Welcome to Custom Style!
Join 460 other subscribers
Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic
So over the course of a week, I made myself three pairs of skinny pants.
Way back in… APRIL!
(I am so far behind in blogging!)
I needed some more work pants for my part-time job at the fabric store and I decided I’d make some because 1) I hate pants shopping and 2) pants are easy to sew once you have a well-fitting pattern.
I’ve never really bothered to draft myself a custom pants sloper because I’ve always been able to find jeans that fit me if I search long enough in stores.
My biggest problem with ready-to-wear (RTW) trousers is the fit of the waistband. Most waistbands seem to be cut like funnels – hips and crotch curve might be perfect but the back waistband majorly gaps on me. (I have, however, found a couple of brands and specific style numbers in those brands that actually fit well, even in the waistband.)
So I pulled out Butterick pattern 5682, traced it in my size according to the size chart, and then compared it to two pairs (different brands) of store-bought skinny jeans that fit me really well.
I don’t remember all the exact changes I made, but the main differences between the RTW and paper pattern were the leg width, the height of the waistband (especially in the front), the back pocket size, and the crotch curve.
I needed to trim down the crotch curve – more noticeably at center back than front. If you can get the crotch curve right, that’s half the battle for fitting a pair of trousers!
The pattern only included one pocket size, which meant that it was proportionally wrong for most of the sizes in the envelope. Proper pocket proportion and placement is important! (Afterall, you don’t want “gateway mom jeans” because of “dinosauric pockets”.)
So I reduced the pocket size to match my RTW skinnies and referred to the factory placement when making my own.
With my pattern corrected well enough on paper, I pulled out some black metallic stretch denim I had. There was enough yardage to re-cut if I needed any major alterations, but I was fairly certain the fit would be close enough to the RTW jeans I like.
I decided to use some fun cotton fabric to line the front pockets. No one will ever see it but I know it’s there! =)
After a quick assembly and matching the details on my RTW pairs, I had a pretty good first pair.
I ended up adding half an inch to the hem length on the pattern but the black pair is just long enough. I also curved the waistband a little more to prevent my next pairs from having the slight gap at center back that the black pair has.
Knowing that I never tuck my shirts in, especially when wearing skinny pants, I called the metallic black pair “good enough”…
…and moved on to a second pair – this time in a floral print stretch jacquard:
I carefully cut the fabric so the stripey-ness of the floral print would match across the legs and then broke up the print on my tush with intentionally unmatched pockets – something that will hardly ever be seen because of that untucked shirt thing, but still.
I still had one 3-inch metal fly zipper left, so I decided to make a third pair of skinny pants out of some textured stretch jacquard. (I love love love this fabric! You will be seeing it again because I bought it in 4 different colors.)
I didn’t do anything fun for the pockets on my floral print pants because the pants themselves where fun enough. I decided the teal pants needed interesting pockets though.
I had three good options in my cotton print stash – Tube map, tiny turtles, and bigger happy turtles. So I turned to Instagram/Twitter for a vote.
My first try-on and I think I finally got the waistband curve exactly right! Third time’s a charm and all that. This pair of pants is definitely the most comfortable.
I did more topstitching detail on my teal pants than I did on the other two pairs. I also cut them out one layer of fabric at a time in order to keep the textured design evenly horizontal across each piece – typical making-things-overly-complicated-just-because-I-can mode of operation.
Here’s a back view of the finished teal pants. (After all the picture sorting and editing, I’m reeeally tired of looking at my butt!)
Pair number four will be perfect – if I ever decide I need to make myself another! I went ahead and corrected the pattern just in case.
I chose to mimic the look of the buttonholes on my RTW jeans. I made the loop by tracing around the shank of the jeans tack button and bringing it to a point. I used some embroidery/cross-stitch thread and just zig-zag stitched over it following the line I drew.
I’ve been wearing all three pairs of skinny pants a lot for my retail job at the fabric store. The metallic black pair is a little too warm in the summer (all that metal retains body-heat and reflects it back) but it’s a nice basic without being boring because of the sparkle. The floral pair is just plain fun & trendy. And the teal pair is super comfortable and probably my favorite.
