Monthly Archives: May 2010


Gambeson pieces---see the markings for the quilting lines on the (white) lining side

This is not strictly my project, but a re-enactor friend wanted some help with making a gambeson, a kind of quilted shirt for wearing under his armour. So yesterday we spent some time looking at pictures online, and then trucked off to Value Village (which might actually be redeeming itself in my eyes) where he was able to pick up a nice heavy blue cotton curtain (Ikea), a large white cotton tablecloth (I hated to cut it up… it was actually quite nice) and a raggedy-ass old polyester duvet, all for under $20. We brought it back to my house, took some measurements, and cut out a the various rectangles (fronts, back, sleeves), stitched them together, and then began fitting. I’ve never done a draped pattern before (using the term “drape” very loosely), but it was really neat… as we pinned it on it became pretty obvious where we needed to remove

Test sample of machine quilting. The hand-quilting sample was too embarassing to show.

fabric around the arms and neckhole (and add a gusset under the sleeve)… and by the time we were done we had what actually resembles a fairly “modern” pattern silhouette. Nifty! Anyway, this is how it sits right now. I was trying to convince him to hand-quilt (time-consuming but less fiddly since I don’t have a walking foot and more authentic, but he wants to use a contrasting thread for the quilting  and neither of us were going to be able to make that look good by hand. Ah well.. this way he’ll probably have the shirt in a week or two, rather than it taking months.

Now, for a disclaimer—I’m not and never have been a re-enactor, although I can understand the appeal. But if I were, I’d be such an authenticity snob… I can totally see myself fully hand-stitching a garment just so that it had the right “look”. Making something with a re-enactor who really doesn’t care about authentic detail as long as the general look is right… well, it’s not what I would want in a garment. However, not my problem, right? 🙂



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Jalie jeans, test type

Kid's jeans (first try on)

So, I took the plunge. Well, in miniature. Just putting the finishing touches on a trial pair of jeans… for my daughter. A little torn—on the one hand, they’re very cute, but on the other hand, there’s enough booboos in the construction and fitting issues that I’m a little dissatisfied—more with myself than with the pattern, however. Oh, and the plaid flannel in the cut-outs is the same fabric as the pocket lining, and was a pair of my hubby’s pyjama pants long, long ago. So glad I kept those scraps!

On the plus side:

  • they fit! Like stretch jeans should… which may actually be a little snug.
  • I LOVE the pocket design/yoke and front leg detail. We were inspired by a pair of jeans belonging to my younger daughter, and I think it’s so super cute. I am excited to see how it looks once it’s washed and frayed. The cut-outs on the front leg and the back yoke are both backed with another layer of denim behind the flannel, for strength. The pocket just has the flannel.
  • The red topstitching is super nice, even though it doesn’t show quite as much as I might like. I used the triple stitch with regular thread, and I really liked it for topstitching because it is SLOW…

    Are these not the coolest pockets EVER, I ask you?

    much less chance for me to mess up, especially along short lengths. All in all the topstitching, though not perfect, is a LOT better than my last attempt. My “edgestiching” blind-hemmer foot definitely shows its limitations along longer seams, although that may be as much shoddy construction of the foot (the screw that adjusts the front extension is really loose, so it jiggles out slowly as you go along… this is just as much a problem for blind hems as for edgestitching).

  • I also didn’t have any trouble catching the 1 cm seam allowances in my second row of topstitching; some people had complained about this in their pattern reviews.
  • I added the perfect amount of length to the leg (1″) (at least as long as they don’t shrink in the wash any more)… they should be perfect once hemmed as is.
  • I put buttons and buttonholes on the inside waistband to thread and adjustable buttonhole elastic through the back (a fave feature of mine for most kids’ pants these days). However, my gaposis-fixes were such that I don’t think she’ll actually need it.
  • hammering REALLY helped with a few of the ultra-thick areas. I am impressed.
  • I almost got the fly right on the first tr. Almost.


  • The instructions say to attach the back pockets before you sew up the centre back seam. Despite marking very carefully and gluing the pockets in place so they didn’t shift around, they’re still not even. Next time I will definitely put them on AFTER the centre-back seam is stitched (which is the next step anyway so it’s not like it’s a big rearrangement.
  • the yoke definitely needed adjusting for back gaposis. Now, my nine-year-old definitely has a booty for her age (to her father’s dismay), but on the other hand proportionately I doubt hers is any worse than mine, so I will definitely curve my yoke in a bit before I cut it.
  • I adjusted the yoke at the sides (since the centre back, which would’ve been better, was already topstitched and I didn’t want to take tucks due to the cut-out peekaboo layers at the yoke), which left a bit of a pointy stop at the top side.
  • the waistband kinda sucks. This is for various reasions:

    Kid's jeans: front (finished except for belt loops, hemming)

  • 1) I cut it on the straight grain, non-stretch direction, rather than on the bias or the stretch grain. This is because I like pants that stay up… but I should’ve added to the length because it was a little short.

