Someday it's gonna rain

A few years ago, we had a prolonged drought in California. By the time the skies finally filled with rain clouds again, my umbrella sat damaged in the closet, I didn't own a single raincoat, and my puppy had no idea what was falling from the sky. Each year since I remembered I didn't have the appropriate gear only as it started to rain. And then of course the skies usually dried before I did anything about it. This year, with some waterproof fabric in my stash and some time on my hands, I vowed I would FINALLY make a raincoat. 

Pattern: Tilly and the Buttons Eden Coat
Fabric: 2+ yds 4.7 Ounce Water Repellent Aviator Flight Outdoor Satin 
Cost: $50

This is my first time making a Tilly and the Buttons pattern. I know the company is beloved by beginners but also gets some complaints from more experienced sewists. The pattern is... basic. I think overall it meets the requirements of having all the pieces and putting you through the steps. It was certainly much easier than cobbling together something similar from the limited options I had in my stash. But it lacks a certain attention to detail that I find in the Big 4 Patterns or classically trained indie designers. 

For example, the pocket pleating, while a cute detail, is not properly drafted and looks wonky in the instructions, on the model, on versions I've seen online, and on my own coat. It just doesn't fold right or want to stay put. Typically a pocket pleat is also designed to let a pocket expand a bit when it's full. This one didn't seem to understand the task and goes for the aesthetic look of the pleat without any of the functionality. The pocket lining is also not quite right. It is the same size as the pocket when pleated, so not only does it not let the pocket expand but it doesn't properly turn out of sight. If you use a bright color you will most certainly see it peeking out from underneath your topstitching. 

Several seamstresses have also posted online that there are a few mistakes in the pattern that they've notified TATB about. Given that I downloaded the pattern a few years after its release I hoped that they would be fixed. But I spotted a few of the aforementioned ones anyway, such as telling you to cut out twice as much interfacing as necessary, etc. There's also some quirks like having you cut pieces with the pattern facing right side down, etc. Read PatternReview for the errors before making this up. I did end up sizing down for the jacket, though I think the generous sizing is helpful if you plan to wear the coat over many layers. 

My last gripe is that, while the instructions are oriented towards beginners with lots of encouragement, the instructions aren't always suited for the project. For example, one of the recommended fabrics is a waxed cotton and TATB even sold a kit for the coat with that fabric. Yet the instructions never mention working with it, cheerily telling you to interface and press the fabric and do all sorts of things unsuitable for a waxed fabric and many other types of raincoat material. For something that was widely marketed as a raincoat pattern for those looking to improve their skills, it would be nice to have some instructions or some considerations in the pattern for working with those types of materials. I also heard the lining sold with their kits was made from a knit. What?! Not only would it be weird to use a stretchy fabric to line a woven, it is also not ideal for slipping your arms into. I mean, I'm not saying I haven't done it, but if I were buying a fancy kit I'd hope they'd source all the right materials. 

In all, the pattern and styling are all very cute, but I'm not convinced they have the technical knowledge to lead sewers through it. Still, the pattern is fine, and if you're considering buying one from them I wouldn't let it turn you off entirely. The basics are there. 


As you can see, my treatment of the fabric was not perfect and there are some wrinkles. The fabric is what was called 4.7 Ounce Aviator Flight Outdoor Satin Water Repellent in "Replica Navy" on Fabric.com. I actually bought it for a very experimental summer project but summer ended before I had a chance to use it. I ordered another yard along with this amazing Cotton + Steel Cloud Drops fabric for the lining and was all set to make my raincoat. 

The outdoor satin is relatively lightweight and indeed water repellent (I tested it in the sink). But it does have some of those satin qualities and didn't like being overworked with my topstitching and pockets. Surprisingly though, the wrinkles don't really bother me and I think it will be very functional. I like that it is lightweight as it doesn't get too cold here and I'd prefer to layer up for warmth and be able to use the jacket on warmer days, too. 


