Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rayon of Sunshine

I wrote a post last week about all of my new fabrics and what I'm going to do with them and then it was unceremoniously (and mistakenly) deleted. Partly, it was a Blogger glitch. Partly is was a migraine issue.

I'm not one of those who bothers to retype a comment that gets eaten, so you can imagine how disinclined I am to reconstruct an entire post. Nonetheless, this post was relevant from the vantage point of illustrating how my recent fabric binge is a considered undertaking.

Gist: I'm only buying fabric to go with patterns I intend to actually make, like, in the next 6 months. Other gist: Can't fit any more fabric into the cupboard. Apparently, my limit is 45 yards. Now on a fabric siesta.

Stay tuned for a new version of the deleted post, when my hostility finally subsides, but in the meanwhile, let me say this:

The rayon "denim" I used to make the Claudia pants is from Gorgeous Fabrics and you should not waste time. Go buy 4 yards. But not until I buy another 4 yards (which will bring me up to having purchased 8 yards of this drapey deliciousness). Note: It appears that Ann has just updated the store site - I know this change has been in the works - so it's all new and fun, but it does appear to be loading quite slowly today and I'm having trouble logging in. Maybe order this fabric tomorrow...

Let me give you the lowdown:

  • Whether you're the skinniest of minis (and you need some delicate fall in your fabric) or a more robust sort (looking for good drape with a dollop of even stretch that doesn't look stretchy), you will find 6 ways to use this stuff. It would make an excellent dress - woven or stretch woven. It's perfect for pants. It would be terrific for a skirt. You could even make an unlined (Hong Kong finished) jacket. I see possibilities for a great peplum, sleeveless top (the kind with a side zip) etc.
  • It's very "modern RTW" seeming. I could see Theory or Pink Tartan using it in one of its designs.
  • Yeah, it's on the synthetic side of the equation (though rayon is a hybrid). But it looks luxe and it breathes really nicely.
  • OMG, IT. DOES. NOT. WRINKLE. Not straight out of two washes and twice in the dryer. Not after a day of wear. It's veritably space-aged. Have I mentioned how I loathe wrinkles? It's one of the reasons you will never see me in linen or woven cotton. (The other reason is that I really don't like most iterations of either of those fabrics.)
If I had to complain about it, I'd say that it's not the best for working with darts. The very thing that makes it beautiful to wear makes it suboptimal for clean tapering at the ends of the darts. I would NOT try using this to create tucks or pleats of any sort. You'd be going against the grain, as it were. Mind you, it does press very well (no need for pressing cloth, can deal with steam and high heat) and it holds a hem crease perfectly.

A mediocre fabric can be blamed for taking up space in your stash, but a beautiful one won't be there for long. My justification for owning lots of this (not that I want everything made in the same fabric!) is that this "denim" can be used to make just about anything. Furthermore, I did trash 2 yards of it on muslins, what with my perspective that, if you want to make a finished product you can rely on, you need to use the fashion fabric on test versions. What can I say? I'm like the very opposite of the WW2 sewist in this respect.

Monday, February 24, 2014

StyleArc Claudia Pants: The Reveal

I don't know if one ought to put the words "pants" and "reveal" in the same title, but there you go.

Let's start with a zillion photos of what I'm calling a wearable muslin. In truth, it's rather wearable:

These are the pattern pieces I used to make the finished pants. Note: They're not the final pattern pieces. There are more changes I have made on the basis of the "wearable muslin".

Pants really don't look great lying on the floor. But this does give you a sense of the fabric and overall shape.

The darts were a bitch to sew in this rayon "denim" Oh yeah, I shortened the stitch length at the point, I curved the dart slightly at the point, I hammered these things with a clapper after serious pressing. The fabric is SO drapey that it just doesn't take darts well. Fortunately you can't seen those little bumps when the pants are on. They nicely flatten out over one's derriere.

Front facing from the wrong side

Back facing from the wrong side
The rather crappily inserted (but totally strong and functional) zipper. Whatevs. No one cares what the zipper looks like on the inside. See how, since I opted to use a slot zipper (regular) vs an invisible zipper, the facing attaches differently than it would have otherwise. I had a clean finish with the invisible zip. On the fly, I just serged the ends off the facing where it abuts the zipper. I didn't want to fold under and incur unnecessary bulk.
And then there are the money shots:

I freakin' love the drape of these pants.

OK, here's what I learned / what I did / what I'll do next etc...
  • I'm going to sew these up in every fabric imaginable, using my new (unphotoed) version of the pattern wherein I learned a few things on this go round:
    • I could use another 0.5" of length along the back crotch (fabric depending).
    • I could use a slightly shorter length of front crotch (fabric depending).
    • The inner thighs are slightly roomy. Next time I'll remove about 1/4" from that wedge I added on after muslin 1 (see top photo, back piece)
    • I have to remove about 0.5 inches from the hips with fabric having @20% stretch.
    • I want them a bit longer so I'll add another 0.5" to the hem and hem at about 0.5" vs. the 1" hem of these pants.
    • The waist is a bit big. But that will serve me well if I use a very firm stretch woven.
    • I'm really not a fan of facing. It always flips up a bit, even when well-understitched and pressed to hell. I've learned that, in future, I do not want to clip the seam allowance that attaches the top of the pants to the facing. 0.25" is a good seam allowance and is adequately non-bulky but also long enough so that you can understitch  at a point that will optimally maintain the turn of cloth from the inside. Enough with the clipping!
  • Alterations I'll happily stick with:
    • The lengthening of the back rise meant that I could remove an inch from the top of the back waist. My need was not for more length at the waist, but at the fullest part of the derriere.
    • The slot zipper is a much better bet than an invisible one. Sure, it's not invisible but who cares? It's not bulky or unattractive and it will last for much longer, I suspect. (Don't forget to interface the seam allowances under the zipper. It will keep everything secure and you won't get dreaded bubble zip at the base. This is particularly important if you are using a stretchy fabric with an invisible zip.)
    • The waist-height is pretty perfect.
    • A propos of waist facings that like to shift, these pants - with all of their darts and seams - give plenty of places wherein one can invisibly tack, by hand, the facing to the pants. It now maintains its fall perfectly.
So that's what I can tell you about this process. I thought of titling this post "Work Very Hard. Then Pat Yourself On the Back" because that's kind of what I've done here. Don't misunderstand, perfection is not achieved. I don't think one can ensure ease and perfection making a pattern until one has remade it in many fabrics, many times, refining things as she goes. This however, is a promising start.

