Monday, March 30, 2020

The patterns that are always true*

Liminal: an adjective meaning something that occupies a transitional space, that space right at the border between something that was, and something that will be. Sewing is my meditation and my prayer, my best shot at just being.

Drawing and painting work that way for me too. But today I'm sewing. I'm sewing these pants, wonderful comfortable spring-like pants.

The fabric is linen in a narrow stripe that reads gray. The darker threads are blue but the effect is gray, I think. It is a lovely piece of fabric, perhaps a bit stiff for this billowy pattern, but that's OK. It works for me. Today. Now. I'm working hard to eliminate that thought, that cliche, do these pants make me look fat?

I added a patch pocket, as I often do to finished pants. I would never tuck in a blouse with these pants (or any others) and so I don't need a beautiful pocket, but I like a useful one. This sits close to the waistband and is almost invisible unless I use it. I'm not sure why, but I don't think of it until I've finished pants.

The pattern is the Hudson pants pattern from the Sewing Workshop, one I've used a lot. I haven't put the darts in, choosing instead to add an inverted pleat to each side.

I faced the hem with a 2" wide bias strip of cotton to give it a bit of weight.

I fussed a bit over the waistband, happily reworking it 3 times. The Hudson pants pattern includes a cut-on waistband. This is problematic because of the typical changes I make to accommodate my shape. The top edge of the pants is so off-grain that a cut-on waistband is hard to neatly fold. Why bother? This time, I remembered to eliminate it. I added a waistband cut with the lengthwise grain of this wonderful stripe.

Top is the Cottage Shirt.

The side seams are straight up and down, so I eliminated those too, making what Louise Cutting calls One Seams. 

 That's it. Just a comfortable pair of pants to wear today. Now.

Top is the MixIt Top

*This title comes from a recent (and challenging) post by Richard Rohr, alluding to the layered way I experience sewing. 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Now Sewing, for sure

Sarah Campbell
with a muslin she painted during my workshop
Welcome to the new world. It has now been a week since the corona virus changed the world. Of course, it's been coming for a while, but now we are all feeling it, I think. 

I hope you are safe and well and spending lots of time creatively. Sewing and other making keeps me sane and cheerful. So far. Perhaps you are finding that too.

Sarah has a fun sense of style. 
Like so many of you, I have a bit of a stash. Now is definitely the time to be sewing, isn't it. And I happen to have a few new pieces in said stash.

Striped linen, Japanese cotton crepe, plus two Sarah Campbell designs for Michael Miller
A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to attend another Sew Kansas in Topeka with Linda Lee of The Sewing Workshop (TSW). This one was very special because Linda brought in the delightful and amazing Sarah Campbell from her home in England.

Sarah's design for Michael Miller fabrics
Sarah is a well-known print designer with impressive credentials. She and her sister Susan Collier created together for over 50 years before Susan died. They created prints for Liberty of London, for example. Lately, Sarah has created designs for home goods found in West Elm.

Another of Sarah's designs for Michael Miller fabrics
For an entire week we created pattern, as Sarah called it. We started with plain newsprint, then muslin, and finally some fabric of our choice from the Sewing Workshop. We played with shape and color and repetition, all areas where Sarah is expert. It was loads of fun.

one of my muslin pieces
For my workshop design, I chose some wonderful light gray linen from TSW. It is one of those really good linens. You know the kind. Perfect weight, soft after washing and drying, lovely to sew, and a dream to wear.

another of my painted muslin pieces

I chose the Cottage Shirt pattern for my workshop piece in the linen.

But then I got cold feet. So, instead of painting the linen, I painted my paint shirt. I needed more practice. It was a fun project without any worries or second guessing.

If you look carefully, you may be able to see that I spelled out my name.

You may have noticed that my aesthetic is a a bit different from Sarah's. I do love Sarah's wildly exuberant style but that kind of painting takes a lot more practice than I've had. And I'm OK with simpler designs, in general.

Linda Lee, Sarah Campbell, and me!

