Tag Archives: Helen’s Closet

Deep Stash York

I’ve been vacillating about the pinafore/overall trend that has been bubbling around the sewcialsphere for awhile. I think they’re adorable, but I couldn’t really see myself in them. The last time I wore overalls (the only time I’ve worn them post-adolescence) was when I was pregnant with Tyo, and then only because a friend gave me some giant pairs (since I had no money for maternity clothes) and I felt able to get away with wearing my beloved crop-tops with them. In hindsight it was a pretty cute look, though, and I kinda wish I had pictures but that was long pre-selfie.

Anyway, it wasn’t until Helen came out with the York Pinafore this spring that a pattern really clicked and said “yes! This is you!” Maybe because of the stripped down, no-hardware style, but largely because the exaggerated hip curve reminded me of the strange shape I loved so much in my striped sweater-dress from this past winter. Anyway, it suddenly struck me again as a perfect vehicle for getting away with a crop-top when I once again find myself in a physical state where I don’t feel comfortable with my belly hanging out. (And yes, there’s a whole other conversation about body positivity and acceptance, and I’m all about that, but anyway.)

The pattern is kinda stupidly simple, front, back, pockets. No darts, fastenings or anything.

I spent a few weeks dithering over my fabric choice. I liked the idea of denim, but I didn’t really want a stretch denim and I wanted something not completely plain. Then I remembered I still had some pinstriped denim in deep, deep stash, left over from my Kasia pencil skirt. (Wow, was rereading those posts a walk down memory lane! That was from my first summer of blogging, way back in 2010.) Anyway, my Kasia is long gone (it was cute but every time I wore it I ripped the back seam while walking), so another straight-ish skirted thing in this fabric seemed ok. I was a little apprehensive about the width though, since I have issues with narrow skirts (see above comment about my poor Kasia).

I didn’t have QUITE enough fabric, technically, since my remnant had some odd bits trimmed out of it, but I was determined, so I made it work by featuring some raw lapped edge piecing. Hopefully it looks cool and intentional and doesn’t completely fray away. And of course I had to cut the pockets on the bias, which necessitated some more piecing. I finished the pocket edge with a band of denim on the straight grain, and of course managed to sew one of them onto the part of the pocket that goes into the side-seam, not the actual top. Because I’m that good.

You can see the pockets have some pretty prominent topstitching, which is cute but not reflected in the stitching on the bias tape finish. That was mostly fear that my first pass at stitching down the tape was going to be all over the place, but now I’m not sure I want more visible topstitching. It’s kinda nice and sleek how it is?

The pattern as a whole is super simple, but the bias tape finishing, on the other hand, is not the easiest technique ever, in my opinion. I know how to do it—it’s actually a bit of a motif in my summer sewing this year—but applying everything I know in theory is the trick.

I made my own tape. Actually, this is tape I made for my first corset way back when—I have a whole box of leftover bias tape from various projects. I ran it through the bias-tape folder doodad.

I guess here’s my first issue. I make continuous bias tape, because it’s efficient, but I tend to wing it on the cutting part so my finished tape is often pretty uneven. That’s not a big issue for most of the things I use it for—Hong Kong seam bindings, corset edges, finishing the edge of the inside waistband of jeans—but it gives the bias tape folder doohickey fits. For this particular tape, I had actually marked and cut quite a bit more carefully than other times, and the width was pretty good for my 1/2″ folder. The second problem was that this fabric is a lightweight twill. Still lighter than my denim, so this was a good project for using it, but heavy enough that getting the seams through the folder took a bit of finessing.

Then there was the application. Before applying your bias tape to a curved seam like these ones, you should really press it into a curve. The curve doesn’t have to match your finished one, but it gets you into the right ballpark, shrinking one edge and stretching the other. But for some reason I thought I could skip this step. I could not. If you look real close in the pic up above you can see two seams where I had to add in 1″ of tape at the center front because I didn’t have enough tape there to stretch the outer edge round the curve. I’m not even going to complain about the not so even folding to the right. Once I curved the bias tape, the rest of the finishing was much less harrowing.

I was pleasantly surprised that the walking ease in the skirt seems to be quite adequate.

Helen spends quite a bit of time in the instructions on fit (aimed at beginners) and I did absolutely none of it. Other than combining the pockets from one view and the length from the other, I made no changes at all to the pattern—I even did the specified 2″ hem. (Actually, on re-reading, the hem should’ve been 2″ total, 1/2″ folded over and then 1.5″… so mine is 1/2″ shorter than intended. And I’m quite satisfied, though a version with a deeper side scoop might be nice.

