Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Palette Cleanser - Simplicity 1541

This week a friend IRL asked me if, after finishing my jeans, have I given up blogging.  Well, no, I'm just preoccupied with new projects and thinking about new projects, and frankly, a new obsession.  It's been fun, and I have written a dozen blog posts in my head, which haven't actually made it to a keyboard.  Writing is mostly thinking, so I like to believe I've done the hard work, just where no one can see.  As usual.

Cleaning up after the Jeans Project took a lot of time.  There were a half dozen patterns to sort and store, fabric scraps to deal with, and a very messy sewing room.  Once that was done, I began the dithering over what to do next.

A fall coat came to mind.  After making the Gertie coat last year, I was enthused about another, less complicated, autumn coat.  My Gertie coat is made of camel hair, which is really warm, and the big circle skirt is great for the dead of winter, but I want something less . . . well, just less.  I have a Pendleton plaid coat for fall (my favorite season), but it's five years old now and starting to show some wear.

I wanted something easy.  And I wanted to use a pattern from one of the many sewing books I own.  I recently noticed that while I buy a lot of them, I never actually make anything from them.  I'm not certain why.  Probably there's the pressure to trace, which I'm not all that excited about.  And there are so many big 4 patterns that are cheap and easy.

So I found a coat pattern in Sew Serendipity:

The coat patterns are essentially one pattern consisting of different lengths:

I was interested in the green wool coat (middle photo), with the bottom photo length.  This is an easy coat pattern - easy collar, no lining (but I could make one easily), and only three buttons.  The search for the perfect coat weight wool commenced.

The wool needed to be coat weight, but supple.  Not finding what I wanted, I went ahead traced all the pattern pieces, and made my lining from the same fabric I used on the Gertie coat (I bought 7 yards so I may be sewing with this stuff for YEARS to come.)  The size small fit well, and I finally found a wonderful quality wool locally (at the expensive fabric store in town) for a great sale price.  I told myself it wasn't teal, it was cadet blue, and brought it home.

But then doubt set in.  While the Sew Serendipity coat is cute, maybe it is a little too . . . cute???  I'm 50 years old now.  What I love, and have loved, has suddenly felt too young on me, which has left me feeling vaguely ridiculous.  

Not surprisingly, I didn't want to give up on this pattern, having traced it and made the lining, but obviously continuing on with a coat that I won't actually wear defies reason.  I cast about for another, perhaps more sophisticated, easy coat pattern.  I ordered this from the interwebs:

The coat comes in various lengths, and reminds me of the Tippi Hedren jacket.  It is easy, and as a bonus it includes a lining pattern.  I thought I was all set.

But there was the fabric.  While gorgeous in weight and drape, I had to finally admit to myself what I had denied:  the color is teal, dammit.

(This photo makes it look more blue than it is in real life.  Unfortunately.)

I don't care for teal.  And yet, I keep ending up with it.  I can only assume it's a cruel trick of the universe.

So I gave up and ordered a fall coat from Boden.

With the cooler temps finally coming our way here in Virginia, I pulled out my favorite wool skirt, the yellow skirt I made last January, McCalls 3341.  And not surprisingly, I found it a little too tight.  Another little nasty side effect of turning 50.  Ick.

I bought the yellow wool at Mood while in NYC last December and I bought a bunch of it, so the solution was to just make another.  I wanted something less A-line and longer, more of a pencil skirt, which is more in vogue, so I went with Simplicity 1541, which I made in a stretch jean fabric this summer:

I made it the exactly same way, except I mitered the french pleat in the back as illustrated in Singer's "Sewing for Style" I recently found in a thrift store for $ 5.00.

Here are the instructions:

Easy enough, but mine doesn't lay as flat and shows slightly in this wool:

If I made this skirt again, I probably won't bother with the mitering; it lays flatter just folding up normally, and no one cares how I manage my kick pleat. 

I had planned to line it in silk but ran out of enthusiasm and just decided I would wear a half slip with it.

I used the same tablecloth fabric for the waist facing that I used on the original yellow skirt:

Also, this time I put in a centered zipper rather than the lapped; it is just easier for me:

I used the same 3/4 seam allowances I used on the last skirt, but this one is tighter because of the lack of stretch.  If I make it again in wool, I'll use 5/8 seams instead just to give a little more wiggle room (literally).

I do enjoy topstitching:

So yay, I like the skirt.  But my sewing these days is in flux.  Not only do I have way too many clothes, I have too many that I don't wear.  Remember my last count of 46 skirts hanging in my closet?  Something had to be done.

