Conversant In Color: Buying Fabric Part 2

This is part 2 of the Conversant In Color: Buying Fabric post from earlier this week.

Colors: Gather your friends

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If you don’t know what colors work best for you, check out my posts on Warm/Cool and what that means, Observing Your Favorites, and Harmonizing with Your Environment.  I don’t have a slick system for choosing colors, I think the process is too individual for that.  Time and observation are your best bets.

Once you have an idea of a few colors that work for you and you want to apply that to sewing with a purpose, you’ll need to assemble some colors into a “team.”  These are the colors you shop for.

Simple = attainable

  • Start with a neutral- black/white/ivory/khaki/brown/raisin/navy.  Pick one to build your wardrobe around.  It is the anchor.  I suggest picking the one that suits your personal coloring, your taste and your environmental needs the best.
  • Fill in two other colors that you favor the most.
  • Then choose ONE accent color- this can be a color you LOVE but can’t wear much, or a brighter-than-usual shade.  This keeps things simple.

Here’s mine for Summer 2013:

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If you’ve been keeping an eye on me for a while, you’ll notice it’s very much the same as Summer 2012.  I leaned heavily on bright reds and blues, with aqua and pink for accents.  This year, I’d like to lean on blues/aquas/seafoam and introduce some gold/yellow/orange as an accent color.  This will help me refresh my Summer 2012 wardrobe with new pieces that I can mix in easily.

These colors worked really well for me- my temperament, environment and lifestyle. Oh yes, and with my coloring!  I used white as my neutral then, and white is my neutral this summer.  I like it.  Besides, I need to replace some of my ruined whites.

Keep It Simple, Sugar

I plan my fabric shopping like some plan their grocery trips.  The planning prevents over-buying and simplifies the process of sewing outfits and dressing myself.   At the same time, I try to stay flexible.

This is a very, very simple breakdown of how to use color in wardrobe planning- intended as a starting point (I used my colors from the palette above):

  • Neutral: Workhorse garments- 40-60% of the sewing.  Tops, bottoms, and a jacket/vest/topper.
  • Color 1: 25-30% of your fabrics. The best color near your face.  Shop for shades or tones of the same color to avoid looking too monochromatic or “matchy.”  This color should look well with your neutral, as well as your face.
  • Color 2: 20-25% of your fabrics.  This is a color you like, looks ok on you, and one that works well with Color 1.  If you feel timid use a complementary color, like the seafoamy teal in my wardrobe palette.  If you feel a little more confident, go for a contrasting color, like the red I used.
  • Accent Colors: These will make up about 5%-10% of your sewing fabrics, if that.  An accent color may be any color you like that mixes well with your other colors.  I’m choosing yellow/orange as my summer accents because I like them but can’t wear much of those colors.

The Importance of an Accent Color:

When I’m sewing a wardrobe I may need just a tiny bit of color on a project- maybe threads, buttons, embellishment, or a nice clash-y lining.  It’s nice to have some accent colors already in mind and to hand, and using a consistent accent color creates continuity in the sewing.

This also makes it simpler for me to thrift for belts and bags.  If it’s my accent color, decent quality and a good price, it goes home with me.  If it’s one of my other colors, I might consider it.  Otherwise, it stays put even if it is a steal.  I don’t need that much stuff in my house.

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Use four colors in your wardrobe- Color 1 + a complement and Color 2 + a complement.  The trick is to make sure all the colors are wearable together, even if you wouldn’t necessarily wear them every day.  Try working with a larger wardrobe concept, too.  Do set yourself a few basic guidelines so you don’t end up with five tops and no bottoms! (Unless that’s what you need, then do it.)

Basic Wardrobe Planning for Beginners:

If you’re new to the process of wardrobing, I suggest starting with:

  • a basic topper with a bottom in a neutral (a suit, or a casual jacket/cardi and a bottom) (Use the Neutral Color)
  • a simple blouse/tee (Use Color 1)
  • a more “interesting” blouse/tee (Use Color 2)
  • another bottom (Use Color 1 or 2)
  • maybe with a dress in a color/fabric that harmonizes with the rest.

This would give you two tops, two bottoms, a “topper” and maybe a dress.  That’s eight outfits.  (Did I count right?)  If the idea of sewing a “topper” sounds scary and weird, then don’t sew it.  With the dress, that’s still 5 different outfits.

This is manageable.

Mix it Up with Prints

Find a print that uses more or less the same colors you like to wear/look best on you.  Be sure to buy it in an appropriate weight for your project- lighter, softer fabrics up top and heavier or more textured fabrics below.  In general.  You could build your color story for a wardrobe around a great print, and don’t forget the neutral!

I know we had a LOT to say about the use of novelty prints and quilting cotton for apparel sewing last time. I did not intend to create guilt or raise any hairs- just a simple bit of advice because I’ve been there.  Switching to solids/stripes/checks was the one thing that lifted the overall tone of my sewing.  Dramatically.

I LOVE prints, when used well.  If you want, I can work up a nice post about that…  Some also asked for information about fibers.  I’ve written about them extensively in the past, I can look back through the archives and re-publish/re-work/update those articles as a regular series.  Yes?

Speaking of improving the overall tone of sewing- did you see Tanit-Isis’ post on Homemade Legitimacy?  She builds a good argument for striving for sewing excellence while questioning the standards we hold ourselves to as sewists.