Styling My Stash

I think I mentioned that Sara, Andrea and I have undertaken an "exercise" (no, no one sweats): We've reviewed each other's stash and pattern libraries and each of us has been assigned two projects (from our own pattern inventory) to make using some of our already-owned fabric.

Well, except me.

I've been assigned two patterns that I don't currently own.

I don't know what this says about my pattern library?? (Honestly, I think this is just how the cookie crumbled.) One of the patterns (free, online!) may work very well with one of my favourite fabrics and the other is one in Sara's stash and may make good use of some fabric I'm wondering about how to use.

Andrea's Assignment for Kristin:

Andrea has chosen the Ludivine dress for me:

The Ludivine is free online. Ok, it's also in French but I can read French well enough that it shouldn't be a problem.

She wants me to use this cashmere, double-sided sweater knit (which I've mentioned many times before):

So, here's my caveat. I'm going to make a muslin of this dress - and I'll include some waist shaping / consider carefully where to begin that under-arm colour-block given the relative curviness of my bustline - to see how I feel about it. If I love it, I'll use the cashmere fabric. If I'm on the fence after the muslin, I'll make it with another double sided knit (or two separate knit fabrics).

Sara's Assignment for Kristin:

Sara wants me to make these pants from Vogue 1323:

Using this fabric (better photo to come):

I suspect it is a stroke of genius that she suggested this poly/lycra broadcloth, which is new in my stash and not the sort I've ever worked with. It's got 50% cross-wise stretch and a bit of vertical stretch too and it's kind of sheeny and drapey. Before I saw it up close, I thought it might make a good shirt (that might not require an FBA - or as much of one as it would using a woven with no stretch) but I'm not convinced of its hand in that context. It's a bit thin and synthetic-looking in a way that won't necessarily work as well for a top as for genie pants.

For a brief moment, before I knew what would be chosen for me, I was worried about what I'd be expected to produce (would I be up to making the patterns? would I like them? could I get with the assignment concept?) but I'm psyched to make both of combos - though I'm not convinced they're the next things I'll tackle. I am waiting anxiously for that Issy Top to arrive (more on fabric I've got planned for that in another post). I'm also intrigued to try the Lola dress and to make a second pair of the Claudia pants.

Yeah, you did read that. The Claudia pants are done! Which means I've got a good, wearable muslin (made of freakin' awesome fabric). I'll give you the deets in the next post - including photos of me wearing them, believe it, it's true - but I'm fairly pleased.

So, today's questions: What do you think of these friend-chosen combos for me? Would you ever want to participate in this kind of experimental sewing? Let's talk!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Getting Fit(ted)

Yesterday was sewing-central in the Kristin household. It started with a telephone call with Myrna, to talk about my Claudia pants muslin, and we had a terrific chat which clarified some things for me  - not least of which is the concept of scooping.

Not to belabour this, but I had truly NO idea of the true meaning of the term "scooping", when it comes to pants fitting, though I've happily thrown it around whenever the mood strikes.

Just to clarify for all of us (and sorry to tell you something you may already know): Scooping - a mid-sewing fabric fix, not a flat pattern alteration - is not specifically about getting rid of fabric at the back crotch curve (for example) in order to add more room for the derriere via the addition of negative space. Scooping is about lengthening the crotch curve by creating an L wedge at the relevant place so that you effectively achieve the additional space you need. Then, you cut extra fabric away (strategically, not just willy nilly) to true up the line.

I hope that Myrna doesn't mind - let me know, M! - that I'm posting a photo she sent to me yesterday that beautifully illustrates the point:

Photo by Myrna Giesbrecht
The line that's closest to the raw edge of the curve is the original stitch line (indicated by the pattern). The scooped line (which was achieved in phases illustrated by the stitching rings you see), is the most L shaped one, farthest from the raw edge. That L shaped stitch line has produced an extension of the original crotch length, giving extra space where it's needed. The diagonal line you see from the angle of the L to the raw edge is a snip, I believe, inserted to allow for truing of the fabric on the fly. Note that the L shape angle, illustrated here, is very likely distinct from the scoop angle you need to make because it suits a particular shape of derriere. For example, it would not suit my shape (as I have a butt that sticks out somewhat).

Scooping is the fabric fix - often a life-saver in fitting - which is similarly achieved, if differently, by this flat pattern alteration:

Look at the back piece (the one on the right in the photo above). This is how I've altered the paper to fix the tightness of the back crotch I discovered in my last muslin. The outcome is similar to scooping shown in the top photo though pls note that scooping is not a wedge alteration. See that wedge below the darts? The part at the crotch curve is lengthened by 1.5 inches, effectively providing the derriere with more space - same as that scooping alteration from Myrna's pic above.

Now, I wouldn't have had that tightness if I hadn't shortened the original pattern equally at the hip and crotch, one muslin ago. I need a wedge alteration on the back crotch (to make things longer) AND on the front crotch (left of pic, harder to see cuz of the way the pattern is upside down) (to make things shorter). Despite our unique shapes and sizes, many sewists find the same general alteration is required.

Since I have tapered the wedge, in both instances, at the side seam, crotch length alteration has no impact on the length or proportion of the outer legs.

