Monthly Archives: July 2012

Spreading the bug.


I have a lovely friend here in town who is creative, crafty, and has one of those unique figures  that makes buying clothes off the rack an experience that ranges from frustrating to soul-destroyingly brutal. She is well-rounded,  busty, and very, very petite. Needless to say, it was glaringly obvious to me that she needed to start sewing.

Of course, persuading her (a busy puppy-mom with nowhere near enough hours in the day already) of this took a bit more work. In fact, it wasn’t until a month or so ago that I finally managed to get her to pick a thing to make, and we began the adventure of fitting her.


As I mentioned before, the pattern she picked was New Look 6789. This had lots of things going for it, from our perspective. Aside from being intensely cute to start with, it has princess seams, no waist seam (a feature she’s about as fond of as I am, with even better reason), and broad, bra-friendly straps.

The main downside is that the pattern only goes up to a size 16, and we really should’ve been starting with an 18, even before the FBA.

I started with measurements. Full bust, high bust, and back waist. To give you a small sense of what we were dealing with—standard Misses sizes are drafted with a back length of 16″ or so. Mine is around 15″, resulting in my standard, moderate petite alteration to the bodice.

My friend’s is 13″. If she’s standing tall.

What followed was not an elegant sequence of well-practiced fitting. Rather, it involved a lot of measurement, followed by pattern alteration, followed by trying on, followed by further tweaking, and that’s without going into all the stitching and unpicking and swearing. My friend did, far and away, the bulk of the work herself, while I directed. This worked pretty well for me, and hopefully for her.

Having determined based on measurements, roughly what we needed to add to the pattern, both all around and for FBA purposes, I put my slave labour friend to work tracing out her pattern. We added width. And I did a Y-type Full Bust Adjustment a la Debbie Cook, except with less precision.

Now, my dear friend, having picked an excellent pattern, had decided on a very cute, black with white polkadots knit for the fabric. Yes, you are absolutely right, this is a pattern for a woven. Ahem. Never one to be dissuaded, I figured that making it in a knit should make it possible to omit the zipper, so away we went. To start off, after she’d block fused a portion of fabric, we cut out the top yokes and straps, and did some quick test-fitting with these. All seemed well, so I set her to cutting out the rest of it. Which was not block-fused. Which was not fun in this fabric. Nor was it the kind of stuff that liked to be sewn. But she soldiered on, hampered mainly by the fact that our days off during a week don’t coincide, and she lives on the far side of the city (which is the better part of an hour’s drive even when traffic isn’t ridiculous). Obviously, it’s not perfect—some spots the angles are a little off, and in particular there’s some issues with the vertical seams where I should’ve had her use a stretchier stitch, and hemming the lining nearly drove her over the edge—but the fit, the fit.

Rear fit

I don’t think I can explain to you how triumphant I feel over this dress. It’s not perfect, by any means, but it’s leaps and bounds above anything off the rack.

It fits her bust.

It fits her back.

We could probably have shortened the waist even more (I wasn’t sure how much should come out below the armpit, as opposed to above it, which was easy to adjust with the straps.), but it’s much better than storebought.

With a little bit of princess-seam tweaking, we seem to have achieved skimming fit. Woot, woot!


So, bear with me while I wax philosophical here a moment. I’m a big fan of body acceptance. A fan of finding what’s beautiful about yourself, whatever your size or shape may be, and running with that.

And watching my friend go through the fitting process has been illuminating on so many levels—the physical challenge of fitting a body so different from mine, sure, but also the body-negativity she struggles with, having a body that not only isn’t the model ideal, but doesn’t even seem to be in the same universe, as dictated by the clothes on the rack. Like most of us, she knows what works for her and what doesn’t, but—like most non-stitchers—she doesn’t quite know the difference between what doesn’t work because it’s not flattering for her shape, and what doesn’t work because she’s never tried on a version that actually fit. (I have a similar problem with tailored shirts, frankly). And she’s still trying to digest that it’s not a problem with her—it’s a problem with the clothes, and the system that only caters to shapes within a certain standard deviation of average.