Sunni is rallying the troops to sew wearable wardrobes that provide free range of motion, too!  Everyone is doing it! “The Everyday Wardrobe is about building that wardrobe that you can wear every. single. day. And feel good in, look good in and still move in.”

What do you think?  Would you put color together in a wardrobe differently?  How do you do it?  Which of this week’s palettes catches your eye?

Be sure to vote for the Tiramisu Covergirl’s name!  Penelope is ahead by a small margin.  I think you can vote as many times as you like, though it only counts as one entry in the Polka Dot Jersey Giveaway!  It closes in four hours, so do get in!

Next: Tira Lady Named and The Winner, with an online source for navy or red polka dot cotton (limited supply!)

Later: Lila’s wardrobe project progress- A Trio of Tiny Shorts and Quantifying My Sewing

How To Make a Kid’s BCT Pattern From An Old Favorite Tee

My little girl needs some clothes.  I have a little hoard of fabrics for her wardrobe and a stack of Oliver + S patterns.  Since I made my own Blank Canvas Tee pattern last year, I’ve wanted one for Lila.  It’s easy to alter the cut for fun designs, it’s simple to sew and comfy to wear.  I also find the BCT sews together very quickly, always a plus.

I haven’t played much with patternmaking for Lila, mostly because kids’ bodies differ greatly from adult bodies in terms of topography.  I’m more used to making patterns for women’s bodies.  With a kid, I don’t need to worry about accommodating the bust.  Easy, right?

However, many little kids have nice round tummies that poke out in front.  Lila is still young enough that’s true for her, that’s her fitting “topography.”

She and I talked about this, and she’s happy for me to share with you all the process of making a capsule wardrobe for her.  I thought if I documented dolly’s process it would help me show how I put together a wardrobe sewing plan.  She’s small, so the sewing will go quickly!

But first I want a good basic tee pattern in her size.  Despite her belly, she’s rather taller than wide.  I grabbed one of her old shirts in a size 3 that fits well through the shoulders and arms and torso, but is too short:

When I laid it flat, the seams wanted to twist.  This is because it’s a mass-made tee and in that environment, they cut t-shirts off grain to “save” fabric.  I ignored the seams and just patted the shirt flat.

I used one half of the shirt as a template.  I made dots at the neck-binding seam, at the shoulder, at the sleeve openings, the underarm and the lower edge.  The template shirt has regular sleeves, but I’m making one with cut-on sleeves.

Took away the shirt, time to connect the dots!

First, I connected the dots along the straight edges and the CB using my ruler.  I’m making the back piece first.  I also extended the side seams and CB several inches beyond the original shirt hem.  If it’s too long, I can call it a tunic and she’ll grow into it anyway.

At the underarm, I drew a little curved line.

At the CB, I added a scant 1cm (about 3/8″) because I want this shirt to be just a little wider than the template shirt.  Then I drew a curved line at the back neck.  I decided at this point I didn’t like the shape of the sleeve, so I corrected it.

I laid another piece of tracing medium on top of the back piece and traced it off identically except the neckline.

The template shirt was a crewneck.  I measured the difference between the CB neck seamline and the CF neck seamline.  It was about 1 3/4″ (3.5cm).

On the front pattern piece, I measured down 1 3/4″ (3.5cm) from the back neckline and made a mark for the front neckline.

I drew a nice neckline curve and labeled the pattern pieces with Front/Back and the month and added seam allowances.  1/4″ (6mm) is customary for knits.

To finish the pattern, I measured the neck and the sleeve openings and made bindings.  I think I’ve written about that before, but if you want a refresher just click on the mini-tute.  My bindings for knits are almost always 1.5″ (2cm) wide.

Then I stitched the little shirt together.  I used a tiny piece of cotton interlock I bought on sale some time ago, with the idea I’d make some baby pj’s.  It never happened.  I grouped these photos together as well, it’s just a basic tee construction like the adult Blank Canvas Tee.

We took a few quickie photos after preschool.  It’s not bad.  Note the gentle wrinkles.  They’re pull lines because the pattern doesn’t match her body.

The back is fine.  I decided the sleeves looked a little weird and I should make the openings larger.

You can see the pull lines in this photo, too.  It’s not a big deal, it’s just because I didn’t draft her tummy into the front pattern piece.  Other than those two tiny details, I was quite happy with the draft.  She likes the shirt, too, and wore it all day.

On each piece, I dropped the underarm curve about 1cm (3/8″).  For the back piece, I then re-traced the whole back and set it aside.

On the front, I dropped the underarm curve and retraced all but the CF line.  The blue line here shows the original CF.  To accommodate her tummy, I swung the bottom of the CF out by about 1/2″ (1.2cm) but kept the same CF point at the top.  These little tweaks were minor enough that I didn’t make a second muslin.  Instead, I’m looking forward to chopping into it for a little mini-hack!

I want to open the floor to questions about wardrobing, from those who may not have sewn one before.  I’m planning the posts I’ll write for this and I’d love to answer questions or clarify the process as much as possible.  I find “wardrobing” is the most efficient use of my sewing time and materials, and I tend to put together collections of garments to be sewn at the same time rather than one-offs.  This is what I am working on for Lila.  Even though she’s a little girl, I use the same “framework” I’d use for a grownup wardrobe.

So… What are your questions about wardrobing?  What would you like to see covered while I document her wardrobe process?