Next I began to paint on the linen. 

My idea was to rough-cut pieces that could be re-cut when I was home. It was not a bad idea, exactly, because it's a lot easier to manage small pieces in shared spaces. I did not have the actual pattern with me and so made rough guesses as to the size of the pieces, based on a finished sample from TSW. 

Once I was home and had washed and dried the pieces, I began to cut out the Cottage shirt. Except for the cuffs, nothing fit! I had to completely rethink the pattern placement. This is what I thought the front might look like. I thought I would make the Cottage as a pull-over, perhaps with a front placket.

Here is the actual front:

Likewise, here is what I thought the back would be:

And here is the actual back:

Something else happened that surprised me, but should not have. Maybe it's more accurate to say it disappointed me. The color faded quite dramatically. I feel certain that the color attached to whatever sizing was in the linen and then washed away.

It's finished now. But I may go back in and paint some more, now that the sizing is gone. I'm running a little experiment with a washed scrap so that I can compare the results You can see in the picture the pre-washed paint (black and red swirls at the bottom), and the new paint I added at home. We'll see!

For now, I'm quite happy with this piece. I really like the cottage shirt and the linen feels great. Of course, for now, I'm all dressed up with no place to go.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Black pants, always

TSW Hudson top with TSW Picasso pants
Somehow, I always need more black pants. That's because I want them to be really black, and they only stay black as long as they make regular visits to the dry cleaners. I have a pair of black wool Cutting Line Design one-seam pants that I've worn for a very long time because they always go to the dry cleaners.

But I also like knit pants. A lot. I've been having some back issues, and soft knit pants are my go-to. I particularly like ponte that is rayon-based, rather than polyester based. Over time, they begin to pill and I put them in the laundry. That relegates them to casual wear only. Then I make more black pants!

At the moment, my favorite knit pants pattern is the Pencil Pant from the Sewing Workshop (TSW). It's one of those PDF downloads that you tape together, but I don't mind that. It's mindless work while watching the news. Based on a recent article, that may be the way of future patterns, as the pattern-printing business contracts.
My previous favorite knit pants pattern was TSW's Helix pants. I've made those a number of times. I still wear and enjoy them, but I have never been 100% happy about the waistband finish. The waistband is created with a wide piece of elastic that is zig-zag stitched to the top edge. Then it is flipped to the inside. It makes for a very nice flat waistband, but it does mean that the elastic sits against my skin.
The waistband on the Pencil Pants is more to my liking, as the elastic is fully enclosed. It still has a fairly smooth waist line finish, much like yoga pants, without all the gathers of some pull-on pants. One of the nice details of most TSW pants is a flat front, achieved in a variety of ways.

New black ponte pencil pants - not much to photograph!
Another pants look I like a lot is captured in TSW's Picasso pants. I have made those in a variety of fabrics, now in wool. It's a shape I have to be careful to pair with the right top so that I don't look like the Pillsbury dough boy, or just a blob. But I think they are interesting due to the slight cropping of the length and the shaping.
Again, notice the flat front achieved in one of TSW's signature waistband designs.

Stitching the waistband with the elastic inside
These pants are constructed with three vertical panels, rather than the usual two. and there is a horizontal seam below the knee creating more shaping in the lower third of the silhouette. They are super comfortable and so it may be that I'm just kidding myself about the cool shape. When your back hurts, all comfort options are considered!

And I had this yummy light weight black wool in stash. I bought it from a local designer when she had a de-stash sale a while back. It is almost a gauze, with a pebble finish. It has nice drape and the color is very, very black.

The last time I made a pair of Picasso pants I was short of fabric and had to piece one of the side panels. After completing them I realized I had missed a great opportunity for an inseam pocket. This time around, I deliberately added an in-seam pocket to each side panel.

In order to add the pocket, I drew a line perpendicular to the grain line about 10 inches from the top of the side panel. Then I drew a second horizontal line that was 1 1/4 inch from the first drawn line. When I cut the two pieces of each side panel, I folded the pattern tissue up to the bottom line for the top piece, and the top line for the bottom piece. That way, the two pieces overlap by 1 1/4 inch, or two 5/8 inch seam allowances.