    Kid's jeans: back (finished except for belt loops and hemming)

  • 2) I didn’t interface it. This might’ve been fine with a heavy-duty denim, but this denim is so light and stretchy, it’s just floppy. My bad. I got lazy and impatient (and forgot).
  • 3) I angled it in at the centre-back seam to further reduce gaposis, which was successful but left it with that little divet at the back. I am definitely excited to try my contoured waistband. Thoroughly interfaced.
  • the jeans button is a little off of where it needs to be; I centred it on the buttonhole, but its post of course needs to go at the END of the buttonhole. And of course since it’s fairly soft and floppy, this makes the whole fly (which IS interfaced, by the way) pull a little wonky. I suspect the solution will be to stitch the end of the buttonhole closed a bit. And next time, position the butotn AFTER cutting the buttonhole. I think for mine, I will hand-stitch the buttonhole so I can do a keyhole, but for these I just did the lone buttonhole setting on my machine. (and it says it all about how thin the denim is that I even COULD do the buttonhole on my machine, which doesn’t like to do buttonholes on thick fabrics at all.)

(sorry about the colour in the last two pics… the camera didn’t like having the black couch in the background. Also the jeans are  rather rumpled in the last couple of shots because she won’t take them off long enough for me to hem and put belt loops on.)


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Today I bought fabric. Not randomly, I might add—ok, mostly not randomly. I could have bought MUCH more, especially since somebody appears to have donated an entire stash to my (usually lame) local Value Village recently. But I was restrained. Especially after I found out about the $500 vehicle tune-up we have to pay for tomorrow. Oopsie.

Black cotton... won't this make an awesome blouse?

Anyway, although I could cheerfully have bought much more, especially at Value Village, I was comparatively restrained. I bought a black cotton with a bit of a woven-in stripe. I probably don’t need four metres of it… but on the other hand I know I will use it, here and there, sooner or later. And won’t it make the CUTEST JJ? Also I have plans of a Danielle dress with this and some horrendous black-and-white pattern synthetic I bought years ago… but more on that later.

Giving in to the Jalie jeans pattern that has been sitting, traced out, silently calling my name, I also

Stretch denim... blackish with a bit of vertical stripe

bought 3 metres of this stretch denim; it’s black with a subtle vertical striping effect. Fabricland had exactly three kinds of stretch denim (that I could find) and this was the only one that wasn’t $18/m. (Now… if I get to the point where I can put together a top-notch, kick-ass jean, $18/m is still less than $40 for a pair of jeans and thus roughly half the cost of the jeans I typically buy, even allowing for notions. But for a first go… this stuff came to about $8/m, which is at least halfway bearable if I create a complete wadder. Of course, when I checked the stretch, instead of the 20% Jalie recommends, it’s more like 30 or 40%… so I went and retraced the pattern a size smaller. I bought three metres (what was left on the bolt)… I’m hoping it will be enough for a set of capris (the trial run) and a full-length, but we’ll see. If not I’ll get a couple of pairs of capris for the summer and my oldest daughter will get the jeans she’s been asking for.

Wool... I'm thinking that blazer I'm always talking about.

Then we went to VV and I picked up this grey wool… three metres for $10; I know, not a real steal thrift-store wise, but VV seems to get by on “prices just a little bit better than Walmart” /sigh. I could’ve bought a lot more, too… someone must’ve donated a fabric stash recently because there was a TON of fabrics, some of them very nice. Unfortunately my hubby called with the news about the vehicle repair halfway through my shopping excursion, so I restrained myself to just this wool. Can’t you see a nice blazer out of it? heck, it could even have a matching pencil skirt if I got really ambitious. (Would I WEAR a pencil skirt? this is my dilemma.)

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Like I need a hole in the head…

Victorian Lady's jacket with awesome pleated detail

… I need another project to obsess over. I’ve said I don’t much care for vintage fashions. This is not strictly true… I just generally can’t see myself wearing (or looking good) in most of them (without serious corsetry, which I’m not into. Not that I can’t rock a boned bodice, I have several, but I’m not thrilled with the feel of tight-lacing when I have tried it, and my broad ribcage and short waist don’t  reduce particularly well anyway), and the whole point of this current push is to get me sewing STUFF I WILL WEAR as opposed to my usual costume indulgences.