There are a ton of blogs out there dedicated to minimalist wardrobes, but this is what is working for me:

1)  For every garment I make or buy, I get rid of two.  So for this skirt that I added to my closet, I eliminated two skirts.  This has helped me reduce the 46 skirts down to 29.

2)  No more black.  I saw, and wore, enough black in the '80s and '90s to last me a lifetime.  I'm tired of it.  And as I age, it looks too severe on me, making me look pale and tired.  Still, of those 29 skirts I still have, six are black.  Clearly more purging is necessary.

3)  I've discovered I'm both emotional and practical when it comes to clothes hoarding.  I keep some clothes because I used to love wearing them, even though I don't wear them now, and I keep clothes because they are practical (it was cheap! it was expensive! I might need it some day!), even though I don't wear them.  One example:  I have a black suit with two skirts that I can't bring myself to get rid of because, what if, God forbid, someone should die?  Obviously, reason should tell me that if that happens any store in America will have black clothes suitable for the impending funeral.

4)  For the first time in a long time in my adult life, I have put on weight and some of my clothes are too tight - this is a real bummer.  Keeping them in my closet isn't lifting my spirits, but getting rid of them feels like waiving the white flag of defeat.  I know that admitting it is the first step in dealing with the problem.

5) I'm only sewing what I feel passionate obsessed about.  If I'm dithering, I'm probably not sufficiently enthralled with it, i.e. see coat story above.  If this is the case, I'm buying what I need and calling it a day (see also, Boden solution above).  

6)  Here's an interesting article about discarding everything that does not bring you joy.  I'm hoping looking at my clothes about whether they bring me joy will liberate me from the emotional/practical considerations in keeping and tossing clothes.

7)  The clothes I have removed from my closet haven't actually left the house.  They are in storage in an unfinished attic room which helps me remove them them from the closet.  It's sort of a half-way house for unwanted clothes.  I'm separated from them, but if I ever need them, they are recoverable.  I hope this helps in ultimate separation in the future.

8)  My goal is to own less clothes which I actually wear that allow more creativity in how I wear them.  And, of course, good quality, whether I make them or buy them.

Coming soon:  my new obsession and why I'm sewing it.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Making Jeans - Finally! McCalls 6610

Y'all.  After more than three months, I have a pair of jeans!  Here's the preview:

But to back up, after many muslins (I lost count) I wasn't interested in doing more, and it was time to make the Real Thing.  I began with genuine American-made 13.5 oz denim manufactured by Cone Mills in North Carolina, which I ordered from Taylor.  It arrived in record time, and I washed my yardage twice in hot water and hot dryer.  Here's what it looked like afterwards:

I could tell this was real indigo dyed denim because my washer and dryer ended up blue after each washing and drying.  Which didn't hurt my feelings, because that gradual fade is what will eventually give me that great aged blue patina of my college jeans.

This is selvedge denim which has this distinctive red thread running through the selvedge:

It was a joy to work with - substantial and it pressed beautifully.

As you know from my last muslin, I hadn't quite perfected my fit, so I ordered the Palmer/Pletsch DVD, "Jeans for Real People":

I'm not certain this DVD would have been of much value to me when I first starting making jeans because it emphasizes fit, rather than the detailed how-to of sewing jeans.  For example, I don't think it would have helped me to figure out a fly zip, since the demonstration was for a cut-on fly extension, rather than a sewn-on fly extension.  And some of the techniques in the DVD look like shortcuts, rather than classic jean construction.  For example, the DVD claims nylon zippers are stronger than metal zippers and it demonstrates jeans being made with a regular nylon zipper.  Are nylon zippers really stronger?  Do we make jeans with metal zippers because that is all that was available when jeans were first made and continue with them because of tradition?

I don't think so.  I recently purchased "The Costumer's Handbook":

and it advises on page 122, "Always use metal zippers in costumes. Nylon zippers are simply not strong enough nor reliable enough for stage use."  (This is a fantastic book, by the way, full of useful information, including how to make slopers for men and women. Its out of print, but if you can find it, buy it or steal it.)

What I did get out of the DVD:  

1.  Basting tape.  I didn't know this stuff existed.  I use Steam-A-Seam for basting where I can, but the temporary basting tape looks like a great time saver.  I need to get some.

2.  A technique for making sure your back pockets are placed on the back pieces in identical placement.

3.  I learned an alternative way to make a buttonhole.

4.  Fitting.  They fit three women in this DVD, and I probably learned more than I realize.  The drawback to using the methods shown is that you really can't do it alone.  You not only need another person, but you need someone who knows the Palmer/Pletsch technique.