I hope she does absorb it. I hope she learns to tell the difference between a bad fit and a bad body. And I hope (maybe a little selfishly), that she’ll keep on sewing, even if it doesn’t become a major obsession hobby, and will have at least a few things that make the body that she has look as beautiful as it actually is.

And I think that she looks like a bombshell in this dress. 😀



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Lengths of the Pantses

Patternmaking for Fashion Design

Curiosity over the actual definition (if there is such a thing) of the names for the various pants lengths after the piratas*/capris post led me to do some book-type sleuthing.

Here’s one picture, from Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong. According to it, we are all wrong and “capris” are the length only one inch above the ankle bone (which I would’ve called pedal-pushers or flood pants or clam-diggers, if pressed). Her pedal pushers and “toreador” length I would both have called capris. Apparently Bermudas are quite a bit shorter than I’d thought, only about 3/4 of the way down the thigh. Maybe I’m mixing them up with men’s board shorts. Probably this says something about the imprecision of everyday word usage, regional variation, and just my own failure to pay attention. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s no actual standardized terminology. I don’t think there’s an International Code of Fashion Nomenclature that will bar your style from sale if it isn’t labeled appropriately.

What do you think? Any other “official” length designations out there I should be aware of? I’m a little torn on issues like this. On the one hand, who the frick cares? On the other hand, I spend most of my professional life dealing with extremely technical terminology, and I really appreciate the precision it allows. If there is an agreed upon standard, I’d like to at least know what it is so that if I screw it up, it’s on purpose.

Ooo, oo, I know what Tyo’s pants are!

Moi, circa 1983. Jeez I loved this outfit. I am pretty sure my mom made it.

They’re knickers!!!!

Ok, I’ll stick with capris. Or piratas.

*the Patrones magazine is in Spanish, from Spain. Given the differences in clothing terminology between England and North America, I’m not going to assume that the terminology Patrones uses is common to Spanish-speakers worldwide, either.


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Next Size Up II

Jeans. She has them.

Tyo’s replacement capris are finished. Or is that Bermudas? My shorts terminology is lacking. Can I blame being Canadian? The Patrones magazine calls them “pirata,” which I think is totally awesome.

They are pretty standard jeans-styled capris, with a few additional details.

Rear view

Funky, asymmetrical pockets are part of the original pattern (I left off the flaps this time. Not even for lack of fabric—I made them, but didn’t put them on. I don’t really like their shape.) I should’ve piped the pocket edges, although getting the piping crisp around all those corners would not have been fun. As it is, you can barely see the pockets are there. Hmm. I do like the piped yoke—I should’ve piped the waistband, too.

I had better not dwell on the missed piping opportunities. That way lies madness. I added one of those weird, pointless straps between back pocket and side-seam, at Tyo’s request.

I’m too cool.

And then managed to photograph her only from the other side.


Damn she is cool.

I love who I am.

Oh, wait, I’m supposed to be discussing construction, not just posting pictures of my cool kid.

Inside front—pockets, fly construction, buttonhole elastic, bound-edge waistband.

My fly interiors are not generally things of great beauty, and this one isn’t, either, although it’s one of my better ones. I won’t get into how many needles I broke as soon as I started trying to do zig-zags—bar tacks, buttonholes, attaching the belt loops. There was much howling and unpcking. I HATE unpicking bar-tacks. It got better when I ran out of topstitching thread and just used regular blue thread. I may do that for all bar tacks/dense zig-zags in the future. The buttonhole elastics emerge from gaps in the seams where I had to piece the waistband.


I added buttonholes on the outside before stitching the hems, to run the drawstrings (aka shoelaces) through. Back when I made the first pair of camo capris, I bought a metre or so of narrow black twill-tape for the drawstrings. I couldn’t find it when I finished that project, so wound up using shoe-laces instead. It’s kicked around on and off since then, (notably being used in this project) but again today I couldn’t find it. I did, however, find more shoelaces. (And I can never, ever find shoelaces when my shoes need them…)

Front closeup

Can you see that I screwed up the cutting played with the grain on the front pockets? No? Maybe just as well.