If you use this tutorial, let me know or link me… I really love to see what others do with the ideas I send out into the universe.

In My Mailbox- A Package from Tilly and a Weimar “Burda”

I’m getting all kinds of cool stuff in the mail lately.  First- this package arrived today and as soon as I saw the Royal Mail postmark, I knew it had to be from Tilly!  She was my swap partner in the Summer Sewing Swap 2012 hosted by Kestrel at Kestrel Finds and Makes– thanks for organizing, Kestrel!  I tore into the package like a badger on a honeycomb and found these lovelies inside!  Thank you so much, Tilly!  Your package is set to go out this week.  I can’t wait to see what Tilly makes with what I sent her.

Now I need to figure out the best possible use for this gorgeous Liberty cotton Tilly sent.  I made a blouse from a blue and white print last year and LOVED wearing it.  Sadly, she has since died.  I could be boring and make another button-up-the-back lantern sleeve blouse like the first one, or…

This German sewing magazine from 1934 also recently turned up in my mailbox.  I say “turned up” because I’m not very pleased with the Australian Post at the moment, so whenever something appears when it should I count myself fortunate.  I’m fascinated by the combination of austerity and glamor found so often in 30’s fashions.  Maybe it’s historical perspective or the vast ocean of novels I read, but to me the 30’s in Germany seem especially rareified.  The clothes, however, are perfectly accessible:

I always draw inspiration from primary source material that others post or archive digitally and I’d like to start scanning/photographing sewing magazines in my possession as a way to balance the universe.  All the photos today are quite large, you can click for a closer view.  These are four sensible suits with trim silhouettes, nothing special at first glance.  But check out the skirt panels and shaping!  The strong T shape on the third from the left stays popular through the next decade.  I’m really digging the collar on the far right, and the pale brown jacket.

These cuts might require a little more stylistic finesse to work in a modern wardrobe, but they’re not too obnoxious…

These dresses are so 30’s!  I love them, but I have yet to figure out how to pull off one of these 30’s type dresses without looking like an extra from Poirot.

More smart suits.  I like the variety represented by these styles, no two elements are repeated exactly, but re-translated.  I like that.  A double-breasted jacket with one row of buttons and trim lapels at an acute angle might suit one figure better than a double breasted jacket with two lines of buttons and a more exaggerated collar-line.  Personally, I like the look of the last one…

Some day I’d love to need a coat like this, just for the joy of fashioning one… But it’s a very silly waste of time in my climate.

Separates!  At last- something that might work with the blue and white Liberty cotton!  I like to look at 30’s dress and suit illustrations, but I like to make and wear 30’s separates.  They fit very easily into modern wardrobes, even for those of us who don’t tend to stunt dress.  How “Deco” is that second blouse down?  I’m dying to see what it would look like make up and worn.

This is a look at the shape of the pattern pieces for those blouses, and the schematic drawings.  The sewing magazine is in terrific shape for its age, it came complete with this hot mess:

Two pages.  The second one is twice this size.  Front and back.  I stood back and tried to pick out a few pattern pieces.  Modern Burda magazine pattern sheets used to make me break out in hives until I realized I could pick out the pattern lines like some kind of Magic Eye puzzle.

This pattern sheet did not play along, I couldn’t pick out the shapes of any pieces easily.

I’m also thinking about these two blouses from the cover.  I’m not sure if the ruffled one would work with such a dainty print, but I think the bow-buttoned-collar one just might. I can wear a dark blue or bright red bow on days I feel dramatic, and on non-dramatic days it’s just a little button tab detail on my otherwise plain blouse…

While we’re visiting Weimar Germany, do check out Cabaret Berlin.  I found it the other day, it’s a blog devoted to the study and preservation of Weimar Berlin culture.  I believe the blogger also offers detailed and colorful walks of Berlin.  I wish I could go, he looks like an amazing guide.

(Vintage) Sewists- Do you have a “strictly vintage” wardrobe and a “normal” wardrobe, or do you tend to mix pieces?  Do your “vintage” styles see as much wear as “regular” clothes?  How do you make vintage style work in the modern world?

All this week I’m writing about the things that inspire me the most lately.  Japanese craft books, Harajuku designers and bloggers, and pulpy Ladies’ comics.  Then I’ll get back to writing about sewing.  I swear…

Amelia Earhart and Fashion

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Amelia Earhart was a tenacious aviatrix who disappeared 75 years ago this week while attempting to circumnavigate the world in her airplane.   The University of Hawaii and the Discovery Channel are mounting a 26-day expedition to the place many believe Earhart’s plane went down, in hopes they’ll finally put to rest the rumors about what happened to Earhart.  Everything about this expedition and the personality of this intrepid lady-adventurer appeals to me.  The bold flight attempt, the resulting mystery surrounding her disappearance, 1930’s pop culture, a visionary woman, and the fashion line….

That’s right, Amelia had a fashion line!  I never knew!  She loved well-tailored clothing and learned to sew as a young woman working as a social worker.  She couldn’t afford the kind of clothes she liked to wear, so like many women then (and now!) she stitched them herself.

