A Balancing (Plaid) Act

My friend David recently bought a house (yay!) in a lovely community out near Occoquan. The community puts on a July 4th fireworks display over one of the lakes and he is allowed two guests, which Robert and I readily agreed to being! We planned to make a full day of it: a cookout at David’s, some swimming/floating in the lake, and finishing up with the community fireworks display. I thought it might be a nice opportunity to make a new dress for the day’s festivities. I wanted to try out the Lenox shirtdress pattern (I’ve always liked the idea of a shirt dress, but had yet to find a ready-to-wear version that I thought looked good on me). While perusing the available shirting choices at Fabric Store Basement, my eyes fell on this one.

Now, normally I’m not one for donning a red-white-and-blue ensemble for Independence Day. [Don’t try reading things into that statement. It’s just not a thing I normally do.] However, I thought the shirting was a nice mix of the colors, and the red was just small enough that I could get away with wearing the dress on other occasions without it screaming ‘MURICA, F*CK YEAH! So I picked up a couple of yards, and set to work.

I actually went ahead and did a step I almost always leave out: washing my fabric. I know, I know. We’re supposed to wash our fabric first, and then work on stuff. Obviously, I don’t always follow the rules. I did this time, though…and my dryer promptly stopped actually drying my laundry. It does this from time to time, and I have a sneaking suspicion that all it needs is a good vacuuming of the channel where the lint screen goes, and it will be good as new.

Pattern matching became a wee bit tricky when I realized that the plaid was both uneven and unbalanced. Doh! That’s what I get for not taking a closer look at things when I’m in the actual store!

[cue screeching brake sound]

Note how folding it along a dominant line does not result in a mirror image

“What is an uneven and unbalanced plaid?” I hear you say. The short answer is…this. This is an uneven and unbalanced plaid.

For a little more detail:

A balanced plaid is a plaid that is mirror-imaged when you fold it along a dominant line in the pattern. A plaid can be balanced vertically, horizontally, or both.

Still not a balanced plaid. I know it looks that way at first, but take note of the red lines.

An even plaid is a plaid that is mirror-imaged when you fold it along the diagonal.

Nope. Not even.

If the colors and lines match along the diagonal, vertical and horizontal lines…congratulations! You have an even, balanced plaid! You can now proceed to cut out your pieces in either direction.

If, however, you are like me…you wind up with a piece that both unbalanced and uneven. This is called a two-way, one-directional plaid. Which might seem like an Old West curse and, I would maintain, is entirely warranted. This is considered the most difficult plaid to cut and sew, because of course it is. If you’re going to give yourself a challenge, might as well commit to it!

[On a hunch, I took a moment last night and pulled all the plaids** I have in my stash, and wouldn’t you know it…the majority of what I have purchased are uneven plaids. Half of those are also unbalanced. I wonder what it says about a person who is drawn primarily to uneven, unbalanced plaid. Maybe I’m reading too much into this…]

So, knowing this now about my fabric, I set about carefully cutting everything out, doing my best to match the stripes and keep the nap of the fabric (in this case, not a textural nap, but a visual one) the same for all of the pieces. For the most part, I think I did pretty well, although I was not happy with how the side seams met up. That’s entirely my fault, though, as I wasn’t paying as close attention while cutting the lower back pattern pieces as I should have been, and then didn’t consider that when moving on to cut the front. Oh well, You win some, you lose some.

I thought of using some of my vintage bias tape along the seam lines, to break up the visual, but when I pinned it on as a test, I didn’t like the strong lines. I decided to just embrace the slightly wonky lack-of-matching.

In the end, the plaid actually did a pretty good job of matching up and keeping in line, from the bodice down to the skirt…which is amazing, considering they are not one piece, and are broken up with a waistband.

Because I knew trying to match up the lines of the bodice and skirt to those on the waistband and front button placket would, ultimately, be the thing that killed me, I decided to cut both of those pieces out with the grain going the opposite way it was suggested. I wasn’t sure whether it would work out, but I’m pretty happy with the way it looks, all finished.

The lining for the button placket and waistband is from a remnant from a previous pattern test. The cotton weave is a lot lighter weight than it probably should be, but I liked the idea of having additional stripes running through the dress — albeit, on the inside where you won’t see them. Plus, the metallic thread reminded me of fireworks.