Pattern alterations.

Remember my pattern alterations?

Back view

Ok, here’s how they wound up looking. (If you can see through the print, which you probably can’t.) Rear rise is good—not any too high, could probably have gone a little higher, but coverage is maintained even when she squats down. Yay! Yoke curve-in is good but could’ve been more extreme—there’s still plenty of extra ease at the waistband that isn’t there at the hips. There is still some slight wedgification happening—not enough to be uncomfortable (yet) but I can tell that the crotch curve is not perfect for her. Presumably scooping is in order? I’m really not sufficiently enamoured of this pattern to bother, but Tyo may be, in which case I’ll keep it in mind if we end up at Pair #3.


Ok, I’m done. And apologies to Claire for not doing a full-camo photo shoot with the vest. We snapped these pictures in about five minutes just before bedtime.


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Next Size Up

Patrones Niños

Nigh on a year ago, I made Tyo a set of camo capris. The pattern is from this issue of Patrones Niños, which I got from Her Selfishness back in the day. And Tyo was thrilled, with one exception—the rise at the rear was very low, and tended to give her a wedgie.

The pattern of choice (#12)

Unfortunately, while the capris technically still fit—as in, the width of the hips is still sufficient to go around her hips—the low-riding wedginess has reached a point where she doesn’t really find the first pair wearable anymore. So, a while back, I snooped around my local Fabricland and grabbed some lightweight, vaguely camo-esque twill fabric in a shades-of-blue print, to make a replacement pair. I bought two metres, more than enough to make the new pair plus another later when she grew out of it.

Then I went and made fishing vests out of the stuff.


Needless to say, Tyo was not completely thrilled. So this past weekend, whilst she was off camping in the mountains with a friend, I pulled out the scant remainder (just over half a metre) and did my best to eke out the next size up on the capris.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we get to the issue of fabric availability, there was the issue of fit. I traced off the size 12 (the first version having been the size 10), but this time I made a few tweaks:

Pattern alterations.

  1. I extended the back crotch to the line of the next size up at the inseam, tapering to nothing along the leg. Hopefully this helps with the wedginess.
  2. I added a generous (2 cm) wedge along the CB curve. I’ve had good luck with these wedges in the past, but I’ve never done one this big. Hopefully this helps with the rear rise issue.
  3. I took not one, not two, but three tucks in the yoke pattern, to help it curve in at the top. I will also be using buttonhole elastic in the waistband, but this will help reduce the excess of fabric above her well-rounded butt.

Due to my vest-making enterprises, it was an extremely tight fit on the remaining fabric. There is selvedge in seam-allowances, and the waistband is in three pieces. Actually, that worked out really well because instead of making buttonholes for my buttonhole elastic, I just left a small gap in the piecing seam for the elastic to thread through. I predict this will be a win. I hope. With any luck. I’ve also added a small amount of piping (piping a random gift courtesy of Claire of Sew, Incidentally, some time ago—Thank you, Claire!), since I find that camo-type prints really make it hard to see the jeans details. Gee, camo making something hard to see!

Not finished.

Of course, I also spent most of my “free time” this past week and weekend madly cleaning house so that the landlady could start showing it, and then avoiding being in the house so as to not mess it up again. So I can’t tell you if my alterations were successful or not, as the new capris are still a goodly ways off being finished. But here’s hoping!

(and thank you, everyone, for the kind words on my last little post. 🙂 )


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Thank you, ElleC


In an effort to make me feel better as my brain esplodes with all the crazy* going in my life right now, famed philanthropist ElleC sent me a care-package.

Two books on nifty sewing techniques.

Because something else to read is exactly what I need right now.

Not to mention inspiration about time-consuming hand-decorating techniques I HAVE NO TIME FOR.