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She later lent her aesthetic sense to create the “Amelia Earhart” line for Macy’s in New York (and also sold at several other department stores across the country).  It’s unclear whether she actually designed the clothing, but she did work on sewing the samples (herself!).  The line adhered to her ideas about how to dress a woman well and sensibly:

  • use of practical, durable fabric like Grenfell cotton and parachute silk
  • washable
  • her line sold “separates,” which wasn’t done at the time.  Amelia thought a woman should be able to buy a jacket for one size on top and another for the skirt.
  • “She added shirt tails to women’s shirts.  The shirt length of the Amelia Earhart shirt was designed to be longer than shirt tails of women’s shirts at the time. She was annoyed that shirt tails were often not cut long enough, so that when a woman bent over or moved, the shirt shifted and became “untucked” revealing exposed skin.  Amelia said,    ” I made up my mind that if the wearers of the shirts I designed for any reason took time out to stand on their heads, there would still be enough shirt to stay tucked in.””  Huff Post, quote. 
  • Amelia drew on her love of flying and aviation for whimsical and stylish additions to her collections, delighting to include “something characteristic of aviation, a parachute cord or tie or belt, a ball bearing belt buckle, wing bolts and nuts for buttons.”

I like the longer shirt tails the best- I guess Amelia didn’t want to go showing off her muffin tops.  (Well, ok, she probably didn’t have them…)  Practical, sensible, logical, and just a little whimsical.  What’s not to love?  Amelia’s collection included skirts, dresses, pants, and suits- but apparently no aviator jackets.   She also licensed the designs as sewing patterns which featured in Women’s Home Companion- has anyone out there played with one of her patterns?

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Sadly, her clothing line failed.  She wanted to price her clothes less expensively then other designers’, but the price point was still too high in the Depression.  As far as I can tell without digging in old warehouses or attics, not man of her dresses remain.  At least we have copious images of this fascinating and elusive pilot from the 30’s:

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Softly feminine, and truly timeless.  You could place this picture at almost any point in the 20th century.

Skinny-leg pants!  Knee boots!  Looooong leather jacket.  The pants look like they could be jodhpurs, with plenty of room through the thigh to allow for ease of movement.

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I wish I could see this outfit better!  To me, it looks like she’s wearing wide-legged trousers with sailor button detail, a soft short jacket and a blouse with some kind of softly ruffled collar.  I like how she wears this outfit- comfortable, effortless, but still quite stylish.

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Click for source- Amelia going to Ascot

Both of these pictures apparently show Amelia all dressed up for Ascot in 1928.  I’m not sure which one was mis-labeled, but they both show that when necessary, she cut a glamorous figure in a fashionable dress.

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And of course, that makes the images of her in practical clothes so much more compelling… I like this shot of her signing autographs in a rowboat on a chilly day.  Where is her hat?

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This is just so cool it looks to me like a modern fashion advertisement… Her stance, the pleated jumpsuit open to the waist, the smile, and the HUGE airplane behind her.  Very cool, Amelia.

If you’re interested, I found a pictorial timeline of her life here, and a cute blog post about how to borrow some of Amelia Earhart’s style for your own wardrobe.

Work on the latest Hack is moving along well, though I’m not sure I achieved the garment I set out to make.  I’ll play with her some more tomorrow, and I’ll have more to say about handling polar fleece in the near future (I’ve been taking notes!).  I feel like I’ve been slacking off writing sewing how-to’s lately, but there’s plenty in the works!

Which Earhart look do you like the best?  Loose, comfy dresses?  Skinny leg pants and tunic top?  Glamorous celebrity?  Relaxed, loose pants?

Sexy, Sexy Polar Fleece

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I decided to challenge myself and make the next hack out of polar fleece- or rather, out of an Ikea Polarvide throw.  Before I started researching, I thought of polar fleece as boxy, boring zip front activewear.  They take abuse, keep you warm and wash easily.  Those are all excellent qualities- so why are polar fleece jackets all cut this way?

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I’m making mine using this cut, by popular suggestion.  I haven’t decided whether to use a separating zipper or buttons, I may embellish with some sporty grosgrain ribbon and I’ll make 3/4 sleeves.   A zipper will allow me to fit the polarfleece closely; buttons may gape with movement.  I hate that.

What is Polar Fleece?

Malden Mills developed Polar Fleece in 1979 as a synthetic wool alternative.  It’s lighter than wool, vegan-friendly and easier to care for than wool was in the 70’s.  (Though we merino lovers know that’s changed since then!)  It’s a stretchy, plushy fabric that washes easily, made from PET (basically plastic).   This nifty page dissects the differences between wool, polar fleece and other high-performance fibers from the point of view of a horse.

Here’s the part about polar fleece I find fascinating: the developer of Polar Fleece, Aaron Feuerstein, decided not to patent the process to aid the spread of the new fabric technology.  This accounts for the wide range of qualities available on the market.  His gutsy decision didn’t hurt the company, either.  Malden Mills still produces polar fleece fabric today- Polartec.

(Fabric Nerds: This is how they make polar fleece!  Neat!)

A little digging on the company website showed me they’re still leading the industry in polar fleece production and innovation.  They’ve turned their attention to creating fleece from recycled bottles.  I remember hearing about that a few years back.  Apparently it takes 25 plastic bottles to make enough fabric for an adult’s jacket.

Polartec doesn’t just offer recycled bottle fleece as a novelty for the green-guilty- all of their fabrics use at least 50% recycled fibers.  Some of it comes from plastic, some of it is fabric scraps discarded while making those boxy zip-front jackts.  Rad!

And even RAD-der: they offer all of their fabrics online by the roll or by the yard.  And it’s not hideously expensive.  What?

