Friday, September 17, 2021

Tahoe Pants

The out-of-print Tahoe Pants (from the Sewing Workshop) looks like a skirt but is really pants - sort of culottes, but way more interesting. The pattern was first published in the early 2000's. I made it once from light gray linen and was not impressed. It looked great hanging in my closet but I felt huge wearing it. I doubt I ever wore it outside my house. It's long gone from the closet.

Then Linda Lee, the sewing sorcerer, wore another oldie but goodie on her regular FB live program a month or so ago. Hers was the origami skirt, similar shape but an entirely different garment. This origami skirt was made in a drapey, brightly colored rayon. And she rolled the waistline up, shortening it considerably. These two changes made all the difference in the success of the pattern!

There is a new fabric store in town, called Melanated Fabrics. Yay! Sewing buddies and I visited and I found the perfect piece of flowy rayon for the Tahoe pants. And it matches an eTee I finished a month ago.

The Fabric: I have a love-hate relationship with rayon.  It is slippery and unstable. It hates steam. Top-stitching is nearly impossible. It is not easy to wash as it holds so much more water than the other things in the wash and throws off the balance. I hope that I won't need to wash it often since it's a loose bottom piece.

The back looks pretty much like the front, mirrored.

I think recent versions of rayon are more colorfast than older ones and the colors are rich. It is less expensive than silk with some of the same qualities. It feels nice against the skin and it has beautiful flow.

The Pattern: There is a mistake I failed to notice or document on my first time with the Tahoe pants. The pocket dots are marked too low on the side seams of the pant legs. So there is a raw edge of pocket at the top when the waistband is finished. I added a patch and it is not that pretty. But it will not fray.

At 5'5" I am glad to have removed 3" in length. I also deepened the hem a bit to give it more weight. I'm happy with the finished length.

The instructions are great and it's important to follow them in the order presented. I thought I might baste the pleats before sewing side seams. This led to much confusion, but I sorted it out finally.

One leg of the pants is much more narrow than the other. Both are wide but one is about twice as wide. It is a super interesting design, I think. The Sewing Workshop produced some wonderful puzzle patterns back in the day and this is one of them. There is no zipper - the waistband is large and is snugged up by overlapping and creating a final deep pleat. 

These feel great on. Now I'm trying to figure out what exactly will look best with them. I think the top needs to be short. I've tried on some tops and determined that short and wide looks good, as does short and fitted.

I was wearing this dark green eTee (also TSW) the day I bought the fabric. I hoped it would work with this fabric. When I tried them on together, the overall shape was not right. I felt quite dumpy. So I shortened the tee and I'm now quite happy with the result.

My white Odette tee shirt looks OK with it, too, but doesn't do anything for it. Now I want to make the Origami skirt. The older TSW patterns are wonderful!

Monday, September 6, 2021

Nomad Hobo Bag and a WIP

This pattern has been in stash forever but never actually used. The Nomad Hobo is a free download from I think I downloaded it as a possible pattern to use during Camp Sew 'n' Sew. 

I thought using free patterns would keep the costs down. But, really, not worth the effort to make the instructions beginner friendly. This one is labeled Advanced Beginner, appropriately I think.

I do really like the shape for a large tote. For me, it will not be a purse. I like small purses - they cannot get too heavy. But this will be a great project bag for travel, I think. And, from time to time, I feel the urge to make a bag. Now I'm thinking I want this in leather!

Like some other free patterns I've used, this one is lacking in a few areas. Most of the areas are quite minor and can be worked out easily by an experienced sewist. 

The exterior fabric is probably a cotton-linen blend, almost canvas-like. The interior fabric is a Japanese cotton, a little nicer than ordinary quilt cotton. I used some of the striped canvas fabric for parts of the interior.

The pattern pieces are not numbered and the descriptions in the accompanying instructions are not always clear. The seam allowance is 5/8" except around the zipper where it is 3/4" - this, in the fine print. 

My magnetic snap is fairly strong and I felt like it needed more reinforcement than the suggested interfacing. Also you are instructed to place the snap on the sides with the long handle. I would have liked it better on the short sides.

The pockets are not lined. This is not a big deal except interfacing is recommended and I don't like the look or feel of that stuff on the inside of a pocket.

