Thursday, January 29, 2015

StyleArc Demi Drape Top

With my new Ginger Jeans in constant rotation I've been in desperate need of more tops, so I dug into my stash and found the StyleArc Demi Drape Top that I bought a while ago. I've had mixed results so far with StyleArc - one "ok", one fail - but I'm pleased to report we finally have a definite win! 

The demi drape top has a deep cowl with a built-in camisole, which is a great shape for someone top-heavy like me. I often wear camisoles under tops and dresses anyway, but this is better as the camisole is always in exactly the right place with no adjustments needed during the day. 

As usual, the instructions are bare, but this is a very straightforward top to make so you shouldn't run into problems. I used masses of Wonder Tape for the two necklines, cuffs and hems, simply turning them with the  tape and then coverstitching. I also put the sleeves in flat which is my preferred method for knits (and wovens too, if there isn't too much ease). The whole thing took about an hour. 

I used a jersey I've been hoarding from EmmaOneSock (long since sold out) - I love the playful but not childish birds. The camisole layer in the front is black merino from NZ.

The usual challenge of cowls is to keep them from flipping the wrong way out, or not hanging properly. That was clearly going to happen on this top, so I attached a piece of elastic to the bottom point of the cowl, then attached the other end to the hem. It works perfectly! 

There's not much more to say: it's a simple top that's super quick and easy to make, and a little more interesting than a standard t-shirt. There will be more of these in my future!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Finally getting comfy: my True Bias Hudson pants

I'm firmly a sewist of the "cake" variety, preferring to make everyday wearable garments over fancy frocks, but recently I noticed a lack of super-comfy outfits to wear when it's minus 20 outside. 

So what could I make but some True Bias Hudson pants? (Also known in my home town as "trakkie bums")

When the Hudsons first came out I thought they were super cool - but not for me. Partly because I wasn't sure I could carry off the style, and also because the largest waist size was 38.5", which is a little small for me. But after seeing so many folks showing off their ridiculously comfortable pants, and my experience that the Ginger size 18s were fine, I decided to take the plunge. And how happy I am! 

They fit well with no alterations- in fact, the waist is a little roomy, surprisingly, so I may end up taking in the elastic. I used this absolutely amazing 4-way stretch rayon blend ponte from EmmaOneSock - it's still in stock in a number of colours and I really can't recommend it highly enough - it's soft, drapey with a great heft, and is perfect for this pattern. In fact I just bought another 10 yards for my stash to make sure I always have it on hand. 

I finished the pockets with scraps of a gorgeous Vera Wang silk jersey (also from EOS) that I've been hoarding for over a year, and also used it to create the "tie" on the front. 

I made these shortly before it got ridiculously cold and I got mildly ill, so I can officially report that these are the perfect pants in which to spend a day on the sofa. And, stylish enough not to feel ashamed when you leave the house. 

Are you on the Hudson bandwagon yet, dear readers? Are you finding it hard to wear proper trousers now? I fear now I've tried them I'll never go back.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A McCall's M6436 shirt full o' arrows

As an uber busty lady, it can be a lonely, tent-like world when you're looking for button-down shirt patterns. The Grainline Archer is super cool - but with no darts, and billowy sleeves at the size 18, it tends to swamp the plentiful of chest. The new Sewaholic Granville shirt is also lovely - but clearly for pears and not for the likes of me without some serious FBA-ing. 

Therefore, I was excited to find McCall's M6436 - a shirt with cup sizes up to DDD. I'm a HH so not quite there, but an awful lot closer than the average pattern drafted for a B (or C if we're lucky). And the verdict is.... mixed. 

Although it goes up to the DDD cup size, it's surprising how few alterations have been made for the busty. Basically there's a really big dart, which goes a long way towards the apex - it ended up about 1/2 inch off mine. That doesn't really work - it's definitely nipply at the end - so I'll be re-drafting the bust dart to be a good 2 - 3 inches off which is much better on busts my size. Weirdly, it's been drafted without a dart triangle off the edge of the pattern, which means you have to cut out the body of the dart after it's sewn. There's no suggestion on how to finish the edges, and it's difficult to get a nice result given this isn't a lined garment. I ended up doing a tight zig zag and cutting it out, which I didn't love and I'm a bit concerned about fraying when it gets washed. My other gripe is the excessive sleevehead ease - it was quite the trauma getting them in, and there are some puckers if you look close.

Anyhow! Despite these niggles, I do like my finished shirt. I made the size 20 with the DDD and the shoulders and back fit me much better than the 22 that I usually make, which is great. I used a "silk" that I bought from a roadside stand in Vietnam, and it was a little tricky to work with, but it didn't fray too much. As to whether it's actually silk - the jury is out! I have a suspicion it's a poly crepe in disguise... 