The pattern calls for 13 buttons, which went nicely with the whole July 4th theme. 13 buttons for 13 original colonies! Because I knew I didn’t have 13 of a single color button (except maybe some random purple ones that really don’t go with the dress), I opted to pull from my stash of random buttons. I pulled out all of the red, white, and blue buttons I could find, and began sorting through the pile, pulling out the ones that were one-of-a-kind. Since they were going to be different colors and, in some cases, slightly different shapes, I wasn’t as concerned about them all being the same size.

I sewed everything on, but was a little concerned that the top button wasn’t actually designed to be at the top of the button placket. I’m not sure if this is a design feature, or if I just did something wrong while making the dress, but I wasn’t comfortable leaving it open. Of course, I also didn’t want to add another actual button (because that would throw off the whole 13 buttons=13 colonies thing I had going in my brain). I dug through an old jewelry box I bought a couple years back and pulled out one of the tie tacks that my father had given me, way back when (Law enforcement guys love their tie tacks…at least in Indian Country). I went with this Secret Service pin. I think it added a nice touch to the ensemble.

The dress was perfect for the day – especially because the pattern includes functional pockets! YAAAAAAY! (When will designers learn that women value functional pockets in their clothing?!) I was able to throw my keys and my phone in the pocket and head out to see fireworks, without having to worry about lugging my purse along, too.

The only problem I had with the dress — the sleeves were too tight, and the waist could have used a smidgen of extra room — were likely the result of me cutting out a size smaller than I have been cutting for the Cashmerette patterns. In my defense, the finished garment measurements looked like they were perfect, and the other woven patterns that I’ve made so far have been a little big (I am going to go down a size or two in those, when I make the next versions), so I thought it would be safe to start with the smaller size for this dress. I didn’t, however, take into account that this pattern is a much more fitted look. I plan to make a couple more versions of this dress, and the next will see me going up one size, and determining if any more adjustments need to be made. This go around, I solved the sleeve problem by simply removing the sleeves and binding the armholes with bias binding. I might make a little button band adjuster for the waist button. We’ll see. For now, it’s still wearable.

Those little fitting problems aside, how do I feel about this pattern?


Like I said, I’ve been looking for a shirt dress pattern that worked for me, and I believe I have found it! I think the greatest reason for this success is the fact that, in addition to coming in a range of sizes, the patterns can be cut for a range of cup sizes. I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to have a pattern allow for your boobs, right off the bat, instead of having to revert to hacking it all up to make it work.

The directions are easy to follow, and I even learned a new technique that I have heard of, but never tried (the burrito technique for sewing a lined yoke).

I was SO comfortable wearing this all day, and it was nice that I could also sort of wear it as a robe, of sort, when I got out of the water that evening. Despite the headache that the pattern matching gave me, the shirting was the perfect material for this dress. It felt light enough to be comfortable in the humid summer that Virginia is so known for, and still crisp enough to make me feel “put together.”

I already have plans for some more shirt dresses, using a cute print that has been sitting in my stash for a while (and maybe another plaid one, but that might have to wait until I can think about matching lines without screaming internally)


**real plaids. I’m not talking about ginghams, checks, tattersall, and houndstooth (which I would never consider in the same category but apparently a lot of other people do



It’s too hot to think of witty titles

The heat has been ridiculous this summer. Which seems unfair, because the weather was remarkably cool and mild for far longer than it usually is. Case in point: Temps in May were often in the 50s and 60s, and we even had a string of 60° (F) days in June when we’re usually solidly in “sweaty, stinky DC armpit” temps.

This week, by contrast, the temperatures have been in the high 90s, and it’s supposed to get to 105° F over the weekend.

That’s not with the heat index. That’s what the actual temperature is supposed to be. Then, add in all the humidity that the DC area is known for during summer months, and you’ve got the makings of a VERY uncomfortable time.

I park my car in a garage at least a half mile from the office, which means a short walk uphill in the morning, and back down in the afternoon. You would think that my 9am walk to the office would be cooler.

You would be wrong.

I’ve been turning to dresses and skirts more often than I used to. That’s really how you know it’s hot out…I was renowned for wearing jeans at the height of summer when I was growing up. The only time I didn’t was for the string of years when I regularly suffered excruciating heat rash (mostly on the back of my neck, though not always just there).

While the heat rash tendencies subsided for a good while, I think it’s starting to come back — perhaps I’ll chalk that up to getting older.

