my wardrobe gaps (black holes?)

Diving in today: I need to make more pants because posts about pants get the best comments!

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More about the pants in this post.

Thanks to everybody who joined in the conversation on my last post. I do have a tendency to ramble on about the challenges of fitting pants, and after every pair that I make I need to take a breather. It’s always the conversation after I post about it that makes me want to take on another pants project. The support and the practical advice I get from fellow sewists is a much stronger motivator, to be honest, than needing more pants in my wardrobe. (And I need more pairs badly.)

So that brings me to wardrobe gaps — or black holes, you know the category you desperately need, you try to tackle, but end up feeling that there’s an insatiable need for MORE of it in your wardrobe.

I keep returning to The Curated Closet (if you’re curious about the book, I have a book review post about it) and wishing for more time and patience to take on some of the practical exercises from the book.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the pie-chart breakdown of lifestyle/occasions compared to your actual wardrobe composition. Henna’s post made me think about my personal pie chart, how it’s changed and what I’ve done with it in the time that’s passed since I first read the book.

The unique challenges of the past year notwithstanding, I think I can pat myself on the back a bit for aligning my sewing more closely with my wardrobe needs.

This has basically meant two things:

  1. fewer dresses
  2. my photos are pretty boring even when bad lighting isn’t the main culprit.

The “interestingness” of dresses was definitely brought home to me by the many, many, many comments and “hearts” that my most recent dress garnered on Instagram.

Don’t get me wrong: I love this dress and had a fantastic time making it, too.

However, I feel that closing my ears to the siren song of dresses like I’m Ulysses of the Sewing Machine helps me make things that get less sighs and pats when I open the closet and more wear.

Case in point: I type these words wearing the first of several to come Basic InstincT-shirts. Many of my posts have been typed while wearing one of the many versions of the Plantain tee I’ve made since I discovered that pattern.

So: I always need more knit tops (especially t-shirts)

BasicInstinctT (left) and Plantain with some mods (right). Definitely not a great picture of the Plantain! But, hey, now you know I used cotton jersey.

My one problem is that I don’t love sewing with knits. Something about the springy stretchiness of the fabrics annoys me when I’m sewing — and both on the sewing machine and the serger. With wovens, I definitely enjoy the process more. With knits, I just keep my eye on the finish line and the valuable wardrobe addition.

I am, at this point, out of things to add about the Plantain tee. But Sasha’s BasicInstincT is a new pattern for me. It bumped the Seamwork Jane out of my queue as the classic casual tee to try.

The PDF is more economical than Seamwork (which isn’t hard, their PDFs are notoriously long). Better yet: it’s layered, so you can choose to print only select sizes.

Notches matched up nicely. The neckline band had, I would say, the perfect length. I didn’t need to make a rounded shoulder adjustment (!).

The one change I will make next time is to raise the armhole by 1 cm and take some width out of sleeves.

Pretty close to perfect, this one!

One of my favorite versions of Plantain didn’t return from the wash, which either means that an envious neighbor went raiding the washing machine in the laundry room before I made it there. Or (more likely) it landed with my partner’s-in-crime tees never to be found in the bottomless collection.

Doesn’t matter. I need to make more.

What’s next?

More pants, obviously. 

It’s more than about time to face jeans-making. Alas, with the sturdier machine out of commission for now I get to continue to shamelessly procrastinate on this.

And?

Anything that could fall into the category of clothes to wear at home.

Here the neglect has reached criminal proportions. That’s where my old and worn out RTW items go to work beyond their retirement age. Ouch.

One saving grace is that I did make myself an item that adds some glamour to that otherwise sorry band of garments.

Remember the Camas cardigan I squeezed out of various leftover knits?

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More about this project here.

In my last bout of t-shirt making, I spontaneously decided to upgrade it by a simple addition:

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Obviously, when you add ties as an afterthought, it’s not a perfect wrap. But sometimes perfect is not what you need.

This post is getting long. Is there more?

Yeah.

Shirts.

Things are improving in that department, so I get to wrap up on a happy note.

Over to you:
Do you have any significant gaps or even black holes in your wardrobe? Do you prefer to tackle them or leave it to RTW while you sew what you really desire to sew?

I’d love to hear from you!

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the Diane Keaton moment

Readers, I made pants.

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Riding on the wave of other sewists’ resolutions, I just dove into the project. And throwing caution to the winds, I cut out Burda 6856. My original plan was to prevaricate some more, then cut out a pair marked easy — starting with a muslin, possibly treating Pants for Real People as a WebMD for pants, diagnosing my pair with every fit ailment possible…

But it’s too cold for all that. I found myself down to one pair of pants I could wear to work in the Arctic chill. So I decided to risk it despite the scary threats of those fitting problems with names from a children’s book gone wrong, Camel Toe and Polterwang.