Hilariously, I need to make both of these crotch alterations to still a greater extent than currently I have - shortening the front by an extra 0.5" and lengthening the back by the same amount. But this next muslin will most definitely be wearable. I'm just getting picky. Oh, and I've got to remove 0.5" at the hips again. Note: When you make the correct crotch alteration, you often don't need to add fabric in all kinds of other places. Away that extra paper on the hip will go - for the third time.

Now, this wasn't even the half of my day as I spent the aft and evening with Sara and Andrea - and S. my fitting friend - working on fitting of Sara's Albion muslin. Such fun! S has been schooled by hardcore English fitters and Andrea in the Palmer Pletsch system and they had distinct takes on how Sara's alterations should go. Mind you, they both got to the same place in the end which made for an awesome improvement of fit and Sara's tremendous happiness.

It was truly exciting to watch things unfold. (But not exciting to make the flat pattern alterations.)

I am more than ever convinced that my fitting style is hideously non-academic non-traditional. A and S were throwing around concepts and numbers like savants. It was palpable how they were able to communicate in a way that was so enjoyable for them. I do get to the same end point, but at a pace that is more that of paint drying than computers computing. For better or worse, my brain comes at fitting from a totally different vantage point. Sometimes I'm convinced that I'm slip shod, but really, I suspect (given that I do make clothing that fits) my method is best referred to as intuitive.

In few instances, more cooks can make for a better dinner, and I believe this is one of them. I'm so happy that S will have more helpers, at future sessions, to facilitate her fitting solutions and that we'll each have a chance to improve home-sewist fitting, one future garment at a time.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bra Review: Lulu Tout Coco

The Lulu Tout lingerie set arrived, and was returned, with nary a blip. It did not cause even a hint of misery, though it was a pain in the ass to get to the post office in this weather and I'm out 20 bucks in shipping. It was a risk. I knew the risk. It didn't pan out.

But this purchase does make me more sure than ever that I'm not ordering Figleaves house brands in the future. Each time I've done this, I've been met with the same suboptimal (if attractive) product: one that doesn't provide anywhere near the required support for heavy, large or dense breasts.

It's not surprising. The way they keep the costs down is by using flimsy materials. Flimsy materials are just fine in bras sized for a cup volume smaller than @ 32E (34DD, 36D, 30F etc.) - or when the breasts in question are young (naturally self-supporting) or not terribly dense.

By the time you've had a kid (or two), hit your mid-late thirties or gone through menopause, chances are your breasts are too heavy for this bra's infrastructure, especially above a certain size. (Note: This brand caters to the >DD cup range aka that which is larger than the standard bra matrix size range. Arguably, its core responsibility is to provide good support.)

Look, my breasts - while heavy - are not particularly saggy. Those Cooper's ligaments are holding their own. But heavy breasts (even if they're not at your navel) need good wires - and strong materials - or one's tits are apt to bounce. Not good.

I'm more convinced than ever that a) I will wear Empreinte forever more and b) the likelihood that I will be able to make a bra that provides the support I desire - what with materials and notions that are available out there - is potentially a pipe dream. Never mind fit. That's a binary issue that will be meaningless once I crack the code. Material sourcing, not so much.

But what about the Coco bra deets? (Note: I didn't even take the undies out of the packet. I had no interest in them once I knew the bra was a dud.)
  • The colour is indeed lovely.
  • The baseline shape is also nice (specifically of the mesh underlayer).
  • The lace overlayer is not well attached to the underlayer and it has been poorly chosen (having no stretch and being of an awkward length). Net result is that it pops away from the underlayer and leaves a very notable ridge. It actually looks wrong. I read another review on Bratabase that corroborates this but I didn't understand the extent of the issue till I tried the bra on for myself.
  • It's not the most expensive-looking bra - but then it's not expensive.
  • It's flimsy. Mere walking initiated unacceptable bounce.
  • It's not optimal for very projected breasts. I mean, it's not a cut bra for shallow breasts, but if you have a lot of centre or immediate projection, it likely won't work well. (Note: I don't think sizing up would help - it's more of a shape compatibility thing. The gore did tack on me, but not in a firm, secure way.)
  • Despite its suboptimal unsupportiveness, the band is extremely firm. I don't recommend that you buy this bra, but if you do, go up in the band.
  • It's inexplicably dowdy.
I could see this working on breasts of a very specific shape (a bit wide set, full on bottom) in the smaller end of the size range but there are so many better options, IMO. Why bother with this?

So, there you have it. Public service accomplished. Now go out and buy something by Empreinte.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Knitting Elitism (Two Words You Might Not Have Put Together till @2010)

OK, after a lot of yoga and hours of sleep, the pain is not as acute. So I'm back to update you on a few things:
  • Amirisu magazine is really amazing. I haven't been able to read it yet - because I can't look at small writing right now - but it's oozing with good production and the garments shown are beautiful, even as I wouldn't wear most of them. Most of the contributors are well-known  and well-respected and I LOVE that it's an issue about the architecture of knitting. This issue considers knitting as design, not craft, and that's my approach too. You can easily donate a few bucks, from right within the publication (you're redirected to PayPal) and I urge you to support this magazine - if you like it. It takes so much effort to produce this kind of media. When the outcome is good, and this is, it's important to show support, IMO. I mean, I'd have happily bought this magazine for more money than I donated.
  • That whole modern knitting scene - the grand spokesperson of which is Jared Flood - is so freakin' cool. (And I say that with an under-current, finger-snapping beat.) You've got your 16 different varieties of Kristin and Johnston (Kirsten J, Kristin F, Gudrun J, Yoko J, etc.). Trust me, if you want to be a hipster knitting designer, it's good to have some variation on either of those names. Note: special points go to those with Scandinavian surnames, denoting heritage. Extra-special points go to those living in the Middle of Nowhere, North-east (with pied-a-terre in Brooklyn) - or Scotland. But don't forget the British Columbia collective - a whole different spin on cool (everything's made for the rain :-))
  • Make no mistake, these are the pedigreed pattern-designers. They learned the craft from their mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers (some of whom, in their own right, were known in the industry in the latter half of the 20thC). Then they went to art school and got BFAs and industrial design degrees. Then they picked up animal husbandry and manufacturing skills, just cuz they were compelled. I do love me some scenester-elitism. (You can take the girl out of the private school, but...)
  • Please note: while I'm very tongue in cheek, above, I adore the modern knitting aesthetic. To me, it's relatable. The designs are elegant and structural. The patterns are clearly written, well-presented and clean. It's why I can get with this amazing art and not feel like a dowdy remnant of the 70s. The design pool is through-the-roof awesome and I sense that this is the most noteworthy art renaissance in a long time. On a side note, it's largely facilitated by the internet, as far as I'm concerned, but that's another story.
Feel free to check out a few of my most-enjoyed knitting blogs. What you'll notice is that most of these bloggers use their blogs to forge forward in their entrepreneurial pursuits - something that works well, IMO, despite my general inability to appreciate the commercialized blog. Somehow, these bloggers manage it:

Ewe Knit (yeah this is my LYS but the woman who writes the blog, Angela Hickman, does a great job - and has her own blog to boot - Pans and Needles).

Brooklyn Tweed, but you're already reading this, if only for the lookbooks...

From the Purl Side - Linda just started a yarn company and her offerings are GORGEOUS.

By Gum, By Golly - very well known - is a knitting/sewing hybrid blog that focuses, almost exclusively, on highly-stylized vintage knits. Despite the fact that our miens could not be more different, the vintage silhouette is one that appeals to me too and I appreciate Tasha's talent and passion for times-past.

The Vintage Pattern Files is also a great resource, though more a pattern inventory than blog.

One Sheepish Girl brings a sweet, clean look to the category. It's very youthful and a bit twee but I like the focus on fashion knits.

Paper Tiger is fairly new to me, but I do enjoy its eclecticism - and its elegant interface.

The Purl Bee - the Purl Soho blog - shows some beautiful (and simple) projects - and everything is purchasable through the website. This company sells fabric, notions, patterns, yarn - basically anything you might want. I would love to visit the actual shop.

What are your favourite knitting blogs, publications or other resources? What do you look for in your experience? Is it about modernity for you, a grass-roots sensibility, fun and easy projects? Do you love the new scene? Does it irritate the crap out of you because you feel it's one step from turning yet another egalitarian domestic pursuit into a competition? Let's talk.

For The Knitters (And those Who Like Pretty Pictures)

The migraine which started last Friday is giving me a run for my money. It really needs to go away now. Really.

Anyhow, not up to posting or reading or thinking or much else, but I do want to point you in the direction of a lovely knitting resource:

I discovered this at Fringe Association (a blog you should certainly subscribe to).

Till later...

Monday, February 17, 2014

StyleArc Claudia Pants: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back (aka Muslin 4 to Follow)

To disabuse you of any unfounded excitement, I'm not there yet with these Claudia pants.

I believe, in shortening the front rise (even though I put some length back onto the front crotch tip to re-add the length of over all crotch curve which I removed in the shortening) I messed something up. Now the centre back seam is quite tight (kind of going up my bum) and the back facing (by the centre / crotch seam) is flipping out of the inside where it's supposed to lie flat.

I'm going to do some research but the likely outcome is that I'll put a bit more fabric somewhere on the crotch line and maybe alter the line of the back waist to give a bit more height.

Other than that deal-breaker fit issue (sigh), there are a few other cosmetic alterations I want to make:
  • Put another 0.75 inches back onto the bottom of these pants. Yeah, now I'm back to the original pattern's leg length - told you I was tall :-)
  • Add another 0.5 inches to the waist. It fits, but it's slightly tighter than I'd like.
  • I'm thinking that a regular zip would make a stronger closure. Invisible zips on hips, when the garment is fitted pants, are a recipe for disaster. But I'll probably just cut a bit to the outside of the current pattern to add another 0.2" of seam allowance at the upper 8 inches of the hip, when cutting the fabric on my next go.
  • Widening the pants another 2 inches in the leg from the knee down. Following my last round of alterations, when I simply removed the dart to add width, I feel they're still a bit too tapered vs. the straight leg I'm going for.
It's a good think I'm not fixated on a fast outcome with this project. :-)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

StyleArc Claudia Pants: Original Pattern To Muslin 3

First... (Unaltered)
Then... (Muslin 1)

Now... (Muslin 3)
See last post for deets about the latest round of alterations.

I wonder if this time's a charm?? I do have to say that the latest curve looks resonant, in a weird, internal seams of clothing kind of way. I relate to the short, flatness of the front and the scoopy back (which deepens just at the base). And those hips are very me.

BTW, I did have enough fabric to cut a second pair of pants - though I did repurpose the waist facing. Mind you, I cut the waist facing twice... Point is, 2 yards of 60 wide fabric will make 2 pairs of these in a size 10...

StyleArc Claudia Pants: Muslin 3

I don't know how this is, but I'm onto muslin 3 of the Claudia pants and I'm actually having some fun. But man, I've got SO many new alterations for this next attempt, it's crazy...

On finishing my latest version yesterday, let's call it muslin 2, here's what I learned:
  • This is a new glitch: I have front crotch "smiles" or extra fabric because the front crotch curve is too long. Apparently, when one has a full abdomen, this is quite common. First time for me, however... I'm going to apply this alteration - wedging out 2/3" of fabric to nothing at the side seam and then adding the length back to the base of the curve.
  • Why oh why am I so incapable of noting the difference between waist facing and waist bands?? These pants have facing - which means they don't have additional height of a band at the top. The result is that now I have to add ALL the fabric I removed from the crotch curve back into the waist because I'm not joking about making pants that fit at the true waist. I'm not dealing with muffin top. On the plus side, I've gained an inch in length...
  • And, on the topic of length, I've got to add half an inch back to the base of the leg - I'm getting longer still!
  • The original line of these pants is not optimal, IMO. They're SUPER 80s, not my fave era, as you know. I've got to get rid of the leg dart. It's killing me with its stirrup legging vibe. I'm also going to alter them into straight leg (rather than tapered). I think it will be a more modern silhouette and will balance my proportions better.
  • Gotta add back that inch in the hips that I removed last go around!
  • And, while I'm at it, I'm giving a tiny bit more fabric to the front inner thigh.
  • Finally, I'm closing the front from 2 pieces with seam to one, uncut piece. I don't need a line bisecting me at this juncture. I also think it's dated, given the line of the rest of the pants. And it takes some effort to finish that seam nicely - which is just stupid given that I don't like it.
You know, if this were my third jacket muslin, I'd be ready to kill myself. And here I am, third go round with So. Many. New. Alterations.