So anyway, I made some pants. Trousers. Whatever.
And it took me so long to blog them, that it seems everyone else in the online sewing community has now made and blogged their own in the meantime! Ahead, but behind all at the same time.
I’m not sure I would have originally chosen to make myself a coat in this style, had I only seen the pattern for sale. After all, I already have 4 (store-bought) fancy coats to wear when I’m dressed up and I wasn’t sure I could justify a fifth.
But the collar was interesting, and the more I considered it, the more I could see myself finding a way to make it my own. Plus, pattern testing for a designer is always a fun challenge because it forces me to try styles I may have passed over otherwise. (How can you grow if you won’t step outside your comfort zone?)
I’m intrigued by Lolita Patterns for two basic reasons:
One, they are based on the Japanese style of dress called Lolita fashion that is both girly and conservative, meaning you get the cute anime look without the sleazy, Halloween-costume vibe. (Lolita fashion. Now I finally have a term for that style!)
And two, the pattern sizing is based on two separate blocks and has very little design ease. Technically, my measurements were not on the chart, so I was hoping that the “very little ease” part would work in my favor.
Disclaimer: My version of the Spearmint coat is based on the test pattern I was given. The test pattern needed more work than Amity originally anticipated, and the final pattern being sold has been corrected, but I’m not sure exactly how my end results compare to the finalized pattern.
Also keep in mind that this is being labeled as a “top coat” for a “California winter,” or a “transitional coat” for more extreme climates, and some of my alterations were done to allow me the option of wearing thicker layers with mine. (I plan to wear mine most during Spring and Autumn.)
I chose to make the shorter version of the coat, which is actually 6 inches shorter than the final pattern – it’s now drafted to hit more at the knee.
I went digging through my fabric stash and came up with 2 yards of heavy weight 100% cotton blue denim (I bought it 5 or 6 years ago because it was only $2/yard). I also had 2 yards of an amazing dress form print quilting cotton that I thought would make a fun lining.
The pattern called for 3 yards of each, but I am “The Queen of Eking” and I was determined to eke it out of something I had.
No matter how much I wanted to like the shade of the denim’s blue, I just wasn’t feeling it. It was a bit mom-jean blue or something. It might have worked well if I distressed it after making the coat, but since I couldn’t be sure, I didn’t want to take the chance.
So I pondered my options while I made my two mockups and preshrunk my fabric a total of 3 times (washed in hot and heat dried). I didn’t have any fabric to spare, so there was no room for error.
Ultimately, I deliberately decided to use the wrong-side of the denim as the right-side. It has a slightly heathered grey-blue look from a distance but it’s definitely a twill weave up close.
I simply liked the wrong-side color more, and it even coordinated better with the lining print. And, as you would expect, no two pairs of jeans in my closet are the same shade of blue, so I knew a coat this more neutral color would go with all of them. Besides, the head-to-toe matching denim look is a total fashion no-no for me anyway. My personal rule of thumb is: make whatever you wear look intentionally styled. If someone has to wonder if you meant to do something, you didn’t make the contrast obvious enough.
As I mentioned before, two mockups were made, and this was so I could be sure my alterations were satisfactory. I only tested the outer layer, and didn’t bother with the pockets for my mockups (Not bothering with things like lining or under collar saves time and muslin too, but I did make corrections to all the paper pattern pieces for the lining as I went.)
Main changes made to the pattern, based on my first mockup:
The second mockup turned out to be unnecessary because my alterations were good, but I’m glad I took the time to be sure and didn’t jump right to the real fabric.
These are perfect examples of why mockups are necessary! And don’t feel like you have to make a completed item! I didn’t do a lining, pockets, buttonhole, or true hems (I just folded edges once and basted down to check finished length).
So it was finally on to the real fabric!
Sure enough, I managed to eke everything out of the 2 yards of fabric. It helped that I had reduced some of the collar width and that the pattern has only 3/8 inch seam allowance. (Note: you may want to add to the seam allowance if you make a Spearmint with fabric that frays easily.) Astonishingly, I only had to piece two pieces!
