Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wool Jersey Gym Shorts - Free Pattern

These are a great pair of shorts. I'm so happy with the results that I plan on making more. Thanks to the kind and gentle folks at Purl Bee! I made these out of an old wool jersey skirt that I ended up wearing only once. The fabric is actually preshrunk, so I should be able to wash these in cold water, and line dry it.

The wool skirt was one of those early sewing projects where I bit off more than I could chew. The trim was made from the leftover fabric from my love-hate chambray wool and cotton skirt (a handsewn piece from 2012). I guess you could call this an upcycle project.

Side view of the shorts.

Selfie of my shorts.

There are only two pieces to the pattern, and it comes in four sizes. The waistband was measured out according to the instructions. Since I used a wool jersey, it stretched more than the recommended waistband size. I suggest measuring for more if you decide to use a similar fabric. This project was so easy, I only needed to read the instructions once. This could easily be a two-hour project if you have ready-made bias tape. The only thing that could make these better would be pockets.

I don't think I ever wrote about this jersey wool skirt I made three years ago. But here it is right before I unripped it for the gym shorts. It was originally a Donna Karan skirt, I turned into a asymmetrical Japanese-esque wrap skirt. My mistake at the time was thinking I could tackle a Donna Karan Vogue pattern so early into my re-entry into sewing. I know now after countless DK patterns, that I needed more sewing notches under my belt first.

I might have enough for a matching wool jersey tank. Did you know that wool jersey is great for layering? It's lighter and less bulky than fleece or regular sweatshirt knits. But just as soft and cuddly.

You can get the free City Gym Shorts pattern HERE.  Purl Bee has two versions, one made from cotton, and a second pair made from wool. Either way, they use the same pattern. They have a kit you can buy too. But I have plenty in my stash and closet for these shorts. The shorts don't require a lot of fabric, so an upcycle is pretty darn perfect for it too. Happy sewing!!!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Style Arc Elle Stretch Pants

This could be a two hour project if using the correct fabric.

First of all...I'm not supposed to be using a stretch denim or a stretch cotton. Neither of these fabrics have enough stretch...but I made them anyway. I sewed the pants three times before I got the size correct. To hide my pot belly, I brought the waist up super high. Big-Girl Pants!

Here's what I did... This is a snake metallic, stretch denim, and I love them. If you want to make these, you'll need to order a size up or two from the pattern, and pull the waist higher a couple of inches. But it could also look fine without. I have a bit longer torso so I prefer high waists when possible. I did not order a size up...I just graded the pattern. Measure! Measure! Measure! Remember if you've got a pot belly like mine, and a pancake tushie, then your front piece will curve slightly higher than the back. I think I could have tapered the ankles more...oh well, next pair then.

These are almost skinny jeans and less like leggings. It's a very forgiving fabric. Dress them up or down. 

Here's what it looks like on my dress form...the lighting is better, so you can see the metallic gold snake print. Isn't it cool? I bought this at the discount table at Joanns for $3 a yard (might have been less with the additional discount.) Another one of those amazing finds in a place I least expected. 

If you're using a pattern...make sure you match the grain exactly. I did it with this pair, and the striped one below. Any inch off, the design will run amuck.
Here's the other pair I made out of a lovely striped cotton stretch pants. It's a thicker cotton, and extremely comfortable. I made it out of the original size, so it was too small for me. I gave it to my daughter's friend. She loves them. The waistband pattern did not match, but no one sees that anyway. Look at the matchy matchy legs though. I wish I had more of this fabric, so I could make another pair for myself.

 This striped fabric was from Stone Mountain Fabrics in Berkeley. I purchased it about ten years ago. Still as lovely as the first day I bought it.

Here is the pattern in case anyone is interested in making these. They are super easy, but I recommend using the proper four-way stretch fabric necessary if you're keeping to your true size.  I feel like after converting this, I could grade any stretch fabric pattern to a semi-stretch.  Happy sewing!!!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Perfecting Men's Shirts - Pattern Review

I'm scared to sew men's shirts...but I think I'm just scared to sew shirts in general. At least for men, there aren't any bust darts to fiddle with. But I've come to the conclusion that unless I really try to come clean and practice sewing shirts, I'm omitting (or avoiding) learning and improving some basic sewing skills. In one shirt, I can learn how to sew a:
  • Collar
  • Collar stand
  • Front placket
  • Set buttonholes
  • Cuff placket
  • Cuff
  • Set-in sleeves
  • Patch pocket
  • French seams
  • Hand-basting
  • Interfacing placement
I have finally improved on the collar and collar stand now. After making a couple of vests, and unsuccessful shirts, I feel like I know what I need to look for in a good design and pattern. But before I could tackle a shirt, I really needed to test some patterns. This could require more than one muslin. (Sad but true.)

Here is an iffy men's pattern to least for size 44 anyway. I note "iffy" because I can be pretty bad at reading pattern instructions when I'm tired. I want to err on my clumsy side. But this pattern had a lot of issues for me. I think that poor sewing instructions is equally as bad as poorly drafted patterns. In more Vogue Patterns that I'd like to count, I have found this to be the case.  Vogue V8759 was no exception. I'd like to hear if others had problems too.