As I mentioned, the lining is this very cute raindrop print. It makes me happy to have something a little fun on the inside while keeping the outer more serious and appropriate for work or other serious things. But a bit of personality is good. The sleeves are drafted long allowing you to roll them up to show off some of that lining. Not great if it's actually raining but it's a fun touch otherwise. 



The one change I made to this pattern was to add a little visor. I find them tremendously helpful when it's actually raining out to keep the water out of your eyes. I had ordered a ten-pack of hat brims for $5 a while back and still had nine of them left, so it was perfect for this project. I trimmed it down, traced a covering for it, and sandwiched it in between the outer and lining of the hood. It seems to hold its shape pretty well so I'm hoping it does the trick. 


I seem to have missed the only rain we've had this year but you know I'll be checking the forecast for a chance to wear it! 

Frivolous Sewing

Just after the first week of November, I took a COVID test, donned my best face mask, and got on a plane to Maui with my husband, parents, and brother. It was HEAVEN. We still practiced social distancing with other guests, cooked our meals at home, and put up with some construction noise as the hotel took advantage of the downtime. But the time away in the sun with family and fish and blue waters did me a lot of good. It felt so much easier to be happy!


Pattern: Sophie Hines's Altitude Thong and Axis Tank
Fabric: remnant poly spandex
Cost: $5

I took advantage of the opportunity to try out this fun new underwear pattern from Sophie Hines. While I have no use for a ruffle thong in my day-to-day life, I thought it might make the perfect cheeky bikini for the beach. Not quite as revealing as the ones the locals wear, but something a bit different for me. Isn't that back view fun?!

I probably wouldn't have made it up in pink except it was one of the last suitable fabrics in my stash. It is also a different color on each side, making it perfect for color blocking. The fabric was the result of a mistaken order earlier in the year (I hate ordering exclusively by mail!). I squeezed the suit out of the last remnants and had just enough. Unfortunately, I did make the mistake of cutting out the leg ruffles as identical pieces rather than mirrored. But luckily I was able to piece together a second one, though there's an extra seam in there. It's fun and we'll call it a wearable muslin!

I did modify the ruffle slightly. It's unhemmed, which makes it a bit longer than directed in the pattern, though only by a quarter inch. I then shortened the front by about an inch. It hangs slightly differently than on Sophie, but I like the final result. 


To pair with it, I naturally chose the Sophie Hines Axis tank, shortened by a few inches. I could also see something more feminine, but they work well together. 

Unlike the undies, the Axis tank doesn't quite fit me right - it's much longer in the back than the front, which I fixed when I shortened it. It does have good compression though and I can say it stayed on well. Both survived a paddleboarding session and I can say were quite comfortable. 


Leaving the island back to rain and spiking virus cases in California was hard, but I'm glad I got some time in the sun. And another excuse to sew a bathing suit!

Nervous Knitting

In the Bay Area, we typically don't start getting our colder weather until after the first week of November. True to form, this week the weather turned to the 50s and 60s and we even got caught in a little downpour! It was probably the first rain we've had since April. It might not sound like a drastic change but I can definitely feel the chill in the air. Perfect time for a knit shirt. 


Pattern: based on Purl Soho's Knit T-shirt Pattern
Yarn: Brown Sheep Wildfoote Sock Yarn in Zane Grey
Cost: $40

This project didn't begin as much at all. It started in July when our state was gripped in the peak of the coronavirus. We had to make an emergency road trip down to one particularly bad area to visit my father-in-law in the hospital after a motorcycle accident and I knew I needed something for the long drive to calm my nerves. I grabbed a discarded ball of sock yarn, some long circular needles, and cast on. 

Luckily, my father in law recovered just fine. Unfortunately, the stress from the trip (and maybe the 100 degree heat) left me with hives all over my hands (luckily, it was NOT coronavirus). I thought at one point I might be allergic to the yarn, so I set the project aside for a little bit. But eventually I picked it back up. All those little stitches were very soothing - something to be productive with when everything else seemed to not be going my way. 


I kept knitting and eventually found a pattern to use with it - the Purl Soho Knit T-Shirt. In the past, I have always abandoned projects with yarn this small as overly-ambitious. But this time around I just kept knitting and knitting. 