But it's cool, peeps. For some reason, I don't bring judgement to my fitting of pants in the way I do to the fitting of the tops. I feel like I've got a chance to turn these into a very well-fitted garment - nay, sloper, if I put in the time.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

StyleArc Claudia Pants: The Fitting Continues

Well this is getting interesting...

Remember this altered pattern, which I lengthened by 3/8" at the top and to which I added fabric to the crotch curve and inner thigh?

Left pieces are the front of the pants, right piece is the back...
Well, I spent a while basting the shell together, to see what would come of it and here's what I discovered (other than, man - they were way too big just about everywhere):

The fabric shows my first iteration of the altered pattern, discussed in the previous post linked to above. The paper shows the new alterations on the basis of what I learned having basted the first iteration, cut fabric together.

Just to complicate things visually, in this pic, the left piece is the back of the pants and the right pieces are the front. The pattern has been altered to reflect the changes I believe are required having tried on the basted muslin for fit.
Important note: Ordinarily, I would start with new fabric because I shortened the crotch from the midpoint of the crotch curve, where that flap of fabric is now, and the back piece (having a hem dart) from below the knee. Alas, one cannot do that with one's already cut fabric, so I'm shortening this muslin from the top and bottom of the pattern. Because I have SO much excess fabric, I can do this (though we don't know if it will have unknown impacts re: grain). I suspect not, given the lengthwise and widthwise stretch of this fabric, but I do think it bears mention.

This round of alterations:
  • Adding 3/8" of fabric at the waist wasn't a bad idea - but I did need to remove 1.25" of depth in the crotch all around.
  • Shortened the length of the pants, below the knee, by 2 inches. I guess my legs are really not that long...
  • When I shortened the front curve, it made almost NO difference to the line of the front crotch because that front curve is practically flat almost to the base. I did have to take some width out of the hip (probably that extra inch I added in when I altered the original pattern per my denim leggings pattern) and a bit out of the inner and outer legs. BTW, I sense that the front curve looks like that because of the relative fullness of my abdomen.
  • The back piece got most of the attention... That little wedge of paper taped on top of the piece is the amount I had to remove from the previously altered back crotch curve once I shortened the rise (as I trued the pattern piece to reflect the new rise). If you look at the top photo (the one showing my starting point before this round of alterations) you'll observe that what I've done, essentially, is return the curve to that of the original pattern by removing a lot of the extra width I added into the primary alteration of this crotch curve (on the basis of what I learned the last time I made stretch woven pants (denim leggings)). My point is, all I've really done to alter this pattern is shorten the crotch curve by 1.25 inches and add about an inch of extra fabric to the inner thigh (from the back piece). Oh, and shorten the legs below the knee.
  • Less notably, I also had to remove a reasonable amount of width from the hip and leg on the back piece...
What actually fit right out of the envelope? Well, the proportion was almost smack on for my body, which you can more or less discern by looking at the newly altered pieces atop the, as-yet unaltered cut fabric. The waist height, once I addressed the crotch depth, was almost perfect. The darts were a good width, as drawn. The waist fit almost perfectly.

Even though, when I tried on the basted muslin, I might have called it a disaster, on 5 minutes of reflection, this was fairly easy to improve.

Now let's see how the next version works. This time I'm actually going to sew.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Bit of Spring

It was so warm today (-2?) that I wore a spring coat (with a couple of sweaters underneath). On the way home, for the first time, perhaps, since I learned about my mother's illness, I bought flowers as a gesture of optimism.

And when I got home, my Blanche Too sweater had dried, after wet-blocking last night. I was intrigued to see how it's the colour of new grass and spring shoots:

Note: It's more sage than these (after-dark) photos would indicate.
The neck looks wider on the dress form than it does on me because the form is stretching it width-wise. Still the neck is wider than I'd like it to be. It's as much medieval wench as 50's lady but for all that, I can get with it. Lord knows, I've got the décolleté.

Apologies for overexposure. It's tricky to take pics in mid-winter twilight...

The pictures don't really do it justice. It's actually a lovely sweater and the yarn blocked beautifully.

It's the perfect length (22.5" from back neck) but the front neck could stand to be a bit higher. I told you that armscye was too long.

On the plus side, the modified sleeves fit perfectly into the modified armscye and they're a fine length, just above the elbow. This sweater is a pretty good fit. Not flawless, but good enough that most people won't be able to find its flaws.

This is the first time I've ever back stitched in sleeves. Usually I mattress stitch (horizontal to vertical):

Gotta say, back stitching takes 20 per cent of the time and it doesn't look bad when it's done. It doesn't look as good as mattress stitch, however. I do think that back stitching gives more structure to the finished shoulder which, in this case, is welcome news. The shoulders, like the neck, are slightly too wide (I should have made the sweater smaller above the full bust and blocked the shoulders closer to the midline... Next time.) But the shoulder seam ensures that there's just enough integrity.

See here how the front neck band was picked up and knitted from cast off stitches (per the sub-optimal instructions):

You can see the ridge between the base of the front neck and where the sweater body ends...
Compare it to the back neck band which was merely continued after taking stitches off a holder:

No ridge where the back rib meets the body...
I'll have you know I picked up those front stitches incredibly neatly. If you enlarge and then zoom in the top photo (full sweater), you'll see that every knit stitch aligns. Alas, it's never going to be as pretty as the back.