Hence, the afore-mentioned attempt to battle the heat with wearing dresses and skirts. It’s just too hot for pants. And, while the dress code at my office is fairly lax, I don’t generally feel “right” wearing shorts to work. (Plus, I only have two pairs that could really be considered “nice” shorts. The rest are the ones I wear when working out in the yard, or hiking)

Luckily, I discovered the magic that is Cashmerette patterns this summer. The designs have been out for a while, and I’ve seen a number of other bloggers I follow touting their thoughtful design, but I hadn’t gotten around to making up any of the patterns.

Then I made a Concord tee, using a very lightweight sweater knit (I don’t even think you can consider it a sweater knit, it’s so lightweight, but I’m going to say it anyway), and I haven’t looked back.

I’ve got a couple of pattern review posts lined up, focused on the other Cashmerette patterns I’ve made so far. Since it’s so hot, I’ve been spending a lot of time in my sewing area, which is in the oh-so-cool basement (though, honestly, some days even the basement feels hot!). I guess I could look on the oppressive heat as a bonus in that way. So far, I’ve finished two Concord tees, a Springfield top, two Webster tops, a Turner dress, and a Lenox shirt dress, with another three patterns cut out and awaiting construction).

A Weekend of Selfish Sewing

Somehow, I managed to have a mostly free weekend.

I don’t know how I did that, which is slightly annoying, as I’d like a repeat. Oh well.

At any rate, I found myself with a Friday workday that ended a bit earlier than usual, and no immediate plans for the evening and the following Saturday. I’ve been reading back through one of my favorite book series (Patricia Briggs’ Mercedes Thompson series), and originally thought I might spend a few hours lost in a book. However, as I came down through my workshop after work (I have to pass through it to get to my room), I decided a wee bit of tidying was in order.

First, I hunted down my niddy-noddy and skeined three different bobbins of yarn. The cleared bobbins went back into the bin, and the bin went back to the top of one of the shelving units. Then,  I put the random buttons back in their respective places, sorted through the thread spools (I have a couple of spools that are almost out of thread, so I think some of my projects coming up are going to have random colors used on the seams).

Pattern crates went back on the shelf, pre-cut fabric was bundled by project and moved to an empty storage bin, my table-side trash bin was emptied, and the cutting table was cleared.

That left plenty of space to cut out some more patterns — my least favorite thing to do, but something that helps when I get the urge to make something quickly.

I cut out a favorite skirt pattern (It has pockets!) from some fun teal fabric I bought on sale the last time I was at the Quilter’s Studio. Even though the fabric originally has the “stripes” going horizontally, I opted to have them fall vertically. Even though this is the third time I’ve made this pattern, I always have a difficult time remembering how to do the side zip. It’s particularly fiddly, because it falls right at the pocket.

[Also, it calls for a 7″ zipper, which is about 1″ too short of the space you actually need to cover, leaving a little bit of a gap between the top of the zipper and the waistband.]

I finished the skirt with a bias tape hem, using a burnt orange color that I normally wouldn’t have chosen, but which coordinated well with the pattern and color on the skirt. Hooray for bins of sewing supplies gifted from friends’ grandmothers/great aunts! In one evening, I had a brand summer wardrobe item.

[The pockets came in handy mid-Saturday, when I stepped out to the garden to pick some rosemary for dinner, and ended up also picked some lemon thyme, chamomile, a bell pepper, and three pints of sugar snap peas.]

Saturday, I went ahead and cut out two new-to-me patterns from the indie designer Cashmerette. The patterns are designed specifically for curvy women, which is a big difference from most designers, indie or Big 4. Even better, in addition to providing a nice range of sizes, the patterns also allow for further size customization, depending on your cup size.

Now, that might not seem huge to some folks, but when you are used to having to do math and geometry for a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA in sewing lingo), having a pattern that takes this into account for you is a HUGE time saver. If you’re still having a problem understanding what this means: Using the contents of one pattern envelope, I can cut a shirt for three different size 18s: one with a C cup, one who wears an F cup, and one who wears a G or an H.

Her pattern sizes allow for an H cup, y’all. Hallelujah!

I’ve got three Cashmerette patterns in my stash at the moment: the Appleton dress, the Concord t-shirt, and the Turner dress. Since I don’t generally purchase many knit fabrics on a whim, I only had enough on hand to make two of the three. The Turner dress uses less fabric than the Appleton, so I opted to cut out the Turner and the Concord.

