Friday, August 14, 2009

Sewing Pants

Last week I was asked by my sister's friend Joanna to write a guest blog post on sewing pants. I explained to Joanna that I am totally not qualified to write a post on sewing pants, but answered a few questions for her and she replied that is the exact information her readers wanted to know. They are all crafty sewers and just wanted to do a little pants sewalong and needed some basic knowledge. Basic knowledge I have, so I figured that I could share that with her readers. I decided to add the post here too because maybe someone else who is just starting to sew pants will find it helpful, so here ya go. :-)

Hi, I'm Melissa from Susie-Homemaker and Joanna has asked me to guest blog a post on sewing pants. Honestly I'm not sure I'm qualified to type this post, but like I told Joanna in my email, I really just sew by the seat of my pants and figure it out as I go. When I'm stumped, I consult Google, my shelf full of sewing books, and favorite sewing message board Pattern Review, but mostly I just wing it and learn from my mistakes.

I have quite a bit of pant sewing experience under my belt thanks to my four children. I enjoy sewing for them because they are easy to fit. Me on the other hand, I'm still on a quest to sew pants that fit me perfectly. I don't fit the classic "perky thin 20-year-old-Barbie-doll body type model" that pattern makers draft for, but what woman does? A quick look around in any public venue and you'll see that body type does not depict your typical woman's curvy figure. I make a point to note this because sewing pants is the easy part, getting them to fit how you like, well that is another story and one I'm definitely not qualified to write about. Okay, on to sewing by the seat of our pants!

So what kinds of fabrics do you sew pants from? The easy answer is anything you want. Of course use this guide within reason. Most people don't sew pants from a sheer lightweight fabric, but if you really wanted to you could. Some popular choices for sewing pants include denim, twill, corduroy, and linen. If you're using a commercial pattern, you'll find a list of suggested fabrics on the pattern envelope. Definitely use that information as a guide because it will help you recreate the look you see on the pattern envelope ~ too stiff or too drapey and you'll ruin the look.

Fiber content is also something to think about when choosing fabrics. Natural fibers breathe well and allow airflow to circulate more easily (think cotton, wool, silk, linen). Man-made fibers, such as rayon, also breath well because they comes from a natural source (wood pulp in the case of rayon) and aren't chemically created. Synthetic fibers come from a chemical source and are chemically processed to create the fiber. Examples of synthetics include polyester, nylon, acrylic, and spandex. The major downfall of synthetics is they have no wicking quality and are often hot to wear. On the plus side, synthetics are machine washable, resist wrinkling, and usually hold their shape well. Want the best of both worlds? Look for blended fibers. A great example which many of us probably have in our closet is stretch denim. The comfort of cotton with the recovery of spandex makes for a fabulous pair of jeans that don't bag out the minute you sit down.

What about needles and stitch length? This all depends on the fabric you choose. A light weight fabric will require a small needle while a heavyweight fabric needs a larger needle that will penetrate the thicker fabric and not cause stress on the thread which can cause it to fray or break. As a general guide, lightweight fabric you'll use 60/9 or 70/10 with a stitch length of 1.5-1.7mm, a medium weight fabric 70/10 or 80/20 with a stitch length of 2-2.5mm, heavyweight fabric 90/14 or 100/16 with a stitch length of 2.5-3mm, and then a very heavyweight fabric 100/16 to 120/20 with a stitch length of 3-4mm. To ensure you're using the correct needle and stitch length, create a few samples with your fabric scraps before beginning your garment.

Another question that comes up regarding needles is what type. I found a very helpful post on the Sew Mama Sew blog so I'm going to refer everyone to that so I don't reiterate the same information. Worth adding is a little information about stretch needles. Stretch needles are actually a better choice when sewing fabrics with spandex (aka Lycra) because they have a deeper scarf that prevents skipped stitches. I have personally had skipped stitches using a ball point needle, but once I switched to a stretch needle the problem has been solved. Here is another helpful reference for choosing needles.