I put a seam in the center back of the neck facing, which I then topstitched and mostly covered with a tag.
And I creatively pieced one side of the under collar, which no one will ever see unless I lift the back of the collar to show them.
For the most part, I followed the written instructions just as they were. I did, however, make a few exceptions based on personal preferences:
After joining the coat to the lining and adding one large button, I had a completed Spearmint!
And here are a few more photos of some of the details:
Overall, this is a great pattern! The pieces fit together very nicely and I love the separately drafted lining and finishing details. The instructions may be a little brief for a beginner, but with the extra tutorials and sewalongs on the Lolita Patterns blog, most sewists of any level should have no trouble making this lovely coat for themselves.
As payment for being a pattern tester, I was given one copy of the paper pattern.
Obviously, I do not need another copy since I have already altered and adjusted the test pattern to my liking. So it’s Giveaway time!
If you would like a chance to win a copy of this pattern in its beautiful packaging, just follow these simple rules:
Giveaway is open to all locations. Winner will be chosen at random.
Deadline for entry is closed
at 11:59pm on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 United States Central Time (GMT -6). I’ll announce the winner in a post on the following day. Winner announced in this post.
Good luck and Happy New Year!
And now if you’ll excuse me, Wensley sees that I am wearing a coat and thinks we’re going for a walk…
So I left all you readers with math swirling around in your heads. I hope Part 1 wasn’t too technical or too much of a cliffhanger!
Now I bet you’re eager to see how my experiment worked when I applied the math. =)
First, I copied my pattern in the bust 34 size at 91% on my printer and taped the pieces together. (As always, photos enlarge when clicked.)
I used some of my favorite pattern tracing paper to trace the other two copies of my pattern at the same size they came in – one bust 34 and one bust 31 size.
Because my traced patterns were on such sheer paper, I could do a good comparison of the shrunken 34 under the actual 31 to see the minor differences.
The differences were subtle but interesting. Here are a few closeups:
To me, the most fascinating part of the pattern comparison was the keyhole detail at the neck. When patterns are graded by the manufacturer, many of the details are not proportionally scaled, meaning that some details remain the same size no matter what size a pattern is drafted to be.
This means that on a smaller version of the dress, the keyholes are relatively larger. Likewise they are smaller on the larger versions. This does not always make for the most aesthetically pleasing details on the far ends of the grade.
After all, a pattern designer designs a pattern to have the correct detail proportions for that prototype size. I think it is somewhat lazy for the pattern companies to then grade without changing all the proportions accordingly.
My shrinking/enlarging method using a ratio solves this grading proportion problem.
Okay, so are you ready to see how the mockup experiment works on a real person?
Here they are on me:
Obviously, the actual bust 34 size is too big for me:
When you zoom in to look at dart placement and where the armhole hits at the shoulder joint, you can really see which fits best.
All three had necklines that were a little too high for comfort. And both the 31 and the shrunken 34 had armholes that were a bit small (typical on vintage patterns). In the above photo, I have cut directly on the stitchline for all the armholes, but I have reshaped and cut on the corrected underarm curve for the shrunken 34.
Obviously, you can see that I have chosen to fit the shrunken 34 because of all the safety pins and drawn lines on the mockup. It had the least amount of alterations needed.
I took in the side seams slightly, and pinned a test hem. I decided it needed a little more flare for the A-line skirt, which I added to the paper pattern when I transferred my pin markings to the pattern.
(Here’s an example of how I transferred fitting marks from another mockup to the paper pattern.)
So what are your thoughts and ideas about my pattern scaling method? I would love to know if this works for others too! Please comment or send me photos or links if you try your own version of my experiment!
And in case you’re curious, here’s the geeky fabric I plan to use to make the real version of my dress.