I also realized I needed more yarn. And while I usually meticulously track all of my projects on this here blog, I had absolutely no record of the original project where this leftover yarn had come from. I had bought it in person in Santa Cruz and didn't have any of the tags. From there began an obsessive search for more. I started by looking up the brands that the yarn shop carried and then doing a Google search to see if any looked quite like this one. I eventually decided it was Brown Sheep Wildfoote Sock Yarn in Zane Grey. It matched the brown and grey tweed and was the right weight. Of course, this particular color is also out of production, so what followed was even more searching in far-flung yarn shops and eBay until I found four more balls. To conclude the saga, the balls that arrived from these different places were all different color lots - some more brown, some more gray, none of them alike. But it didn't matter. I blended them together the best I could and just kept knitting. 


I originally determined I had enough yarn to make the sleeves reach to my elbows, but I didn't like the look so I shortened them back to short sleeves. The ironic part of this project is that, while I began this project as a way to use up leftover yarn, I ended up with about the same amount leftover after I was done. Oh well. 

The yarn is probably not my first choice - it's a bit scratchy and not the most interesting color. But with a tank top underneath it's actually not bad as a fall top for some added warmth. And I am definitely motivated to try more small gauge knitting projects in the future. 




More Pants!

As I shared in my last post, jeans drafting and fitting has been a nice little quarantine project and a welcome distraction from tomorrow's election drama in the US. Since making my first wearable pair with lots of adjustments to the back crotch curve, I have since made a few more pairs with some adjustments to the front crotch curve. So I thought I'd share my thoughts on that today. 





Pattern: self-drafted jeans
Fabric: 2 yds Robert Kaufman super stretch denim
Cost: $30

I really loved how my first pair of jeans felt, but in the photos I noticed a lot of crotch wrinkles at the front. The first thing I usually do to fix this is pinch out some of the height. You can literally do this while wearing them - grab and pinch that wrinkle and note how much you want to take out and where. Below you can see those pesky wrinkles (left) and the pattern adjustment (right). 


This adjustment, along with lowering the waistline a smidge, seemed to make a difference on my next pair. I had also tried a new fly front technique on my first pair which didn't go over well, so I went back to my tried and true fly front construction from Close Core's Ginger Jeans - much better! 

However, while the upper wrinkles had somewhat subsided, I was still bothered by the little whiskers around the front crotch. To address this, you can trim some of the excess fabric from the inner thigh. 


Rather than making a whole new pair, I opened up this second pair at the inner leg seam and took in the excess fabric. I'm pretty happy with the results! 



That said, perfection is elusive. Little wrinkles can appear based on how I stand, the fabric I use, and how much it bags out during the day. You can see this in the image below, where some of those little wrinkles seem to pop back up again. So I'm trying not to let perfectionism be the enemy of the good and just enjoy my pants and the small changes as I sew them. Plus those wrinkles give you some wearing ease and space to move around, which you need if you're working with anything other than leggings. 

I'm also loving this Robert Kaufman super stretch denim. I've heard it recommended and it was finally back in stock online so I ordered a couple of yards. It did not disappoint! It's stretchy and soft and makes for some pretty comfortable jeans. They do bag out a little but not too much. But be warned - they do tend to bleed indigo (as advertised) and my hands were very blue after sewing them up. Those issues aside, this pair of jeans has quickly become a favorite in my closet. 


I also made up a pair of pull-on pants with this pattern in a stretch ponti-type corded fabric. This was before making any adjustments to the front crotch and you can see that this fabric is much more forgiving as far as wrinkles go. It's all a bit maddening trying to figure out!

So what's next? I'm planning to put the skinnies aside for the time being and use this pattern to make a slightly less fitted pair. I plan on keeping the fit through the hips but with more of a straight leg for my next pants. Maybe in a plaid for the holidays? So many possibilities! 

I Drafted My Own Pants!

