Sweet Coriolis Socks

 

sweet coriolis socks 6

 

Hello everyone! So, I knit some more sweet tomato heel socks over our last couple of times on the road. After making a few pairs using thicker-than-normal sock yarn, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about using the “real” stuff. But as it turned out, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the tiny neat stitches appear one after the other, and it didn’t bother me that it took a little longer.

I divided the yarn by weight, thinking that way I could make both socks from the toe up, stop when I ran out of yarn, and they’d end up pretty much the same length. But, I threw in enough experimenting that my yarn usage wasn’t the same at all on the second sock … I should have known that would happen! Next time I’ll either make both at the same time, or, if after the first heel I want to try something different for the next one, I’ll wait to finish the legs until I see how much yarn is left.

 

sweet coriolis socks 5

 

Another thing I learned while making this pair is that for my feet and legs, 425 yards of fairly standard sock yarn will make a boot sock, tall enough to overlap leggings, but not tall enough to reach over my calf. As far as I know, no force on Earth will keep socks of this length up, unless they have something that provides more friction than a leg to hold on to. I like wearing these, in fact they’re my favorite socks right now. However, having substantial leftover yarn drives me crazy, and next time I’d like to get enough to make knee socks, so maybe I’ll look for two smaller skeins, or a really long one.

 

sweet coriolis socks 3

 

If you’d like to make a similar sock, or see the knit-nerd details about the two heels and what I’ve learned about fitting sweet tomato heels so far, all that is on Ravelry.

This pattern is the “Sweet Coriolis Socks” from Cat Bordhi’s Sweet Tomato Socks ebook. She also recommended this yarn in a workshop I took, it’s Mountain Colors Crazyfoot. This particular color (“Chinook”) called my name at Purl in the Pines. I liked working with this yarn, although a fair amount of blue-green dye bled off in the first washing. We’ll see how they hold up!

 

sweet coriolis socks 1

 

Cat Bordhi is one of my knitting heroines, and I know variations of this pattern have appeared in several of her books, so I was excited to try it. Although I like how the finished socks look, my brain and this pattern weren’t quite in harmony. I never really got into a flow with the coriolis ribbing, and I kept having to check to make sure I was in the right spot. And, the experiments I tried with the heels threw off the expected path for the coriolis band at the hinge of the foot, especially on the second sock, where it got lost for a while. If you’re still experimenting with the fit of your heel/foot, I’d recommend sticking with a pattern that holds steady on top of the foot, until you figure things out and can do some calculating ahead of time.

 

sweet coriolis socks 4

 

I’m getting really close to a great fit with this heel, and I liked the padded variation I tried this time a lot. Still, I’m thinking I may knit some non-sweet-tomato socks for my next pair, if for no other reason than to get some perspective on the different heel techniques … there’s always more to learn, which is what keeps me knitting!

 

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Four Upcycled Winter Tops

In which I think about the difference between fit and flatter, ways to seam knits for a pear shape, and the pros and cons of sewing with recycled sweaters.

 

Last fall, I knew I could use some more long-sleeve cozy tops for the coming winter, and I decided to see if I could find some “fabric” (in the form of large garments) at our local thrift stores, figuring that it would be cheaper than ordering quality wool knit, and I would be more willing to experiment if I wasn’t super attached to the materials.

Many things still take longer than I think they will, so I just finished the last of these a couple of weeks ago … luckily they still work as light sweaters for spring, and I’m now set for next fall/winter. Some people would probably call these light sweaters at any time, but for my winter wardrobe they’re shirts, something soft and warm that goes under a bigger sweater. (If it’s winter, I’m pretty much always cold. Heck, if it’s Texas in Spring but I’m inside and the is AC on, I’m still probably cold.) I’ve switched pretty much exclusively to wool (or cashmere etc.) and silk for winter wear, and I just love it that way, so those were the fibers I was looking for.