But I certainly like *looking* at the older patterns, especially the really old. And yesterday I stumbled upon this jacket. Now, I’m not really interested in the pattern itself (see remarks about corsetry above), but look at at: round, stand-up collar, princess-seam jacket with narrow sleeves and just a bit of puff at the top. Where have we seen that before, folks? HERE of course! Now wouldn’t this hip-length version of the coat be awesome with that kind of bottom pleat-detailing added? I still can’t really see myself actually wearing this fabric, but it would be perfect for trying out the look. Things I love about the bottom of this jacket:

  • the dropped-waist detail
  • the pleats/visual interest
  • the angle of the dropped waist (higher at the back, lower at the front)
  • the larger pleats in the back

So… I would need to figure out:

  • the line of the dropped waist on my pattern
  • draft a pattern for the pleated insert
  • figure out a way to inset the centre-back pleat, since my coat doesn’t have a centre-back seam EDIT: it does too have a back seam… obviously I’m an idiot.
  • draft pattern for the “belt” detail (on the diagonal, maybe? or of a contrast fabric that could also be used for the collar?)
  • how the lining should reflect the detailing. I’m thinking of treating the lining of the pleated part almost like underlining… hmm. Probably there’s guidelines out there on how you’re supposed to line pleats.  My oldest daughter’s jacket basically had the same pleat detailing on the inside as the outside in the back, but not in the front where it appears the lining is just more angled so the hem is the same width). I can think of lots of possibilities, but which one would be best?

Probably this kind of pleating would be better in a lighter fabric (like a canvas or suiting) rather than my wool, but whatever. I can topstitch the pleats if necessary (assuming I even have enough fabric left over for the pleated section). Anyway, what fun. 🙂 (On a side note, on re-trying my coat muslin, I think I want to shorten the bodice above the bust (so in the armscye) about an inch. This will raise that droopy bust-line, put the waist in a better spot (I really am short-waisted, aren’t I?), and reduce the droopy armpit the pattern has. All in all, I like).

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Figuring out my body has been a long process, and not one I think I’m done with. When I was a teenager, I knew I had nice legs and a hot tummy; I couldn’t figure out why jeans that fit at my waist (this was before I had figured out low-rise) so often had flaps hanging loose at the hips. I was confused over whether I had a big waist or small hips. A lot of things just didn’t make sense.

It’s taken a while, but here’s where I am:

I have what you might call a “boy figure”. I’m slim, reasonably tall (5′ 7,” 120 lbs).  My bust is small—though still technically a B-cup—but my ribcage is fairly large and my shoulders are broad. My waist is large compared to the rest of my frame, and my hips are quite narrow. Paradoxically, my butt isn’t particularly flat (though it is, as my husband often reminds me, on the small side), and I stand with a slight swayback. My arms and legs are long for my height—I need at least a 33″ inseam in jeans, and mostly don’t wear long-sleeved shirts because they are always too short. I’ve been thrilled with the trend for hooded sweaters designed to cover the hand, with the loop in the cuff for your thumb, because they are actually long enough in the sleeve. And, since so much of my height is in the legs, my body is actually fairly short—almost petite. In particular, I’m short waisted—there’s only about an inch between the top of my hipbone and the bottom of my ribcage.

The back... still a bit of swayback puddle.

I’m thinking about this partly as I struggle with the thought of doing a swayback alteration with the JJ. There’s still some horizontal puddling across the back. BUT—is it because of the swayback alone, or is it exacerbated by the short waist? It doesn’t fold as obviously in the front, but it still seems improved a bit just by shortening. Except overall I like the length—so if I raised the waist I would then need to lengthen the hem. Weird! Does it matter?

I’m also a bit confounded over the swayback thing for the Jalie jeans project. Mostly with regard to the waistband (and the back yoke). A lot of the other people complain that they need a curved waistband because they have a big difference between hips and waist. I don’t have that at all—but I still do have a bit of swayback, and what little padding my bottom has is all squarely to the rear. I often do have trouble with jeans gaping right at the back waistline, and all the RTW I own have a curved waistband. So did most of the ones I was checking out in the mall the other day, too. So I’m really thinking a contour waistband is the way to go. I’m just not sure about how to draft the pattern. I can’t tell from looking at my existing pants how intense the curve is (and it seems to vary… some have the grain on the true bias on the front, some don’t make it all the way there). I guess either way they’re definitely not making a 90-degree turn  over the curve; at most a 45-degree one. I should probably start by measuring the length of the waistband on the pattern. Then decide how much curve, how much at the back should be straight (I can probably get some of that from my existing bands), that kind of thing. Then make a test waistband and see how it fits (and where on the hip… another thing I’m picky abou). Damn, I wish I could just go and get the fabric to start this. /sigh


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An oldie… Kids’ choli

My daughter showing off

This is a dance shirt I made three or four years ago now for my older daughter. The idea is loosely based on an Indian choli, a kind of cropped, sometimes backless blouse worn with skirt or sari or whatever (depending on the region). They’re popular in tribal bellydance, and a little more modest than the traditional bellydance bra top. I have about a zillion of my own, made to various patterns, which maybe I will talk about at some point, but this one seemed like it would make for a nice quick post.