I can't say I enjoyed making this, but I do think I'll enjoy wearing it.

But what do you think?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Retail Therapy

Just want to say thank you to everyone who's commented or emailed me about my post yesterday. Your feedback has been such food for thought and I welcome all of your considered perspectives. Please, keep up the conversation!

Today, let's switch gears, just a bit, in deference to the season - and because, really, what soothes a body-image challenge more than gorgeous lingerie??

Meet Lulu Tout bra and undies, wending their way from the UK:
Lulu Tout Coco Lace Underwired Bra
Technically, I bought the thong (which looks like it belongs more naturally, texturally, with the bra):

Lulu Tout Coco Lace Thong

FYI, this set is exceedingly affordable and I got it for 20 per cent off using a coupon code that someone else suggested. I believe it was TEMPTED but I can't quite remember. If you opt to buy on Figleaves in the next while, that promo code just might work.

But, you might be thinking, Kristin, haven't you had it with Figleaves? Haven't you said that 10 times in the last year, given that every experience you've been through lately has involved the receipt of product that doesn't fit and incurs Customs fees?

Thing is, the line is a Figleaves house brand. Ain't no way to buy it but from that vendor.

Moreover, I've only ordered one set which won't be boxed (I have to hope), and therefore should avoid detection. FWIW, last time I got Customs-dinged, for a batch of stuff from Figleaves - all of which I returned, I actually filled out the refund paperwork (what a pain) and got 40 bucks back from the government! Sure,that's 20 bucks less than Customs took originally but, natch, that's the "admin fee".

As mentioned, this is a really affordable set, even before the discount I finagled. Plus, if you're American, you can order from Figleaves US but Canadians, don't go Figleaves US! UK vendors are less likely to attach additional Customs charges.

Let me tell you why I decided to take a chance on this set, even though I'm pretty sure my heart belongs only to Empreinte:
  • One can only afford so much Empreinte.
  • One has lingerie addiction needs.
  • One desires a pretty package.
  • One is performing a public service for those who have not yet tried this brand, which is likely most everyone, since it's new.
  • One has read that it's remarkably supportive, even as it looks light and sexy.
  • One cannot crawl under a rock, simply because one's stomach is a mushball. Priorities, people.
After saying all of this, there's a high likelihood that I'll end up returning this sucker, cuz I know nothing of the brand and it's just as likely as not to be a bad fit.

What attracts me to it is the vibrant colour and the applique effect of that overlay. Plus the undies are adorable - a full coverage thong! What could be better!

So, what do you think of Lulu Tout? Have you heard of this brand? Do you like this set? Let's talk.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pause for Thought

Where to start with this post. I suppose I should begin with the requisite "this piece will be all over the map" proviso. I also want to suggest, though it goes without saying, that I'm only positing ideas on the basis of my current perspective and experience at this time. Oh, and I'm sorry if this topic causes anxiety for anyone in the prime of life who hasn't hit the perimenopause roller coaster as yet. I just need to vent.

And with that, holy cow people, what the fuck is going on with me right now?

I'm not going to complain about the litany of things you've heard about in the past, namely the migraines. I don't want to be too optimistic on that front but my cocktail of supplements and (carefully monitored) phytoestrogens/hormonal precursors has taken the edge off. The headaches come and go, more unknowably than ever and they seem to last longer when they come before they go. Mind you, they're somewhat less extreme and less frequent, so I'm taking that as progress.

No, I'm talking about nausea. Absurdly, that nausea I've referred to in the past is - no joke - a fucking symptom of hormonal change. Think about this: I frequently encounter morning-sickness-esque symptoms (something I am ALL to familiar with having vomited daily for 7 months while actually pregnant) for no good reason - except that my fucking hormones are in chaos. Furthermore, I cannot stand the taste of certain food and drink which I used to enjoy.

Oh, and now's a good time to turn away if you're squeamish, but I'm also talking about managing the effects of a (perimenopausally-induced) endometrial polyp, discovered (after careful testing) on account of semi-regular hemorrhaging I have experienced. On the plus side, my iron and B12 are stellar, which is all but unbelievable under the circumstances. Apparently, I'm a star when it comes to iron and B12. Note: My daily endocrine-support yoga practice and acupuncture have been instrumental in ameliorating this challenging situation. Which is good because that was some scary shit.   

But never mind that. 

What I really want to talk about is the hit to my ego.

Let me start by saying this: I know I am a youthful individual. My nature is sparky and enthusiastic. I dye my hair. I look much younger than I am - as do all the women on my mother's side of the family. People tell me constantly that I look young. My doctor, last week - when I went for my shots - told me I look 22. (That's just not true, but you get my point.)

I dress stylishly in clothing that fits very well. I have an interesting face with a couple of good features. I'm not obese. I'm not unfit. I eat well (generally). I sleep 8 hours a night. I take vitamins to help me manage life stress - of which there is a reasonable (if "regular") amount. FWIW, prime, daily stressors for me are work, though I enjoy it, and parenting my kid. (Not to dwell, but the parenting is exceedingly stressful and demoralizing much of the time.)

Having said all of this, my body is changing, despite status quo external factors, and I am not pleased.

Look, I know exactly what's happening: my ovaries are conking out and my homeostasis-bound body is doing what it must to keep order. It's producing estrone via abdominal fat. (According to all accounts, it's not even producing a ton of estrone. I mean, I'm keeping it together according to the peeps who work with the women having estrogen-dominance.) The net result of this loop, alas, is a firm abdomen (thanks yoga!) under a layer of bloat and adipose tissue. Worse still, that tissue is NOT toned. It's a (less serious) version of the kind you may have experienced, and begrudged, 2 months after having had a baby. It's, frankly, much less attractive than my midsection of yore. Furthermore, my former midsection was always flat above the navel and in no way crept towards my waist or upper hips.