Before constructing the legs of the pants, I sewed the upper and lower pieces of the side panels together along the new horizontal seam. I used a basting stitch for the middle 6 inches of that seam. Then I pressed the seam open, and top-stitched the lower seam allowance.

For pocket pieces, I cut fabric the width of the new horizontal seam and about 7 inches long, following the curve of the side panel. I finished the raw edges of each pocket piece.

Then I sewed the pocket piece to the upper seam allowance of the horizontal seam. I top-stitched the hem of the pocket in place, creating another horizontal line in the side panel. The sides of the pocket are caught in the seams attaching the side panels to the front and back panels of the original pattern pieces.

I worried that they might be too sheer as I was sewing them. Now that they are finished, I'm convinced they are fine. But I can always wear leggings or tights under them, or go back and add a lining at some point. For now, they feel great and I don't want to add another layer.

The weather is right for wool right now, so I look forward to wearing these very soon.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Hola, San Diego!

This is a very good pattern from the Sewing Workshop - the San Diego top, tunic and jacket.

I just finished a black and white top, so now I've made the top twice and the jacket twice. This is an older TSW pattern that was re-issued in the last couple of years. The new issue includes the original jacket, as well as a newly drafted top and tunic. Here are some things I love about it:

  • Forward shoulder seam
  • Front placket 
  • Front pleat
  • Face-framing cut-on collar that can stand up in the back, or not.

I now require a forward-shoulder adjustment and have to remind myself over and over again of this. But with this fairly dramatic forward shoulder design, I can get away without that modification. I do have to be careful to mark the shoulder seam dot on the sleeve pattern so that I don't insert it incorrectly. 

The front placket, as drafted, is a bit low and needs at least one button to stay in closed. By simply top-stitching a box, instead of an L shape on the placket, it still slips over my head and is high enough for my comfort.

The sleeves, as drafted, are too short for my tastes. I like a 3/4 length sleeve that can be rolled up. So I simply lengthened it a few inches, and created a cut-on facing to allow me to roll the sleeves without showing the underside of this fabric.

Speaking of this fabric, isn't it fun? I purchased it from a local fabric store, Top Stitch Studio, last year. It is a lovely soft blouse-weight cotton, easy to sew, comfortable to wear, and wrinkles do not show. I briefly considered trying to match the pattern. I don't think there's any need to get carried away in this case. The print is random-looking and the faces change direction, so I probably didn't even need to cut it *with nap.* 

The design is nearly invisible with this busy print. The first San Diego top I made shows the structure of the top more clearly. It is made from another great piece of fabric, a soft medium weight linen-silk blend. I added a special button to bring up the neckline a bit.

The pattern envelope also contains the older OOP jacket version. 

My first jacket version was made from a rough weave of cotton and linen. I did not line it, using faux flat felled seams to finish the interior. I grab this jacket often when I need a light layer, even when it's just a little too cool indoors.

I had great fun, drafting a 2 piece (3 on one side due to fabric limitations) sleeve, adding cuffs and button loops.

The next version I made was very nearly a wadder. The outer fabric is a beefy wool, quite scratchy but great for cold weather. I started out intending to use a precious leather for the facings to protect my neck from the rough wool. The leather was way softer than I expected it to be and I had no depth of experience with leather, so I created lots of ugly folds and creases. That part is buried somewhere in deep stash. Ultimately I used black silk duplioni. As usual, this wonderful fabric is easy to sew and feels great up against my neckline.

Because my goal was outer wear, I made the wool one a little larger, interlined with cotton flannel, and lined with a fun silk print. It is a great layer for very cold days. We are having unseasonably warm winter weather right now, but I expect bitter cold is on the way.

I think I'll make this pattern again. The jacket has interesting possibilities as a vest, or even a longer coat. And I'm still thinking about the tunic too. I like the uneven hem, don't you?