First up was the Concord. I used an extremely lightweight sweater knit mystery material that I bought way back when I still had a G Street Fabrics nearby in Seven Corners. [let us pause for a moment, in memory of the wonders of G Street Fabrics] The fabric is rather “floaty” for a sweater knit. Yes, that’s a technical term. Okay, the technical term would probably be “unstable.” It stretches pretty easily when it’s cut, which made for a bit of a challenge when pinning and sewing.

Within an hour of cutting everything out, though, I had a brand new shirt! Which I then proceeded to wear to bed, and then to church in the morning, and out bowling on Sunday afternoon. Yes, I went to bed in my clothes and woke up and went about my day without changing out completely. What of it? Well, actually, I did technically change out of it briefly, to put a camisole on underneath before heading out in public. Like I said, the fabric is extremely lightweight, and you can kind of see through it. But it’s also ridiculously soft and comfortable, and the shirt held up well during church, lunch, and five games of bowling in a sweltering bowling alley whose AC broke earlier in the week. I didn’t have to tug the shirt down ONCE during all five games! I’d call that a success.

The Turner dress didn’t take long to cut out and make, either. In fact, it would have taken even less time if the fabric I had been using wasn’t misbehaving during the cutting portion of the project. For whatever reason, the cotton jersey I was using had really weird, jagged edges. I don’t know how, but the area that was supposed to be a selvedge edge was all ragged and choppy.

With everything cut out, the whole thing went together rather quickly. Zip, zip, ZIP! I hurried to my room to try it on (at 1am), and almost cried when it fit near perfect, right out of the envelope. This never happens, folks. I always have to make adjustments to patterns, whether to allow for my boobs, or my butt. Especially when I’m making a skirt pattern! I always have to either add length to the back piece, or subtract it from the front, in order for the hem to be even all the way around. Not the case with the Turner dress.

I ended up wearing the dress on Sunday, too. After we got home from bowling, I was extremely, grossly sweaty [note of advice: if you go bowling at the neighborhood lanes, and it feels like the AC isn’t working, it probably isn’t and you probably shouldn’t be wearing jeans], so I changed out of the Concord tee and into the Turner dress. It’s perfect for when I’m lounging on the couch, since it’s much more comfortable when you don’t have to sit like a “lady” and can just flop onto the cushions. The length is perfect.

So, pattern review for two of my three Cashmerette patterns: ROUSING SUCCESS! The only thing I think I might change is to lower the armsythe on the Turner the tiniest little bit. Other than that, I didn’t need to change a thing! I went with the curved hem for the Concord t-shirt, which meant spending a little more time on the curved hem facing, but I loved the length, and I loved the fit. I also opted for scoop neck and the 3/4 length sleeves, but without the option of the sleeve tab. (I’m not generally a fan of sleeve tabs)

The instructions were also incredibly easy to follow, though the construction for both pieces was also pretty straight-forward. I’m excited to see how the instructions and patterns hold up for the other styles…so excited, in fact, that I’m running up to Stitch on my lunch break to pick up a couple more Cashmerette patterns and some more knit fabrics.

That, in itself, should tell you how pleased I am with this designer.

Strike Up the Band (Collar)

I started working on a new shirt pattern a few weeks ago…V8759. It’s similar to the dress shirts I’ve been making for Robert, using V8889, only it’s got a regular front placket, instead of the covered placket (also called a fly front) that V8889 calls for.

[Side note: anytime Robert wears the green chambray version of V8889 to work, his co-workers remark about him being dressed up…despite chambray not really being something one things of as “dressy.” Also, for more information than you probably want on shirt plackets, check out this brief overview on Proper Cloth.]

Since it’s getting warmer — in theory, despite the 50-degree temps we’re still experiencing with regularity — I thought it would be a good idea to make a short-sleeved version. That, and I only purchased 2 yards of fabric with this shirt in mind. I probably could have moved things around to get everything cut out of what I had, but…I didn’t want to.

The main fabric is a beautiful yarn-dyed cotton in cobalt blue that I picked up from Stitch Sew Shop the other day. I had so much fun working with it that I’m pretty sure I’m going to swing back over there on a lunch break and pick up some more in different colors.

I had worked through the front pieces and stitched together the center and side back sections, and was just about to grab the back yoke when I realized…I had only cut one of that piece. This turned out to be a fortuitous oversight. I had enough of the blue cotton to cut out the missing piece, but I decided I wanted to do something a little different for the inside of the yoke.