One of the biggest problems I’ve found with trying to upcycle tops for me out of existing tops, is that for there to be enough fabric to cut a new garment, the original sweater must be truly huge. Yet in the past, trying to reshape something without treating it as fabric and cutting new shapes has been a recycling nightmare that eats up way more of my time than the results are worth …

The first top I found this time was a women’s size large, with a pretty awful turtleneck, but in a nice brown cashmere. There just wasn’t enough fabric to dramatically reshape it, but it definitely needed a new neckline, and some ease around the hips (not a surprise to my pear-shaped self). I decided to take a wedge of the cable pattern from the old neck, cut a slit at center back, and splice it in.

 

brown winter top alterations

 

This worked—and I learned a few things. Probably the most obvious thing is that the wedge can’t be too large, unless you want it to ripple like a little peplum. I ended up folding in the sides and sewing them down again to make a flat wedge. It doesn’t look perfect, but I was experimenting. If I did this again I’d also add a little more pull-in factor to the neckline, probably with some slightly stretched clear elastic in the neck seam. But the biggest issue with this shirt is that it just isn’t that flattering. It fits OK, but I’m aiming for better. This one found a good use as my new winter sleep shirt.

 

brown winter top on form

 

The next top I found to use was a little bigger, at least big enough to cut out new pieces from it. My favorite part about this one is the fabric; it’s Merino, and just the perfect amount of stretchy, cozy, soft and wooly. If I could buy a bolt of this I probably would. This top came out quite a bit shorter than I’d like (again due to lack of fabric—by the time I cut the old sweater apart and put the pieces for my regular knit top pattern on it, this is what I got), but I’ve been wearing it all the time.

I played with the ribbing on this one a little more, cutting and sewing lengths from the original hem ribbing and treating it more like elastic, stretching it to sew around the neckline. That worked well, the ribbing on these sweaters has a tighter structure, and I suspect some added stretchy fiber that makes it behave quite differently from the rest of the garment. Sewing ribbing on things reminds me of the late 80’s, when my mom would order fabric by mail to make tops for us, along with coordinating ribbing in various colors. I wish I’d had a little more of the matching ribbing for this project, as it is the tiny hem on the bottom has to be encouraged to lie flat as it’s drying, otherwise it will flip up, and I had to baste it on before sewing to keep those little bits in place.

 

tan winter top on form

 

I’d been thinking how, in order to fit my figure better, I really need more seams, even in a knit fabric, than just one at each side. I love princess lines, but I thought that traditional ones would be more structure and more of a closely fitted, formal look than I want in a knit top. I was thinking of making a curved panel at each side, when I realized that I already have a top/sweater like that, it just fits a little looser than I’d want for this. So, I tried it on and pinned out the extra to get a fit I liked, traced a new pattern from the old one following those modifications, and cut it out.

This berry colored top was my most frustrated moment in this batch of upcycling. It came from a men’s XXL sweater in “cotton (90%) cashmere (10%)” which I went for despite the fiber content, going on color and the fact that I could definitely treat this one as a “muslin.” At first I was kind of miffed that even starting with a sweater this big, I couldn’t cut the sleeves long enough and I had to piece the side panels … but as soon as I gave up wanting it to work out “right” and embraced the experimentation and improvisation of working with recycled materials, suddenly it was fun again.

I really like the ribbing on the side panels, but the double sleeve ribbing came out wonky no matter how you look at it, the back neck has too much ease, making it slide off one shoulder sometimes (again with the 80’s), and the whole thing has all the baggy/low-recovery properties of thick cotton knit. However, it’s good to have at least one top that I don’t really care what happens to, and I brought it on the road for that purpose, it’s great to throw on in the truck etc.

 

berry winter top on form

 

I’m also having an ongoing thought process about the difference between fit and flatter. I want things to fit well, as in to harmonize with my shape—but maybe not to hug every curve. Sometimes if I aim for enough ease to really skim my hips it ends up emphasizing my pear shape instead, in a way I don’t find flattering, especially if I don’t also add ease around the bust. Also, if I curve a back seam in enough to fit close around my waist, the amount of curve required to flare it back out again over my hips is not really workable or looks a little crazy.

With that in mind, I cut the last shirt a little less curved in at the waist and out at the hips in back. I also added a side seam, mostly so that I could cut set-in sleeves (doesn’t save as much fabric as I thought it would vs. raglan) and set them in flat, then sew the side seam and underarm in one go, which apparently I like so much better than setting in knit sleeves in the round that I’ll do extra pattern tracing to get it.