In general, the pockets are overly complex and the diagrams do not support the complexity. Some real beginner opportunities for in-seam pockets were ignored. One pocket is zippered - this one definitely benefits from lining, as it's easier to line a zippered pocket, enclosing the zipper tape and raw edges nicely.

The bag and its lining are constructed with 4 vertical seams each. The four seams meet at the bottom of the bag. I think it's hard to make this neat if construction does not include stopping each seam 5/8" before the bottom raw edge. 

Attaching the handle after dropping the lining into the bag is quite clever. I followed those instructions blindly and was pleasantly surprised! It is a tiny bit lumpy but not enough to fret over. I did add a little patch to make sure that area is strong. 

Here it is with my current Alabama Chanin project. I made some poor choices on this - it is heavy. Wearing it feels a little like getting my teeth x-rayed. The stencil I chose contains random words in a variety of fonts and sizes. I outlined the letters with a 3-ply back stitch.

The lettering is not large enough to cut away much of the top layer inside the letters. 

One alternative is to cut away the outer layer by cutting around the letters. I tried that on my sample and it was not good. To me, it looks like letters stuck to a flannel board.

All of this adds up to a heavy top that stands away from my body. I have not attached the neck binding, so I'm thinking of some *fixes.* Currently at the top of my list of fixes is to cut away the back layer around the letters. It won't change the look at all but it should make it lighter allowing it to drape in a more attractive way.

It won't take long to deconstruct and I think I'll be much happier. Fingers crossed. Still thinking about this. Ideas?

Monday, August 30, 2021

Bias Work - the Emerald Top and Dress

After I read Patti's review of the Emerald Dress and Top, I needed it. It is still hot as Hades here and I do love a linen dress.


This shift dress is composed of 4 panels - two fronts and two backs. This is necessary to in order manage the bias cut. The direction of the bias is mirrored across the front and across the back. It provides a flattering vertical seam down the front and back.

First I made the top in a beefy linen that I thought of as hot pink. DH called it red and it does read red too. After all, what is deep pink if not red? Either way I find it to be a delicious color, and it makes me feel good to wear it. I bought it at my local wonderful Gail K on Cheshire Bridge Road in Atlanta.

Patti made it clear that the top was very cropped. I knew that would not work for me, as my bottom pieces, by and large, have elastic waistbands. This is not a pretty look. Plus I do like a bit more coverage. She added 2" to the pattern pieces and so did I.

It is still a little short at the sides, but not bad. And adding 3 inches might have made it too long in the front and back. The hem is dramatically curved, similar to a man's shirt. 

I love, love, love the drape of bias cut linen. It makes me feel feminine, yet comfy.

Next I pulled out a nicely aged black something-or-other I purchased at my local ASG tag sale a while back. It is at least 60" wide and I think I started with about 4 yards, plenty for the dress. And something else too.

The burn test and the selvedge read rayon, but I think there is something else mixed with the rayon, maybe cotton. It is lightweight, not transparent though. The drape is just right for a bias cut garment, I think. Maybe I said that already. This pattern benefits from some pretty drape.

The dress and the top have deep facings for the armholes, the neckline and the lower hem. These are top-stitched in place adding a nice design detail and serving a good purpose. I especially appreciate the deep hem facing with the light weight black fabric, as it adds some needed weight to the bottom.

The dress includes in-seam pockets and a novel (to me) manner of insertion. It is actually easier than the way I usually insert in-seam pockets. The directions have you attach a single pocket to each front side seam and each back side seam separately. 

Then you align them for stitching of the side seams. I'm not sure the result is as flat as my usual method. This one requires that you press the side seams to the front, something that feels a little off to me.

I am also not thrilled with the finishing on the lower point of the armholes. It finishes nicely on the right side, but not as cleanly on the inside. 

The instructions were not as exacting there as I would have liked. On the top, I just winged it in the absence of specifics in the directions. 

On the dress, I lined up the dots and only stitched between the dots, thinking that might provide a clean finish inside. Ultimately it made no difference. The inside is still a little unsatisfactory.

All of these points are picky, picky. It is a beautifully drafted pattern with clear directions. I think it would be instructive and helpful for even a beginner. 