I drafted the pattern for this shirt based on her measurements; kids’ patterns are SO nice to draft because you don’t have to worry about bust shaping. There’s a theme or principal in “folk” clothing where you try to be as economical with the fabric as possible—most pieces will be rectangles, triangles, or trapezoids. This makes sense if you have to spin and weave your own fabric—you don’t want to waste ANY of it. It comes at the

a choli (a kind of backless top popular in bellydance) designed by my daughter

expense of fit, of course… but that’s the nature of the beast. The other upside, however, is it makes the patterns dead easy to draft. My daughter chose the kimono-inspired sleeves for this shirt (and made up her own pose). Since you can’t see it too well in the photo, here’s a rough technical drawing of the shirt: as you can see, nary a curve in sight. The triangles under the arms are actually square gussets.

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We’re doomed, I tell you, doooomed…..

JJ (near?) disaster

This JJ did not want to go together. The construction is terrible, the errors and flaws innumerable… and yet, I still like it. From a distance, anyway, it’s still pretty cute.

JJ done up

Partly, it’s this stupid fabric, which is a slippery sheer polyester I rescued after a wedding last summer, where it had been used as bunting. It made good bunting—pretty, drapey. It’s the kind of fabric I hate to sew with,but I have a bunch (albeit ripped into strips about 20″ wide by 4m long) (note the characteristically Canadian blending of Metric and Imperial measuring systems there. I learned to sew in Imperial, but fabric is sold by the metre. I am trying to move towards sewing in metric, but so far… limited success).

Partly it’s me being impatient, and frustrated with this stupid, slippery fabric that doesn’t want to take a crease. It doesn’t help that I don’t have a small enough machine needle (or at least I THINK that’s what’s causing some of the puckering at the seams). But mostly, I think, it’s me. Like last night I started  pinning a cuff to a sleeve; went to finish it this morning and started sewing and realized it was on the wrong side. On the plus side, I forgot to shorten the stitch length from all the gathering stitches I was sewing, so it was easy to rip out. 😛 Or the side French seam that I sewed wrong-way in. Or when I sewed the side back piece to the back piece upside down.

But, it’s now together. The ruffles are uneven (and were a pain to get hemmed, and I still don’t think I got the right pieces on the right length for all of it). The collar is a mess. The whole thing is a little too snug because the french seams (which are fairly uneven) took up a bit more seam allowance than the pattern actually had (plus the one I mis-sewed I was too lazy to rip out, so I just cased it around itself again, costing me about a cm of girth. But, from a distance it’s still pretty cute, and since I’ll always be wearing it over a camisole or something, it looks fine with just the bottom buttons (or even only one done up). The sleeve closure detail doesn’t actually open since I couldn’t get my machine to do nice buttonholes on such a small, thick piece of fabric.

The back... still a bit of swayback puddle.

Closeup of ruffles

Alterations: French seams (as I mentioned) since the material was sheer and ultra-ravelly. I narrowed the collar and the sleeve cuffs a bit, more-or-less successfully. I attached the ruffles differently; I was going to just shorten them (since I think they look too long in the original) but I wound up finishing both edges and sewing the gathering seam about 1 cm in from one side.

A few minor fit issues remain. The back still shows a bit of swayback bubble, which I might actually have to remove with a horizontal tuck to get rid of. The front princess seams actually fall to the inside of my nipples, which makes me want to move them over a bit (given that I seem to have slight to not-so-slight gaping in the front, maybe I should just widen the centre front piece). I’d still like to make a couple more of these, I think, one in black (either linen or a cotton eyelet) and one in a white cotton that I could actually wear without the fancy shirt underneath. At some point I want to draft a long sleeve, and play with the design now that I have a nice, (almost) perfectly fitting princess bodice.

So, things learned…

1) don’t sew with fabrics you hate. It’s not fun.

2) Take your time. Fix your mistakes. Don’t be too lazy to iron (ESPECIALLY with a difficult fabric).

3) zig-zag rolled hems are WAY easier than straight-sewn ones.

Wearable? Well, we’ll see.


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