scarf print. I fussy cut the fabric using the scarf borders. As pretty as this fabric is, it's one of those nasty wobbly, ravelly, synthetic fabrics to sew. Luckily a lining has minimal finishing, so it wasn't too bad.

    My three lining choices

    And the winner is...

  • The shaped sleeve heads were made from Pellon fleece.

This form of fringe is rather labor intensive. If there is interest, I can post a separate tutorial on how to make it.

It took me several days to make the fringe for the jacket. You can see all six strips here. The strip in front has not yet been "groomed" and none of the strips have been trimmed. I lightly trimmed them after they were sewn into the jacket.

Alterations and modifications:

  • Before making a muslin, I did a 2" princess FBA in the side front panel (using Fit for Real People). The remaining alterations were post muslin, which was made from an old flannel sheet with some impressive holes that I had to cut around. My DD must sleep with an unsheethed exacto knife, or something. :)
  • Eliminated the waistband. The picture on the pattern doesn't show it, but the waistband is shaped and the shaping did not work on my body. It might work well for someone with a smaller waist and larger hips – more of a pear shape. Rather than re-draft it for my figure, I left off the waistband and lengthened the jacket – about 5" at CB tapered to 2" at CF to create a straight hem.
  • Shortened the sleeve 1".
  • Inserted bias fringe in the sleeve (between the upper and lower sleeve), and front and back princess seams.

    The almost-finished sleeves. (The hems are pinned from the inside and at least one pin is showing on the bottom right.)

  • I sewed the side seams last, in order to add shaping at the last minute. I did end up taking it in a couple inches at the waist and hip.
  • Pocket: The pocket was definitely pesky. First, I redrafted the same style of pocket as you see on the original pattern, ending it at the bottom of the jacket (just above the hem). However, I cut a size F (one of the larger sizes) and then I widened the side panel another 2" for the FBA, so the pocket ended up being so wide that it looked more like a "trench" than a pocket. This was no good. For my second attempt I drafted up a standard patch pocket, intending to put fringe at the top, and it didn't look right either, with or without the fringe. Finally, I ended up drafting a lined patch pocket that had the opening at an angle, sort of a hybrid between the first two pockets.
  • Collar: At first I was going to leave off the collar, then I started thinking about the advice that women "of a certain age" look better with a collar. My next plan was to construct the collar using Louise Cutting's "boomerang" technique to eliminate bulk at the CF. (Nancy Zieman calls it the Express Collar.) I redrafted the collar, only to realize I did not have enough fabric for the resulting "boomerang" pattern piece. I ended up using the original collar pattern, and cut it out on the bias, which best fit the fabric that was remaining after all the bias strips were cut for the fringe.
  • I added sleeve heads, as well as thin shoulder pads. I usually use rectangular muslin/fleece sleeve heads, but this time I used the instructions in Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers (pp. 389-390) to make shaped sleeve heads out of fleece.
  • Lining: Though I shortened the sleeves 1" on the body, I left the sleeve lining alone. I prefer to have a pleat at the hem of the sleeve, but the pattern is designed without a pleat, so that extra 1" provided a pleat. The pattern had no pleat in the lining at CB, so I added a 1" pleat for wearing ease.

    The finished lining. I heart this print. :)

    The lining sewn into the jacket.

Worn unbuttoned.

Close up.

The back. I am wearing this with my beloved Marcy Tilton (V8397) ponte pants and a black, button down Vogue top with polka dots, which you can catch a small glimpse of in the close up photo.

Edited to add: I created a short tutorial on how to create the bias trim.

Vogue 1036

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Still Here, Still Sewing! (and Self-Stitched-September)

It feels like it's been ages since I've posted any new garments. I took DD and friend to ComicCon, then I got a bit distracted with my new Kindle and started reading obsessively. Finally, I was able to put the Kindle down and started working on two jackets. Hopefully in the next few days I will have the first one ready to show. The second one, a very easy unstructured piece, is half done, and the first, a structured Sandra Betzina, needs only the lining.

Have you heard of Self-Stitched-September? First, there was Me-Made-May, where folks committed to wearing items they made themselves every day for the month of May 2010. I learned of Me-Made-May on May 1st, exactly, so I observed others who participated, but didn't even think about attempting it myself.

At the end of May, Self-Stitched-September was announced. At first, I didn't think I wanted to join, largely because I had no way of taking photos of myself and my kids are rarely around to take photos.

But I kept thinking about it. I solved the problem of taking my own photos, by purchasing a $12 remote for my Canon Digital Rebel and I located a tripod. I realized that I was looking forward to SSS, so here we go:

I, Shams of, sign up as a participant of Self-Stitched-September. I endeavor to wear only handmade* item(s) of clothing every day for the duration of September 2010.

*With the exception of shoes, hosiery, accessories, underwear, and the odd tank top. ;)