I like the two slim two-piece sleeve (so rare!), which also allows the simple "turn and stitch" placket finish which is much easier than a usual placket and looks great. The back is also nicely shaped with two waist darts. 

I would never normally wear a shirt done up to the neck, but here it is just to prove that it (barely) fits my chest with no FBA. 

I've made a couple of shirts now and my techniques are getting refined little by little. I always use Andrea's collar tutorial, my edge-stitching foot (the only way to get even topstitching in my experience), and my Bernina now plays nice with buttonholes which is a blessed relief (there's nothing worse than ripping out the same buttonhole 5 times, weeping into your tea as the material shreds before your eyes). I french seamed the whole thing apart from the armholes - I did try to do them, but there was just too much ease for it to work. 

I'll definitely be making this again, because with a few tweaks to the bust dart and adding a little bit of ease it could be great. I have a few silks calling my name...

Have you found an awesome shirt pattern that you keep coming back to? I'm still on the hunt - I think I'll have to try a princess seam pattern next. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Oliver + S School Days Jackets for my favourite little ladies

The jury's in: Oliver + S have awesome, awesome kids patterns. I've made a few in the past, but when I was deciding what to make my favourite little girls for their Christmas presents, my eyes locked on the School Days Jacket (otherwise known as a duffel coat) and it was love at first sight. 

And how right I was. 

Oliver + S School Days jacket


Oliver + S School Days jacket

I made these coming straight out of my green coat escapades (luckily fixed, but it took a long time..). By comparison, making these was just a joyful and easy task. I cut and fused them a couple of months ago, and then sewing them up literally took one day per coat. Now, I have made a few coats and I'm a pretty quick maker, but by any standard that's a pretty speedy pattern! What helps is: the excellent drafting, the very good instructions, the lack of tailoring techniques needed and the fact that they're just so.. miniature. If you're ever scared of tackling a new sewing skill, I highly recommend making it in a kids format first - it's just so much more manageable.

I made these using gorgeous wool that I bought from Kashi at Metro Textiles in NYC in the fall. On the bolt, they didn't look that fantastic but they sewed up beautifully and the end result is great. I bought two colours: red for brunette B, and a deep indigo/violet for blondie Z. Then for the body lining, I used kitty quilting cotton for B and Cotton+Steel arrows for Z; they were also both lined with Thinsulate to make sure they would be warm enough. Finally for the sleeve lining I used some Bemberg lining to make sure they'd slip on and off easily.

Oliver + S School Days jacket

Oliver + S School Days jacket

For the toggles, I actually struggled quite a bit because I couldn't find quite what I wanted. In the end, I ordered the toggle piece from Pacific Trimming online, together with some 1/8 leather cording, and made them myself. 

Oliver + S School Days jacket

Oliver + S School Days jacket

As I was making them, I was a little concerned they might be too small, but if anything the opposite is true - which is great, as hopefully they will last more than 1 year! 

Oliver + S School Days jacket

Oliver + S School Days jacket

Oliver + S School Days jacket

Oliver + S School Days jacket

I love making things for these two not just because they look super cute but also because they appreciate them so much! Have you used Oliver+S patterns? Do you have any to recommend? I'm sure this isn't the last time I'll be making them, although B is close to sizing out! 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015 Presents.... Bright Green Coat: The Comeback

Well here's a turn up for the books: I fixed the green coat of doom

After the unveiling of my boxy, unflattering coat, I had a torrent of suggestions about how to improve it. Two things were clear: I needed to fix the neckline - that collar just *didn't* work - and take it in through the waist and hips. 

At the time, I'd spent way too long making and fixing it as I went along, so I couldn't quite face the seam ripping and whatnot. However 2015 brought with it some viral sickness thing. Overall: a bad thing. But for my coat? A good thing! Because it meant I was sat on my couch for hours at a time watching TV, which proved prime seam ripping opportunity. And boy are there a lot of seams when you have a bagged lining and everything's top stitched. 

I took in the waist by about 4 inches, and about 2 inches through the hip and length of the coat. I also removed the side seam pockets, which were adding unnecessary bulk. The result is noticeably slimmer, but still has enough ease to move about and wear over bulky clothes.

And then, I removed the standing collar entirely, but the real stroke of genius came from commenter Texas Urban who suggested a faux fur collar. Genius! I promptly ordered a TopShop one (via Nordstrom), and it works A TREAT! Big woop! The big "V" of the fur collar together with the nipped in side seams gives it a totally different look. At the moment the collar is just sitting on top of the coat, but I'm going to put buttons on the coat and little elastic loops on the collar to keep it in place. 

