Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pattern Review: Colette Clover Pants

*  I wrote most of this review prior to wearing the pants.  I've put my addendum first, because it explains the photos.

Sometimes you just can't anticipate the way a fabric will behave. I knew that my fabric was a little stretchier than I needed for these pants, and truthfully, I expected a little bagging in the seat and at the knees by the end of the day. However, the fabric had started to stretch by the time I got to work. The photos were taken on my lunch break, approximately 4 hours into the wearing of the pants. These pants did NOT fit like that when I left the house, especially the crotch area.

Overall, despite the somewhat disappointing photos, I'm going to declare these pants a fabric failure, not a pattern failure. And because I do like the pants generally (and because even with some sag the butt doesn't look too bad), I'm going to take in the inside leg seam and the center/crotch/seat seam and see what happens. Next time I'll start out with pants that are too tight which will relax into a nice fit by mid-morning. And I'll know better for the next pair. (There will still be a next pair).

Pattern Description: Beautifully simple slim pants that will go with practically anything! These pants close with a side zipper for a streamlined look and easy sewing. Version 1 is ankle length, with small in-seam pockets set into the waistband. Version 2 is cropped just below mid-calf.

The pattern is meant for bottom-weight fabrics with some stretch. 

Pattern Sizing:  0-18.  I made approximately a 10, with some adjustments where I deviated from the standard measurements.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? The line drawing on the envelope is very basic, but I'd say I got a close resemblance.  Mine are longer, because I didn't want ankle-length pants.  Isn't that why we sew?

Were the instructions easy to follow? Absolutely.  More on that below.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?  I tend to like side zip pants better than fly front. Which is annoying, because from making jeans for myself and shorts for Mario, I can actually do a decent fly front these days.  But outside of jeans, I don't find fly-front pants all that flattering on me; I wear a lot of knit tops and I like the smoother line of a side zip, instead of the bunchiness of a zipper under the knit.

And I have a go-to Burda side zip pant that I've been making since 2007, but when Colette announced their new fall patterns I decided to give their pants a try - it never hurts to check out a new twist on an old favorite.  My Burda pants are darted, front and back, with a facing but no waistband; Colette's pants have a waistband and inseam pockets.  Since the waistband is more like a narrow yoke than a classic waistband, I thought it might work well on my lack-of-defined-waist.

As an aside, I thought the little pockets set in the seam between the pants and waistband were cute.  They'll never be seen, since most of my tops will cover them, but I know they're there. 

Fabric Used:  Tan stretch twill (very stretchy stretch twill).  Leftover Liberty lawn for the pockets. 

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:  When I make a pattern for the first time, unless I find something ridiculously wrong (or in the case of Burda, unintelligible) in the instructions, I try to follow the pattern's order of construction. I assume there's a reason for what they do, and the order in which they do it.

So when I made my Clover pants (without having made a muslin, of course, because I couldn't find a fabric for the muslin with a similar stretch), I followed their instructions. I have to say that their instructions are some of the clearest I've ever come across and the illustrations are very well done. If I'd had to depend on Burda to explain how to do those little waistband pockets, I'd have pants without pockets.

That being said, next time I think I will change the order of construction just a bit, because even when I get a pattern altered to fit me, depending on the vagaries of the particular fabric I'm using, there might be tweaking involved.

Colette's order: sew fronts to backs at inside leg seam, then sew center seam from front to back. After that, sew up your outside seams (completely on the right, to the zipper point on the left. Construct the waistband side seams and sew outer waistband to mostly-completed pants. Sew the pockets together. Insert invisible zipper in already mostly-completed pants. Then add facing waistband and do all the neat and tidy stuff.

How I'll do it next time: sew fronts to backs at inside leg seam, then sew center seam from front to back. Sew the outer waistbands to fronts and backs, sewing pockets. Pin fit to make sure nothing has gone wrong, then insert invisible zipper and finish rest of left leg seam. Baste right leg seam to check fit, tweak, then finish. Add facing waistband and neaten.

There's nothing wrong with the Colette instructions, and I think I got a pretty good result, but since every fabric is going to behave at least somewhat differently - the stretch twill I'm using seems to be almost part bubblegum it was so stretchy - I like having the option of tweaking in multiple places throughout the construction process.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I think these are in the running to join my Burda pants in the TNT pile.  There weren't many kinks to work out in this first pair, so I'd definitely try them again. 