I really had no idea polar fleece was so sexy.

Click for source- A really awesome tutorial on making creative and simple stuffed monsters using polar fleece!

Sewing Advice for Polar Fleece:

I have never sewn with polar fleece, to the best of my memory.  Before I work with a new fabric, I always do some research.  Here’s what I turned up:

  • Fleece has a right side and a wrong side: “On prints the right side is usually clearer or the colors are more vivid than the wrong side. On solids, the right side is smoother than the wrong side which looks more like felt. If your not sure, ask the fabric store personnel before you purchase it. If you have some already in your stash and are not sure which is the right side, wash the fabric a couple of times. The side that looks the best is the right side.”

Excellent.  I love this kind of practical advice.

  • Easy to sew
  • Use a cool iron or finger press
  • Flat fell seams look good
  • Use sharps, a medium to slightly heavy weight needle
  • Use a narrow zig-zag stitch
  • “Select a simple sewing pattern with few design features.  Loose-fitting styles work best. Eliminate as many seams as possible because bulk is your biggest challenge.  Consider a custom closure such as a separating zipper… instead of buttons and buttonholes.”

The last bit of advice comes from a nifty little pdf from the University of Kentucky Extension service.  I’m old-fashioned so I’ll print this little gem and stick it in my fabrics notebook…   They fail to mention why I should keep the cut simple, aside from the bulk issue.

“On paper” I’m pretty excited to be working with fleece.  Granted, my little Ikea throw isn’t made from recycled anything, but if I like the results of my hack I can always make the pattern from something greener and more durable.  I wonder how much shaping I can introduce before my little jacket implodes and melts?  I assume there must be some practical reason no one sews fleece garments in any shape other than “box”.  Do you know why?  What can you tell me about your own experience working with fleece?

Design Inspiration for June’s Hack: 50’s Suit Jackets

I know it’s summer up North, but down here it’s finally drizzly and cold!  At last it’s time to make a Jacket-Hack!

Click for source. I wish Vintage Patten Wiki would let us pay a subscription to opt out of those awful ads.

This Advance 51 pattern has been on my Hack Board since the beginning of the year, and I’d like to riff on this basic shape for a zip-front sweater/cardi.  This particular collar treatment may be outside my drafting/teaching skills.  How does that work?  The back is a shawl collar, and what’s that on the front?  I think I’ve seen something similar in Pattern Magic

Click to trace it back…

When I saw this Anthropologie cardigan, I recognized a collar shape popular in the late 40’s/early 50’s.  It’s a similar shape to the first jacket, but the drafting and the sewing are simpler.  I like the little details- the pockets, the buttons, the tiny ruffle and the wrist cinchers which are almost undoubtedly unnecessary but still kind of cool.

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Very, very similar.  This is the first tailored jacket I ever made for myself, years ago.  While I was too inexperienced at tropical tailoring to love the final jacket, I do still love this pattern and collar shape.

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This one wins for quirk-factor.  Again, similar collar shape- but with a sort of lapped and shaped upper collar.  What do you suppose that pattern piece looks like?  I wouldn’t mind some capacious pockets, this jacket is strangely innocent of them.

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At first glance, this cut bears no resemblance to the jackets that came before.  It’s actually rather similar- just button the collar over the front instead of leaving it open and collar-y.  I like the buttonholes set into the binding, that would translate to a knit very well indeed.  The cuffs are cute, too.

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This is the same story as the blue Vogue above it- similar cut, but with the collar buttoned over the front.  I’d have to draw the front opening quite carefully so it breaks up the bulk I carry uptop.  I’m almost completely sure a cut like this would look terrible on me, but I’m tempted nonetheless.  Is the lady in the black gingham using her mind rays to convince me that a suit like hers is *actually* a good idea?

I know I tend to use fabrics that can be hard to source depending on where you live.  This month, I’m using something relatively ubiquitous and cheap- a red Polarvide throw I picked up from Ikea.  I thought I could use it as a crafty batting; at $5 for a biggish throw, it’s way cheaper than actual craft batting.  Yay!  Polar Fleece Jacket!  I don’t have a fleece jacket, but Stephen wears them all the time.  I might as well see what all the fuss is about.

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When I was looking around for suits with triangular collars for tonight’s post, I stumbled over this lovely thing.  Doesn’t it look like it would work perfectly with polarfleece?  The back neck, the simple front opening, the big buttons and asymmetry.  This is my “wildcard” inspiration shot.  It’s way different than what I thought I’d make this month, but I find myself drawn to it more and more the longer I stare.

What do you think?  Do you like the open collar, or buttoned over the front or the wildcard?  Which would you wear?  Which would translate best into polar fleece?

(By the way, I know I set a sort of “blog schedule” a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t working for me.  Now I’m trying something else- two days on, one day off.  This seems to work better with my life.  I can’t blog every night, but I don’t like going more than one night without writing.  Thanks for putting up with me while I sort that out!)

Next: facts on polarfleece, sourcing, and whether or not it’s suitable for shapely garments.  I also want to share some other design inspiration (not for this hack) from Harajuku.  And I’m busting to post about an event coming up in August!

Chanel- Lessons on Comfort and Wearability

I’m a big fan of Chanel.  I’m not so much for her collarless suits, the pearls or the ritzy double “C” logo, but I’m captivated by the person.  She was a woman from nowhere with nothing who looked at the world around her and found it utterly ridiculous, so she changed the way women dress.