We have passed 200 days in quarantine. I've finished sewing up my party dresses. I've made a full workout wardrobe. I've sewn loungewear for both me and my husband. I needed a PROJECT. So of course I turned to my old standby, sewing jeans. Sewing jeans has never gotten old in the 8 years I've been doing it mostly because they are never perfect. I always find myself wanting to tweak one thing or another after making them. And as someone with not much pattern-drafting knowledge, it was a bit of a shot in the dark every time I made a new slash or pivot in my pattern. 

However, this time I decided it would be different. After making a few pairs in the past month, I decided to try drafting the pattern myself. It seemed like just the type of big project to keep me busy for a couple of weeks. And the results have been so, so worth it. 




Pattern: self-drafted ;)
Fabric: 1.5 yds stretch denim
Cost: $20

What started me down this path was a post by Heather from Handmade PhD. If you're not familiar with her blog, Heather is a neuroscientist who started sewing bow ties for her husband and became obsessed with sewing. She is no-nonsense, prides function over frivolity, and usually makes very detailed pattern adjustments to just about everything she sews. It's fascinating!

Recently, she published a blog post about measuring herself for some new pants and I was very intrigued. Her basic method, which you can read about in great detail, involves measuring a grainline up the center of your ankle and knee, and then taking measurements on either side all the way up your leg to determine your body measurements for your new pattern. 

Now, she does this with a ruler but I am a very visual person. I put on some old black leggings and, with chalk, drew that grainline right on my pants. Here's my process if you'd like to follow along. 

Measuring for Pants

According to Heather, the grainline should be drawn perpendicular to the floor/pants hem and go straight through the center of your ankle and your knee. This should prevent the pant legs from twisting when worn. So that's where I started, drawing the line at the center of my ankle and knee up my leg. From there, however, your hips may not be distributed along the center of the grainline - they may swing outward (as mine do) or have more width inward (perhaps for a fuller belly and slimmer hips). So I kept drawing the line from my ankle and knee straight up, perpendicular to the floor. I also made sure that the inseam and outer leg seam of my leggings were positioned at the correct place on my body and marked them with chalk as well. 

Heather doesn't detail this part as much in her post, but I found that next it was helpful to draw horizontal marks on my body at key points. I marked my ankle, calf, knee, thigh, crotch, full hip, belly, and waistline with horizontal marks on my pants. I then measured the distance of each mark from the waistline and drew this grid on my paper. 

From there, at each mark I measured the distance from my side seam to the grainline and then from the grainline to the inseam, recording both measurements. So the ankle, calf, and knee should have the same width at each side of the grainline. Then going up you can see how my hips start to stick out, with higher measurements to the outside of the pants from the grainline than the inside of the pants. On my torso, I just took my measurements to the center of the pants, not all the way across, as this is how I'll cut my pattern piece. 

Repeating this for the back, on yourself, gets a bit tricky. I enlisted my husband's help drawing the grainline and then took my own measurements from there, using a mirror to make sure the tape measure was level. (Yes, this sort of request makes him think I'm very weird.)  

Here's what the measurements look like all written down. You can see the grainline running up the leg, then the horizontal marks at key places, and the measurement from the side to the grainline to the inseam for both front and back. 


Measuring and drawing the crotch is probably the trickiest part. You can read more about how Heather did this and she also relied on a blog post from Michele for specifics on measuring the crotch curve. I used Michelle's method to measure my crotch depth and height with an L-shaped ruler, and also double-checked this with a bendable ruler that I've used for pants fitting in the past. The crotch curve took further refinement over two muslins to get just right, but this gets you pretty far. In the image below, you can see I measured my crotch depth, height, and length for both the front and back. 



Drafting my Pattern

Did you ever take an art class where you copy a painting by drawing a grid over it and then reproducing the piece, square by square, on your canvas? Well, this is kind of like that. Once I had recorded all my measurements on my paper, I set about re-creating those on my pattern paper. I started by drawing a straight grainline down the center of the paper. I then drew perpendicular lines for my waist, measured down the given amount, drew another for my belly, and so on for the full hip, crotch, thigh, knee, calf, and ankle. Once I had those markings, I measured out from the grainline and marked the distance for the inseam and outer leg. So at the waist, I marked 6.5" out from the grainline toward the side seam and 1.5" inches toward the center front, based on my measurements.