I realize that this is an entirely first-world problem, but it's fucking with my identity as a sexy hourglass and I do not appreciate it. Seriously, if there are two things I was confident about until quite recently it was that I was a) sexy as hell and b) an hourglass.*

This cannot persist.

Which brings me to the part of the post where I discuss the profiles of the Menopausal Woman, Kristin-style, which is to remind you that it's not worth the ether its written in:

A) First off, there's the slender woman who's always been slender in the midsection and who will continue to be slender until, realistically, death. Let's call her genetically lucky.

B) Then there's the woman - and I hesitate to say this, but I feel she's in the majority - who starts to put on the midsection pounds in her 40s, slowly but surely. First it's the boobs that gain a couple of sizes (in addition to a couple of inches in band size), then it's the abdomen, finally the hips and upper ass. By 50, she's a much squatter version of her former self, whatever that was. Alas, this shape speaks for itself and, sassy personality of its victim notwithstanding, it's not a hot look. I continually debate the preordinance of this scenario and I truly hope that I'm correct in my assertion that, while this may be the only path for some women, it's not the only way for most.

C) Finally, there's the woman who sees the writing on the wall and fights tooth and nail to retain the pre-menopausal shape she's was born with. Cue movie stars and people who live in NYC, Paris or North Toronto. Fighting may take the form of serious diet modification (for life), surgical modification or extreme fitness modification - perhaps even all three! Sure, eventually her face will give her away, but this lady's body's gonna look 35 for a long time.

Here's my dilemma.


The lanky-frame, genetic lottery ship sailed approximately 43 years ago. The slow train to boxy-ville is too depressing to consider. And the militaristic approach to, well, anything, is really not my way.

But, it seems, that the woman who eats and drinks a moderate amount (OK, in full disclosure, things are getting less moderate due to the ice age in which I currently find myself), exercises a moderate amount and makes sure she goes for a massage every once in a while, is not pleasing the menopause goddess. I mean Menopause Bitch.

This post is not about presenting solutions. I'm done with solutions for this week. This week, I'm in full wallow mode. (Happily, my current bout of PMS assists me in this respect.) Sure, I've got some tricks up my sleeve, don't I always? But I'm wearing thin, pun intended.

I'll close with a few general questions and I really would love your feedback: Do you think there's a menopause profile that I've neglected? If yes, could you make it one that will appeal to me? If you've gone through this life-stage, would you provide some optimism for those of us on the cusp? If you're on the cusp, would you at least pretend to be having a miserable time, like I am, just in the interests of commiseration? Presuming my perspective is correct, if you had to go through "the change" via Profile B or C, which would you opt for? Think about it carefully: Option B is frumpy - but fun, just like your life has been so far. Option C is attractive but soul-sucking. Let's talk.

*Now's a good time to mention that my husband, while he has no doubt observed these changes - cuz I never fucking shut up about them - would like you to know that he still finds me sexy as hell. And this is not a sponsored post.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Prep School

OK, this'll be my last word for the day on the Claudia pants. (I have to hope.) I've done all the prep this weekend - 10 hours worth:
  • Traced the pattern with extra hip width (good call, I suspect, as my fabric has 20 per cent stretch and the pattern calls for fabric that has 30 per cent stretch).
  • Altered the traced pattern per my denim leggings "sloper".
  • Prepped the fabric. Washed and dried in machine. Then steamed to ensure no more vertical shrinkage.
  • Cut the fabric.
  • Marked the fabric.
  • Threaded the serger. Tested the fabric with the serger.
  • Threaded the machine. Tested the fabric with the machine.
  • Read up on all the posts I could find about the Claudia pants (not much).
  • Read up on crotch curves.
  • Wrote 4 posts considering things (and thinking as I wrote).
I've decided to view this as sewing.

I mean, if I think about it as prep, it seems so precursory and irritating. But if I think of it as sewing, then I sewed a lot! Bring out the wine!

This means I can simply get down to construction next weekend. And I do use the word "simply" with a wink. After all, we have no idea if this test run will be a perfect fit or a disaster. Looking at that curve, I'm leaning to the latter perspective - but, on the plus side, I've added so much extra fabric to the original curve that I should be able to baste everything, determine issues, and still be able to hack at the crotch without sacrificing the fabric. It's scary when this counts as a cautious success :-)

Amazingly, I only used @1 yard of my 2 yards of fabric, so this pattern is not a fabric hog. I may actually be able to get a second pair from my current yardage, minus the facings, should the need arise. (Oh, and I've bought another 2 yards of the fabric, so I can relax. Not to mention, I've got other denim stashed - albeit other denim with even less stretch than this denim.)

Well, that's my weekend. No knitting so far though I do want to finish the sweater. Just made a Bolognese sauce that's simmering on the stove and it smells fine.

What have you been up to?

I Truly Don't Understand This Alteration

I guess that's why they call it the muslin phase.

Based on Sunni's post (wherein she has provided a very useful photo from Pants For Real People, with permission of the author), sense I've made the following alteration to the original pattern:
  •  Making the waist higher. Yeah, I went there. I want this thing to be at least as high as those denim leggings. I'm a phase in my life where my abdomen is not only larger than I'd like but also relatively untoned - despite lots o' yoga. (I'm taking the long view peeps. Hormones are a fucking bitch.)
  • Making the upper, inner thighs roomier. Not surprising since that's the only place where fat lives on my legs - just up at the top, as the altered pattern indicates. Also, remember I bought the size 10 because I read that the pattern runs large. In a 12, I'd probably still have to adjust the curve but maybe not as much...
  • I've added a bit of extra fabric to the front crotch and quite a bit to the back curve. Here's where things get dicey. I can see how the original pattern comes together with a deep "u". Mine is the oddest "v". Hmmm... This kind of goes against my need for an L shaped crotch curve (vs a J shape). I have read elsewhere, however, that in close fitting knit pants the J shape is used to best effect. That's sort of the shape of the unaltered Claudia crotch curve. Whether the v works on me, we'll have to see.
BTW, I really recommend Pants For Real People, hideousness of the design and layout aside.