Conclusion:  A good basic pattern - with great instructions - that can be made up in a variety of fabrics.  Further investigation is required, but there could be TNT potential here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Some questions on the sweater

Collar pieces - under on top of upper
 I had a few questions on my "Did I Mention?" post that deserve an answer.

First off, there was a question about making buttonholes in sweater knit. It can be done, but it really depends on the knit. There are different types of sweater knit and I would only even attempt it in a more stable (no visible holes if you stretch it) kind of knit. That "all one piece" feel to the knit would make it behave more like fabric. That being said, I'm sure there's a way to do buttonholes in knit with a looser weave, but I'm not willing to risk unravelling something that I can't put back together.

On the other hand, snaps work well on sweater knit, and I love the look of those oversized snaps.  Or you could always sew buttons on the outside and have the best of both

Ripply seams!
 With regard to the collar piece, that is one of my favorite parts of this KwikSew pattern (3740). As in any good collar pattern, there is an upper and under collar piece. In this instance, the under collar is significantly smaller. You sew the two collars together at the widest part (the hem), and then bring the upper edges together to be attached at the neckline which, since the under collar is shorter, turns the upper collar underneath so there is no seam visible from the right (upper) side. The way it lays generally keeps the seam allowance to the inside, though with this knit and its tendency to ripple, I pressed the seam allowances in and then ran a seam over them. The knit hides the stitches completely, and the collar would hide them anyway.

The other thing I like about the collar on KS 3740 is that if you're using a stripe (or a rib/cable knit), the stripes line up in a chevron pattern on the center back of the collar seam.  Cool.

As far as finishing the seams on sweater knit, I just zigzag them to keep them from fraying. I don't have a serger, so I'm sure if you do there's a much better/neater option. But that's what works for me.

I hemmed the sleeves and hem on my coverstitch.  I could have just used the regular machine, but the coverstitch really deals with the raw edges of the hem, and zigzagging there wouldn't have been an option because of the knit's aforementioned tendency to ripple. 

And now, without further ado, is the completed sweater - maybe not worth the blood, but good all the same.  I'll get a lot of wear out of this.

I got my Colette patterns in the mail today.  While I don't have enough yardage of the fabric I was considering for the Ceylon dress, I did find a good khaki bottomweight with some stretch that would work for the Clover pants.  So those will probably be up next . . . unless I'm distracted by something else.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Did I mention?

Did I mention the other night when the rotary cutter broke and my hand hit the blade that I was cutting out cream sweater knit? Could there be a worse possible fabric, other than possibly white silk (which will never see the inside of my sewing room) to risk getting covered with blood?

Somehow, when it happened, my first instinct was to grab my thumb - mostly so I wouldn't look down and see what I did. I made it downstairs to the kitchen before it got messy, and so, now that I'm feeling better, and the bandage on my thumb is small enough to work with, my sweater knit was waiting for me, still immaculate, on the cutting surface where I left it.

I finished cutting with scissors. I'll get back on the horse, really, I will - life without a rotary cutter would be too stinking inconvenient - but for now I'll go it the old-fashioned way. I take the long way for almost everything else, it won't kill me.

The sweater knit, a cream lightweight cable knit, is from about 2-3 years ago. They had a great price on sweater knits, and I bought a bunch, but most of them were worth about what I paid for them. This looks like it'll actually have some staying power, and it's going to be yet another KS 3740, the cowl neck sweater. Because it's flattering, it's quick, and I have almost no sweaters left in my drawer for fall.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sewing Haiku

Me versus the blade . . .
Blade will get me every time.
Day off from sewing.

Don't worry, no fingers were lost in the making of this haiku, only a few ounces of blood. 

Also, it wasn't after 10:00 p.m., there was no wine involved (at least until after the bleeding was stanched) and I'm very glad I misplaced my new rotary cutter blades before my cutter broke -- while I was using it, letting my thumb come down on the blade.