I had purchased a constellation print fat quarter from Modern Domestic during one of my Portland trips last year. I didn’t have a specific plan for it when I picked it up. I just knew I liked it. Which, to be honest, defines more than half of what is in my stash. I had enough to cut the yoke, and still have enough fabric to cut a couple of strips on the bias, for binding.

The directions for this pattern call for using French seams, as opposed to the flat-felled seams of the dressier V8889. It’s been a while since I’ve used French seams, though I used to use them for everything (It’s just such an easy-ish way to finish seams when you don’t have a serger and don’t want to just zigzag the edges). I still think I might like the flat-felled seams for this pattern. Especially since the short sleeve will make it easier to stitch the flat-felled seam without the fear of catching the fabric, like when I sew the long-sleeved dress shirts.

I used the bias binding hem trick for this shirt, like I did on the green chambray shirt — you might remember that one had little velociraptors on it. I also cut two thinner bias strips, folded them in half lengthwise, and used them for an added little design pop on the sleeve hems. Sort of like piping, only not quite.

Robert requested a shirt with a band collar on it, which made constructing this shirt even easier. You don’t have to bother cutting out a different pattern piece…you just leave the top of the collar off and just use the collar band. Thus, getting a band collar. Simplicity!

A little peek of stars

I searched through my bins of vintage and random buttons and managed to find enough coordinating blue ones for the front of the shirt, and VOILA!

A new shirt.

I have to say, I really like the coordinating yoke lining and bias binding on the hem, and have already decided to make that a recurring design feature of Robert’s other shirts.

I’m also really pleased with the way the Vogue menswear patterns are

I told him he was allowed to smile for these.

working out so far. The directions for both V8889 and V8759 have been clear (with the exception of a wee bit of confusion on my part regarding the tower plackets for the long-sleeves on V8889), and I haven’t needed to do any adjustments to make the patterns work for Robert’s size. This is, honestly, a wonder to me, as the difference between Robert’s shoulder and waist measurements are pretty significant. If a ready-to-made shirt fits his shoulders, the rest of him is generally swimming in it. Not so with the Vogue patterns. They have fit perfectly, with no adjustments needed.That’s a nice plus.

I’ve already gone ahead and cut out two more of the same pattern, using similar yarn-dyed cotton in two different colors. I haven’t yet found a coordinating “fun” fat quarter for the inner yoke of the fourth shirt (which is a teal/white plaid), so that one is on hold at the moment, in terms of cutting.

By now, I’ve finished the second shirt (in a colorway called “Peacock”), and I am halfway finished with the third one. As you can see, Alvin decided to help.

Sometimes, You Fail

cutting out the lining

I’ve had Butterick 5951 in my “Ooo! I want this!” pattern pile for a little while now. Last weekend, I finally pulled it out of the envelope, pulled some fabric out of my stash, and got to work. I cut the bodice of View A and the skirt of View C and have been sewing on it over the past couple of days – a little bit here, a little bit there. Usually, I want to get through a project SO FAST! because I’m anxious to try it on and see how it fits. While I admit I still wanted to know how this pattern would look, I really wanted to take my time, enjoying the process, spending a little more time getting to know my sewing machine, etc.

I love a clean finish to the lining

I was also really enjoying little things like delicately slip-stitching the lining along the zipper tape, and fixing a slight mistake that occurred while I was cutting out the pieces. Sometimes, it’s nice to take your time and not hurriedly rush through a project, with a deadline hanging over your head.

When I cut out the front bodice pieces, I realized that the fabric was uneven along the bottom side, which meant one side of the bodice needed a little patch.

Last night, I wrapped up all the finishing except the final hem. I went to my room to slip it on and check the fit…

…and I hated it.

It was just wrong, wrong, wrong. The wrong style, the wrong fabric…everything was just wrong.

the patched bodice corner, from the wrong side.

And, while there are often things you can do to tweak a pattern and make it work, I honestly don’t think I could tweak the whole thing enough to make me happy with it. It’s just not-right-for-me overall.

Which is frustrating, when I’ve spent so much time on it, and was excited to see how it turned out. But that’s, unfortunately, part and parcel of any great sewing adventure. Sometimes, you fail. Sometimes, you do everything right and it still doesn’t work. Even after 20+ years of sewing, it still happens to me. And probably on a more regular basis than I would like.