Thoughts or feelings on this?

Slippery Sloper

On the basis of a couple of comments yesterday (thank you!) and an email exchange with S., I had this moment of sewing memory lucidity...

Remember these? (Please ignore my deathly sick look...)

Well, they just happen to be pants made for a stretch woven. Sure, they're the jeans version of leggings, but note that I made those with denim that barely stretched. I mean, it doesn't stretch at all which is why I haven't been wearing them lately...

For kicks, I took out the pattern. Egad, that seems almost "sloper comparison-esque".

Here's what my altered version it looks like:

Seems that I had to a) lengthen the denim leggings at the hem but I didn't shorten them in the rise tremendously much and - note this with interest! - I actually raised the waist-line twice to get them to sit at my real waist.

And here are the relevant pieces of the Claudia pattern overlaid:

Fascinating, yes?

There's not a tremendous amount of difference between these curves. Sure, there's the need for refinement in length and depth - and the first try might not work perfectly - but I am starting to see how this pattern is not cut for an Amazon.
This bonus photo shows that the length of the Claudia pant is about 0.5" longer than the denim leggings sloper, but that's before any refinements...

So that's where I'm at right now. Strangely grateful for a sloper of sorts, to potentially have saved me from slicing and dicing the Claudia (I traced it! It wouldn't have been a disaster!) in accordance with a loose-fit pants sloper designed for wovens.

Whatcha think?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Getting With the Program

OK, even though y'all (and my patient fitting friend, S.) have been pushing me to sew from slopers, I've been slowish on the uptake.

I say slowish because I do routinely use three curves I've worked hard to determine - crotch length and depth for woven pants, crotch length and depth for knit lounge pants and armscye length and depth (plus sleeve head) for knit tops.

My primary issue with the sloper concept has been that - and I do realize this is stupid - I always feel like, what's the point of having all kinds of patterns and designs if you just duplicate the same basic elements again and again. Yeah, I know, patterns have lots of unique details and some basics don't interfere with overall design. Or do they?

Look, I'm fairly confident that I can design a pattern based on a sloper (albeit a simple one). But I don't want to! I want to buy patterns and just use them and get fun, different results. Where's the excitement factor in constantly pulling out the slopers??

Admittedly, the lows are nowhere near as low.

So here's where I'm at.

My goal this year is to:
  • Develop a woven (tailored jacket) sloper - most likely this will be princess seamed.
  • Develop a sloper for stretch woven pants - I've got one for leggings and one for wovens but not one that spans the gap and, let's face it, the stretch woven pant is relevant in my wardrobe!
  • Commit all of my slopers to oak tag or some such thing so that they are sturdy and reusable. (Please, need thoughts on best methods here...)
So, today, I got started and drew out the woven pants sloper crotch curves and the knit top armscye/sleeve curves:

I just traced the relevant bits to make it easy to put them on top of other pattern pieces. Now I'll have no excuse to consider going renegade.

Next thing I did, this morning, was to pull out my Claudia Pants, recently purchased and arrived from StyleArc.

(Brief sidebar: I'm not super thrilled with the customer service they've got going on. I won't harp at the moment, but I may in the near future. And I'm not talking only about my Bengaline which still has not arrived. I'm half considering calling Australia since they haven't been responding to my still-friendly emails...)

In truth, I don't know that this pattern is going to suit me, but it's good to try new things, right? And I do appreciate the stretch-woven factor and the real waist height.

BTW, I'm going to use this stretch rayon denim fabric from Gorgeous Fabrics:

It's sort of grey/soot (not black like the monitor shows), very light-weight with good drape and some stretch. It's got enough structure, I believe, to suit these pants, but not too much. Just washed this fabric and it's beautiful. It could easily make a dress. It doesn't wrinkle and the hand is delicious. I can see how I'm about to stash binge again...

But wait! Look at what happens when I put my pants sloper pattern piece (albeit a WOVEN sloper) against the unaltered Claudia stretch woven pattern:

Here's an unfettered view of the crotch curve of the Claudia pant:

If you look at the distance between the depth of my crotch curve and that of the unaltered Claudia pant, you'll see that it's 4 inches deeper than mine (never mind the difference in length of that curve). BTW, my sloper is navel, waist-height - not low-rise in any way.

I've read that the Claudias are very long, and I'm short, so I measured the length of my slopers against the below-crotch length of the pants. Guess what? They're both exactly the same length - 30 inches before hemming.

It would appear that ALL of the length I need to get rid of in these pants is in the crotch depth.

Is that not high on drugs???!!! Really. Am I doing something wrong, or is this high on drugs?

Sure, my crotch depth is really short - cuz that's where I'm shortest, in the lower torso. But my legs, as I'm routinely reminded, are actually average-length to long. Peeps who are 5'10" aren't lengthening the legs...

Is it silly that this makes me feel like a supermodel?

I bought the pattern in a 10 because everyone says it runs large and StyleArc advises that you go by hip measurement. Having measured the pattern at the hip, I don't know if I should add an inch. It's 0.5 inches smaller than my hip measurement, but the fabric does have stretch. Any thoughts on this??

What I will say is that the waist runs large by comparison with the hip. The 10 has a 33" waist? Ah, wouldn't it be great if I could remember to remove the dart width from the equation. The waist is drafted at 31"...

I think I'm glad I didn't go with a 12 - though I forgot about this when I ordered the Elle pants recently. Here's hoping that wasn't a mistake. BTW, I had to buy those pants because Gillian will not stop talking about them and I've been bamboozled!

So this is where I'm at today. Please share your feelings about whether I should increase the hip by an inch and best techniques for preserving my slopers. Also, what do you think of these pants? Let's talk!