After I marked all my measurements it was time to connect the dots. This part was more art than science for me. Sometimes one marking seemed shifted and I had to shift it back in line with the others. I'm sure if my measurements had been perfect this wouldn't have happened as much, but I'm a living human marking measurements on myself using chalk lines drawn on my body, so it was bound to get a bit messy. 


Once I had drawn the front and back, I also trued my seams to one another making sure the front inseam was the same length as the back inseam and so on. This allowed me to fix things up even more and even created a few head-scratchers. The biggest problem was how to add enough crotch length and depth in the back without making the inseam too long (more on this later). I also puzzled with my curves, where my hips swing out then back in sharply to meet my knees. In my muslin, drastic curves didn't lay quite right on my body. In this instance, I found it was best to smooth the curves as much as possible. Because this pattern was for stretch jeans, I also found I could cheat the measurements slightly where needed, making them slightly more snug than measured to avoid drastic curves.

Adding Ease and Seam Allowances

What I now had on paper was a pattern for my body with no seam allowances or wearing ease. To determine how much ease you want to add, it can be helpful to reference your favorite pattern and compare the body measurements to the pattern measurements listed on the envelope. For example, Heather recommended half to one inch of ease at the waistband and added 1 inch of ease around her hips and 2 1/2 around her calves for looser her hiking pants.

For mine, I knew I wanted close-fitting pants sewn up in fabric with at least 25% stretch. Based on my muslin, I actually subtracted four inches from around my hips and thighs (an inch at each the front and back side seams). This is called negative ease and will rely on the stretch of the pants to fit me. I tapered this up to zero ease at the knees and calves based on how the muslin was fitting me. 

Once I figured out my desired ease, I added my seam allowances. I did a standard 5/8" all the way around EXCEPT for the side seams. For the side seams I like to use a 1" seam allowance. This gives me a bit of wiggle room in case my fabric isn't as stretchy as I'd like or is more tightly woven. I highly recommend this as it's rare to have two pairs of pants ever fit me exactly the same. 

Making a Muslin(s)

After all this drafting, I was so excited to start on my muslin. Would it fit me perfectly? Was this a disaster and I should just stick to purchased patterns? My first fabric unfortunately wasn't as stretchy as I thought, but the pants still fit surprisingly well given the custom measurements. Success!

Of course, they also gave me a good sense of what needed adjusting. First, I actually ended up repeating the above measuring and drafting process one more time, as I had gotten better at taking my measurements. After that, the main thing that needed adjusting, as I mentioned earlier, was the crotch curve. I had made my measurements as close as possible to the body and the crotch was a bit too contoured: it needed some wearing ease and smoothing out or else it was going to give me a huge wedgie! I lowered it slightly and smoothed out the curve where the front met the back. I also deepened it slightly and removed some of the height from the top of the pants so everything would sit where it should. 

My second muslin is fully wearable and what I'm wearing in this post. I also made a third pair out of a thick stretch knit that's similar in weight to a ponte, which  you can see in this post as well. For the second pair, I baste fit it to start and made a few small tweaks here and there - smoothing out the top waistline, the leg curves, etc. But in all these were fairly minor tweaks and I am pretty happy with the final fit. There's room for my butt, room for my thighs, the knees hit where they're supposed to, they're not too tight and not too loose. Definitely the best-fitting skinny jeans I've ever made. The one thing I changed between the second and third version was to move the inseam slightly toward the back. I'd heard jeans were supposed to have an inseam that was slightly forward, but I had done it by too much. 

That said, looking at these pictures I can see that I might want to take a wedge out of the front as I'm seeing some wrinkles there at the crotch. Interestingly enough is they are lot less prominent in the ponte version. I'm not sure if that's a difference in the fabric or maybe has to do with the zipper insertion, so I'll have to play around with that. That and I will lower the waistband a smidge, as it really is quite high as is. Jeans fitting is never done!



