Thursday, November 19, 2020


This is not a new pattern, but one that has languished in stash. Of course, it's from the Sewing Workshop. The envelope includes both the Pearl jacket and the Opal jacket, two very different jackets. I made the Pearl:

The Pearl has a very interesting shape and construction, so it was great fun to make. There is much to like about it. 

The center front piece is really a collar band. It includes a channel for a drawstring that allows you to gather the neckline in a variety of ways. The hem is symmetrical but definitely shaped, as the sides hang much longer than the front and back. There are princess seams in the front and then a back flounce that wraps around to the front. the upper back piece wraps to meet the front princess seams and so there are no side seams. The sleeves are set in and sit right at the shoulder line, something I really like in an otherwise unfitted jacket.

The envelope indicates that you can make this with a knit or a woven. I chose a medium weight linen and size small based on my measurements. I should have perhaps gone up a size given that a knit and a woven fabric (without lycra) are always going to result in a different fit. Sure enough the sleeves were a tad tight when sewn with 5/8" seam allowance. I let them out to 1/4" and adjusted the armscye accordingly. Now they are just right, I think.

Next time I hope to remember to do a forward shoulder adjustment. I see in some of my photos that unless I stand up very straight (and I should anyway!), the front appears to be longer than the back. They should be the same length.

It is not intended to be lined and I like it unlined. I finished the interior seams, mostly with quasi Hong Kong finishing, and a few with a mock flat felled seam. As mentioned above, I reduced the sleeve SA to 1/4 inch. I wanted to protect the seams from fraying and so added a bias strip of cotton batik to the stitching, flipped, folded under and hand-stitched to the jacket with a pick stitch. It's a kind of a hybrid between flat-felled and Hong Kong.

I used a strip of bias silk dupioni for the hems and to cover the seams where the sleeves are set in. My draw string is a bias tube of the linen with little silk bells on the ends.

And then I began to stitch and stitch and stitch. I hand-stitched the hem in place with a running stitch in variegated pearl cotton. I also added some top-stitch in the pearl cotton to the collar area, and sleeve hems. I am totally enamored of the feather stitch, which I've learned is also called the cretin stitch. So I added that to the hem and a bit to the back collar. I also added a tiny basket weave stitch to the upper center back. I think it looks almost a interesting on the back as it does on the front. Such fun!

After finishing it, I decided to add a simple patch pocket, again with hand-stitch and a little feather stitch across the top.

I've been wearing this around the house and thoroughly enjoying it. It is so cozy. I know it would be even more cozy in a beefy knit, so maybe that's next. And how about a vest? Here it is before I set in the sleeves.

Cool pattern. Try it. You'll like it. Or maybe you already have!

Saturday, November 7, 2020

New from Old

My most recent make is a re-make, so extra satisfying. I was able to convert a pair of Pencil pants into Helix pants, both patterns from The Sewing Workshop (TSW). I'm still a little amazed this did not turn into an expensive wadder. The fabric is a very nice rayon ponte also from TSW. 

My new Helix/Pencil pants in navy ponte, with a Grainline Archer shirt

The Helix pants are my go-to for pull-on knit pants. There is so much to like - smooth darted waistline, slim fit (limited only by my personal silhouette!), and the fact that they fit my flat butt without those old-lady wrinkles. I worked on fitting these in 2015 at one of those Sew Kansas retreats Linda has in Topeka, KS. This was a huge help because knit pants are very challenging to mock up in a toile.

The Helix pants

And I've made a zillion of them - black, red, navy, brown, eggplant, repeat. I take them to the dry-cleaners in the early days, then when they begin to look sad and have a few pills, I wash them. This always causes them to shrink a bit more in length, so they become cropped.

Then the Pencil pants came out in 2018. These too are a pull-on knits-only pants pattern. The silhouette is also slim. I made a first pair according to my hip measurements in navy ponte and loved them. And then I made another pair. 

The waistline was a significant factor. It is a separate piece, which I think is always a good idea. And the elastic is enclosed in the waistband, also a generally good idea. The elastic is zig-zagged onto the inside of the waistband so it's not really visible, and so a fairly smooth unbulkly finish.

The Pencil Pants

And I thought they looked great.

Then I took a look in the back. Good Lord! Totally old-lady wrinkles around my flat butt. I still wear them, but generally with tunics to cover that unsightly mess. Why oh why didn't I think to use the crotch curve from the Helix on the Pencil pants!?!

So now my first pair is just plain too big on me. There's a lot of time spent staring at the TV screen and listening to political pundits, so plenty of time to unstitch all those stitches, even the zig-zag waist elastic. And it's good for the mind to keep the hands busy during these unsettling times in the USA.

I laid out the Helix pattern on the Pencil pants pieces. They did not fit perfectly, so I lost a little through the hips and the length. But, basically, it worked. And knits can be forgiving of a little fudging. 

After completing all but the waistline and the hems, I tried them on. Voila! No old-lady butt wrinkles. I love that. But I decided to change the waistline completely. The old Pencil pants waist piece was sufficiently wide and long to allow me to simply cut an on-grain waistband and slide 3/4 inch elastic into it. I stitched down the front part of the elastic to keep the tummy part flat, and allowed the rest to gather just a little. It's still pretty smooth and I like that it sits perfectly at my waistline. So comfortable.

And then there was the length. It's a good thing I don't wear heels anymore. Actually I never did much. These finish at my ankles and will be great with the flats I usually wear. I was tempted to leave the hems unfinished but decided I would not be happy with that. So I added a bias strip of matching silk dupioni, a go-to fix-it fabric I keep on hand in many colors. 

So my new go-to pull-on knit pants pattern is the Helix with an added waistband!