Fit and Sizing Adventures

I started at a size chosen by my body measurements. I tip my hat to reviewers who posted at Pattern Review who caution against it. I apologize for not taking photos because when I basted the pieces I looked like I was on my way to clown college.

I sized down in a somewhat crazy way: two sizes down on the hips, tapering the legs further, waistband one size down (and realistically, I could have gone two down with a good amount of room in there). That’s the result you’re seeing in these photos.

I hope the way I see it is the way you see it: more Diane Keaton than anywhere near clown college. But Diane Keaton jumping over snow banks because that’s the situation right now.

A word on what some call “stride” (nice euphemism) but what we all know is the crotch. I did not alter that curve in any way. I figured that by choosing roomier pants I was more likely to be pleased with it and I am. And I still have a lot to learn about fit in that… area.

Fabric and Notions

The fabric is a brushed cotton from Joann Fabrics. I lined the pockets with a lighter weight cotton and cut out the inside waistband from cotton sateen leftovers. The layers of brushed cotton get very bulky and stiff, as I discovered while making the belt carriers.

The zipper is the last one from a very fortunate thrifting haul — it’s metal and I was trembling while sewing it in. No needles got damaged in the process, even though I had to shorten the zipper by about an inch. The button is from Joann. It’s plastic pretending to be metal.

Details

I wish those pleats were a bit shallower, to be honest, but I can’t complain too much. They still look good. I really like the darts on the back.

Pattern Instructions and Order of Construction

No, I didn’t exactly follow the sparse Burda instructions. I read them, I appreciate the illustrations, but I don’t think they offer the best solutions.

I changed the order of construction a bit so as to be able to sew the zipper in flat, with access to it on both sides of the pants front. If the Burda instructions for that step are sufficient to you, you are brilliant in my book. My sanity was saved by Sandra Betzina’s tutorial on the Threads website. I also added a fly shield (pattern piece included in the pattern envelope).

I’m not convinced that dividing the back waistband into two pieces is the best idea. With the belt carrier placed on that center back seam, it gets really bulky. So I cut the inner waistband in one piece.

Finishing

I finished the waistband by hand, and I think it spared me a lot of irritation that would have likely come with wrangling it under the machine.

I tried blind-hemming the legs on the machine but this fabric really isn’t good for that. I had to redo it by hand any way. The pattern was smarter in this respect because it actually tells you to hem by hand.

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Verdict

I like them! I wish the sizing was a bit less crazy.

If you have any good pants fitting advice, throw it my way!

PS: A more organized version of this review is up on Pattern Review here.

Camas as a cardigan

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This one ticks several boxes. The Camas blouse checks out as a cardigan in several ways:

  • perfect for lounging while pretending to be put together and ready to meet the world;
  • potentially great for actually meeting the world;
  • only needed to be minimally upsized for a cardigan — I sewed the sleeve and side seams with a 1 cm/ 3/8″ seam allowance;
  • I MADE IT OUT OF FABRIC SCRAPS, WHICH MAKES ME SO OVERJOYED I’M WRITING IN ALL CAPS
  • it’s both fairly simple sewing and qualifies as loungewear, so it satisfies a major wardrobe need for me.

the back and the inside

I was inspired by Morgan’s cardigan version from the Camas sewalong.

There were some goofs. I was rushing and sewed in part of the front band wrong. And I trimmed the seams before I noticed it. Not great but not tragic, so I just went with it. If I could rewind time, I’d unpick it and sew it properly.

I improvised those cuffs. They could be slimmer. But they’re not and it’s still fine.

Here it is worn:

I wrote up a proper review of the pattern here. Now I can recommend it both as a blouse and a cardigan. And I might just make it again.

pattern review: Camas blouse

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Hello! How was your holiday-season making? I managed to to push myself to fulfill my admittedly somewhat unreasonable holiday work quota, ending up with three garments started and finished in one week. Three! It felt like sewing with the fast-forward button on — very not me, and very tiring at the end of it. Finishing up what luckily managed to be my holiday dress, I was dreaming of not sewing, so it was a bad place to be. But it’s not even two days later and I’m back to planning my next projects. The take-away from this for 2017 is as simple as “slow down, silly.”

Before we stumble into the tricky territory of resolution-making, let’s catch up. The Camas blouse is my next stop on the tour of Thread Theory patterns. Thanks to their generous sales, I’ve bought almost all of their patterns but have yet to make my way through the catalog. So far I’ve sewn several t-shirts from the Strathcona pattern (all well-loved and worn a lot but unphotographed), two Finlayson sweaters (the second yet to be blogged, but here’s the first one), and now, Camas, for me.