Yes, like all ElleC’s gifts, this one is edged with malice aforethought. However, I am quite sure I will thoroughly enjoy reading through both Sewing with Knits (practical!)  and Fine Embellishment Techniques (exciting!)

Thank you, ElleC.

Thank you.

No, I mean it, really. 😀

Also, Canada Post managed to deliver these in like, two days? Which is insanely impressive for them. I mean, ElleC and I aren’t located too far apart, as the crow flies, but there’s still like mountains in the way and stuff. Thank you, Canada Post.

*I.e. trying to finish a PhD thesis, juggle various family medical issues (not mine), and preparing to move back to our hometown at the end of the summer with neither savings nor promising career prospects, all without having a total nervous breakdown.


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Fantasy sewing: Fantastic Menswear

A little while back, Peter posted one of his periodic dirges discussing the dearth of stylish modern menswear patterns. However, not one to be a negative Nellie, he went on to highlight one of the more exciting periods, historically, in menswear, the 1970s, and, in particular, the patterns Butterick—the Fashion One—put out for men during this time period. (And the ready availability of said patterns today, often in uncut condition—which probably says something about why they don’t still make ’em like that)

This touching paean niggled something in my memory. Something about 70s menswear.

Butterick 4711

Aha! there it is, folks, Butterick 4711, a men’s suit pattern I thrifted for, as you can see, the princely sum of a half dollar, uncut except for the vest. And designed by, or at least approved by?, Robert L. Green, whoever that is. (Ok, apparently he was the style director at Playboy during the 60s and 70s, among other things.)

While I certainly couldn’t resist this pattern, especially in the size 40 (exactly my husband’s size! Well, for the jacket, anyway), the odds of me actually making it up are, ah, infinitesimal. My husband, despite being only a couple of years older than me, came of age firmly in the 80s. He’d be much more likely to wear this pattern (image also courtesy of Peter) than a very 70s suit.

That being said, Peter’s post prompted me to pull out the pattern and peruse the instructions, as one does, y’know. Some nifty details emerged:

A very nifty fly indeed.

French Fly! (Or at least, that’s what Carolyn called it. See her tutorial. See it now. (durr, I wasn’t paying attention and scanned the picture of the fly, but not the part of the instructions concerning it. Oh well. Go read Carolyn’s tutorial instead.)

Welt pockets!

Welt pockets that hang from the waistband–COOL! Maybe you’ve seen this detail elsewhere? I don’t think I have, not that I’m overly versed in fine tailoring. Still cool.

Vest with odd neck bit.

Odd back-neck strap on the vest. Apparently whoever made the vest before thought it was odd, too, as it’s been clipped off the front pattern and pinned in place on the other piece.

I didn’t get into the jacket instructions, partly because they’re too involved for the amount of time/energy I have right now, partly because it’s for only a partial lining, which isn’t acceptable in menswear as far as I’m concerned, not that I’m any kind of expert.

Now, my husband won’t wear any element of this suit, as I said, except perhaps the vest. My husband does wear vests. And wear them very well, I may add. 😉 My very ticklish fancy is currently dying to make him a soft and summery vest in white slub linen. Of course, I don’t have any white slub linen… but a plain white linen would do (see photo at the top).

Of course if I propose this, he’s going to ask where his jacket is.


But it’s a good fantasy, isn’t it?

Oh, I also got, at the same time, the coordinating boy’s suit pattern:

Butterick 5205

If only I had a sartorially adventurous twelve-year-old boy to sew for. No? Maybe not.


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That slinky summer dress

Fun dress

Claire suggested, most sagely, that I make something quick and knittish as a palate cleanser after my recent detail-heavy exertions.  Of course, she was hinting I make up Zoe’s new “vest” pattern, which is indeed quite cute and tempting, but I decided to jump on the maxidress bandwagon. Ok, it doesn’t exactly take much to get me on the maxidress bandwagon. (see here, here… oh, and here.)

Yes, jealousy over Tyo’s Boredom Dress got the better of me, and I busted out Simplicity 7434, all the way from 1976.