I’m so happy with this last top. I dig the length, the slight high-low hemline, the side panels, and even the lighter accents (piecing again). And the bottom ribbing! This is every single millimeter of the ribbing at the hem of a men’s XL cashmere sweater (a bit frightening) and it’s just right. I flipped it over so that the original seam is at the bottom, so if anything it flares out a bit at the hem rather than cupping in. It hugs in just enough to feel cozy without riding up too much—like the dream of what ribbing could be on my figure. I’m still undecided about the extra fabric around the small of my back. It’s definitely a bit baggy there, but is that a bad thing?

 

grey winter top on form

 

Since I had to piece in a little lighter grey scrap at the side panels, I decided I should also add some to at least one arm to make it look purposeful. I also decided, after the berry ribbing, to make a real effort at getting the two knits to play well together, rather than sticking them under the machine together and hoping for the best. I tried sewing with tissue paper under the bottom layer (inside the sleeve) and it actually worked really well. However, I’m not in love with trying to position the paper around the free arm inside the sleeve, or with picking out tiny bits of tissue from the seam, so further experiments are still necessary.

 

grey winter top detail

 

I may have to go for another round of cozy top upcycling at some point, I’m getting kind of fond of the built-in matching ribbing. Although, I think I should resign myself to the need for an extra sweater for every couple finished tops, one to one just doesn’t quite work. And then, since I can’t be nearly as efficient with layout as I could with the same amount of raw fabric, it feels a little wasteful to cut up a shirt which is really perfectly good as it is … unless it has holes in it etc. So there’s a Holy Grail of thrift shopping, as if finding huge sizes in quality fibers wasn’t hard enough, now I need two or three that all coordinate with each other or with another one for extra fabric, preferably damaged! Maybe I’ll just order some nice fabric next time …

 

Some Thoughts About Sewing Leggings

 

I’ve been wearing leggings more these past two winters.  I love how warm they are under my skirts.  The fit though, often leaves something to be desired, so I decided to try making my own.  Good decision!  These are totally the comfiest pair I own.  I’m more than a little behind on sharing them, but the plus side of that is I can already report that I took them with me on our spring and summer travels last year, and they served me really well as a base layer under dressier clothes when the weather at shows was chilly, for hiking, and as PJs when camping in cooler weather.

 

green wooly leggings 4

 

I used the Espresso pattern from Cake.  I love that it’s designed so that you transfer your measurements in both length and width right to the pattern to make your own custom size.  Overall the amount of ease the pattern added worked great for me.  These fit just how I’d like them to: not too tight or constricting, not to loose or wrinkly, but like a second soft wooly skin.  The only problem I had with the way this pattern is drawn out is that it doesn’t allow for curves between the booty and waist.  One look at my body would tell you that a straight vertical line in this area isn’t going to cut it.  After a couple of iterations I ended up taking a huge curving dart out of the center back seam, from the waist down to nothing at the widest point.  But since the fabric is stretchy and I basted the seams together first, it wasn’t hard to do.  (I highly recommend basting the seams if you’re making your first pair.  Long straight stitches are just amazingly easier to pull out than zigzag.  Once I had the fit I wanted, I trimmed the seam allowances to match the new seams, pulled out the basting, and sewed the seams with a narrow zigzag.)

 

green wooly leggings 2

 

Once that was settled, I tried them on and marked with pins where I wanted the waistband to sit.  I just don’t like constriction, especially elastic, around my natural waist, and I tend to cut the waistbands of trousers and skirts so that they sit just below my belly button.  I knew that I wanted the leggings to sit a little below that, so they’d layer well with the rest of my wardrobe.

 

green wooly leggings 3

I would NEVER wear only these in public, or show you my booty in leggings on the internet.  And I just need to get this off my chest, because I keep wanting to say it to young women I see on the street: leggings aren’t pants!  But somehow, I’m OK with you seeing the fit on the dressform, even though the whole point of this dressform is that it’s as close to my actual shape as possible … go figure. 