This project was a groundbreaking one for me, in unexpected ways. Big words, I know. After all my hesitating over shirt patterns, this is finally one I did make. And, yes, what decided in its favor was the fact that it’s a knit pattern, so whatever fit issues would possibly crop up were less likely to make the garment unwearable. Then again, in my book, a knit project means no muslin because I don’t have a stash of ‘throwaway’ knits matched to the weight and type of my ‘good’ knits.

Here, the fit risks are minor anyway because the design features gathering over the bust and on the back.

Gathering details: yes, you probably can’t see them very well in these photos

The pattern

I have the PDF version and was very pleased to see that the layout is both clear and fairly economical. It was quick to print out and assemble. The pattern includes both a body measurement chart and a finish measurement chart, so it’s easy to pick a size.

The instructions are well-written, easy to follow, and illustrated. In addition, there’s a sewalong on the Thread Theory blog, with lots of practical tips for sewing Camas in different weights and stretch percentages of knits, pattern hacks such as a cardigan and a dress, and even advice for making Camas in wovens.

Morgan’s cardigan from the sewalong (scroll through this post for photos of it) inspired me to test this design’s scrap-busting potential.

My alterations and experiments


First up, the alterations:

I did my usual forward-shoulder adjustment, which I will approach slightly differently next time I make this pattern (draw a new seamline from the original placement on the nexk to the forward position on the shoulder side).

I also raised the armhole slightly, and will perhaps raise it a bit more next time. There are good instructions for that alteration in the sewalong (in this post).

One unnecessary alteration I did (provoked by my usual experience with Colette and Big 4 patterns were the back always has too much length for me) was to lower the neckline on the back neck (that meant adjusting not just the back yoke but also the back neck binding). While the end result looks and wear okay, it’s a little low. Clearly, the original design is the better way to go. Lesson learned.

The experiments:

I combined lightweight knits with mid-weight knits, all having different stretch percentages. The back, fronts, and sleeves are in a lightweight black rayon knit, the yokes are a mid-weight gray jersey, lined with mid-weight white interlock knit remnants. The button bands are in a gray double-knit remnant. Upon reflection, that last fabric was not the worst choice but also definitely not the best one. The seam allowances needed some careful trimming or would have ended up too bulky inside the button band.

Finally, I added a mock-piping detail, using strips of the white interlock knit folded in half and basted to the outer yokes before joining the yokes to the back and fronts. I trimmed the seam allowances in the mock-piping strips to minimize the bulk as much as possible. As you can see in the photos of the back, there’s some stiffness there, but I think it works: there’s still some stretch left. And I think the effect was well worth the risk.

The trickiest part

The blouse untucked

The buttonholes, hands down. Morgan gives both tips and warnings in that respect. I was dreading the buttonholes and I did end up messing them up. I had incredible problems keeping the placement consistent — most of my buttonholes tilt away from the middle of the band toward the blouse front. But not uniformly. I didn’t even bother cutting them open, I just sewed the buttons on top, joining the two sides of the band. I’m not normally a fan of non-functional solutions but I definitely prefer them over failure.

Sew again

That’s my conclusion. Thumbs up all the way. I’m eyeing some more scraps for a cardigan version and the photos from Morgan’s fashion show of her graduation collection make me want to try a dress version. While some of the woven versions are interesting (and I’m really intrigued by Morgan’s idea of woven sleeves with a knit band insert!), I think I’ll stick with knits for this pattern.

With the new Thread Theory pattern release, the Lazo trousers, I’m afraid I’m in danger of becoming a copy cat. I really like Morgan’s design ideas.

Have you made Camas? Other pattern recommendations? Reflections on holiday sewing? I’d love to hear from you.

Finlayson!

Hi there, makers! The big catch up continues today with a project that was exceptional — so exceptional in fact that an exclamation point was needed in the title.

I put the snow days to good use and finally sewed the Finlayson sweater from Thread Theory. It’s one of those projects: I’ve had the pattern printed for months now, fabric washed and ready, just the measuring and sewing wasn’t happening. I could come up with a few half-decent excuses, such as: (1) the intended recipient is difficult to pin down for measuring; (2) I obsessively worry about fitting and so I stall on new-to-me projects.

That second excuse is a very weak one. I’ve sewn with Thread Theory patterns before and with great success. All the t-shirts I’ve made so far from the Strathcona pattern have been getting lots of wear. Their one “flaw” is that they’re so neutral that they’re not particularly photogenic. That, and the recipient is not easy to catch for photos.