Simplicity 7434

This pattern is part of the Ratzlaff Collection, a number of patterns I nabbed from the Mennonite thrift in my hometown, all of which bear the name “Darlene Ratzlaff” (except one which belonged to “Mrs. Art Ratzlaff.”) Most of them are from the late sixties and earliest seventies, and are a size 10 or 12. So I’m not sure why, in 1976 (or 1977), Mrs. Ratzlaff thought she should buy a size 8 pattern. Did she dramatically lose weight? Is it possible to lose weight when your culinary cultural heritage includes rollkuchen**? Did she have a daughter finally reach the women’s sizes*? Obviously we shall never know (unless I start telephoning all the Ratzlaffs in my hometown until I find the right one. Which would be amusing.)


This is designed for a size 8 bias woven. I am obviously not a size 8, but I thought it just might work in a knit. A quick comparison with my altered Renfrew pattern suggested that, in fact, the sizing was almost identical. KA-CHING.

Front view

From the envelope drawing (and even the technical drawings on the back) I’d assumed it was a simple tank-style pattern underneath the funny cape thingy. Not quite—it has separate shoulder pieces, meant to be cut on grain. I opted to cut them double and add a knit interfacing, so the shoulders are quite sturdy. Knit being knit, I cut the dress pieces on grain as well. The only alteration I made was to fold out a small (1 cm) swayback wedge from the back. In the facings-loving world of 70s patterns, this pattern calls for a bound edge on the neck and armscyes! Perfect, since that was what I was going to do anyway.

Y’all may recall that my comparable pattern, Renfrew, is recommended for a stable knit.

Stable knit, this fabric is not.

Back view

When I first tried it on, it was, in a word, tentlike. The only thing that wasn’t sagging and bagging was the (heavily reinforced) shoulders, which were sitting rather too far to the sides. Fortunately, there’s a CF seam. I took in the front and side-seams about 1″ each above the waist, tapering to nothing below, and on the back I angled in in my swayback region to take out 2-3″ of width, tapering to nothing below the waist. There’s still a little bit of room back there that I could tweak further, I think due to the weight of the skirt, but the side-seams are already tending to ride backwards and I don’t really want to take any more out of the front, so I think I’ll leave it, at lest for the moment. Fabric weight produced the gain in length I had expected, but didn’t see, in Tyo’s dress, so that it currently sweeps the floor unless I wear heels. I may have to trim it for practicality, but I’m liking the extravagant length for now.


The neckline seemed a tad bare when I first tried it on, so I added the raw-edge bow (click through to the full size photo if you can’t see it… it’s there, I swear). I was sort of hoping the fabric would whirl itself into tight curls when stretched and stay that way, but alas, no dice. If I decide I really want a skinny stringy bow, I’ll make and turn some tubes, but I think I’m ok with the raw edge. The hem is raw, too. It has a fabulous flow and drape and, as observed with the bow, no significant tendency to curl.

Of course, all of this has been completed just in time for the end of our glorious week of summer weather (I might’ve had better pictures if I’d been willing to stand outside for more than thirty seconds…). Will summer and +30C tmeperatures return? No telling, this close to the mountains, but I fervently hope so. A few solid weeks of heat like that and I might actually be able to face the inexorable return of winter.


Bonus: Osiris likes it. Very, very much. >:D

*Tyo is feeling very fashionably frustrated right now. Nothing in the children’s racks appeals to her, but the women’s sizes are still mostly too big. The exception is the very smallest of the size 0/1 jeans, of which she now has several pairs, although unfortunately they don’t have the handy buttonhole elastics for cinching in the inevitable above-butt gapage that is her genetic heritage. Probably I should look into that alteration. *wince* I have a few junior teen patterns, but they’re mostly from the 70s and while I think they’re adorable, they’re not quite the current zeitgeist…

**my stylish sister in law is married to a Mennonite, and has been learning to make rollkuchen. Nomnomnom…


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