What about thread? For stitching seams, a basic all-purpose thread is perfect for most of your sewing needs. I typically use Coats & Clark Dual Duty XP which I buy at Joann's. When I topstitch hems or pockets, I use the same all-purpose thread when I want everything to blend together. Other times I want thicker topstitching thread to highlight those areas (hems, pockets, etc), so I use Gutermann topstitching thread (also at Joann's). While I don't recall the price of the spool, it has 110 yds and comes in several different colors including a nice blue jeans gold (#1870). When I topstitch, I have personally used a regular sewing machine needle, but after doing a little research for this post, I see I should really be using a topstitching needle because they are made for thicker topstitching thread (note to self!). Sometimes you'll have to loosen the thread tension to get the bobbin and the needle thread to balance out so it's best to practice on scraps first. Also, I personally use all-purpose thread in my bobbin when I topstitch because it feeds better (at least in my machine) than the thick topstitching thread. I think that you're really only supposed to use lighter weight threads in your bobbin case, but consult your manual or your dealer for what is correct for your machine.

Before I close, I'd like to share a few links of things you might find helpful for the sewalong. Here are two articles ~ Making Perfect Pants and Sewing Instructions for Women's Pants. And if you're interested in learning to better fit your clothes to your body shape, I highly recommend two books by Pati Palmer & Marta Alto ~ Fit For Real People and Pants for Real People. Lastly, there are two books I have in my sewing library that are great pants reference books ~ Easy Guide to Sewing Tops, T-Shirts, Skirts, and Pants & Sewing Pants That Fit (this one is a bit dated, but has good information on sewing and fitting pants).

Thank you Joanna for asking me to be a guest. I hope the information I shared will be useful. My best advice is don't think about it too much. I get caught up in thinking too much and sometimes I think the best things happen when you just roll with it and really just sew by the seat of your pant. Happy sewing!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pattern Review ~ Simplicity 3775

Simplicity 3775

I want to first say the center ruching isn't even in the photo. That was my fault and now it's starting to rain outside so I'm not going to go do another photo. IRL it looks perfect when adjusted, it's just my goof of not making sure I looked camera ready for the picture - oops!

Pattern Description: Knit dress with two bodice options and optional waist ruching.

Pattern Sizing: 4-20 ~ I made a size 8 in the bodice grading to a 12 in the hips

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, the instructions were very easy to follow along.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I have had this pattern in my stash since it was first released and have never sewn it up. I always liked the style so I thought I'd finally give it a whirl.

I don't necessary dislike the pattern, but I'm not sure I like it's the most flattering dress for my figure (see more below).

Fabric Used: poly/lycra knit from I purchased last fall

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: I graded to a size 12 in the hips and waist of the pattern after doing some flat pattern measuring. I wanted to be safe and it turned out that I didn't really need to do that. I ended up taking the dress in a little bit in the center tummy panel, but went back out to the size 12 in the skirt. I also made a broad back adjustment and shaved a little bit of the lower part of the bodice to make a SBA. I found that I needed to shorten the neckbands in the front too and ended up taking 1" off both pieces to keep the top better snugged to my body.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I'm not sure if I'll sew this dress again. I don't know if it's the most flattering dress for my figure. After talking with my friend on the phone about it, I think the problem is that the tummy panel hits me in a bad spot. I feel like it makes me look thick through the waist. While I had it on, I pulled up the center section of the dress and liked how looked when when it was a bit higher, but then that made the skirt too short, so this dress will have to stay as is. I think that would be the key for me to really like this dress is to shorten that center section a bit.

Clearly this dress is a winner for a lot of people so I do say give it a try if you like the style, however it will depend on your body shape if it's figure flattering for you.

Conclusion: Easy dress to make and a very popular Simplicity pattern.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pattern Review ~ Jalie 2806

Jalie 2806

Pattern Description: Banded scoopneck tops with ruching or gathered fold at center front. Optional wide hem band. Sleeveless or choice of tulip or three-quarter sleeves.

Pattern Sizing: The whole kit and kaboodle - toddler girls size 2 to ladies 22 ~ I made size R which is my usual size for Jalie tops.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes!

Were the instructions easy to follow? Well it's no secret, I'm a huge Jalie fan. I personally find their instructions fabulous. They have great written instructions that get you a RTW look and they also include pictures to help guide you along. The only confusing part (potentially) is that the drawings show the right side is white and the wrong side is solid gray (opposite of how most other pattern companies do things). It's no biggie tho because each picture is clearly labeled, just remember to pay close attention when looking at the drawings.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? After seeing so many great reviews, I just had to order this pattern. I like both versions, but have only made the gathered foldover front version thus far. No dislikes at all.

