05 December 2007

V8157B (First Successful Pair of Pants)

Brief History:
One reason behind my desire to learn how to sew is the poor selection of pants for someone of my height. I am 4'11" tall (5' on a good day) and have a hard time finding pants that fit and are the right length. Petite sizes used to be tolerable, but over time it appears as if the petites have grown in length. Frustrated with always having to fold the cuff, or weight extra height so that my hems don't drag the floor, I decided to learn to make pants for myself.

My very first pair of pants (made about 2.5 - 3 years ago) were quite discouraging. I sewed the pair straight out of the package according to my hip measurement. I had no idea about crotch length, crotch depth, or any other pants fitting related issues. I just knew that when I tried the on the pants, they were quite uncomfortable. I returned to making skirts and did not directly revisit pants making again until last summer when I took a pants drafting class.

This class, albeit informative, was too much for me at that time. I had not been successful with sewing in general and was now in a class learning how to draft a pants pattern from scratch. I am glad that I took the class as I learned much about my problem areas, wrinkles, and making muslins. I also have a pants sloper fitted to my measurements. The pants that I started as a part of the class have yet to be finished and are officially marked off line.

I saw a few reviews of this pattern on Pattern Review (PR) and was immediately intrigued. The pattern only has four pieces and one page of directions. Because I really wanted to make a pair of pants, I constantly referred to the book Fit for Real People, various magazine articles, and the reviews written by others on PR. This time I felt ready and motivated to begin.

Planning & Construction (Red):
Fabric: Red stretch cotton-mix woven

I traced (waist to mid thigh) a size 18 onto muslin fabric. I inserted the zipper and sewed the pants and waistband. As in the very first pair of pants I made, the back crotch length was too short to accommodate the junk in my trunk. So, I cut the muslin on a line drafted perpendicular to the grainline. I spread the muslin 2" and filled the gap with other muslin scraps. To save time, I fused the pieces together using fabric glue and pressed.

The newly adjusted muslin was perfect - in the back at least. It gave me enough room for sitting without having the dreaded plumber's butt effect. The front and sides seemed to fit well but appeared to be too big. Anticipating the extra give afforded by the stretch material, I decided to trace a paper pattern size 17 (between 16 and 18). Additionally, I shortened the length of the pattern 3" for my height.

To test the new pattern, I used a red stretch woven I had in my stash. The intention was for this to be another muslin to assess the fit. When I sewed it together and tried it on, it was entirely TOO big. I ended up taking 1 1/4" off the outseams and 1" off the inseams. The finished result is still a little big, but certainly not as much as before. The back and front crotch lengths feel good as well as the waistband.

When constructing the waistband, apparently I fused the interfacing to the incorrect pieces. The result is that the waistband is actually attached backwards. The larger flap is to the inside instead of the outside.
I don't particularly like the instructions for attaching the waistband. The instructions say to attach the interfaced pieces to the pants first, then attach the non-interfaced pieces to that. Doing it this way made it much more difficult for me to understitch and keep everything evenly fed. Maybe I did something wrong. I don't know.

In my second attempt at this pattern, I attached both sets of waistband peices together first, understitched, and then treated that unit as one and attached it to the pants. This worked out far better than before. In fact, it is this method that is used in attaching the waistband in KS2788. It just makes more sense to me. To finish the waistband, I added simple snaps as closures.

Planning & Construction (Brown):
Fabric: Dark brown stretch denim

For the second attempt, I made considerable changes. This time, I traced a paper pattern size 14 on the front and back pieces and a size 16 for the waistband. When I sewed them together, I used a seam allowance slightly larger than 5/8" for all four side seams, and a regular 5/8" allowance for the crotch curve and waistband. This time, a size 14 fit much better in the legs, but proved to be a bit too short in the crotch length - even with the intial 2" spread. When I make these pants the next time, I will cut a crotch length of 16 and 14 everywhere else. The pants are comfortable and wearable, but there is a noticeable difference between this pair and the first.
To give the pants a snazzy look, I used peach-coloured thread for topstitching. I attempted to topstitch the outer side seam but found that it is best to do that before stitching the inseams. Since I had already serged the inseams, I decided to forego the topstitching there and save that for the next pair.

I wore these pants to work on Monday and got many nice comments. I'm happy about the pants and will definitely make more.

17 July 2007

JCrew Geo Print Skirt

I had been meaning to make the skirt ever since I found this fabric at a Hancock's liquidation sale. When I first saw it, I immediately thought of JCrew (I have no idea why) and I knew it was going to be a skirt.

I did not do any prefitting as I am using a pattern (New Look 6300) that I made a couple of years ago. Since that skirt fit well, I decided to press on with the construction of the next view. When I pin-fit the cut pieces, it looked good to me.

The pattern called for a lapped zipper, which I did on the first version. It came out very well and I am pleased with the result. However, I wanted to try my hand at an invisible zipper. This was my first time inserting one and it took a few tries to get it right. First, I took some scraps of fabric and practiced the technique. The zipper went in like a dream on my first try! I was so excited and pumped up about it that I immediately got started on my fashion fabric. I don't quite remember what happened with my first try there, but I do remember having to pick the stitches and remove the zipper. I also remember having to pick and re-pick several times after that due to silly errors. For example, I inserted the zipper in some way that made the two back pieces really uneven at the waist seam. Then after I corrected that, I inserted one half of the zipper backwards, twice. Frustrated and fed up, I put it down for a day or two, came back to it the next time and finally got it right.