So there you go! Perseverance, the wisdom of my dear readers, and a bit of patience paid off. And now I have two homemade coats, rather than one awesome coat and one wadder. The fit isn't perfect, but I'm also trying to cut myself more slack these days.. maybe I need to do another side by side of the RTW coats I wear vs. my homemade ones!

This is certainly not the last coatmaking you're going to see around these parts, though. I just bought some incredible Italian Loro Piana raincoat material from EmmaOneSock to make the McCall's 5525 trenchcoat, I have some wool lined up for the new Leanne Marshall Simplicity coat (though I'm a bit intimidated by all the problems folks are having over at the PatternReview sewalong), and I also have a (likely overly ambitious) plan to make a boucle and leather deconstructed motorcycle jacket probably from the StyleArc Ziggi jacket. I'm not sure if I'll get to all of them in 2015, but I've enjoyed tailoring and coatmaking so much I think I'll have one on the go for at least the next few months. Do you enjoy making coats? What are your favourite patterns and techniques?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Starting the new year with a hit: my Ginger Jeans!

There are some garments that I think most sewists think of as in an extra-special, extra-"hard" category: swimsuits, bras, jeans and coats come to mind. The silly thing is that most of them aren't actually that hard or that much more difficult to make than other garments and yet, because they occupy that special mental category, when you manage to make one you feel triumphant. 

And so...


Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans view B


Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans view B

I am quite overcome. Let's get one thing out of the way straight up: this pattern has been drafted amazingly well. If you think jeans are hard, think again, because between the fantastic drafting, the instructions and the sewalong, you'll be fine. And they totally capture the RTW fit of skinny jeans in a way I have never seen from the Big 4. For this pair, I used the infamous Ginger Jeans kit - these are the heavier "winter" denim (with 3% lycra), together with a metal YKK zip, and the jeans button and rivet included in the kit. 

You may have seen my fitting post last week - based on the comments there and on Pattern Review, here are the changes I made:

- Started with the size 18, view B (allegedly high waisted, but doesn't really look so on me). If you're worried about fitting into the sizing range, bear in mind that my waist is 40 - 41" and the "body measurement" for the 18 waist is 38.5" and I did no adjustments other than sewing the top side seam at 3/8. As I mentioned before, I think the grading is generous. 
- Did a 3/4 inch thin thighs adjustment which basically means you shave excess off the back inner thigh area. 
- Did a 1/4 inch flat bum adjustment, which involves dropping the crotch just a little bit
- Then through the basting process, I adjusted seam allowances to give me the best fit (bear in mind I have a larger waist and thinner thighs than average for my size). On the side seams I started at 3/8 at the waist, went to 5/8 through the upper thighs, then down to 1/4 through the calves (which run on the small side in this pattern). On the in-seam I went at 5/8 through the upper thigh, then 1/4 through the calves. 

I didn't get rid of all the back thigh wrinkling, but I did get rid of most of it, and the crotch, err, "issues" are gone. 

Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans view B

I used the tutorial to add a pocket stay and I'm a total convert - it definitely holds everything in. I most certainly do not have a flat stomach, but my Ginger Jeans aren't letting on! You may notice that the very top of the fly front buckles - this happens on all my trousers, and I'm not sure whether there's a way to fix it? Also, I didn't interface my waistband because I find they often dig into me which is uncomfortable. However, the side effect of that is that it creases a bit in the middle - I don't mind as I'll never actually wear these with something tucked in.

For topstitching, I used my ever-trusty Bernina edgstitching foot - this is the kind of magical tool that I was unaware of as a beginner when I thought all sewists must just have lightyears better hand-eye control than me... Using it lets me get a perfect 1/8 distance from the edge. Then, I used my 1/4 inch foot to do the second line. I increased my thread tension to 7 which helped (before, it was pulling the topstitch thread through too much to the back), and I quickly discovered backstitching doesn't work with this thread on my machine so I started each seam at a low stitch length instead.

Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans view B

One thing that did help immensely was having all three sewing machines out at the same time: my old Brother for doing the seams, my Bernina for doing the topstitching (it worked like a dream, no hump jumper required!) and my serger for finishing all the seams. It would have taken twice as long if I'd had to switch out the thread constantly... 

Here are my beautiful Vlisco pocket stays during the construction process - you want something fairly thin but firm to get the effect I think. I decided to get all fancy and French seamed them but actually this wasn't my brightest idea as it's hard to do that round a curve, so they're a little puckered on the inside.

