Monthly Archives: October 2012

Hallowe’en Spotlight: lace-up leather shorts

Lace-Up Shorts

It’s been a Hallowe’en sweatshop around here for the last little while. Last weekend was devoted to, as Steph of 3 Hours Past has put it, sewing with hammers. I spent Sunday with the kids at my mother’s, working on the goggles, and also Syo’s lace-up shorts. Rivets and grommets and wire, oh my.

I was already using McCall’s 5312 for the kids’ tailcoats (more on that later), so I decided to use the pants also included in that crime of a pattern.

Cutest pattern ever?

OK, I’ve whined about McCall’s 5312 before. Despite their supremely cute illustration, these McCall’s “Sassy Girl” patterns are dumbed down almost to the point of not being worth the time, IMO. I hate dumbed-down, simplified patterns.*

On the other hand, that makes them perfect for costume patterns, right? This might be why I hate making costumes…

Anyway, since I had the pattern out, I figured it would be a good candidate for Syo’s shorts—basic pants, no pockets, no waistband to worry about.


I traced off the size 7 as shorts, and cut them out from my fake leather. This was my first time working with vinyl, and not being able to pin really threw me for a loop. It’s funny, because I tend to think I don’t use pins much. Well, working on this high lighted every single instance I reach for them. Closepins were helpful, but not really satisfying. I made about half the shorts on my machine, and half over at my mother’s; her old Pfaff has one thing none of my machines have—a roller foot. It made a BIG difference in sewing with the vinyl, especially for the topstitching bits. Topstitching was essential since I couldn’t exactly press this stuff in any meaningful way. I also used a lot of Wonder Tape.

Back darts

I used a very quick ‘n dirty pants-fitting method for these where I sewed them up sans darts and then added the rear darts by pinching to fit. I skipped the front darts, which really don’t make any sense to me when fitting any kind of a rounded tummy—something I’d say about 90% of kids have. Though, I don’t think the darts I wound up sewing are hugely different from the original pattern darts. And, yes, they’re pointy. I’m not worrying myself about it.

Front view

To make the laced sides, I just folded over the edge about 2 cm (I ended up folding the front edges over a further 2 cm) to make the placket, topstitched, and added a “modesty panel” attached to the back side. She was not thrilled about this, having wanted “real lacing,” which apparently doesn’t have fabric behind it. She can deal, at least until she’s eighteen. Not that she would ever not be wearing leggings and tights underneath for a Hallowe’en costume. This is Canada, after all. And not one of the warmer bits of Canada. (Although comfortingly free of both earthquakes and hurricanes. I hope all you easterners are doing OK with Sandy.)


We added the grommets last. Actually, Syo did the front grommets more-or-less on her own, since by then my fingers were so sore from setting the back ones (plus all the goggle-making). It took her a while, but she got them done, only one ending up a bit distorted. I’m not sure why I am always startled by her strength and coordination. You’d think I’d have it figured out by now.

Back View

I don’t know if it’s a “good fit”, but they stay on, come up more or less to where she wanted them, and the gap between the lacing is a good width. So, really, I should probably apologize to McCall’s 5312. It really came through for me this time.

Except that I just made two tailcoats out of the jacket pattern, and, well, I’ll go into that later. Not horrific, just dumbed down and predictably bad.

And, sorry for the fuzzy iPhone photos. My mom’s house has gorgeous backdrops but terrible light, and I keep forgetting to take my real camera along.

*Note: I have nothing against simple patterns, where simple is called for. What annoys me is patterns for intricate designs that are simplified to make them “easier”, generally at the expense of fit and style.



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Slowly getting there.

Also, my fingers hurt.


October 28, 2012 · 5:02 pm

Maximal procrastination

The Blazer of Awesome

I am (as my husband will assure you), one of the world’s champion procrastinators. It’s a major handicap, actually. But this jacket fix represents a level of procrastination rarely met even by me.

I got this little grey blazer in high school, ladies and gents, which was kind of a while back not that long ago after all, from my old standby Value Village. The fit was, and is, astounding—perfect shoulders, perfect waist length (no swayback issues!)… Great.