After resolving the zipper issue, I started working on the lining pieces. I decided to line this skirt since the cotton fabric was too thin for my taste. I assembled and inserted the lining using the directions I found on a Threads Website When I first read the instructions, I have to admit that they did not make much sense. But, I followed them anyway because I figured they had to work or else they would not be there! It worked, wonderfully! To finish the skirt, I tacked the lining seam allowance to the zipper tape and serged the bottom of the lining.

I intend to make another version of these skirts. Next time, I will slash and spread the back piece between 1/2 to 1" to accommodate my protruding seat. This skirt seems to hike up a bit once it has settled on my hips. I never noticed the need for this adjustment since my first attempt was a floor length skirt.

This skirt is officially added to my working rotation!

15 July 2007

The Skirt that Would be Kwik Sew 2788B

This is my second attempt at Kwik Sew 2788B. I was determined not to let this inanimate object get the best of me. Immediately after completing the first disaster, I began work on this same skirt again. This time, I used a very dark blue stretch twill from the Fabric Warehouse (in MI). This choice of fabric already was a step in the right direction. It would later prove to give the ease and stretch I need around me chunky parts. The completion of the second attempt at this skirt, however, did not come without much blood (from pin-pricked fingers), sweat (it was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit for a few days), and shears (self-explanatory). As mentioned in a previous post, the first attempt at this pattern did not turn out well.

Here are some changes I made in constructing this garment:
  • I left the waistband alone
  • shortened the zipper 2"
  • omitted seam allowance on CB and cut on the fold

The skirt fits well, although there are some issues left to be resolved. For one, how do I insert the hooks & eyes without having thread show through on the front of the waistband? Common sense now tells me to insert the them before the waistband is turned inside out. But, that's not what the instructions say. So, that's a change to make next time.

I do not know what happened with this part of the waistband. When I stitched it, I was careful and clipped the corners. But, this still looks strange. You can't tell from the that it's like this, but it annoys me not to know what went wrong.

In all, I am satisfied with the skirt. I've already worn it to work and received nice compliments. I plan to make a couple more of these skirts. Next time, I will take a bit of length from the crotch area, take in the waistband 1/4", and take a deeper hem.

21 June 2007

Confessions of an Ill-fitting Skirt (Kwik Sew 2788-B)

I started working on this skirt about a week ago. The inspiration came from RTW garments that I've seen over the past few weeks from JCrew and Gap.

The picture in my mind was so very clear: a tan or khaki medium weight cotton zipper fly front skirt with a contoured waistband worn 1" below the waist. Paired with a simple blouse or knit top, it is all the rage of summer fashion. Having this in mind, I started the construction of this garment.

Confession #1: Constructing this skirt has been daunting, to say the least.

Inserting the fly-front zipper was extremely difficult. I had done one or two in the past, but for some reason it just was not working this time around. I had to unpick the stitches so many times, that I developed a nice rhythm. When I finally got the zipper in, it looked so-so. The fly front created this 'tenting' affect that seemed to protrude the fabric outward...making it appear as if I had an unflattering extra body part. Hmm...at that time I decided to do nothing about it. I am so glad that later I did.

Confession #2: Much to my chagrin, I did not do any pre-fitting.

I cut out a size large and sewed all vertical seams. Upon trying on the skirt, I found that it was way too big. So, I took larger seam allowances (~1") and lopped off any extra fabric. Success is near...so I thought. I attached the waistband and tried it on. I could hardly wrap the waistband around my waist! The darn thing was now too small!! Sigh.

Determined not to be defeated by this skirt, I unpicked everything. I removed the waistband, side seams, and fly front zipper. Basically, I started from scratch. Here are some changes I made: I extended the waistband width 1" (bad idea), took smaller seam allowances on CB and side seams, and shortened the zipper front 2" (good idea). The drafted zipper front was too long for my short frame and just did not look proportional to my height. If you look closely, you can tell that the front has been shortened since the fabric was not very forgiving when it came to removing stitches and needle marks.

Confession #3: Adding width to a piece doesn't necessarily make it wide.

I extended the wasitband width becuase I really liked the look of a wide waistband. With my limited pattern design knowledge, I thought that simply adding 1" to the outside curve of the waistband would do the trick. Well, it didn't. Instead, it actually pushed the garment down on my hips one or two inches - leaving nasty folds in a most unpleasant spot. I pondered this situation for a few days and realized that I should have also taken off an inch from the tops of the front and back pieces. Oh well, you live and learn.