Comparing My Self-Drafted Pattern to Commercial Patterns

After drafting my pattern, I was very curious to know how it compared to other similar patterns I've sewn in the past (note: I haven't actually sewn the Cashmerette Ames or the Megan Nielsen Ash, but have heard good things so wanted to see how they'd work on me, hypothetically). 

Over the years, I've learned that an L-shaped curve works best for me and this was borne out by my new block. The image below shows how my back crotch curve, one of my biggest trouble spots, compares to these patterns. The Thread Theory Lazo Trousers, Cashmerette Ames, Colette Clover, and Closet Core Ginger Jeans best match this shape and, of those I've sewn, have worked well for me. The Style Arc Misty, Megan Nielsen Ash, and Deer & Doe Safran are all much too shallow or J-shaped for me and would need to be deepened. Pro tip: If you know your general crotch curve shape and are curious whether a pants pattern is going to work for you, you can usually look up the sewalong or user photos and find a photo of the actual pattern piece. Very helpful! That's what I did here for the Ames and Ash patterns that I didn't already have on file. 

 

Beyond the crotch curve, there are usually a few other adjustments I need to make to my pants. I shared recently that I realized I should be making a full thigh adjustment as my thigh measurement is often much bigger than patterns are drafted, even when they fit me at the hip. I also sometimes need a knock knee adjustment to shape the pattern from my full thigh curving inward toward my knees. For this adjustment, the torso of the pants on front and back is pivoted out toward the hip. 

Looking at the rough comparisons below, I can see that I would probably need to do a knock knee adjustment on the Style Arc Misty, the Megan Nielsen Ash, and the Deer & Doe Safran (clearly these patterns are not working for me, even though I love my Safrans!). I especially remember this from sewing up a few different patterns from Style Arc - they all had drag lines at the outer thigh, a tell-tale sign of needing a knock-knee adjustment. 



Even for the patterns with an L-shaped crotch curve and legs at the right angle, you can see in the image above that the crotch curve STILL needs to be deepened/widened to fit me. I have a 5 inch deep back crotch curve and there doesn't seem to be a pattern out there that fits that, especially for close-fitting pants. 

Looking at these images, I realized that, in the past, I had been deepening the crotch curve all wrong. Typically, I would extend the crotch curve to get the space I needed. You can see this method on the left in the image below. While this gave me the needed 5" of depth, it made the inseam too long, giving me folds of fabric at the inseam under the butt. By looking at my new block, I realized that what I should have been doing to adjust most patterns was to shift the whole back torso out toward the side seam, which widens the curve without changing the inseam. Once the top portion is shifted out, you blend the hip line into the leg line. For me, this also gives me the room in the thighs that I need. 



Going back to drafting the pattern from scratch, this is why it was so important (and helpful) to take my measurements from the middle line going up the back of my leg. It helped me understand that I needed to add most of the width for my butt from the middle of the pants going out toward the hip rather than in toward the crotch. 

But why make all these comparisons? For one, it's interesting to benchmark my shape to the standard pattern blocks from other popular patterns. It helps me understand where I'm "standard" and where I need a custom fit. For example, wide-legged pants usually fit me fine right out of the envelope because they avoid some of my major trouble spots - they are not close-fitting at the crotch, thighs, or knees. 

This is not to say that these pattern companies did a bad job or that I'm better than them at pattern drafting. When you buy a pattern, you are not only paying for the fit but also the way the pattern pieces fit together, the instructions, and the style lines of the garment. And I certainly don't expect every pattern to fit everyone right out of the envelope, especially something as tricky as skinny jeans. Making up my own pattern has been so instructive in how I might need to adjust professional patterns in the future. 

As for my jeans, I am super excited about them and have plans for many more (once I re-stock on denim). It's funny because I mentioned in an earlier post that I actually don't have much occasion to wear real pants right now, but when you have a pair that fits this well you know I'll be busting them out for every social-distance hangout. 

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