 

I decided to add a wider waistband, which I hoped would make the top more stable and also give it a little more recovery.  I cut two pieces about an inch less wide than the leggings are at the top, and 3″ deep.  I sewed those pieces together, and then to the inside waist of the leggings, also including clear elastic in the top seam.  Then I flipped the waistband to the outside and zigzagged it in place just over the raw edge, and again at the top just under the seam allowance.  I didn’t want the bulk of another turned-under edge at the bottom, and it’s worked out pretty well, the fabric has fluffed up only slightly around the cut and sewn edge.

But, they didn’t stay up.  To be clear, I don’t blame the pattern at all for this, since I was off on a choose-your-own-waistband adventure by this point in the process, all learning around the waistband issues is my own responsibility.  And I did fix it; after considering taking things apart and/or adding more elastic, I decided to try a thin ribbon drawstring, a trick that’s worked for me in the past on a strapless elastic top.  Since I already had a small channel at the top of the waistband from the topstitching, I cut a tiny hole there at each side of center front on the inside, and reinforced it with a little hand stitching around.

 

green wooly leggings 5

 

Then I used a little safety pin to thread the ribbon around.  When I’m wearing these, I tighten the ribbon to the fit I want, and tie it in a firm bow.  Sometimes by the end of the day, I get ever-so-slightly irritated by the one fairly tight, unmoving place around my hip.  But would I gladly trade that for leggings that stay up all day, exactly where I want them, with no dropping crotch?  Yes, yes I would, quite happily.  And when I make another pair, I may experiment with some stronger elastic at the top.

This fabric is mostly wool, with a little stretchy stuff, from The Fabric Store LA.  They have the best selection of fine wool knits I’ve found (also where I got the lovely stuff for these tops).  It’s a bit vague on the site whether or not their swatching service is up and running, but it totally is, just call them and tell them what you’re looking for.  Last time I got a generous selection of organic wools and leggings-appropriate fabrics.  I went with the pattern recommendation of minimum 5% lycra/spandex added, and chose this green with black, double layer knit.  This is about as thick a fabric as I would use, as you can’t avoid a few wrinkles around the knees, etc., but they’re wonderful to wear!  I love the slightly plush inside of this fabric, it makes the leggings even cozier and comfier.

 

green wooly leggings 6

Putting a little tab of ribbon at the back is another idea of Steph’s I like!

 

I’m definitely a sew-your-own-leggings convert.  A fit this good is hard to argue with.  After years of knowing that the only way to get pants/trousers to fit my legs & booty was to make my own, I’m kind of surprised that it wasn’t more obvious what a difference custom-fit leggings would make … but there you have it.  Plus they only take a yard of fabric (on me), have only one main pattern piece, and once you have the fit down they would make up lightning fast.  What’s not to love?

Update: for what I figured out about elastic at the waist in next versions, and making these from repurposed sweaters, click here.

 

Thoughts about Sewing, Empowerment, and Body Image

 

As we near the end of Me-Made-May, it seems like a good time to share some thoughts about sewing, empowerment, and body image. Although I get a huge boost of self-sufficiency when I’m wearing the clothes I made, I actually don’t think much about sewing as it relates to how I feel about my body. Except for when I’m making pants. I originally wrote these thoughts as part of a proposed series on the Colleterie, which didn’t get off the ground, but it seems a shame not to get them out into the world. I thought about a lot of this again just recently when I was working on my trousers.

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 4

 

I’m lucky that when I was growing up, my parents always stressed that I’m just fine the way I am. I’ve never had a really negative image of my body. But I have always had trouble finding pants that fit at all, or were remotely comfortable. I would describe my figure in a nutshell as small and pear shaped. When I’m good about exercise, my thighs get firmer, but they don’t exactly shrink. In fact, in High School, when I was doing lots of power yoga every week, and in the best shape I’ve ever been, I just about gave up wearing pants altogether. It wasn’t worth it; they were just too uncomfortable. I have a vivid memory of sitting in class wishing I could just grab the top thighs of my jeans and yank upwards, and that the seams would pop down the sides, releasing my legs.  I never actually tried it, but after that I stopped wearing jeans.