Confession #4: A zipper is a conundrum of sorts. It presents a quick, easy method of closing an opening - but can be the most difficult, and painstaking to insert. Hmm...must have been thought of by a man. =)

After inserting and removing the mock-fly zipper at least four times, the fifth time proved to be the best. Everything went in smoothly (it should have since the fabric was nice and pliable by then) and the seam was flat, without puckers. Yes, I had conquered the evil demon that lurks between the zipper coils. After feeling quite good about the zipper, I continued with the rest of the garment. I attached the yet-to-be-realized-pucker-producing ill-fitting wasitband, understitched, and turned the waistband right side out. I cut off the extra zipper tape and went to try on the skirt and then............I pulled the zipper tab right off the track. You have got to be kidding me, right?! SIGH. I tried and tried to put that tab back on track, but nothing worked. So, here we go with the seam ripper again. Feeling defeated by the zipper demon, below is the final outcome of the mock fly front zipper.

Confession #5: CB seams may not always produce nice effects.

I have made a few skirts with CB seams and liked the end result. But, because this skirt gave me so many problems before, why not add one more to the list?! The CB seam of this skirt, when sewn, produced a line very accurately dividing me arse into two half moons. I mean, really, the line of symmetry was amazing. No matter what I did to that seam, nothing helped. I am not going to post a picture as I am trying to forget it myself.

After all is said and done, this skirt did not turn out the way I had envisioned. As I mentioned earlier, the material did not lend itself well to constant needle pokes by my machine. As a result, holes from picked seams are very visible on the out side. Also, the creases from many presses are very visible on the right side of the garment. My mother says the skirt looks fine, but to me it does not. She said she would wear it, though I strongly advised against it. The skirt now hangs as a tangible reminder of what not to do next time.

28 May 2007

"Ralph Lauren" Panels

I am remodeling my den and want to get started on the painting. But, I wanted to finish the panels so that I can choose the right paint colour.

Why are they called "Ralph Lauren" panels? Well, don't ask Ralph. He may be a bit perturbed at the fact that I am using his name to describe the style of my panels. It's all outta love, Ralph...all outta love... When I thought of the idea to make the panels, I knew I wanted them to be two-toned. I wanted a chocolate brown on top and a cream on the bottom. To jazz it up a bit, I thought I would topstitch some ribbon to cover the seam joining the two colours. So, I went to Michaels and raided their dollar ribbon bin. In it, I found two spools of ribbon: one solid and one printed. When I held the solid ribbon up to the panel fabrics, the name Raph Lauren popped into my mind. To me, the solid ribbon accompanying the other fabrics suggested calm, relaxed sophistication. When I held the printed ribbon up to the panel fabrics, I immediately thought of Donna Karan and the words urban, hip chic. I mulled over the choices for a long time and settled with the RL look. I will probably use the other ribbon to accent pillows (or something) for the room.

The plan:

Four panels for windows approximately 32" wide with each panel having a finished size of about 25 x 90" (including tabs).

Material used: 5 yards of 54" chocolate-brown drapery fabric, 1 yard of 54" beige drapery fabric, 4 yards of rust/copper satin ribbon, 5 yards of lining fabric.


I divided 2 yards of the 54" drapery fabric in half so that each panel measures 27 x 72". I did the same with the beige fabric with each piece measuring 27 x 18". I also cut four lining pieces measuring the finished size of a panel (~25 x 85"). All seam allowances are 1/2".

I then seamed the brown and beige together (beige at bottom) and covered the seam with a an eyeballed 26" strip of ribbon. To finish the raw edges, I folded and pressed the sides under 1/2" two times. Before completing the side edges, I inserted the lining piece by sandwiching it between the first and second fold of the edge of the fabric.

For the tabs, I cut strips of brown fabric measing 6 x 6". This way, I will have a finished size of 3" x 2.5." I started out with much longer tabs, but it was too dramatic for my taste. In fact, the first finished panel has the much longer tabs. To rectify this, I will just use some hem tape to shorten them. It is going to take muuuuch more effort to undo the sewing, shorten the tabs, and put them back. Besides, who's going to know except me and well whoever reads this. =)

Attaching the tabs took a bit of thought. I made panels before for my living room.
For those, I just topstithced the tabs to the top band For the RL panels, I did not want the bottom of the tabs to be seen on the outside. So, I lopped off 3 or 3.5" (I can't remember) from the top of the panel. Then, I sandwiched the finished tabs evenly across the top of the panel and serged all of the pieces together - including the newly cut strip. Afterwards, I pressed the seam down so that I could fold the strip to the back of the panel and topstitched it in place.

To finish the hem, I employed the same techniques used in finishing the side edges. I folded and pressed under 1" two times. I did not want a large hem because the bottom edge will be on the floor and no one will really notice it anyway.

The completed panels:
The paint job is 90% done (lower wood trim left to be painted). I still have to assemble and organize the furniture.


The paint job is complete! One piece of furniture (TV stand) is almost assembled. I have to take the doors to the stand back to Ikea because the hardware doesn't quite fit as it should. Once I do that, all I have left to do is assemble the bookshelves, hang some artwork, and tidy the futon.

Some background history:

The room and colour that started it all: my kitchen. I wanted a bold colour for the kitchen so I chose a dark red/rust. It is this colour that I am picking up as accents in every other room. The accents in the kitchen are comprised of woods and colours from other rooms in the house.


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