Photogenic, photographable, actually photographed or not, I still feel that I owe Thread Theory a post and a solid recommendation. And finally today I have some photographic evidence I can offer of how good their patterns are.

Ah, menswear. Different rules are at play than when sewing for women. It’s always important to balance the elements: get the proportions right, choose colors well, get the right amount and kind of detail… But if you get that balance off  in womenswear, you can still make it into a statement, a particular look. In menswear, it’s like you just cut the wrong wire when disarming a bomb and went from MacGyver to MacGruber.

Looking at Morgan Meredith’s designs and projects, I feel that she gets it, and definitely more than I do. The Thread Theory blog has become my go-to not just for sewing inspiration but also style ideas.

A little backstory on the Finlayson and why I had the pattern stashed for so long already:

One day before I started sewing my partner in crime found a sweater online that he liked and he sent me the photo. It was a black pullover with a shawl collar. I had it saved since then. I had briefly entertained the thought of knitting up something similar, but that was likely to end up a bit too warm (in wool and alpaca) or too heavy and sagging (in cotton). So I filed that away until I stumbled upon Thread Theory and saw the pattern for exactly that sweater.

So here’s exactly that sweater, and you will notice immediately that it isn’t exactly black:

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The Finlayson sweater, hanging out on the carpet in all its glory

It’s black/beige fairly lightweight French terry I found at GirlCharlee. I think it was the one French terry they had in stock at that moment. Why I wanted to make this in French terry I can’t really tell you. I don’t remember. I guess French terry struck me as the most sweater-y choice at the time. And wool jerseys tend to be expensive.

This 100% cotton fabric was fairly easy to handle and makes a light, breathable, and not too warm garment, which is what the gentleman was after. However, it doesn’t have good recovery. I should perhaps try steaming the bottom band and the sleeve cuffs to see if they bounce back into shape. They stretched out quite a bit when I sewed them. Still wearable, still decent-looking, but it depends on what look you’re looking for in terms of fit.

The pattern is drafted for a variety of knit fabrics, so you need to take into account what shape and fit you want to get for when you make your fabric choice. There are two different cuff pieces to accommodate your choices — one for very stretchy knits and one for stable knits, so the pattern has your back.

I was surprised how easy this pattern was, to be honest. In terms of sewing itself, it had just the right combination of challenging and easy elements, which made for a great time at the sewing machine.

The best part: that collar.

The key to getting it right is basting. I’m not sure now if the pattern mentions it, but I stabilized the tricky part — i.e. the part on the front where you attach the crossed-over collar fronts and turn corners — with knit interfacing. I really recommend doing that. It will also make it easy to mark the points where you need to pivot your stitching. Be careful and go slow and it won’t be that hard to get it right.

The pattern instructions are very clear and there’s a sewalong up on the Thread Theory blog (lots of photos for every step!).

A detail to love: the seam finish on the back neck. There is a lot of bulk there after you insert the collar (five layers of fabric), and Meredith’s tip to enclose it under a ribbon or tape finish is a great way to keep it all flat and contained. I used Hug Snug. I’m hopeful it will hold up well, if a little unsure… the stuff is very lightweight.

Behold: the collar of Zen

Readers, I goofed at one point — with the sizing. I decided to be generous, knowing that if I made the sweater too tight-fitting, it would never get worn. It looked okay basted to fit (yes, I didn’t skip that step this time) but came up enormous when actually sewn up. Luckily, taking it in at the side seams got it down to a decent fit, possibly because we’re all broad-backed in this family, including the lynx cat.

There’s a really good range of sizes in this pattern. I think it goes beyond the range from the Strathcona pattern.

One modification I made: a forward shoulder adjustment. I wonder how many people need those, since not many sewing bloggers include anything about that adjustment in their pattern reviews. It was necessary in this pattern, otherwise the sweater would have been pulling toward the back.

Finally, some hard to obtain modeled shots:

Verdict: I recommend this pattern and I will probably sew it again because there’s still talk of a black version. The sweater has been worn non-stop since I finished it, which makes me very, very happy.

Wait — there’s more. I have more Thread Theory projects planned. Their current Thanksgiving sale is 50%, by the way! I have a Camas blouse cut out for myself, a Fairfield shirt waiting to be printed and muslined, more Strathcona tees (and maybe a henley, who knows), and a Newcastle cardigan waiting for the right fabric.

Given how enthusiastic I’ve been throughout this post, I feel I should say I have no affiliation with Thread Theory. I’ve just enjoyed the patterns I’ve made up so far, all of which I bought myself.

Do you have any patterns for men that you’d recommend?