A nurse friend told me this evening I should have had stitches.  Too late now.  I'll live, and have another sewing-related scar to show to the unbelieving.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What I did for love

If you sew for others, every once in a while you're going to get a strange request.  Unless you're sewing for someone you care about (or they're paying you a good bit of cash), you can ignore the strange request and go on about your business.

I brought this one on myself. 

Allow me to backtrack and explain.  When I first saw this fabric a few months ago on Dressaday, someone had made it into a dress to wear to Comic Con in San Diego.  Mario would love to go to Comic Con, and I wanted him to see the fabric because he's also a Dr. Who fan. 

How did I know it would be love at first sight?  I could practically hear the violins.  "Can you even buy that fabric?" he asked.  Silly me, I said, "Yes, they have it on Spoonflower.  I could order it."

"And could you make a shirt out of it?"

What was I supposed to say?  No?  To the man who puts up with an absentee sewing wife, and 10 cats, and chickens?

If he wants a Dr. Who shirt, he gets a Dr. Who shirt.  I pull out KwikSew 3422 and order the fabric.

The fabric arrives.  It's even more orange and blue than it appeared in the photograph, and the grid seems even larger.  I'm a little frightened; he's ecstatic.  It is now decided that it's going to be a long-sleeved dress shirt.  In vibrant orange and blue, with a cream grid, and the word "EXTERMINATE" printed in large blue letters.

Again, why not?

Complications arise when I start cutting.  I read Spoonflower's fabric care instructions, I just didn't pay attention to them.  For their quilting cotton, it suggested there might be as much as 7% shrinkage, and it said not to put it in the dryer.  So, after I put it in the dryer . . . it shrunk probably more than 7%, but only in one direction.  I managed to completely warp the print, which made me want to get it right even more.

I got the front and back cut out of the most even portions of the fabric.  The sleeves are cut slightly skewed, but don't look it.  The small pieces, collar and cuffs, were steamed back into straightness and them glued into submission with some of Pam Erny's new Shirt Crisp interfacing.  Love that stuff!

Things really got complicated when I cut out the yokes.  None of the remaining fabric was square enough to work when sewed across the top of the straight grid on the back of the shirt.  I got one so-so yoke, but it didn't make me happy.  Then I got an idea.  An awful idea.  An idea that caused me to drink wine in the sewing room.  You know, one of those ideas.

I went through all my scraps and I cut them up so I had a row of robots, and I pieced them together.  Rather than an uneven, slanted grid across his shoulders, he now had a rank of Dalek robots marching in file, with one lone weapon across his left shoulder.  Brilliance!  (Or at least that's what the wine said).

Yesterday I went to NY for the rescheduled fabric shopping day, and I put myself in a position of having to finish the shirt by telling way too many people about it.  Best way to make yourself do something you're not up for?  Make sure that a dozen or so people will notice when it doesn't happen, and ask uncomfortable questions.

Not to mention the intended wearer of the shirt, who has been following its progress with interest.  Today he got to help out with the finish - because I warped the fabric, I changed the order of construction a bit.  I sewed the sleeves on at the shoulders, and then did the sleeve seams but only to the first grid line past the underarm.  Then I made all the front buttonholes and sewed on the buttons.  Since I had to match text on the center front of the shirt, the most important thing was to get those letters lined up; a slight shift on the side seams - normally the end of the world - would be okay at this point.  So he got to try on the shirt, buttoned and with the side seams basted, to make sure everything lined up. 

I think the sewing gods took pity, I really do.  Everything lined up, and the slightly narrow silhouette caused by a slightly larger-than-usual overlap in the front to line up the lettering, actually works with this shirt.

Best part? HE LOVES IT.  He's wearing it to work tomorrow.  I expect to hear shortly from the lawyers representing his blinded co-workers.

The other best part: this was such an unintentionally challenging project that I'm almost looking forward to making his Hendrix jacket. All notions and lining fabric were purchased in NY on Saturday, but first, there will be a little sewing for me.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Image - Fall/Winter

I just received the Fall/Winter issue of My Image pattern magazine, and I'm pretty pleased with the contents.

For those unfamiliar with My Image, it's a fairly recent entry in the European pattern magazine race, but it's moving up quickly in my estimation.