This manner of dressing had no place in the modern woman’s wardrobe….

How?  During the last gasps of the Edwardian era she reacted against the fluffy, fussy and restrictive ideals expressed in feminine clothing.

Audrey Tatou as Coco Chanel… she went to a men’s tailor for these clothes, they thought she was quite mad…

Instead, she strove for comfort and wearability, borrowing fabrics and cuts from menswear.  Her lover, Boy Capel, played polo and she famously “stole” his wool jersey polo shirts and later used jersey in her designs.

Click for an excellent article on Breton Stripes

The striped shirt came from the picturesque (and practical) striped jerseys worn by French fishermen.

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The “garcons” shirt (white with a black bow tie, tres chic) was inspired by the uniforms worn by French schoolboys.

Early (ish) Chanel. Click for an interesting article on progress in fashion…

She stripped off the corset and streamlined the shapes of dresses.

…and introduced the Little Black Dress.  I find myself constantly inspired both by the audacity of Chanel’s early work and by her “maxims.”  She was well known for repeating phrases and proverbs of her own composition to herself.  The first time I picked up a Chanel biography, one of her oft-repeated maxims switched on a light inside my head:

Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.

Somehow in the intervening years, my mind has fashioned that maxim into:

The clothes I sew must be comfortable, otherwise what’s the point?

Chanel built her reputation and her empire on teaching women to wear clothes that don’t get in the way of being female.  Her influence on fashion (and feminism, in her way) can not be over-stated.

So if she considers comfort an indispensable element of luxury, I have to agree with her.  I used to think of “luxury” clothing as expensive, fancy pieces of frippery meant to be worn carefully.  Perhaps with poky bits, or scratchy places.  The lesson I draw from Chanel’s early work is that your clothes should never get in the way of what you do while wearing those clothes.

Perhaps that’s why I include “mobility” as an important element of good fit and strive for wearability in my sewing.

As I fossicked around the internet for a few more images to show the inspiration for this month’s hack (more on that tomorrow), I ran across the Chanel website.  Did you know they post videos of their catwalk shows?  I’m usually not interested in what the big houses do because the designs often get in the way of living life.  Sometimes the shows are quite inspiring or interesting, but not usually terribly practical.

But what’s this from the Summer 2012 Haute Couture show?  Pockets?  Are those pockets?  And a nifty rolled standaway collar, and cut-on sleeves, and yoke seaming interest?  Do I catch a faint whiff of practicality blended with killer style?  Chanel, is that you?

The collection was inspired by 50’s-60’s Pan-Am uniforms, but the designs are perfectly wearable (and sew-able!).  I like most of the garments shown, and I keep watching the shows and imaging what fabrics I’d use to conjure up the frocks.

The sleeves- maybe not.  But of course I love the wide flowing trousers.  They feature the same pocket treatment as the other dresses in the collection.

There’s far, far too many lovely and completely wearable garments in this collection for me to show them all, do check out the show on the Chanel website.

Which easy-wear Chanel look do you like best?  Man-tailored?  Garscons?  Breton Stripes?  Corset-free evening wear?  Or the 2012 Eminently Practical Collection (as I am now calling it..)?

Finished Object: Teal Clovers

Worn with my pinstriped Bow Tie Tee

And so I complete the Clovers.  After muslining my Pants Block, using the block to alter the Clover pattern, removing the excess back thigh fabric from the inseams, then from the side seams, these Clovers are finished.

I wish I hadn’t tried to be clever with the pocket flaps.  I had also thought to make some cool shaped cuffs, maybe embellish with some contrast buttons but I’m not interested in prolonging my work on these pants.  Besides, it would probably look super weird to anyone who isn’t me.

I’m pleased with the results, but I’m not completely sure they’re my style.  I feel exposed.  They’re pretty much the polar opposite to my favorite below-the-waist-garments- Katharine Hepburn style trousers.

The side seam pulls ever so slightly toward the front, but I can live with that.  Ruth, do you dig my shoes?

All in all, not a bad project.  I consider my personal style boundaries pushed.

We tried several poses and activities to illustrate mobility.   Stephen said “Go run and jump and do some rad air-kicks.”

These pants don’t slip and show crack even when I’m bending over to run up a hill.  Or when I’m sitting down, but you really *really* don’t want to see those photos.  I have some muffin topping going on, I get that any time my pants sit below the waist.  My solution (usually) is to wear pants and skirts that sit at my waist.

“Maybe I’m styling these wrong,” I thought to myself as I dug around for a tunic-length top.  Almost every top and shirt I own is closely fitted and ends just above the curve of my backside.  I wear a lot of full skirts and full trousers, so fitted tops harmonize with my usual choices but seems skimpy with this pants cut.  Or maybe I’m just not used to it.   While I was searching, I turned up this shirt I made last year.  It was worn for a theatre production of Don Quixote.

I would fain have donned the doublet for the photos, but the color clashed with teal.  Also, I have not a codpiece.  Another time.  I should write a post soon about this shirt, I haven’t taken it off all day.  Dare I wear this out?  Hmmmm…. probably not.

At any rate, I feel like I “cracked” the Clovers so I’m happy.