 

grey pants side

 

Since then I’ve explored my style, how it relates to my body, and to how others see me, through my sewing—starting with long skirts. As you know if you’ve read this blog for a while, I’ve also been working on and off for years on pants that actually fit me. It wasn’t until I was making the purple pair that I realized how much not being able to find clothes that fit or flatter could affect my conceptions about my body. Those purple pants aren’t perfect, but they show off my shape and are comfortable—a miracle to me. When I’m standing in front of a dressing room mirror and no pair of pants I try on looks good or feels right, I think that encourages me to feel like I need to change, like my body is not right. I was fairly amazed at how, looking at my legs in these new me-made pants, it was so much easier to say, “I love my body! It’s so cute and curvy!” It’s not my body that needs to change—it’s the pants. From my hair to my thighs, I’ve had the best experiences with my body when I realize not only that I can’t change something, but that I shouldn’t be trying to change it, that the beauty the universe gives me is for me to embrace and to work with, not to fight. And I can only do that if I’m willing to think outside the box, to take the time and develop the skills I need to get what I really want and need.

 

purple cords side

 

To me sewing, and making anything, is all about empowerment. Since I sew, I can break free from the consumer culture that gives me limited choices, while at the same time encouraging me to find fault with everything, in order to sell me more cheap stuff. Sewing is a way out of that cycle, and also a way in to a deeper and better understanding of my own body and taste, my personality, my unique self. Perhaps the best part is that this kind of freedom is available to anyone who wants it, anyone who’s willing to can their own jam or sew their own jeans.  Let’s go get it, people!

 

Things I’ve Sewn: Blue Stripe Trousers

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 1

 

So, after talking about these tops last time, it’s time to talk about the pants!  They’re more of a trouser style (which is good since folks on both sides of the pond can agree what “trousers” means, right?).  I bought this fabric last summer at Nob Hill Fabrics in Albuquerque.  I wasn’t 100% sure about it for trousers, but it looked promising.  In truth, I am not 100% sure about it for trousers now.  But, after the untimely demise of my fantastic purple corduroys (so sad!) I really needed a new pair of pants nice enough to wear at shows (in public where I am supposed to look somewhat professional, or at least not like a bum off the street).  The odds of my finding a pair to buy that fit and that I like are close to zero, so I pulled out the blue fabric.

 

A pattern epiphany

While I was cutting it, something pretty cool happened.  As I looked at the back waistband pattern, I got a sudden flash of insight: this piece is trying to take in too much curve, and it would be much better as two pieces, with a seam in the middle as well!  So I traced it into two pieces which matched the existing width at the bottom of the waistband, and took in a little more at the top.  If you do this, don’t forget to add seam allowances to the edges at the new seam!  This approach fit the shape of my body so much better that I ended up doing the same thing on the front, so that I now have four waistband pieces instead of two.  A step forward in fit.

 

pants waistband back pattern pieces

 

Fitting

This is the next evolution of the traced from-existing-pants-and-extensively-altered pattern I used to make the grey pair.  The main problem with those is that they are a little tight around the crotch seam, especially when I sit down.

I will say that I’ve gotten a lot better at diagnosing what needs fixing in the fit of my trousers in the last year or two.  At first, the fact that every part of the fit affects every other part made it nearly impossible for me to tell what I should change.  But now, after fitting a few pairs, when I try some on I can feel which seams need more or less fabric in order to be comfortable and fit my shape.  So I already knew (from wearing the grey pair) that I needed to let out the front inseam a fair amount.  I wanted to cut the fabric outside of the pattern to make sure I would have enough in that area, so I decided to trace with thread the outline of the pattern.  That way I’d be able to see where my new seam is in relation to the pattern, and transfer my changes back to it for next time (I can always add more paper to the pattern using this method).  This worked great, I could see right where the pattern line was as I worked on the fit.

 

blue stripe trous cutting inseam

 

So, I let out the front inseam until it felt comfortable, and then played around with the crotch seam and back inseam to get the look and fit I wanted.  I want the trousers to show that I have a bum, without hugging it too tight, and then drop into a wide leg somewhat reminiscent of 30’s style.  I got pretty close!  To be honest, I may have overdone it on the amount of added room around the inseams, these feel so comfortable that they border on I’m-wearing-my-pajamas-outside.  But when I put them on and sit down it’s sooo nice!