Fabric Used: Red rayon/lycra jersey - I actually took apart this dress because I never wore it. I know the picture doesn't look bad, but I really hated how it fell on my upper thighs and didn't feel very attractive in it. Thankfully I had just enough fabric to get this top out of it, but I did have to reuse the sleeves from the dress. They actually fit the armhole without a hitch surprisingly.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: None

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Absolutely! I actually have sewn it three times already and realized I hadn't added a review. The first time I made three-quarter length sleeves and the second time I made the tulip sleeves. After wearing the tulip sleeves a few times, I ended up replacing them with a basic short sleeve. I felt they didn't look good on me, however it might have just been the fabric choice.

I'd definitely recommend this pattern. You can't go wrong with Jalie!

Conclusion: Another Jalie worth owning for sure!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pattern Review ~ Jalie 2910

Jalie 2910

Pattern Description: Knit tops with a forward shoulder seam, banded surplice neckline, sleeveless or three-quarter sleeve, and optional mandarin collar.

Pattern Sizing: toddler size 2 through ladies size 22 ~ I made R (my usual size based on my measurements).

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, Jalie always has fabulous instructions that walk you through each step and give you a professional RTW finish. Both the wording and pictures are great and very thorough.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?I bought this pattern after trying on one of Emilie's tops at PRW in May (the green one on the Jean's pattern envelope) and loving the collar. I honestly didn't ever intend on buying this pattern because I like the original one (#2449), but I really loved the collar so I decided to give this one a whirl.

Fabric Used: poly/lycra knit from (aged properly for 1 year! lol)

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: I ended up shortening the neckband by 1" on both ends because the top was gaping terribly on me. This seemed to fix the problem and I'm sure it was my fabric. I made a top in similar fabric in the original and have the same problem and need to go back and fix it because I love the top so much. From experience, cotton/lycra knit doesn't behave this way. It seems to snap back more than poly/lycra or rayon/lycra knits (at least in my experience).

Also, I interfaced the collar, but only one piece. Next time I might do both with a lightweight fusible knit so it is crisp on both sides. This time I put the interfaced side towards my neck, but now that I have it done, I believe I should have put it facing outwards since this is the "public" side. Live and learn.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I am going to sew it again in a cotton/lycra and see how it behaves and fits. I'm not convinced I like this one better than the original for my figure. I like front band being applied as one long piece, love the collar option, love the forward shoulder, and even like the added length, but when I compare the two pattern pieces (front pieces and back pieces), I see the the front of the new pattern has a lot more fabric in the bust area than the old pattern. That could be why I love the old pattern so much is it just fit me well. I'm small in the bust so all the extra fabric just bags out and looks silly. I'm fine when I first put the top on and get it all adjusted, but as I go about my day, it shifts and gets all baggy across the midsection. The length between the two tops is the new one is approximately 2.5" longer (I added 1" in length to the original #2449 pattern).

I definitely recommend the pattern for ease of sewing, great features, and if you weren't too happy with the first version, this might be just the ticket for you.

Conclusion: An easy to sew pattern with nice options. Maybe more suited for someone who is blessed in the chest (something that genetically passed me by).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pattern Review ~ Jalie 2804

Jalie 2804

Pattern Description: Empire crossover top with banded neckline and optional modesty panel. Option of side ruching and choice of cap, short, three-quarter, or long sleeve.

Pattern Sizing: toddler size 2 - ladies size 22 ~ I made a size R (this is my usual size based on my measurements)

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, I know I always say this, but Jalie has fabulous instructions. Great wording and pictures to get you a professional RTW look.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love the empire styling. I have been fond of this top since it was released and make my first mock up back before PRW and had an awful time with the fit. It fit me like a sausage casing and my crappy fabric with not enough stretch didn't help at all. After comparing the pattern pieces of this top to the other two that came out at the same time (#2805 & #2806), I found this one was cut straighter with less curve through the waist and hip. Here is an overlay of 2804 and 2805. The larger one is 2805 (and 2806 is virtually the same). Since I made 2805 and liked the fit, I decided to modify this top to match the curves of that one. So I just used the back piece of 2805 and modified the front of this pattern to match the front shaping of 2805. From the picture I hope you can see what I added (sorry I have no clue how to add lines to a picture). It's not a lot of extra fabric, but give it more of a curve and I definitely have a defined waist and hips and need some curve in my pattern pieces in those areas.

I have no dislikes about this pattern now that I figured out what works best for me and modified it to fit. It goes together easily and is really a cute style.

Fabric Used: Poly/lycra knit from (properly aged at least 1 year!).

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Other than altering my pattern pieces as mentioned above, nothing.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, now that I have it altered for me, I will definitely sew it again. I'd like to try the modesty panel too, that is really cute.