By the way, I found this interesting passage in Pepin’s Modern Pattern Drafting from the 40’s.  It’s referring to “bathing trunks” in the pants chapter, but the shape of the draft makes sense to me, and her explanation of the change in crotch shape necessary when working with jersey.  Why couldn’t I have found this two weeks ago?

If you’d like to work with me to fit your own pair of stretch pants/trousers, do email me. (Yours don’t have to be as closely fitted as mine, I just wanted to prove to myself I could do it!)  The Consulting Dressmaker charges $15 to guide you through the process, I’ll be there to answer all your questions and help dispel your fit issues.

If you’d like a custom-drafted Pants Block to help you reliably alter commercial pants/trousers patterns, click here and fill in the form.  Other Blockers have had great results, I love helping to fit pants.

And Brisbane… I’m teaching a day-long workshop at Piece Together called “Perfectly Fitting Pants” and only 3 spaces are left!  It’s on July 14, please visit Piece Together for more information and to register.

In other project news- I have over 350 data sets for the Waist-To-Hip Ratio survey.  That’s amazing!  When I set a goal of 300, I didn’t expect to reach it so quickly.  The more numbers I have to play with the better, so I’d appreciate any and all contributions.  I’m making some charts, crunching some numbers and scratching my head so I can show you on Saturday what I’ve been working on.  Interesting stuff.  Thank you so much for helping me!  Y’all are amazing.

Fisheye Dart = Changing Seamlines for Stretch Pants Fitting

I’m still playing with patterns and stretch fitting for pants- focusing specifically on the Clovers by Colette.  It started innocently enough, as an exercise to help me better answer Pants Blocks questions and as a way to sharpen my skills before teaching the Perfectly Fitting Pants workshop next month.

But now I’m kind of obsessed.  Every answer breeds another question.   I plan to keep chasing answers until I can’t find more questions.  Or until we get bored with pants.  Or until my 1934 German sewing magazine shows up.

Way back when I was fitting the Pinkie Pants, someone left a comment suggesting pinning out the extra fabric through the backside of the pants to allow the fabric to lie smoothly.  This is often referred to as a “fisheye dart” and it’s a perfectly reasonable way to adjust a pattern.  Check out this video detailing one way to do the alteration.

The problem with this is we can’t run around with darts on our backsides.  It just isn’t done.  I don’t really see why it’s ok to have all kinds of darts on the bust and not the backside, but we’ll leave that for now.  The fact is, if you’ve made a pair of pants that has extra fabric through the back, a fisheye dart is not going to help.

I documented the process I went through to whip my Clovers into shape and get rid of the extra back thigh fabric.  I removed excess fabric through the back inseam, and I deepened the crotch curve.  Still restless, I also shaved off the waistline seam and then took in the side seams.  It’s all fairly simple, once I worked out which way to go.

The interesting part came when I realized I did exactly what a fisheye dart would have done.  But with no dart.  Instead, I shifted the seamlines.  I’ll show you.

This is the finished pattern piece, with all my “notes” and new lines on it.  It’s a combination of my Pants Block and the Clover pattern, and also reflects the way I changed the seamlines during the fitting process.  For a medium bottom weight fabric with moderate stretch, this is my pants back pattern piece (though different fabrics will behave a little differently when cut from the same pattern!).  I didn’t change the front much; besides the fisheye dart doesn’t have anything to do with the front.  We’ll focus on the back pattern piece.

This is the pattern piece I started with.  It’s the Clover pattern combined with my block. I traced a second one for the sake of this exercise, but it’s exactly the same shape I used to cut out my Clovers last week.

This is the dart I pinned out.  After I sewed them together but before I did the Clovers fitting, I pinched out a dart to make the wrinkles go away on my pants.  I made note of it then and transferred it to this pattern piece for the sake of demonstration.

Then I pinned out the dart after cutting away the excess pattern paper.  This has no seam allowances.  Notice how the shape of the curve changes, as does the angle of the waistband seam.

Check out the darted pattern piece with the one I already know fits me laid on top.  The pattern piece on top has seam allowances, but the seamlines through the crotch and hip are identical.  Even the side seam.  The only difference is the shape of the dart, and I have to say using the larger dart that wasn’t cut off by my alterations makes sense.  Other than that detail, the crotch and waistband seams are identical on both pattern pieces.

The legs were different.  I scratched my head for a while and put it down to the fact that on one pattern piece I had folded out a dart, and on the other I hadn’t.  The “grainlines” are different, if you will.  I focused on only the inseam and side seams (because the crotch seam was sorted out by the dart) and carved away the same amount from the inseams and outseams on the darted pattern piece as I had on the Clovers.

They’re the same. (Sidenote- the altered pants pattern corresponds exactly to my full hip measurement.  It’s zero ease, but not negative ease.  Interesting.)  I took out that much fabric from the top of my inseam.  If I were cleverer, I would have taken out a little less there and a little more at the side seam to balance the seams.  As it is, I ended up with a pretty wearable pair of pants that fit reasonably well.  It’s interesting to note that pinning out the dart and shifting the seamlines yields much the same results.

The difference is that you can shift the seamlines on pants you’ve already sewn up, whereas the “fisheye dart” alteration can only be performed on the pattern piece, not a garment-in-progress.

I’d love to hear thoughts on this- you’re a sharp crowd…  Or questions- I’m not sure I explained this so well and I’d like to be quite clear.