I’ve had a couple requests for a tutorial of sorts about how to transfer the fitting marks from a mockup (aka muslin or toile) to the paper sewing pattern. So since I’m in the process of making my Easter dress for this year and the pattern needed a lot of tweaking to be what I want, it was the perfect time to take some photo examples. =)
I’m currently working at The Dallas Opera (helping to build fun 19th century costumes!), so I was able to have my coworker Traci help me fit my mockup during part of a lunch break. Really convenient since the pattern needed more work than I could easily fit on myself alone! Thanks, Traci!
Behold, the truly flattering (*sarcasm*) before & after fitting photos:
Mockups aren’t meant to look pretty. They are meant to be drawn all over and pinched and pinned and then cut up. This is why my fabric choice was a cheapy bedsheet – nothing pretty because I knew I would be throwing it away in the end. I never plan to save or use a mockup once it has served its purpose. If the pieces are big enough, I might cut it up and use the fabric for another mockup later (this fabric was actually left over from Camille’s wedding dress mockup).
There was a pinch taken out of the neckline to eliminate a gap. Tucks were taken out of the side front pieces for a better fit at the bust. Some of the flare was removed from the skirt. The princess seams were moved inward a bit and the neckline was widened slightly at the edges for a more pleasing shape (these adjustments were mainly made to match a photo of the dress I’m copying).
And here’s how I transferred all those marks to my pattern:
First step was to cut right on the new line for the princess seams in the front, cut off the sleeve following drawn armseye, and rip the stitches out of the shoulder seam – all so the mockup could be opened up and traced onto the paper pattern.
The cut mockup was placed on the center front piece and aligned with the pattern’s top line of the bust dart, shoulder seam, and center front. The new lines were traced onto the paper following the mockup at the neck, armseye, and down to top of dart.
Then the mockup was shifted down to line up with the bottom line of the dart on the pattern and the rest of the new seam was traced.
To eliminate the gapping neck in the front, I measured from the top safety pin to the edge of dart.
I forgot to take one photo at this point (but finished alteration is seen in next couple of pictures). To remove that fabric from the pattern without changing the straight center front line (because it’s cut on a fold), I drew a line perpendicular to the neckline and down to a random point on the side seam.
Then the newly drawn line is cut almost all the way down to the side seam – only a tiny point is left attached. And the paper is overlapped the measured amount at the neck (in a V-shape) and taped.
To add the new seamlines on the side front pattern piece, I needed to extend the paper so scraps were taped down the length of pattern.
The mockup was lined up with the paper pattern and pinned down to the table (eventually, I plan to make my cutting table’s surface pinnable too!) and the front edge was traced.
I traced the new side seam (new because of the tuck taken out of the center of the piece) using a tracing wheel, but you can also use a pin to poke a line of holes through the seam and into the paper.
There were only a couple tiny tweaks to the back pattern pieces. I will adjust the center back seam in a final fitting and then insert my zipper accordingly. (It will probably be a bigger seam allowance.)
Altered patterns always look a little weird because they are no longer “standard”. Learn to trust your mockup markings and ignore the unusual look of the corrected pattern on paper and your real garment will fit properly in the end. (And you can always make a second mockup just to be sure!)
I hope this photo walk-through is helpful! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments of this post. =)
Now that my pattern is altered, my real Easter dress fabric (and underlining fabric) is cut and ready to assemble! (See the finished dress in this post.)
For a long time, I’ve told myself that I didn’t want to write a “learn how to sew” blog because I’ve always felt there are plenty of online resources for that type of thing, and I don’t want to bore my non-sewing readers. (I really love teaching someone to sew, but doing it in person is much more fun.)
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve found that I enjoy leaving helpful hints here & there, and when I do, I get a lot of positive feedback from others in this Land of Blogging. (I sometimes forget that not everything I know is common knowledge to other sewists, because a lot of little things are just how my coworkers and I have always done it at work, and I don’t always remember where I picked the information up.)
Since so many of you seem to like the tips I’ve mentioned in the past, I thought I would start to include some short “sewing tips” posts on my blog periodically.
So today’s tip is one of the very first things I learned when I started sewing professionally: use safety pins for fittings instead of straight pins.
(Every costume shop and wardrobe crew has a HUGE box or two of safety pins because they are essentially disposable.)