Being a bit of a fool I decided to make these on Friday night in order to take photos on Saturday morning, so I ended up doing my first ever rivets at 1am... Oops. However, after 3 failed attempts I finally got the hang of it. As I didn't have wire cutters to trim the rivet posts, I used spacers on the back of them instead - basically I cut scraps of denim, and used 3 layers of denim on the back of the rivet, and then trimmed around it afterwards. Worked like a charm. I did find the rivet post punctured the front of the rivet ever so slightly but I think that's somewhat unavoidable unless you have a proper rivet press. 

Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans view B

Here's a big picture of my bum for you. I don't usually care very much for pictures of my rather flat, rather low, bum, but I have to offer my thanks to Heather for an entirely acceptable back view in these!

I used the height of the pockets we'd tested on my muslin, and I do like them though they could probably be a bit improved. Some folks suggested that I shorten the yoke and I did a little bit, but maybe could more. Again though, I'll never wear these with something tucked in so really the more relevant back view is the one above, and I think it looks fine. 

Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans view B

So there we have it: my very first pair of jeans, and they are BY FAR the most well-fitting jeans I've ever owned. Who'd have thought it? I am slightly burned out now having made 3 pairs (including my muslins) in a week, so I'm going to put the other denim from my kit away for a bit, but trust me, I'll be back before long. 

Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans view B

Who else has tried the Ginger Jeans? Do you love them too?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Fitting my Ginger Jeans

It's time for awkward staring at my pelvis time! YEAH!

I decided to make Heather Lou's latest creation: the Ginger Jeans. A cool skinny jeans pattern has been long overdue in sewing world, so I was as pleased as everyone else was when it was released. Initially I assumed I couldn't make them as I'm slightly outside the size 18 sizing, with a 40" waist and 47" hips, but then I realized that I shouldn't be dissuaded by such trivialities... after all, that's why we sew (even if it takes curvy sewists rather longer when you have to do adjustments. C'est la vie.)

As jeans often require quite some fitting, I decided to whip up two muslins, one for each view: the Ginger A, which are lower rise with stovepipe legs, and the Ginger B, which are higher rise with skinny legs. I'm glad I did because it didn't play out quite as expected!

Today I'm sharing awkward photos of my muslins so you can see how I'm getting along... I'm hoping that my final version, made with the Ginger Jeans kit cone denim will be even better. 

One stroke of genius I had was to first take photos wearing my most-commonly-worn Boden jeans, to set a benchmark. It's really really hard (impossible perhaps?) to get perfectly fitting jeans with no wrinkles anywhere, so I wanted to make sure I was comparing realistically. And a good idea it was. Because here are the jeans I regularly wear and have never had any issues with: 

Eek! You can see my classic issue here with RTW trousers: if they fit my waist (which these do), then they are bag-a-licious through the upper thighs. That's quite a fold I have on the front there... yikes. And mega bags under my bum.  OK. Deep breath. Remember that I wear these regularly and don't think they look that awful in real life.

Next up: Ginger As. For these, I graded up the waist by 3 inches (based on the finished measurement charts). It turned out that was too much - I hadn't fully accounted for the stretch in the denim, plus I think that the grading is on the generous side. As a result, these are slightly loose at the waist and tend to slip down. In addition, this low rise just doesn't work with my hip shape - I don't have enough curve to keep them up! Still I must admit that they already look better than my Boden ones!

Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans view A

And now the best option I think: the view B. On trying these on, I immediately realised that "high waisted jeans" aren't high waisted on me, because I have a very high waist in the first place! They just feel normal to me. I did a thin thigh adjustment (basically took extra off the back inseam), and I also did the flat bum adjustment that scoops things up a bit in the bum area. I think I overdid that - it's a bit too scooped - so for my final jeans I need to add a bit back in. I also made an error when I made these and somehow ended up easing the jeans into the waistband and chopping off some waistband... why oh why oh why? Anyway, as a result, they're too tight there, but I'm confident that if I just sew them properly I won't have that problem.

Beyond that: there's still bagginess on the back thighs. Should I do more of an adjustment there? Maybe take in the side seam too? It's also pulling a bit in the front crotch but I'm thinking maybe adding back into the back crotch will help alleviate that - does that make sense?

Finally, I had my Crafty Foxes play "pin the pocket on the Jenny bum", and as you can see below, the right hand side higher, further out, version worked better for me - I'm in the "make it look rounder and bigger" camp!

Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans View B

So there we go - I can't quite believe how easy these were to put together (awesome sewalong, Heather), and that I procrastinated for so long. I"m looking forward to whipping up my finals hopefully later this week!
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