Like Ottobre, they're no Burda, but then again, that's not a bad thing.  Their clothes are wearable, not cut too low, and their models are pretty close to reality (though not as close as Ottobre's).

Their instructions are a little terse, and their English is a bit stilted, but for anyone who has tried to wrap their head around Burda's English, MI is a breeze.  And their pattern sheets are on bright white paper with nice, readable multi-colored lines.  You'll only have eyestrain at the end, not an actual migraine.

Even though I love warm weather and summer clothes, I like cold weather sewing better.  Cold weather sewing is about jackets and linings and weightier fabrics; it's about not taking shortcuts and making quick knit pieces to get me in and out of the workroom quickly.  

There are a few pieces in My Image that I'm looking forward to trying - a jacket, a short coat and one (or more) of the dresses.  And the slouchy drape necked top fills the space left by quick summer sewing: quick winter sewing.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What are you doing next Saturday?

I'm going to be shopping with like-minded friends in New York's Garment District, and there's still space left if you'd like to join us. 

The expedition was organized by Elizabeth, and I am shamelessly filching her schedule to post here:

9:45am Gather in front of Starbucks at 494 8th Ave (corner of 8th and 35th St). I will hand out maps of the garment district and we’ll split into 2 groups.

9:55am Each group will walk to either Metro Textiles (265 W 37th St, Ste 908, between 7th and 8th but closer to 8th) or Elliott Berman (225 W 35th St, #7, between 7th and 8th but closer to 7th).

10:00am Shopping to commence!

11:00am Start having your fabrics cut.

11:30am Leave for other store. If you started at Metro, go to Elliott Berman and vice versa.

12:00pm Shopping!

1:00pm Start having your fabrics cut.

1:30pm Finished at both stores.

At this point, you can use your maps to shop at other fabric or trim stores in the district, have lunch or just go home. I look forward to seeing you all there!

The trip was originally scheduled for the weekend of Hurricane Irene, and wisely canceled as NYC evacuated and the rest of us couldn't get in or out.  Both Kashi at Metro and Elliott Berman are opening epecially for us, so it's important for enough of us to show up to make it worth their while or they might not do it again.

Come on, people, show up and support the Garment District, spend the day hanging out and talking sewing with people who understand you, and go home with a little fabric as a souvenir.

I don't know, it sounds good to me.

Autumn Watercolor

Ottobre Design - Woman, Fall Winter, 5/2011 #15

Pattern Description: The simple, minimalist style of this dress is always trendy and interesting. Admittedly, they also require a little more attention from the sewer as they need to be carefully tried on and fitted. The body-hugging silhouette of the dress is produced both by the pattern design and by shaping it by pressing during construction. The waistline is raised slightly above the narroest part of the body. The skirt has contouring darts at the waist, and the slanted bust darts start at the side seams of the bodice.

Pattern Sizing: Ottobre sizes (similar to Burda) 34-48. As I was using a woven, I made a 40.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? The shape was the same. Their dress is a nice, quiet, well-bred gray. Mine is not.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Ottobre's instructions are fabulous. You don't even notice the lack of illustrations, and anyone who has tackled even one Burda pattern would find these a breeze.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I liked that it was basically a blank slate for any print that I decided to throw at it. Ottobre's patterns aren't always exciting at first glance, but upon further study they're actually very good starts to a lot of interesting garments. Another nice thing about Ottobre is that many of their pattern pieces can be swapped - the 4 dresses in this issue have interchangeable skirts, sleeves and collars; only the bodice is consistently the same, so if you get the bodice fit right, you have a lot of options to play with.

I also liked the neckline - nice and wide, a flattering look, without having to worry about the depth of a Burda neckline. Sometimes it's just nice to go to work and not worry about flashing too much cleavage at the wrong lawyer.

Fabric Used: Cotton voile purchased at PR Weekend Chicago at Fishman's Fabrics. I waffled about the purchase, but several PR members, including Sherril Miller, basically strong-armed me into it. (Thank you, ladies, you were right).

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: No changes other than tweaking for fit. Ottobre patterns tend to fit me without a lot of manipulation, which can be a nice change of pace.

The dresses in this pattern series had some nice vintage touches, but the only one that is really structural is the dart at the back neck/shoulder which I think makes such a difference in fit. The inside facing is cut without the dart, and makes the neckline lay beautifully.