Not to worry, though. I plan to take the pieces back apart and use the different components in other projects. The skirt gives me the most material to work with, and I already have an idea about how I’m going to use it.

[I should note…the lining for this dress was already salvaged from a different failed pattern experiment. Sometimes, you fail repeatedly.]

And they call the wind Bernina

That reference doesn’t really make much sense at all, but I needed a title for this post, and sometimes they just don’t come, and you end up with a stinker like that. Oh well.

A while back (much more than a year ::wince::), I helped my friend David move all of his grandmother’s things out of her old house. She had a lovely sewing collection – jars of vintage buttons, bins of vintage thread, a giant Tupperware full of binding and hem tape – and he was kind enough to pass on a number of those things to me. And, believe me, they have been getting a lot of use. I haven’t had to buy buttons for a project in some time, and I made a bunch of baby bibs last summer that each had a different color of binding.

One of the things that David included in that oh-so-kind giveaway was this little beauty.

That right there is a Bernina 1260.

Now, for those who might not know, Bernina is a really good sewing machine. I have heard it referred to as the Cadillac of sewing machines. Growing up, I always worked with Singer machines, which are not bad, but are a lot easier to find and get your hands on. For one, most of them don’t require financing, the way most Berninas do.

The Singer that Mom had purchased for me was humming along just fine at the time, so I wasn’t necessarily looking for a new machine. David was originally planning to take the Bernina home, himself, but at the end of the day, as we were packing up the last few things, he looked at the box and said “You know what? You sew a lot more than I do, and would probably get more use out of this than I would. Why don’t you take it?”

I asked him several times if he was absolutely sure. Like I said, Bernina is a good company. Even though the 1260 is an older machine (made in the 90s, I think, and believe me…it hurts to call anything from the 90s “older”), it is still a great, dependable machine. Plus, it’s made of metal, unlike pretty much everything made nowadays. It feels like a more permanent, steady, reliable machine because it’s not made out of plastic.

The machine and the accompanying sewing cabinet sat at the church for a little while, until I could finally clean out the basement area and set up space for it. Finally, I was able to move it in, set it up, plug it in, and hit the power button…only to have the light briefly flash and then die.

I figured it was probably a fuse, which was inconvenient. You can change those yourself, but it’s difficult to get in there and change everything out, and I wasn’t comfortable taking everything apart myself. So the machine sat on the table for a lot longer than I really want to admit, waiting for when I had the free time to pack everything up and cart it over to the shop.

Back in January, my office was closed for the Inauguration (one of the perks of being located in the DC metro area), and I knew the Quilt Patch was going to be open. I called ahead to make an appointment to drop off the Bernina, and was told the turn around was around two weeks.

Saturday morning, a little more than two weeks later, I headed back to the Quilt Patch. The machine is back, and everything is fixed. It turns out it wasn’t the fuse after all. The power supply had to be replaced. Since the machine is older, you can’t get a new part, but the repairman happened to have a rebuilt motherboard on hand. He then proceeded to tell me it was a real nice machine, with a smooth satin stitch, and that it was worth it to replace the broken part instead of getting a new machine.

Always something I like to hear.

The gummy bear council has deemed the machine worthy of use.

I switched my machines out (don’t worry, I still expect to get some use out of my old machine – especially since she’s much easier to cart around than the Bernina. The sewing table that David gave me is designed specifically for my “new” machine, with a nifty clear drop in that makes the sewing plate even with the rest of the surface, instead of the fabric having to shift up and over and back down the Singer’s plate.

Knowing I needed to jump into a project in order to know Bernadette (as I shall now call her) a little better, I busted out a pattern I had picked up a few months earlier, but hadn’t yet gotten around to.

I had been impressed by the design and instructions for the Comox trunks, by Thread Theory, so I picked up a few more of their patterns, to add to Robert’s handmade wardrobe. Since I’ve now made him two shirts, I thought I would try my hand at a pair of pants. The Jutland Pants were the obvious-to-me choice, as they are similar to the pants Robert already wears.

I showed him the pattern, and he was intrigued…but he had a request. He likes cargo pockets, but he prefers ones that are inset, much like a welt pocket, rather than the ones that have a flap on them. Could I make a pair like that? I think I probably can, but for the first run at the pattern, I’m going to move forward, just following the pattern as written. If the fit works, then I will attempt what he has requested with the second pair.