It feels fun but bordering on cartoony—I’m very curious if it’ll be something I reach for or something I only pull out for novelty value. On the other hand if it lets me wear my crop tops more, that’s a big reason to wear it because otherwise why do I even have them? So I guess I’m not certain, but hopeful.

And on that note, let’s finish with some cat butt!

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Avery Adventures

Leggings are the ultimate quick make. They’re one of the few things faster to sew than to shop for. And while they’re easy and cheap to buy, I almost never get the particular fit I want in bought versions—the length is rarely right and the rise never is.

There are a jillion patterns out there, including free ones, and I’m assuming instructions for drafting your own aren’t hard to come by either. In the past I’ve used two patterns: the Cake Patterns Espresso (disclaimer: I did the digitization work for that one) and the Jalie 2920.

Espresso is basically a draft-your-own where you plot your measurements on a grid and connect the dots. I got a fairly “loose fitting” pattern out of it, which works well when I want to make leggings out of ponte or other less-than-optimally stretchy fabrics. I could obviously make another version with more negative ease but it was easier to just use Jalie 2920, which is nice and snug and has ALL THE SIZES.

So why branch out? Well, both Espresso and Jalie 2920 are solid basic leggings patterns, a single pattern piece. A nice feature a lot of my kids’ more substantial storebought leggings have is a wide top band. I’ve been winging my own recently with mixed results, but when Helen’s Closet came out with the Avery Leggings last winter, they had this exact feature built in—plus a gusset, which I was curious about, not that I’m flexible enough that I actually need one in my leggings.

Obviously any of these features you could hack on your own, but we use patterns to make things easier, and easy patterns to make things effortless. When I got offered the opportunity to teach a leggings class at my local quilt shop, Periwinkle Quilting, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on Avery as something a bit more detailed (and maybe something people would like their hands held for) than a basic one-piece leggings pattern.

We’ll see how that works out, but at the very least I got the pattern and a chance to try out some of the cute knits they’re stocking from Cotton and Steel, which is a lot more swanky than I’m likely to find at Fabricland.

The Cotton and Steel jersey is a bit thin for what I like in leggings, and perhaps not quite as stretchy as the Avery calls for, but I wanted to give it a shot, even though in the grand scheme of things it’s probably better suited for a T shirt. I picked the arrow print mainly because the colour didn’t fade out as much under stretch as some of the other options. Also it’s super cute. And it had the most adorable slogan in the selvedge I just had to appliqué it on the back of the waistband as a label.

I also used a wee bit of those cute selvedge stars on one ankle, too. I cut the longer length, which is meant to have ankle scrunchies. No ankle scrunchies on me, but they are long enough.

For my second pair I added 3″ in length. Perfect ankle scrunchies!

For the crotch gusset, I made it two layers. Even though this isn’t like an underwear gusset, I just felt better with the gusset being thicker. Your mileage may vary.

I was curious about the construction of the waistband. Turns out it’s much the same as Jalie 3022, if you skipped the contrast band, which I always do. Good instructions.

I was sewing all these while my basement is under construction and most of my sewing gear is trapped in the depths of a storage container. And I didn’t think to buy elastic, because I always have elastic, but the only stuff that’s not buried is my 1/4″ clear elastic. That makes for a nice non-bulky finish—but maybe not ideal for the whole staying-up part. The pattern calls for 1/2″ elastic.

Partly because of my not-totally-optimal jersey, and because Avery calls for 70% stretch (Jalie 2920 only calls for 60%), I rounded my size up to the Large. This is comfy but may be a bit “big” technically—there are some wrinkles in both pairs, especially around the hips, that maybe don’t need to be there. A quick note on the % stretch—I had always read to measure stretch along a fold of fabric, since the raw edge will stretch out more. But the instructions for Avery don’t mention this. So if you’re measuring the 70% stretch along a raw edge, the actual stretchiness of the recommended fabric may not be much different than the Jalie pattern. I’d compare but, again, all my stuff is buried.

My second version is in a deliciously beefy cotton spandex knit from the ends at Fabricland. It’s everything you could ask for for a pattern like this. I added a bit more length, as I said before, for ankle scrunchies, and went with the mid-rise version of the waistband. The high rise version I think is actually a little too high for my short body—the mid-rise still comes up to my waist pretty easily, though it does ride down a bit.

In the mid-rise, I think a little more height in the back could be a good idea—this happens with almost all my pants. I think the correct solution might be to use the high-rise waistband but lower the front rise on the leggings piece a bit.

But while there’s always room for a tweak or two, I gotta say these are pretty darn perfect.

(Oh, and if you’re local and would like some hand-holding with these, the class will be May 5! Contact Periwinkle Quilting to register!)

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