I had issues with lining the dress - not technical issues, but color. Because the cotton voile is somewhat sheer, my first choice of lining (black) made the print muddy. Brown wasn't much better. I scrounged through the lining stash until I came up with some ivory, which brightened the light parts of the print.

I did not line the sleeves. The sleeve is fitted, and I was afraid that it would be too snug if I lined it, so I turned the bodice lining under at the armhole and hand sewed it to the seam allowance. I also hand sewed the skirt and sleeve hems, and attached the lining to the invisible zip. Lots of hand-sewing on this dress, but the fabric was so lightweight that I knew any machine stitches would show, and not in a good way.

Despite my print being somewhat (!) busy, I decided to add some embellishment to the neckline. I purchased a jacket a few summers ago at a yard sale, specifically because it had these brown wooden beads sewn around the neckline and down the front. The jacket was white pique and filthy; I cut the beads off and have kept them all this time waiting for the right project. I thought that they suited the fabric, which despite its watercolor effect is not shy and retiring at all. The beads weren't too heavy, and they're hand-sewn down and tacked to the facing, which has a heavier interfacing than I would have normally used specifically to support the embellishment.

The embellishment doesn't go around to the back neckline because Lily the sewing room cat made off with 3 of the larger pieces. When they resurface on the sewing room floor, I'll add them. Or not; I don't actually miss them despite having made fun of RTW tops with embellishments that stop at the shoulders.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would definitely recommend both this pattern and Ottobre generally. It's not an exciting looking magazine if you're used to a steady diet of Burda or Patrones, but it's full of good, basic, useful patterns that can be used in a variety of ways. Since I got the bodice fit the way I want, I'll definitely be using this pattern again.

Conclusion: I was told that this pattern had great potential to be dowdy, but I think fit and fabric can win out any time. I'm happy with my dress, and I think I'll get a lot of wear out of this one.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Do you Ottobre?

I tend to forget, between twice-yearly issues, that I like Ottobre patterns. 

Admittedly, they don't have the glossy lure of Burda or Patrones, the fashion magazine styling and photography, the on-trend clothes, but they do have something I like (when I remember). 

Reality.  Or at least a really close pattern magazine facsimile thereof.

Ottobre uses real women (I swear I think they scoop up their office workers and let them wear the clothes) and they're women of various sizes and shapes.  I like that in addition to the description of the pattern, you get the model's name, her pattern size and height.  In the Autumn/Winter 2011 issue, the "models" were between European sizes 36 and 42, and I've definitely seen women larger than that, and older, and shorter. 

Instead of looking at a 7 foot tall, rail thin Burda "plus" model, and trying to figure what that dress would look like on me, it's kind of comforting to look at someone whose figure issues are similar to mine and know pretty much what it would look like. 

The Fall/Winter issue had a series of 4 vintage styled dresses that caught my eye.  It wasn't so much the "vintage"details, which weren't vintage enough if that's what I wanted; I liked that underneath those details seemed to be a very good, basic dress pattern.

And it was.  And because it's Ottobre, the varying sleeves and skirts and collars for all 4 dresses are interchangeable, so you only have to do bodice-tweaking once.

So, yes, all this talk about Ottobre does mean that I've sewn something from this issue.  I chose dress #15, the dress on the left in the upper photo.  Probably the most basic shape in the bunch, and as I was advised by a dear friend who shall remain nameless (BECAUSE SHE WAS WRONG), a dress that had great potential to be frumpy. 

Thankfully great fabric (and a lot of effort on fitting) can work wonders even with a potentially frumpy pattern.  Full review hopefully tomorrow; I just wanted to check in because I've gone missing for the last week.  Labor Day weekend is never a vacation weekend for me, it's the 3 days where I try to pack in all the projects I've neglected all summer, and possibly pre-summer. 

Let's just say I was glad to get back to work to get some rest.

Fabric pictured above is, obviously, my new dress, and was purchased at Fishman's in Chicago during PR Weekend at the urging of Sherril Miller and several other PR friends who insisted that I didn't need to step otuside my color comfort zone - I should buy what I like, and what I know works for me.