One common pattern adjustment is to carve out more of the back seam, making it deeper - this is very common on women over 30, and my understanding is that Palmer/Pletsch pants patterns have different cutting lines for the back seat depending on whether you are under 30 or over 30.  Which I think is both helpful and hysterical.

I decided I probably needed this adjustment, based on the Calvin Klein pattern which felt so comfortable.  Rather than go with the Calvin Klein pattern, though, I decided to use McCalls 6610 (which I used for my last muslin):

Like last time, I made a size 14; the difference this time was I didn't shorten the rise, and I redrew the seat curve to match the Calvin Klein pattern.  Here it is:

The McCalls pattern is the tan piece; the Calvin Klein pattern is the white tissue paper.  You can see the re-drawn seat curve in black ink on the McCalls pattern piece.

Also, based on the Calvin Klein pattern, I added 1/4 inch to the side seam in the hip area of the front pattern piece only.

In addition to the DVD discussed above, I took Victoria's pants fitting webinar put on by Burda, and in it, she suggests that you use a flexible ruler and bend it around yourself to discover your seat curve.  Not to get all personal and all, but this is my seat curve:

The left side is my front, and the right is my back side.  I compared my shape to the back seat curve on my pattern:

Pretty good, I would say!

By this time the actual sewing of the jeans was straightforward.  I decided to use an old New Look skirt made of antique flour sack fabric for my pockets:

I must have made this skirt ten or so years ago before I started blogging, and I've since "grown" out of it.  Flour sack fabric is incredibly strong and durable and I love this print:

Here's the coin pocket in progress: 

As mentioned, I used Steam A Seam for basting purposes wherever I could:

I used topstitching thread I ordered from Taylor as well, and it worked very well.  I was impressed:

I used the fly zipper instructions from the Calvin Klein pattern because I have found they are the best.  This time I hand basted the fly closed to make double sure the zipper would be covered (unlike the last time):

Just for fun, I made the zipper guard out of the same flour sack fabric rather than denim:

I tried, in vain, to find an alterations/tailor shop that would make my buttonhole for me, due to all the denim layers that I knew would give me trouble.  In the end, I used the Palmer/Pletsch method of zigzagging freehand a triangle shaped hole.  I went back to my college jeans and discovered that is how Levis made the buttonhole way back then:

You can see it's no thing of beauty.  Here's the back:

I figured I couldn't do any worse.  Here's mine:

For the waistband, I just cut a rectangle of fabric 4 1/4 inches wide on the crosswise grain, which finished 1 1/2 inches wide after folding in half and taking into account 5/8 inch seam allowances.  I didn't use the pattern waistband length; I just used whatever length it took to cover the top of the jeans.  

This fabric was only about 31 inches wide, so I had to piece the waistband as it was cut on the crosswise grain, rather than the lengthwise grain.  I put the seam at the back, so it would be covered by the back belt loop:

(See why you should cut your jeans waistband on the cross grain here.  Kathleen explains all.)

I made the belt loops using the selvedge edge so there wouldn't be any unraveling.  I basically cut a strip 1 1/4 inches wide along the selvedge, pressed the strip into thirds, and then top stitched the right side.  This is the backside:

This is the top.  I tried two finished sizes:  1/2 inch and 3/8 inch.  I ended up going with the narrower belt loop:

Getting the belt loops on was a challenge with my Bernina with this thick denim.  I ended up using a straight stitch, rather than a zig-zag, and I hand cranked the needle through the denim rather than using the presser foot.  I think the belt loops are on pretty well, but we will see.

I got the rivets from Taylor too.  I managed the rivets on the coin pocket by myself, but the shanks of the "nail" part of the rivets were too long for the regular pockets.  Using the denim spacers as Taylor suggests did not work for me.  I got The Carpenter to use his wire cutters to shorten the nail part, and then he pounded in the rivets on the front side (rather than the back, as I was doing).  Fortunately, he understands rivet technology.

Even though I had made three or four (or five?) muslins, I still learned stuff while making these jeans.  It became clear to me that your front pockets aren't meant to lie flat when you construct them; if they did, you wouldn't have any ease to get your hands inside them.  And I finally noticed the little tack on the front stitching of the fly which secures your zipper guard at the bottom of the zipper, so I added that.  And don't sew your belt loops on flat to the jeans - leave them loose so you have enough ease to get your belt through them.