Finding suitable fabric to make a (hopefully) wearable muslin was a challenge of its own, largely owing to the fact that I was tired that day and really didn’t want to trudge out to the regular fabric store. Instead, I headed to Walmart, where I figured they would have some twill fabric. I did find a lovely, brushed twill in beige, but there was barely a yard on the bolt. I settled for some chocolate brown cotton canvas, and another, lighter tan twill that has a slightly slick feel (it’s supposed to cut down on wrinkles, and repel a little bit of water).

Knowing I only needed about half a yard of fabric for the waistband facing, pocket, and lining the cargo pocket flap, I dug around in my stash boxes at home. I pulled out a box of fabric that came from my grandmother’s house – some of them reclaimed from old dresses or shirts, and some of them, miraculously, several yards of uncut cotton prints. I opted for a dark green/black/ever-so-slightly-visible-pink plaid. i can’t remember exactly what it used to be, but I know I reclaimed it from a previous garment. I can still see some of the old stitch holes, and there were obviously darts in the original piece. I had just enough for all of the pieces I needed, with enough scraps left over that they can be used for quilt squares or other small projects.

[I love it when a new sewing project can have little bit of history in it, like this pair of pants.]

I had picked up some metal zippers when I was at Walmart, but I didn’t have any jeans buttons, and the zippers weren’t quite right, so I ended up swinging by Stitch later, during one of my lunch breaks. So convenient to have that shop around the corner from work!

Most of the construction for the pants breezed along pretty easily. The directions are incredibly detailed, with little blurbs about terminology for those who might be new to sewing. I thought that was a great touch, as many other patterns assume you are familiar with all sewing terms. That’s not generally the case, starting out. [I’ve been sewing for at least 25 years, and I’m still learning things.] The only section I had trouble with was the section focused on the zipper fly front. I read, re-read, re-re-read those instructions so many times! I’m still unsure whether I put the zipper shield on correctly, but the pants seem to work fine.

I loved the plaid lining for the flap….but the placement of the pockets didn’t work out and I ended up removing them all together

Mid-way through the construction, I had Robert try on one of the legs. I was worried about the fit at that time, as it looked like they might end up being too tight when everything was finished. Turns out, I shouldn’t have worried about that part. Robert had mentioned that his usual, store-bought 30s were starting to not fit right, so I cut the 32 size. It’s a little roomier than I think Robert really wants, so I think I will aim for a midway point between the two sizes when I cut out the next one. The knee patches need to be moved up about 4 inches, and the cargo pockets on the side were also situated too low. This should be solved by making a length adjustment to the pattern before cutting out the next pieces. I’m going to remove the pockets from the first wearable muslin, so they won’t look weird, but I’ve made some notes for the next version. Robert also requested I reinforce the corner of the right-hand front pocket, to allow for where his knife clips to his pocket.

The first stab at sewing up the Jutland pants took about 12 hours, spread over four days. [Keep in mind that I only had a few hours here and there to work on them.] That includes cutting out the pattern, the actual construction, and the final fitting/hems. I feel pretty confident that I could get that time cut down a fair bit, as I become more familiar with the pattern. Of course, working with welt pockets will probably slow me down considerably. I dislike sewing welt pockets, even if they end up looking nice.

Bernadette came through for me on this project. There were a couple of hiccups here

Robert’s initials, stitched onto the back pocket

and there – mostly when lint build-up affected the thread tension, or when I had to experiment to figure out how to position the needle to sew with the zipper foot, but the machine did all of the things I needed it to do. I was even able to add a little personalized touch to one of the back pockets. I think, with some extra practice, I’ll be able to do some great things with this machine.

Updates on the ‘Do

The To-Do List, that is.

The list now looks like this:

  • Robert’s green chambray V8889 – FINISHED
  • Oakley slouch hat (crochet) in “Mermaid Musings” colorway, from A Treehugger’s Wife Yarn – halfway finished
  • Lizard shawl (crochet) – finishing tonight
  • Caterpillar Mitts (knitting)- FINISHED
  • Nessie (crochet) – FINISHED
  • Lost Souls shawl (crochet) – this would have been done long ago, but it is currently in a box in the storeroom, sitting under three other boxes
  • Multiplicity Buttoned scarf (crochet) – finishing tonight
  • pattern weights – I’ve got about twelve of them done, but I have at least fifteen more that need to be filled and sewn up
  • woodblock/Irish chain quilt
  • sawtooth quilt
  • super-secret-almost-finished restoration project
  • alpaca fleece – halfway finished with combing, have started spinning
  • Shetland ram lamb fleece – 1/8 finished with combing
  • Spinning: By the Sea colorway from Avalon Springs Farms
  • several items in the mending bin

That’s three projects done, and two more that will be completed by this evening! That means I can start another one, right?