Except. The more I wore it, the more creepingly aware I became of the one, glaring, unforgivable flaw.

You guessed it. The sleeves are too short. (I need some kind of “ba-dum-dum” sound effect every time I say that. 😛 Or maybe a laugh-track.)

Back—OK, maybe not quite as perfect as I thought (or it used to be 😉 ). Still pretty damn good.

Not too long after graduation, the frequency of its appearance in my regular wardrobe rotation dropped dramatically. I am really not fond of the cold wrists >_<. But still I couldn’t give up on it entirely. Everything else was too perfect. So it hung in the back of the closet, making me sigh with occasional wistfulness.

About four years ago, I found a black corduroy curtain abandoned in the lobby of our apartment complex (these occasional windfalls are the only thing I miss about apartment living. Well, that and the endless hot water.) I bundled it home, and soon realized that the wale width and texture was a perfect match for the details on my poor jacket. And since the jacket had plenty of other black cord details, why not cuffs as well?

Nonetheless, four years passed. The corduroy curtain served many purposes, most of them involving taking up space in my closets, but never became part of a blazer.

Cuff closeup. Photographing black corduroy is rather akin to photographing dark matter, I’m thinking.

Well, finally today the prospect of a quasi-job-interview prodded me to haul out something approaching office attire—the businesswoman suit. By some miracle (probably as a way of displacing some intense anxiety), I motivated myself to find the curtain, locate the portion where the fading of the blacks matched best, and cut out two plain cord rectangles. I interfaced them with Armoweft, stitched into tubes and folded them in half, and tacked the resulting tubes inside the ends of the sleeves. Voila, stupid simple cuffs. Total time, probably about 30 minutes, plus time to dig out the fabric from the garage.

Because I enjoy a bit of a tailoring dissection, here’s some closeups on the jacket itself. Fortunately, the lining is loose, not bagged, so I could flip it up and gawk at the insides.


The label is “Newport Sportswear Ltd” from Toronto, Canada. The jacket is #4138, and a size 7, according to the hand-written label. Google did not give me much (any) info about this brand, aside from some Etsy listings for vintage clothes. I had never really thought about the vintage of this jacket, but it’s certainly not a typical fit for the 80s or the 90s (remembering I got it in the latter part of the 90s). The rather flexible lady certainly has the hair to be 70s.

Corduroy insert, with fold

My favourite feature by far is this little corduroy insert on the back shoulder, which greatly increases the range of motion, otherwise the blazer would be way tight. According to Allison of A Fabric Fixation, this kind of feature is called a bi-swing back. (My motorcycle jacket has one as well, which makes sense.)

Bi-swing inset, interior view

This is what it looks like from the inside—it forms a little folded pocket or pleat. The shape is a bit more complex than it looks on the surface!

Lapel fold and pleat in lining at bust. (Sherry had us ease this in.)

Other little details? Well, the “tailoring” and construction is virtually identical to what Sherry went over in her RTW sewalong, which is to say it’s distinctly tailored but not heavily or intricately so. If this IS a 70s jacket, it’s also a testament to the powers of early fusibles, because everything’s still perfectly in its place.

Shoulder pad

The shoulder pad is very thin, two layers of felt, but it does the job. I had taken some photos of the buttonholes (machine) and collar interior, but really they didn’t turn out terribly informative, so I’ll spare you them, and just repeat how much I love this jacket.

Especially now that, fourteen or fifteen years into owning it, the sleeves are finally long enough. And it doesn’t even look funny!

(OK, I don’t think it looks funny, so if you do, you can suck it. It’s my blazer, not yours. And I’m going to wear the snot out of it, now.)


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Very Little Hats

The workshop

This past weekend, the kids and I trooped over to my mother’s and made hats.

For the Hallowe’en costumes. You remember.

Little, teeny, steampunky tophats.