Also– Thank you thank you so much for participating in the Waist to Hip Ratio survey (and for spreading the word!).  I have collected 289 sets of measurements since Sunday- wow!  It’s really interesting to play with the numbers, I look forward to writing a post about it this weekend.  In the meantime, if you haven’t already contributed, would you mind?  I’d really appreciate it.  The more numbers I have, the better my equations.

Also- What’s that on my drafting table?  Antidote Trousers?  Ooooh.  Those are my kind of pants… I’m trying two different ways of drafting wide legs/fitted hips to see which one I like best.  But that’s a project for next week…

Pictutorial- Removing Back Thigh Fabric

I’m working on Colette’s Clover pants in a bottom-weight cotton-lycra no-wale cord stretch.  Previously, I altered the pattern using my basic block.  This fitting solution should work on other pants that have the problem of too much fabric through the back thigh area.

After quickly basting the muslin to check the basic fit, I ripped and then stitched the Clovers together except the inseam and hem.  This post will focus primarily on the back inseam.  I show my pattern work as I go; this is essentially the same process as fitting the Pinkie Pants but more methodically documented.

If your fashion fabric is ravelly, be sure to finish the raw edges.  All seams are basted until the fitting is complete.

This is the baseline.  The fit is fine on the front, and no major issues through the hips or the crotch seam.  It’s just that pesky back thigh fabric!

The rest of the photos show closer work, but I wanted to be clear that I’m working primarily with the back pattern piece, at the point where the inseam meets the crotch curve.

The red lines shows my first alteration.  I did this on the machine, and marked it on the pattern.  I deepened the back of the crotch curve by a scant 1/4″ (6mm) and blended the new line of stitching into the crotch curve.  Then I sewed the inseam, taking in more of the fabric at the top of the inseam.  This is how it translates to the pattern.

The second fit is slightly better.  I tend to adjust seams incrementally, to avoid over shooting the mark.   If a wrinkle points up to the crotch curve, I know I need to deepen.  If it’s horizontal or , I work on the inseam.

I ripped the basting through the middle of the inseam, stopping mid-thigh.

I deepened the back crotch just a little more, and shifted the back inseam slightly.

This is what it looks like after I sew it.  I try to leave the seam allowances until they get *really* wide, because I’m somewhat conservative about this type of fitting.  I want to leave myself a way out until I’m sure I’m right!

I can see I’m getting somewhere, very slowly.  The fit is comfortable, but I’m somewhat alarmed by the -ahem- division going on…

At this point, the back crotch curve had been edited several times, so I took out my block and matched up the straight part of the CB seams to check the curve was still curvy enough- it looked as though my editing had straightened it out too much.  I corrected it.  I’m using the same curved line as the original block because it is a “map” of my seamlines, but it’s dropped about 3/4″ (2cm) at the inseam point.  The green line shows the original curved line.

Much better.  Above the blasted thighs, everything is fine.

I took in more of the back inseam only, and while I was whittling away at the thigh bulk, I could see knee wrinkles forming and knew I should rip the inseam to below the knees and try again.

Much better, I took in more at the top of the inseam and took in fabric all the way down past the knee.  The diagonal wrinkle is still there- but only on one side for some reason.

Then I reached down and pinned the inseam while I was wearing the Clovers.  Most of the work up to now focused on making sure the back crotch was properly adjusted for the change in the inseam.  But now that area is fine and I need to focus on just the legs.  If I take fabric only off the back inseam, it causes the side seam to twist around my leg while I’m wearing them.  (Ask me how I know!)

I could have saved myself a few trips to the sewing machine by doing this on my 5th pass instead of my 6th.  Live and learn.  I didn’t mess anything up, just wasted a little time.

The fabric is not pulled taut.  It is just pinned, down to my knees where I tapered it off.

I slithered out, keeping the pins in place.

Rubbed chalk into the pinned seam and took out the pins.

This is the new back inseam stitching line.  I’m pointing to where my line of pins began.  I tapered that into the back crotch seam and smoothed out the chalk line.

This is the front inseam.  Not nearly as dramatic, but it is a similar shape to the back curve line.

Then I folded the pants and turned back the seam allowance so I could see to transfer the lines to the other leg.

That’s better, but still pretty wrinkly.  Remember, I haven’t trimmed my seam allowances yet.

This is after trimming. This is where I stopped, but I can keep going if y’all decree it.

I can live with this.  I might only rip the knee area of the inseam one more time to play around with it, but this is the point where I decided the pesky back thigh fabric was sufficiently reduced.  And I can still pursue my night job as a ninja.

Nothing crazy in the front, either.  I’m sorry about the quality of these photos, I usually take in-progress shots with the computer camera which picks everything up quite well in full daylight but I didn’t finish these until late afternoon.

I’m saving up for a *good* camera and a tripod.  It will happen soon.

I transferred my changes to the Clover pattern.  It will need a little more refinement, but this is my new stretch “block.”  I’ll think about the refinements while I quirk up these Clovers, and post about that and the “fisheye dart” technique next week.  In fact, while I was writing this post I had several ideas but they’ll keep for a few days.

If you’d like a crack at working with your own custom fitted pants block, let me know.  I’m on it.

AND- if you’re in Brisbane and you’d like to take my Perfectly Fitting Pants workshop, visit Piece Together for more information and to register.

Did you see Lee’s lovely version of the Sisters of Edwardia blouse on Sew Weekly?   really suits her, and it goes so well with the K.Hepburn style trousers she made!