Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Fall Capsule Collection: Culottes

I made these yesterday and today, and I have to say it's surprising how successfully one can sew while giving very little emotional energy to a project:

Butterick 5681 - highly modified

I haven't got a lot of chutzpa right now but I find sewing oddly meditative in my meh state. This project was just the ticket.

In truth, it was just the ticked cuz I did all the hard work when I made similar culottes as part of the Spring Basics Palette last year. That's when I carefully reviewed 2 culottes patterns (one vintage and one modern) to discern the differences in construction and fit. In the end, I opted to make the modern version (with lots of modifications) and I just wasn't thrilled. (Note to new readers: I did NUMEROUS posts on this and you can find the whole shebang if you search under "culottes challenge" or "B5681".)

On reflection, I find an inner leg pleat to be very fussy, not easy to walk in - and essentially weaker than a pleat free version. Seriously, who likes to bulk up the inner thigh, hinging at the base of the crotch??? Interestingly, B5681 comes with instructions for a pleat and non-pleat option (unlike the vintage pattern I was also working from, which only came with a pleat).

This time I used this pattern for Version B (the pleat version) - which I carefully and significantly altered right after the last experimentation (as even then I knew I'd be making these again). I also changed up the waist band, to create my patented "Is it a Waistband or Is it a Facing?"

You can see here that I serged the bottom of the inner waistband and, instead of flipping it under (which would add bulk - which is not my scene, like, ever - but esp. with denim). Then, from the front, I stitched in the ditch to affix the "face-band".

While I really like the fit this yields, I've never been able to find instructions on inserting the zipper this way. It would be one thing if there were a seam at the fold line of the top of the waistband (the way it works when you properly do a facing). Then I could use Tasia's awesome method (see here and here). It's another thing when you actually make a waistband that folds right over the top of the pants unit.

My "method" folds the waistband in half but the fold over section is free from the top of the pants unit - hence the hybrid. So I had to make up a method for sewing in the zipper that would allow for all of the weirdness - but wouldn't look hideous. I succeeded because, frankly, I couldn't get worked up about it. I figured: There's a slot for a zipper. There's a zipper. Put it together. And it worked.

Potentially Useful Note: I decided to interface the waistband piece with silk organza - not my usual choice. Thing is, I find that fusible interfacing on denim pulls away after numerous washings and the waistband goes all weird and loses integrity. The organza gives great stand and doesn't bulk things up. It works with the denim but also functions independently. I recommend it esp since I merely serged the edges with the organza over the denim and everything happily affixed without any onerous additional steps.

I have to say the fit on these is spot on. They're slim in the waist and hip and they gracefully widen in the leg. The crotch is the perfect height (sometimes an issue with culottes). The stiffness of the denim gives them a great, retro feel but the colour and composition of the fabric are very modern.

I also really like the pockets:

Note: If you make these, the pattern gives whack instructions on the length of the pocket opening. Add a good 2 inches. I thought it would be too small. I even measured my hand and added 1/2 an inch, but it's still barely adequate for my man-hands.

Here's something I do, when I sew with denim that might shock you:

I use pen to delineate the markings. If you look centre-photo, where the pocket meets the seam, you'll see what I mean. I also draw on the darts with pen. I actually think it's cool - ridiculous, I know - to see these on denim. It's points to the industrial quality of the fabric, IMO.

All in all, these fit really well. They're very nicely constructed - but not finely so - if I do say so myself. And they helped me to muddle through some free time that I might otherwise spend worrying. Oh - and they're the penultimate project of the Fall Capsule Collection. Not bad, I suspect you'll agree...

So, what do you think of them? I know that culottes are divisive, but let's talk good, bad and ugly!

PS: Thank you SO much for your continuing comments and emails re: my mum. I cannot tell you how much we all appreciate your thoughtfulness and great information. It is inspiring to see how many of you have managed through similar situations, so gracefully. I will respond to everyone - just sometimes I need to walk away from the topic for a little while...

PPS: I saw my naturopath yesterday (my hormone panel came back) and the results are quite interesting - and useful! Next post is about this...


  1. Awesome pockets. And I like the pen-on-denim markings. I do that too, although I know I shouldn't. Culottes as a style don't work well for me, but they're really adorable on other women.

    I said prayers for your Mum at church this morning.

    1. Thanks! Used fabric remnants on the pockets (natch). And thank you SO much for your prayers. My mum had a very good day yesterday :-)

  2. I am in awe at how much you do! Full-time job, child, ailing mother, etc, etc. Can you give me some advice for managing it all? I'm always running around catching up on weekend, what with cleaning, laundry, kids' activities, etc., I barely have time for a social life let alone sewing and knitting projects. Just a curious mom out here...

    1. Well, my mind's not all there sometimes :-) My child isn't into "activities" - she pursues solitary crafts as her hobby. I can't really interest her in joining teams. So that frees me up. I also schedule lots of things in, so that I know when I'm doing what. But really, there are so many things I don't get done on a given day. I've just decided to feel good about what I do accomplish - and you should too. Sounds like you are very busy!

  3. I'm glad you were able to get in the sewing room and leave some of the cares elsewhere. I find, lately, that the most relaxed I am is when I'm in the middle of sewing. I made my daughter some jeans this weekend and I feel so much more ready to meet the week than if I hadn't. Your culottes look good and I love the pockets. I think one of the fun things about sewing on denim is that it is so tough and you CAN write in pen and not suffer.

    1. I know! It was helpful. And that glass of wine didn't hurt either :-)

  4. I dig the culottes! And, honestly, there are so many great ways to dress them up or down. Great pockets!

    1. Thanks T! I find that these are particularly versatile given that they're denim - but "nice" denim.