Little hat

I used this pattern as the starting point, and then kind of hung a left. It turned out it called for all kinds of esoteric stuff like fusible fleece and craft foam. OK, I did have craft foam, and I actually was looking at the fusible fleece in Fabricland the other day and then decided not to buy any (on account of not having looked up the pattern yet so I didn’t know they were going to call for fusible fleece). And the craft foam I picked up at the dollar store was stupid thin and nearly useless. So we mostly used Bristol board and, well, it’s not exactly sew-able. And I kind of forgot to trim off most of the seam allowances, so our hats ended up a little larger than otherwise. And they probably took longer to make, since I was hand-covering and hand-stitching all the fabric that holds them together. And then sewing on trims and feathers and bits and bobs, and then painting. Actually, there were several iterations of sewing/painting/sewing/painting. I thank my ever-generous mother for her contributions to the trim, and for willingly sacrificing artifical flowers and berries that are probably older than I am to The Muse. I quite enjoyed the painting (it’s been ages since I dry-brushed anything), though of course as soon as we were doing it I wished I had five other colours.


All I need to do now is sew on the clips which will (in theory) attach them to the hair of various children come Hallowe’en. Oh, and keep the damn things from getting shredded between now and then.

(Oh, and yes, there are two hats, but I only remembered to photograph one while at my mom’s.

Next up… goggles!


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My first pattern


Butterick 6206

Long and long ago (I’m guessing I was about sixteen), I found this pattern kicking around the house. It was, presumably, my mother’s, and I was (just barely) able to look past the 70s styling to the romance of a sweet peasant blouse.

Being me at sixteen, I turned it into a crop top and made it sheer. Subtle, I was not.

The only thing I didn’t do was lengthen the sleeves. My congenital arm-length abnormality hadn’t really sunk in yet, so it didn’t even occur to me that the pattern drafter wouldn’t magically know that my family has ape arms*.


Pattern pieces

I’m pretty sure I had some help from my mother, if only of the “this is a grain line—you know what grain is, right? Yes, that bit goes on the fold” variety. I had been sewing (Barbie clothes) for years at this point, but this was probably my first commercial pattern. I know I did no seam finishing, but it wasn’t a ravelly fabric. Not that that would’ve made a difference.

It was not a terribly practical garment, but it looked pretty much how I had hoped and served whatever costumey goal I had in mind. So when I found the pattern the other day while digging around my mom’s sewing stuff (she has a surprisingly large stash for someone who “doesn’t sew”) I had to throw it up here, for old time’s sake.

In hind-sight, this was actually a pretty damn good choice for a beginner project. Not that I thought of that.


*This is the spot where I stop and point out that humans are apes because you can’t construct a natural group that includes all apes but excludes humans. For the same reason, although much further removed in time, birds are also dinosaurs. Dontcha love cladistics? 😀


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Fantasy Sewing: World’s cutest blouse edition

Yup. I can’t be certain, of course, but I think this just might, possibly, be the world’s cutest blouse pattern, EVER.

I love every single detail of every single view. And (unlike some patterns of a certain era) it really is three different views, not one view in different fabrics. And it’s totally my size. I love the collarless view with the serious little bow. I love the wide neckline with the stand-up collar. I love the ruffly, deliciously silly little white view (although I think those sleeves should maybe be puffed. Or would that be overkill?)

And yet, I fear this one will remain relegated to fantasy for longer, rather than shorter. Why? Because that nagging, insidious part of my brain that likes to keep my sewing practical is reminding me that, despite the adorable illustration and cute collar details, this is really a basic, boxy little blouse. The only shaping comes from those teensy bust darts.

It’s a blouse that, in fact, is made for tucking in.

I don’t tuck.

Seriously, I enjoy my body, I don’t obsess over my weight, I have about as healthy a body image as it’s possible to have as a woman in the western world. And few things send me into the pits of body-loathing despair quite like a tucked-in blouse. Actually, anything cinched in at the waist. It’s something about the shortness of my waist, or the fact that there’s no discernible taper from my underbust to my waist, so anything blousing out around there just makes everything look wider than it is. I know loads of people who love the look, who look drop-dead gorgeous in it. I just can’t do it on myself.

Although, that cummerbund look is cute. And possibly a really wide cummerbund could make tucking doable (OK, in honesty it needn’t be really wide. My bra line is only about three inches above my waist at the best of times). Especially if the cummerbund were shaped to extend below the waist… but then you’re venturing into territory where the cummerbund becomes, not a fancy belt, but the mainstay of the outfit, and that’s a bit of a different look altogether.