And I think the shape is just darned nice.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Color Blocking and a Theorem

Just finished my upteenth* version of the Eureka top from the Sewing Workshop. It is this month's featured garment for the subscription service called Sew Confident!

Their kits include woven rayons and silks of similar weight, so not really color blocking. I do like the combinations in their kits, but not enough to buy a kit. I might have been able to pull off something similar but decided there was serious danger of creating a quilt top with armholes. 

And I have all these lovely remnants. You may know how much I love my remnants. I was fairly sure I'd be able to make a color-blocked version with solid colors of linen. So I started mapping out my plan. 

I remembered a theorem from my college days - the four color theorem. It states that any map can be drawn with 4 colors and no more. The theorem assumes that countries (or counties or whatever) have adjacent sides. It does not matter how many sides or how many countries. I think that's pretty cool. But as my daughter says, Nerd alert!

So I set out to draw and color (with 4 colors, of course!) the shapes needed for my new Eureka top. First I checked the finished measurements of the Eureka in a size XS. I have made this in size Medium, but wanted a closer fit, particularly since this was to be lengthened. As a more cropped top, the Eureka is good in a crisp fabric. There is no real fit needed in this top, as it is mostly boxy. It does need to big enough, of course. 

I traced a size XS from the lengthen/shorten line up. Then I carefully moved the pattern piece down 9" and traced the rest of the size XS. It was easy to true up the intervening cutting lines.

I made several copies of the line drawing provided by the Sewing Workshop for this project. I like the overall plan of their blocks, notably long rectangles, instead of wide rectangles. Their measurements did not match the size XS I wanted to make so I set out to determine my own measurements. I kept roughly the same proportions.

I planned on 1/2 inch seam allowances for piecing the blocks. I chose 1/2 inch simply because I wanted to keep the arithmetic simple. I added 1 inch to the overall width and length of each rectangle. This allowed me to make flat felled seams and avoid lumps from piecing.

I have lovely colored pencils that were just right for this project, but I was not careful enough to try for the actual value (tint) of my fabric. This tripped me up a few times but was a good puzzling activity.

Here were my fabric choices:

  • Navy blue silk twill
  • Very light lavender linen
  • Medium purple linen
  • Medium gray linen
All are of about the same weight. And the values are 1 dark, 2 medium and 1 light.

Carefully following my map, I cut each piece according to plan, pinning a label to each piece. As I got close to finishing my cutting, I realized that I did not have enough of the lavender linen to follow the plan. I think there were 3 pieces left, all requiring the lavender linen. 

In one case, I split the planned piece, using a smaller lavender plus one of the other colors. In the other two cases, I chose one of the other colors instead of the lavender. I made sure there were no adjacent pieces of the same fabric.

It was quite fun. 

I began the piecing process by sewing two pieces together for the front, then two together for the back. The Sewing Workshop line drawing provides a perfect road map for the order of construction, though that's not hard to determine. I still managed to confuse myself. The solution was to finish piecing the front, and then piece the back. That way, I could keep the maps handy and triple-check things as I went along.

After the piecing, the rest was super easy - shoulder seams, neckline binding, arm bands, then side seams. I finished the neckline and the armbands by hand but all else was finished by machine.  

After trying it on, I decided on 2" hems. Then I finished it and took some pictures to see which pants I like best with it. I actually have a pair of Quincy pants in the navy blue silk, but they need to be modified. They feel quite sloppy with this tunic. The Helix and the Hudson pants work great though.

After looking at the pictures and reading a bit more, I realized that I made the front too long. TSW recommends adding 6" to the front and 9" to the back. I added 9 (or was it 9.5) inches to both.  The silhouette was not the best on my 5'5" frame.

In the end I created very deep hems so that my finished Eureka is 6" longer than the original. I am pleased with the result. I wore it today and felt good. Isn't it nice when wearing a piece makes you feel as good as making it did!

*The pattern calls for using a knit but I much prefer a woven for this pattern. Just checked my closet and found 5 previous Eureka tops. That does not count the first one I made in a rayon jersey. I never was happy with that one and gave it away. 

L to R: rayon woven stripe, B&W linen pin stripe, green pique, white textured linen, blue cotton voile

I have some more ideas for the Eureka top, a nice canvas for creative playing.