[Just kidding…I want to knock out a couple more of these items before I start anything new.]

I took a break on Robert’s shirt about two-thirds of the way through, to work on Nessie and the mitts (which sounds like a band name). Not because I was overwhelmed. Honestly, I was just putting off my least favorite parts of the pattern – sewing the flat-felled side/underarm seams.

The first time around, that part took forever, so I figured it would be the same this time, too. It was actually a lot easier and faster, once I got down to it. In fact, I think I finally figured out the best method to sew everything down without a) catching the rest of the fabric under the stitching and 2) having to start and stop and move the needle and adjust everything a million times. I even wrote a note to myself in the pattern, so I won’t forget next time.

Of course, once the sleeves were done, the shirt was all done except for the buttons, holes and a final hem. Again, not a favorite thing to do. I hate sewing buttons and button holes. I mean, hate, hate, hate doing them. I’m pretty sure this stems from my years as a costume mistress in my high school theater days, when one of the actors (totally going to call out Cory Moone, even though I’m pretty sure he doesn’t read this) consistently told me about missing buttons and closures on opening night.

[I’m not exaggerating about this. One time, Cory came to me 20 minutes before curtain to tell me that he didn’t have elastic in his pants. Or a button on his other pants. And that his shirt, for some reason, was missing a buttonhole all together. Another time, he caught me during a costume change and dropped the revelation that his vest – for the scene that was about to start in 2 minutes – didn’t have buttons. That last one? I glared at him and safety pinned his vest shut. When he said “but it doesn’t look right,” I responded “If you had told me earlier today, when I asked if you needed anything, it would have. Deal with it for now.”]

Anyway, the buttonholes went a lot faster this time around than they usually do and – miracle of miracles – I didn’t mess any of them up. I’ve started using an Exact-o knife to split the buttonholes, rather than trying to snip them with tiny scissors. I’ve found I get a nicer finish, and I’m less likely to accidentally cut through the stitching.

Since the buttons on the front of the shirt are hidden by the folded front placket, it’s not as important that they match all of the other buttons on the shirt. That helps, when you’re sifting through jars and bins of assorted buttons. For Robert’s shirt, I used five plain, white pearlescent four-hole buttons. Since you can see the collar button, I opted for a small square button of clear, green plastic. The buttons on the cuffs and sleeve plackets are vintage gray-green plastic box-shank buttons that go so well with the color of the shirt.

I wanted to try a new-to-me technique when it came to the hem, using bias tape to make the curved bottom edge easier to navigate. I have a nice selection of store-bought bias tape, courtesy of three different friends’ great aunts’/grandmothers’ sewing rooms, which would have been the easy route…but I was already sort of on a customization kick and asked Robert if it was okay if I made my own bias tape using a wacky print. He was fine, as long as it didn’t show through to the front.

I pawed through the scraps I had in my odds and ends bin, pulling out the pieces that were big enough that I could cut a few strips on the bias. Then, I sorted those choices by color, tossing back the ones that *REALLY* didn’t work, as well as the ones that fit the general color scheme but that I wasn’t in love with. That brought me down to five choices, which I narrowed further by taking out the ones where the print was too big to work with the narrow binding. That brought me to two choices, which I ran past Robert.

20170201_191639I didn’t tell him I was leaning toward the dinosaur print, letting him make his own choice. Guess which one he went with?

20170201_205338I cut several 1″-wide bias strips from the fat quarter and stitched them together. Then I folded one long edge down a quarter of an inch and hit it with the iron. You stitch the binding to the shirt edge with the right sides of the fabric together, iron the seam and flip the bias strip to the back. I used my new wonderclips to hold the binding in place (instead of pins), and stitched everything down.

And the shirt is done!

[Of course, then I tripped up the stairs whilst carrying it and it went straight into the litter box at the top of the stairs, which meant it then went straight into the washing machine. At least it was a recently scooped litter box.]20170201_205816