But you can rest assured, tucked or un, this blouse will certainly keep its place in my fantasies…

(And yes, there has been a little bit of progress on the Hallowe’en costume front and other sewing, but it’s been in haphazard and piecemeal little increments that make it really hard to talk about. And I bought a new seam ripper, but I lost it already.)


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As I write this, I am wearing my first “successful” pair of self-stitched undies.

Pillow form.

I will keep “successful” in “quotation marks” because, well, wearable they are but perfect they ain’t. In particular, my elastic tension leaves, ah, something to be desired. (Scroll down to the full wrinkly mess, I didn’t want to start off the post with it.) And as proof that home-stitched undies need not resemble elderly dried fruits, I’ll link you to Carolyn’s drool-inducing sets.

The pattern, as I may have mentioned before, is Kwik Sew 2100, which is actually in print (I can never tell with Kwik Sew patterns based on the envelope art… except for the few 70s-era ones I have, anyway.)

The upside of using an in print pattern (especially having found it at the thrift store) is that there are reviews on Pattern Review, and for once I even remembered to check them. They were universal in two recommendations: go down a size (or two) and narrow the crotch piece.

Not being one to ignore the wisdom of PR (except when I do, usually to my own detriment), I dutifully went down to a size 4 (the smallest in the envelope, about 1.5 sizes below the one indicated by my measurements). I also shaved 1 cm off each side of the crotch piece, tapering to nothing at the edges where it seams to the front and back pieces. Then I promptly lost the crotch pieces, and there things languished until the other day, at which point I rallied my courage and cut new ones.

Now, last time I made attempted undies, I really had a hard time wrapping my head around the fancy sandwiching that creates a neatly-finished crotch. Maybe it was the Kwik Sew instructions, or maybe I’m just better rested this time, but I found it pretty simple to sort out this time around. It’s the same “burrito” construction method you use with a yoked shirt, except instead of a shirt front and back you have pantie front and back, and instead of a yoke you have a crotch piece. And it is a nicer finish than anything storebought, which is probably the only really nice part on th

So that was good.


Less good was I realized that the pink lingerie elastic I had been planning on using was nowhere near long enough, so I had to hunt through the notions stash (which is even more poorly-organized than the regular stash) and all I came up with was some plain black 1/4″ elastic. Not really nice for undies, but available. Even worse was my elastic-tension, which was too loose on the first leg, perfect on the second, and then too tight on the waistband. (I should say, being worn they are comfy and feel and look fine. Unworn, they crinkle up pretty badly except at the one leg where they are stretched out.) Ok, so I probably should pay attention to the actual suggested recommendations for elastic length. Bite me.

Umm. Ruffly much?

Now, on to the fit. I made (of course) the “bikini” rise. The rise in back is pretty good, the rise in front is a tad high—it could easily be lowered an inch; as it is it ends up riding down the underside of my tummy and bagging a bit. A little more annoying is the width of the front of the crotch-gusset, where I blended back to the original width. I think I could’ve narrowed it there, as well. They are still a bit big—this fabric has good recovery, so it’s not a big problem, but if it were inclined to stretch out it would be annoying.

Stretch Sewing  400

Next time—I’m a bit up in the air over whether next time should be with the Kwik Sew pattern, tweaked, or another pattern, out of curiosity. I acquired this stretch-sewing undies pattern at the thrift store (Value Village in my hometown is expensive for patterns, a whole dollar apiece except for the ones that come in annoying baggies.)

Pattern piece comparison

I’m a little curious over how the differences in pattern shape would play out (the seam allowances are the same, if I recall correctly.) The length of the crotch gusset in the 70s pattern seems to be longer, while the rise of the front & back pieces seems similar—so the overall rise might be a bit higher, right? The shape over the leg is very different, but maybe some of that would be accomodated by the longer crotch gusset? I just don’t know. But I sure am curious.

And obviously, I need a lot of practice on the elastic insertion. 😛



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