The fit isn't perfect, of course.  See that slight wrinkle just below the yoke (below)?  I'm confident that indicates a slight sway back adjustment wouldn't be amiss:

But I'm not all that worked up about it.  I'm very pleased with the fit, and they are incredibly comfortable.  I've been wearing them for the past two days.  Which is why the front wrinkles aren't indicative of a fitting issue; they just mean I haven't taken them off for days:

Last shot:

I look forward to wearing these for years to come.   The legs are wide enough to wear boots, so I know I'll wear them constantly this fall and winter.  The waist is loose, but it doesn't show with a belt, and if I wear a top untucked, who is going to see the waistband?  

Final thoughts:

1.  While these are my first pair of jeans (I'm incredibly pleased), they won't be my last.

2.  But it is time to move on and sew something else.  Like maybe another winter coat.

3.  The Carpenter was so impressed with them, I have a feeling I'll be making him a pair soon.

4.  If you make jeans, use this denim.  Seriously.

5.  The only way to learn how to make jeans is to make 'em.  It's that simple.  If you want to badly enough, you'll be able to do it, and enjoy the journey.  You won't regret it!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Making Jeans - Making Progress/McCalls 6610

Progress continues on the Jeans Project - my plan was to make a wearable muslin using McCalls 6610 and organic cotton twill from in red.  I was excited about using McCalls 6610 because based on my comparisons with Vogue's Calvin Klein pattern, the McCalls pattern looked very promising.

I made a few changes, though, before I even cut out.  Other bloggers/reviewers have noted that the rise on the McCalls 6610 is very high, and by comparing it to the Calvin Klein pattern, this appeared to be true.  So I used the lengthen/shorten line on the pattern and shortened both the front and back pattern pieces by about a half inch.  (Hint:  don't do this unless you are actually petite.)  And then I shaped the seat seam to mimic the Calvin Klein pattern since I like the fit.

I felt pretty confident of my changes which is usually a portent of things to come . . .  The weekend before last I cut out and put together the back of the jeans and back pockets.  On Labor Day, I picked it back up around 9:30 a.m. even though I was kinda tired and a little MS-y.  Also, I could tell my head just wasn't in the game.  But I had a free day, and I didn't want it to go to waste.

I should have listened to the universe, but I was feeling perversely stubborn that day.  This is the first zipper fly that I have made that didn't turn out well.  (Which is not McCalls' fault - I was all, hey, I've got this.)  First, I did it wrong, which I didn't discover until the jeans were put together and I tried them on.  Then, it became clear that my left side of the fly zip didn't complete cover the zipper, which is pretty much an epic fail.  Finally, I topstitched the fly four times and it still looks like crap.  

Once I got the waistband wrestled on this sucker there was only one thing I could do to get rid of the bad juju - I threw the jeans in the washer to get the evil out.  

Last night I hemmed them and did the buttonhole.  I put a regular button on rather than a jeans button because I wasn't sure if I was going to redo the waistband or not.  I didn't sew on the belt loops for the same reason.

I wore them to work today because today was a "jeans day" to celebrate the kickoff of the NFL season.  But I didn't get photos until I got home.  So they are:

I had been wearing these all day, so they are seriously wrinkled. But here's the verdict:  these jeans are too tight.  By shortening the rise as if I was a petite, when I'm really not, I made the upper hip and waist too tight.  If I had left well enough alone, they probably would have fit fine.

What I do like are the more narrow legs on this pattern than the Calvin Klein pattern.  Here's a booty shot that shows the waistband too low and too tight:

Also, you can see that the back yokes aren't flat where they meet the waistband - the instructions have you "ease" the jeans into the waistband.  I'm here to tell you that denim this heavy doesn't "ease".  At all.  For every pair of jeans I make from now on, I'll cut the waistband as long as it needs to be to avoid any easing.  If that makes the waistband a little bigger, all the better - who wouldn't want a little extra room in the waist?

Here's the shot that shows the waist too tight and my zipper exposed:

After wearing them all day, I won't be putting on any belt loops because I probably won't be wearing these jeans - they are just too tight and uncomfortable.

As I mentioned, what I do like about the pattern is the width of the legs.  The legs of the Calvin Klein pattern were too wide.  I compared the two patterns and interestingly, the back pattern pieces are the same width.  The difference is in the front pattern pieces - the front leg pattern piece of the McCalls pattern 6610 is much narrower.   

So here are my choices for my next jeans:

1)  Make McCalls 6610 again, unaltered, which will probably fit reasonably well;

2)  Combine the McCalls pattern and Calvin Klein pattern - maybe use the back pattern piece from the Calvin Klein pattern and the front from the McCalls pattern and see if that works; or

3) Do both.  I can make as many pairs of jeans as I want.

Parting shots:  Anne got married this weekend!  Here's a few photos I took:

Vicki's skirt in action:

Anne and Vicki: