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?

Friday, January 10, 2020

Getting Unstuck

It happens, even, and maybe especially, after a super fast first make of the year. I start something that seems pretty straight-forward, and then it becomes a project. My evil twin keeps telling me to just throw it in the trash can. But my other evil twin - the persistent (read, stubborn) side - wins and I keep plodding along.

Almost 3 years ago now, I made some red wool pants. Now I have made and worn and felt good in red pants many times. But these were not good. I felt like a huge red flag. I do not think I ever wore them outside of my house.

And at some point, I dismantled them. It's a deep rich shade of red with blue undertones. My stash contained the pieces of the pants, plus the remnants. It was just enough to make a vest, I thought.

I chose a very old pattern from the Sewing Workshop - the Mimosa. The pattern includes fitted pants and an Asian-styled wrap top. I made the top many times years ago and the pants at least once. I've been meaning to pull it out again and so decided it would make a fun vest.

The two main pieces fit nicely on the deconstructed pants and the band came out of the remnants. I had to re-cut the armscye to accommodate tops and shirts.  And I decided to make a two-piece band so that I would not have wool right against my neck. The back side of the band is silk shantung. This is not only easier on my neck but provides a nice stabilizing effect too.

The silk looks lighter in the picture than it is IRL. It's very close to the color of the wool.
I found two lining remnants to use for the lining. The back lining is a gray Bemberg ambiance and the fronts are lined with a fun silk print.

Things were moving along nicely until I noticed a tear near the hem on one front, and two tears on the other front.

My first reaction was to add pockets to each front. But that looked odd, given the location of the tears. After seeing a beautiful red dress on Instagram, I was inspired to applique circles over the tears, adding a 3rd at the back neckline.

Sue Stoney's upcycled wool shawls
I played around with several circle sizes and finally decided on this, first lining with the silk shantung. Later, I removed the silk for less bulk.

My next little challenge was how to handle the lining at the intersection of the front band and the front hem. This is where a bit of slack is often built into a lined jacket. I'm not 100% happy with the result,

but then I'm not 100% happy with this vest.

It's too short - at least for this gray tee shirt.

I don't think the silhouette is very flattering.

I have picked out way too many stitches on this little piece.

I had thought I'd add meandering red sashiko stitching to it. But I won't, at least now. It's time to move on.

Monday, January 6, 2020

First Make of the Year

My first make of the year happened fast, even for me. I finished it the evening of January 1!

It was a very easy make. I spent more time figuring out what to make than I did actually making it. I'm still not sure I made the right decision. But this is most definitely one of those cases where Finished is Better than Perfect.

Looks like a tablecloth here!
It started when a sweet friend at church said she had something to show me. A friend of hers had brought her a length of fabric from Viet Nam and she didn't know what to do with it, so she wanted me to "make something." And pay me. Not that payment does much to motivate me these days.

Instead of saying no, I said I'd think about it. And I took it home. Bad idea. Now it was too late to say no. Really. So I said to her, how about a scarf? Or a tote? Or a top? She said, you choose - you know best.

This piece of fabric is, shall we say, unusual. It is pretty clearly hand-woven and prone to massive raveling. I initially thought it must be cotton, but a burn test confirmed polyester. It makes me a little sad to think that some hard-working artisan had to use such materials to hand-weave this piece. The weave itself is quite lovely with a striped effect on either end, and pure plaid in the center.

It was 36" wide and almost 2 yards long, too small for many projects I initially visualized. I finally managed a hack of the Sewing Workshop Hudson top, view A.

Even so, I did not have enough for that cowl collar. I redrafted the neckline, applying a favorite facing technique. I used a red linen remnant for the neckline and sleeve hem facings.

I tried it on, just to see. I really don't mind sending it off to its rightful owner.

I'm delivering it tonight and I have no idea at all what to charge. Another good reason to avoid these situations!