For fittings, I like to use a pincushion that contains only safety pins (I personally prefer the standard #2 size pins). They are all pre-opened & stabbed into the pincushion so they can be grabbed one at a time with one hand, which saves tons of time during a fitting.
Using safety pins for fitting a mock-up or marking a minor clothing alteration (like a hem) has the added benefit of the pins not moving or falling out when the model removes the garment after the fitting. And, of course, the wearer can’t be poked with pins while undressing either.
Keeping the safety pins in a pincushion also helps with cleanup after the pins have been removed from the garment to make alterations – just open the safety pin, remove it from the fabric, and stick it back into the pincushion. There’s no need to reclose it, and it’s ready for next time. =)
If you ever have a sewing dilemma, feel free to leave a comment or ask me by email – I’d love to help out if I can!
I have an irksome tendency when I make something – it has to match the picture I’m working from or I will spend forever and a day tweaking the pattern until it does.
Inner Perfectionist: It’s not quite right.
Lazy part of me: But it’s only off by an EIGHTH of an inch.
Perfectionist: Yes, but it’s off and it will drive me crazy!
Lazy: No one else will EVER notice.
Perfectionist: True, but now that I’ve seen it, I can’t un-see it.
Lazy: FINE. I’ll fix it.
I know this makes me better at what I do, but there are times when I wish I could tune the perfectionist out and happily fly through my projects. (When I seriously try to ignore the inner perfectionist, my husband will nicely remind me that “You’d better fix it or it’s gonna bug you!” *sigh* He knows me well.)
So, anyway, you might remember that I chose the Ladies Wrap #0291 for my next assignment for The 1912 Project (honoring the 100th anniversary of the Titanic) because it looked fairly straightforward. However, it turned out to be one of those deceptively complex patterns that poked at the perfectionist in me.
The wrap has four darts, and their purpose is beautifully understated. Two are the shoulder seams, and two meet at the center front creating an almost horizontal line from bust point to bust point (but will be hidden by a collar on the finished garment).
These darts have perfect placement and are the textbook size for the 32-inch bust that the pattern is labeled as being – and because bust point measurement and shoulder seam measurement vary so slightly from size to size, the simple wrap style (a lapped front & open sides) can easily fit bust sizes ranging from 30 to 42.
Using a left-over piece of a bed-sheet from another project, I cut out a mock-up without any seam allowances. That meant the edges were right where the hem would be and I could check the overall fit & silhouette.
I tried the mock-up on myself, my sister and my mom. (I am smaller than the pattern’s 32” bust and my mom & my sister are both larger.)
Let me show you why the pattern needed tweaking…
I know I’m small but I have long arms – and the sleeves were way long, so it looked like I was wearing someone else’s clothes! The drape of the sleeve couldn’t hang gracefully with the arm raised & bent and didn’t match the design sketch, so of course, it completely BUGGED me.
It’s not terrible when I don’t bend my arms (it kind of reminds me of church-pageant angel sleeves) but I would look silly walking around with my arms out all the time!
So I took a poll on upper arm length. (Thank you soooo much to all of you who took the time to answer my one-question-survey!)
The results were quite interesting and confirmed my suspicions: upper arm length is not all that different from size to size, and I was right there at the average middle – 11 inches from shoulder joint to inside elbow.
I used a marker to draw new hem lines on the mock-up while trying to more closely match the sketch. For demonstration purposes, I only cut off the left sleeve.
I transferred the alterations to my paper pattern, tweaked the sleeve points, and shortened the body front & back lengths a little. (In order for me to construct the wrap in the special way I have planned, all the alterations needed to be precise before I make the real thing.)
For those who want to know specifics, I cut 2 inches from the sleeve length and adjusted the curve slightly to make the points less square (matching the sketch). I trimmed 1-3/8” off the front hem and a scant quarter-inch off the back hem.
Now that the pattern is fixed (and my inner Perfectionist can find some other project to obsess about), I’m ready to cut the real fabric and have some fun with construction… exactly 100 years to the day that the Titanic sank.