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 3

 

Those back pockets

The back welt pockets are pretty sweet, yes?  This is something I’ve really been wanting in trouser-style pants.  I have one old pair of thrifted Gap wide-leg pants that has them, with little flaps on top too, and I love them.  I almost skipped them for this pair though, just because I was running a little short on time before we left for Texas, and I really needed to get these trousers done.  You know how sometimes, these decisions are made for you, just by the circumstances?  Well, as I got close to finishing the fit, two things became inescapably apparent: I could not figure out any way to get the tips of the back darts to look good (hidden by patch pockets in earlier pairs), and under some conditions, you could see the line of my undies through the fabric.  So, pockets it was, and since patch pockets don’t go with the trouser style I wanted … I basically just kept those Gap pants next to my sewing machine and figured out the steps from looking at them inside and out as I went.  Fortunately, I didn’t hit any major snags.  I have to admit, when I first tried the trousers on after finishing the pockets, my reaction was “no one told me they would look THAT cool!”  I have a few tweaks to make next time, but overall, those back pockets are probably my favorite thing about this make!

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 5

 

Fabric verdict

I had a hunch when I went to add the pockets that it wasn’t the fabric being pulled tight that was showing my undie-lines, it was the fabric being just a little thin and just a little clingy.  I was right.  Now that the pockets are in, you can see that there’s plenty of room for them.  Sometimes you can see a shadow from the pocket lining, but that’s much better!

While this fabric turned out fine, next time I will look for some with just a little more body for making trousers.  I wouldn’t want it to be stiffer, just thick and soft enough to hold its own and skim over curves a little more.

And, did you notice it wrinkles like all get out?  I swear, I pressed the trousers before setting up to take photos, but 10 minutes of adjusting the camera, kneeling by the tripod in the sun and moving around, and it was pointless.  I do think that wrinkles are less noticeable in real life than they are on camera though.

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 7

 

Have I mentioned before that fitting and sewing trousers is a journey, not a destination?  (Hint: yes.)  I’m glad to get these under my belt, and to have a new pair to wear in public this spring.  Happy May Day to all!

 

Me-Made Purple Corduroys—How Life is Like Fitting Pants

purple cords 1

 

Where to begin?  I think I could talk about these pants and all their glories and implications well past what you would read.  Well – I think I’ll begin with why they are purple, which will lead right into why they are fitted, which will lead right into why they are the best pants I’ve ever had.

So, a few years ago now, my aunt got this pair of purple corduroy pants, and for some strange reason I fell in love with them at first sight.  I’m not usually into purple, or brightly colored trousers, nevertheless I’ve wanted my own pair ever since.  I found 1 1/2 yards of, get this, lavender hemp and organic cotton corduroy on the NearSea Naturals clearance page!  (It had a “stain” on it, which washed right out.)  Update: although I love love love the idea of this fabric, the color of this fabric, and the resulting pants, the fabric is just not sturdy enough.  I got about a year of good-looking wear out of these before the corduroy pile started coming out, even with washing them inside out and not once putting them through the dryer, and that is just not enough for something I made.  If anyone knows of a source for sustainable, long-lasting fabric, please let me know!  The good news: all the work I did on fitting (keep reading) is already transferred to the pattern and waiting for me to find the next fabric! 

I thought this was the perfect amount of fabric.  I planned to make another pair just like my grey pants, even though I wasn’t sure that wide leg would be the best look for purple corduroys, I would figure out that fit first, and save more close-fitting pants for another day/next fall maybe.  Well – it turned out that all the wide leg pattern pieces would not fit on this much fabric.  To fit them in I had to narrow the legs quite a bit.  Well.  I just tapered the tops of the pattern pieces from the grey pants into the narrower legs, cut them out, and this is what I got.