The collar stand didn't fit the neck well. I had to trim it back nearly an inch to make it flush. The ease that they said it had, really didn't seem to exist. It said there was a four inch ease. But it really didn't measure out that way. The sleeve doesn't feel right in the shoulders. Even though it "looks" okay, it doesn't feel correct when on. It seems to pull at the back armhole. I had my brother-in-law, who is three sizes smaller try it on, and he still felt like the shoulders were uncomfortable. This men's shirt is on my female dress disregard the feminine silhouette.

No buttons yet. I might turn this into a work shirt for myself. 

There are French seams in the back, but they are difficult to see in the photo.
One of the key pattern requirements I want is a different collar and stand for different sizes. I think when all the sizes are printed into one pattern piece, fit can be become a problem. I have difficulty cutting the exact size on those tiny size lines that are squeezed into corners. Does anyone else have this problem? Patterns where there are size-specific patterns make for better matching, and there is less room for error. This is one reason why I like StyleArc Patterns.

This Vogue Pattern was scrapped.

This is an excellent men's shirt pattern. I mean EXCELLENT. Not only did Simplicity give me separate and specific sizes for the collar. I found the instructions very clear. Also, many industrial sewing techniques were included into the instructions. If you want to pick up some good professional sewing tips...make this shirt. It is also true to size.

I want to mention that I have been happy with many Simplicity Pattern results as compared to other patterns.

This muslin may go to my eldest son, since he has much longer arms than my hubby.

Placket instructions looked intimidating, but after careful reading and turned out.
Careful to match up the cuff pleats to the cuff size though. I folded it wrong on one sleeve,
and the cuff size was off. But that was a user error, and not the pattern.
I am still in the muslin stage for this shirt. The Simplicity pattern was a great fit overall, but it had not been tailored to my husband yet. Once I get that out of the way, and create a second muslin. Yes, you heard me, a second muslin. I sewed this linen shirt in a 44, and although it fit him in the waist, it was slightly tight in the collar, sleeves were too long, and the shoulders too broad. My hubby has a thick neck, narrow shoulders, short arms, and a large waist.

It the pattern alterations are successful, I will only have to do two muslins.  But I'm not going to hold my breath. I can't wait to cut into some beautiful shirting fabric I got at the Robert Talbott outlet. I also have Robert Talbott silk fabric for men's ties. That's another project that's happening soon. Stay tuned everyone...and happy sewing!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Making a Copy of My Stepmother's Favorite Pants

My stepmother lives in Hong Kong, and turned 96 years old this year. She is healthy, alert, and free of meds. She has lived a very unusual life compared to mine. I am amazed at her survival abilities, and her ingenuity. My stepmother never went to school, and is barely able to read except a few words. With this disadvantage, she still managed to learn how to memorize bus routes, and do basic math. She also knows how to repair stools, cook precisely, and sew her own clothes. (Just to name a few...)

On my sister's last trip to Hong Kong, she brought home an old pair of cotton pants that my stepmother made completely by hand. This includes the measuring, cutting, and hand stitching. My sister gave me the task of copying these favorite pants of hers, and creating a new pair.

My stepmother's original handstitched pants.
 To the left of her pants is red elastic she used as a drawstring. At the waist, my stepmother left an opening where she could pull the elastic through to adjust her waist size. By using elastic, it made for more comfort and customization. The pant looked simple enough to transfer.

A while back, I created a large, long cork board to use for transferring ready-to-wear clothes into paper patterns. Here is the board, which fits nicely on my small fold out table.

I placed a large tissue paper underneath the pants, and used push pins to hold the pants steady. I took a sharp dowel, which has a rather large point, and poked little holes around the outline of the pants.
I only had to do one pant leg. Then I added seam allowances.

My stepmother's pants do not have side seams. So the side seams are placed on the fold. Basically, there's only three lines to stitch to piece it together: the front and back of the seat, and the crotch line. Pretty brilliant design huh? She pretty much perfected it after 30 or 40 years of sewing these pants.

Here's my pattern all sewn up. I used a cotton stretch poplin. It is slightly heavier, and great for cool Summer wear, and it gets pretty hot and humid in Hong Kong. These are similar to Kung Fu pants which have a wide crotch. These allow for a lot of movement and stretch. Squatting is a common resting pose.

Close-up of the tie in the front. I created a similar elastic waistband, except I attached the same cotton fabric to the end of the elastic piece. The cotton fabric is sewn together, so the strap never gets lost in the pants.

See how the strap is one complete loop, and she never worries about losing it in the wash?

I created button holes on the inside waist to pull the tie/elastic through. I also secured the elastic at center back so the strap does not slide around as much.
I think it turned out pretty good for my first try. I might copy this pattern and make a pair for myself. They look really comfy.

Here's my 96 trying to smile with her mouth full. Happy sewing everyone!