 

purple cords fitting

 

Clearly those fabric saddle bag areas on the sides had to go straight away, that was the easy part.  Getting a better fit through the seat/inner thigh area took a lot more work.  Every day for weeks, my sewing time consisted of: ripping out and re-basting in a slightly different position some part of the crotch seam and/or inseam and/or side seam, trying the pants on, deciding what to rip out next (often the same part).  Although I worked on these only a little bit each day (partly to keep myself from getting frustrated and doing something hasty/stupid), I thought a lot about how life is like fitting pants.  The baking equivalent might be yeast bread, or even macarons.  There are a lot of variables, and each one seems to affect all the others, so that a small tweak in one area can change all kinds of things I would not expect.  But, if I just keep plugging away, trying things, seeing what happens, I will eventually reach a place where I am very happy with the results.

 

purple cords side

 

Well – I really could not be happier with this result!  Although I have tweaks to make in the next version (pants are clearly a journey, not a destination) they are the first pair I’ve ever had that really fit and flattered my figure, they’re incredibly comfortable, and I’m ridiculously satisfied with myself when I wear them.

If it wasn’t for the fact that things need washing, (Ok, and I do love skirts, and some days are for grubby clothes, etc.) I might conceivably wear these straight through until they wore out.

 

purple cords sewing table

 

Some sewing and fitting things I figured out while making them:

I took out all that extra I added to the back inseam of the grey ones, and then some.  Clearly a different fit requires a different shape.

See that diagonal wrinkle across the back hip in the first fitting?  I tried all kinds of things to get rid of that; letting out the side seam, unpicking the waistband and pulling the pants up, but nothing worked, until I saw something in Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong (which is one of my all-time favorite sewing books, expensive but worth it, I asked for it for Christmas one year).  It was one of my cousin’s textbooks at FIT in San Fransisco, and it shows you how to draft a pattern for just about anything you could ever want to make, plus all kinds of construction techniques.  It’s designed more for the fashion industry that for home sewers, and there’s not a lot about fitting, so I guess it says something that there is a section on pants fitting, where I found an illustration of a similar wrinkle with this note, “insufficient dart intake for dominant buttocks.”  That’s not how I’d like to think about my derriere, but the part about the dart totally worked!  I had been leaving that dart alone since I fit it in the last pants, but clearly it’s not a good idea to start think of any part of the fit as “finished” when I am changing the rest.

 

purple cords back

 

purple cords edgestitching

 

I used my edge stitching foot for the first line of top stitching (with a size 100 topstitching needle, moving the needle slightly to the left), and it worked great!  It was much easier to get an even stitching line with that little guide riding right on the edge.  I am now trying to figure out how I can use a similar guide for for the second line of topstitching, further to the inside..  Anyone know of a foot like that?  I used two colors topstitching and I really like it, one pair of Bryan’s jeans has that look and I decided to try it out.

 

purple cords inside

 

I trimmed a bit of the waistband lining before applying the rayon ribbon to the bottom edge, next time I’ll trim a bit more, but I like this finish.

If the legs look a bit long, I left them that way on purpose.  I keep noticing that the hems of cotton pants tend to creep up just a bit over time with washing, usually after I fix them just how I want them.  I’m not sure what the shrinkage of hemp is, but if these don’t get any shorter after a while I can always hem them up a bit more.

By the way, the above shot of the inside waist is probably the closest I got to the actual color, for some reason this purple seems to be hard to capture.

That’s about it, I guess, unless of course you want to talk some more about sewing, body image, and the power of DIY, etc. . . . if you see me around, I’ll be wearing these pants, and feeling happy!

 

tasha in purple cord pants

 

 

Fitting Pants (Trousers) – At Last!

 

Let me just say this has been a long journey.  I’ve never had ready-to-wear pants that fit me, if they fit Ok through the thighs and seat, they’ll be ridiculously baggy around the waist, etc.

I also haven’t had a huge amount of luck making my own pants, until now that is!  I’ve definitely made pants, lots of trial ones and some real ones, but there are just so many variables that sometimes it’s been hard to tell exactly what to change for my next pair.  This pair, however, is really close, and I learned a lot along the way, mostly thanks to my internet friends.  I just feel so self-sufficient wearing these pants, it’s fantastic!  On their very first day I wore them to hang a show of Bryan’s work at a restaurant here, climbing up and down ladders and carrying things around.  Then the next day I wore them with a nicer sweater and looked totally presentable (ok, after wiping off some grime from the day before . . . )

 

 

I’ve definitely learned some sewing lessons along the road to pants that fit.  Among them:

  • It’s possible to draft a pattern from scratch from your measurements and still not like the fit.
  • If you copy a pair of pants made in a stretch fabric, do not try to convert them to a non-stretch fabric, the “fit” you like will probably disappear.
  • Using top stitching, and thick top stitching thread, really makes your pants look more professional.

For this pair, I worked from a copy of some corduroys I thrifted last fall.  I liked the fit of them pretty well through the hard-to-fit booty area, and I knew I could taper the waist to fit into a contoured waistband.  I had made one previous test version out of thin nylon for hiking, which were wearable but a bit tight.  So, my first idea, which I should have thought of a million years ago, for these was to use 1″ seam allowances all around to give me a little room to work with.  I’m totally doing this on every pair of pants I make from now on, and it turns out it’s also recommended in this genius book (more about that in a minute).

 

 

The second thing I learned on this pair is that it’s amazingly helpful to take pictures while you’re fitting.  I NEVER would have thought to do this before I had this blog, but I can’t recommend it highly enough.  You don’t have to show the pictures to anyone, but you can go back and see exactly what you’re working on, long after you’ve taken them off.

The third thing I learned was that there’s great info about fitting pants on the web!  Even though I scoured every single mention I could find in Threads magazine, again, the most useful stuff I found was on other blogs.  Thanks especially to Tasia’s post of fitting resources (her pattern would be a good place to start on pants if you’re pear shaped like me), where I linked to Sunni’s enormously helpful trouser sew-along (my pants looked remarkably like hers in the back picture here).

She also recommended the book Pants for Real People.  I had passed this book by at the library before, since none of the models are shaped like me.  But, don’t let that deter you, the illustrated fitting problems and solutions in this book are total GENIUS!  I have probably never been more happy that a book was at the library just when I needed it, and I ordered my own copy as soon as I read it.  And I quote, for full derriere,

Generally, you need to add only to the back inseam, but rarely you need to also add to the top.  Deeper, or additional, back darts may also be needed.

The back inseam?! It would have taken me at least another decade to figure that out on my own.  Check out my pants on the left above, then I let out the back inseam for the middle picture.  On the right, I used another tip from Pants for Real People, taking out my dart and making it deeper, and taking out part of the waistband so that I could pull up the back to get rid of those wrinkles at the hip.

Maybe I could let out the inseam a little more in the back, but I ran out of fabric to try it, even with my extra seam allowance.  Next time!

 

 

These pants are supremely comfortable in any position except sitting straight in a chair, when it feels just slightly like I’m being cut in half.  I have a couple of tweaks in mind for the next pair, but let me be clear: I am 100% OK with these pants not being 100% perfect.  In fact I’m thrilled that both:

  1. I MADE the best fitting pants I’ve ever had, and
  2. The next pair will be even better!

I have been frustrated along the way by making lots of test pants in muslin which I don’t wear around much, so it’s hard to figure out how they really fit, and I knew I was close enough this time with my copy that I’d end up with something wearable, so I went for “real” fabric.  I also like this approach because it lets me see how a more substantial fabric will behave, and because as I wear the finished pants in real life, I get a much better idea of how they work and what I’d like to improve.

 

 

Just a couple of construction notes: I used a rayon ribbon to bind the bottom of the waistband, which I quite like, although next time I’ll try to get it closer to the bottom waistband seam so that it doesn’t flip up.  I debated whether this was too much top stitching, but on the pants when worn it doesn’t stand out much at all.  This is my third try at a vintage button, the first two did not survive a trip through the washer, by which I learned that if a button looks crumbly, it probably is, and if it snaps in half like a fortune cookie in your fingers, well, it wasn’t going to stand up to much.

Ready to tackle DIY pants?  I’d say there’s a lot of great resources out there, go for it!  I’ll mention one more pattern which could be a good starting place, Juniper from Collette, which just came out, with a similar shape to these.
Whatever you’re making, I hope it’s giving you that “I could conquer the world with this” feeling!