Yes, I definitely recommend it, but if you have a curvier figure you might have to grade out in the hips and waist.

Conclusion: Cute top and I'm glad I stuck with it to get a top that fits me well. Also worth noting is that the sleeves in all the newer knit top patterns seen to be shaped the same so you can interchange them with one another. This pattern has a cap sleeve or short sleeve which are nice options for warmer weather.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Pattern Review ~ Butterick 5363

Butterick 5363 ~ View D

Pattern Description: Wardrobe pattern with jacket, tunic, dress, and pants. I made the sundress which has a drawstring umpire waist and racerback.

Pattern Sizing: 8-22, I made a size 8

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Cuter I think!

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, the instructions were very easy.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Well I didn't even notice this pattern until I saw Adrienne's dress ~ here is her review. I loved it immediately and knew it would be a great dress to wear on those hot summer days. It's loose and cool, but really cute. I was right and so glad I grabbed this pattern when Buttericks were on sale.

Fabric Used: blue & white striped seersucker fabric - at least I think it's seersucker, it has the texture of seersucker. Whatever it is, it's cotton and I found it in my stash. I believe I bought it at Joann's. On a side note, one of my sons saw me wearing this dress and said "hey mom, I really like your new hickory dress". DH & I got a kick out of that, so now it's coined the hickory dress at my house since it looks like the same type of blue and white striped fabric (tho hickory shirts are not seersucker! lol). For those that don't live in logging country, this is a hickory shirt.

Also worth noting, the inside of the neck and armholes are finished with single fold bias tape for a nice clean finish. You can see that in my photo below.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: I made no changes, just sewed it as it.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I actually already have another dress cute out in red embroidered linen. I'd definitely recommend it and thank Adrienne for bringing this one to my attention. I've been so happy to have it too because we've had a very hot summer in the Pacific NW so I've worn it a lot of times already (I actually made it two months ago and am just getting around to reviewing it, oops!).

Conclusion: Fabulous and easy summer dress that is comfy yet has some style. Fast to sew too, but is fashioned to wear a tank top underneath which is not one of the components in the pattern. My personal choice is Ottobre Woman 2-2008-1.

Other views~
upclose of fabric and label

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Pattern Review ~ Butterick 5283

Long sunny summer days have made me neglectful of my blog. I have sewn some and actually have been inspired to write a few reviews recently so the next few posts will be reviews of various garments.

This garment I'm not all that tickled with. I had higher hopes, but it didn't really end up being what I hoped. Please don't feel bad if you don't like it either, I think you'll be in good company and honestly such comments won't hurt my feelings (promise!).

Butterick 5283 - View C

Pattern Description: Close fitting pullover knit top with two different twist variations (one centered and one to the side) and sleeveless or long sleeved options.

Pattern Sizing: 6-22, I made size 8 which is my typical size for tops

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes

Were the instructions easy to follow? I made view C of this top and found the instructions to be adequate until I got to step #5. In that step there is a drawing of the top from the inside and it says "Twist left front as shown. With right sides together, pin left front matching notches...". Well it does show what the top should look like from the inside after it's all stitched together, but I had a heck of a time figuring out how to get the top to look that way. Honestly I must be a complete dunce because it took me 20 minutes to figure out what the heck to do. This is my umpteenth twist top, so I should be able to figure out a twist top pretty easily. Such was not the case here and honestly I have no clue how I got it too look the way it did. It looks like the pattern envelope so apparently I figured it out. I honestly think this was pretty lame of Butterick to do. You could at least show step-by-step how to make the twist. Especially for someone with no experience, it's not very nice to leave them high and dry. Maybe it was just me tho and it's really not as hard as I made it out to be. The rest of the instructions were adequate for the top (at least for view C & D).

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Originally I really liked the variation of the side twist, that is the reason I purchased this pattern. My dislike is the rotten instructions for forming the twist.

Fabric Used: hot pinky/peachy rayon/lycra knit

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: None were made.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I'm not sure I'll sew this again. My hubby thought it was weird the twist wasn't centered. I really like the idea of the top, but I don't know that I really like it that well on. I'm still on the fence, but am not sure it's going to be a favorite go to top. I feel like when I look in the mirror it looks like I have only one boob! LOL

As for a recommendation, I guess I'd recommend it if it's the style you're after. The views of A & B look nice so maybe I'll try that one someday.

Conclusion: I'm just not sure how I feel about this top. If it's your style, go for it, but beware the directions for making the twist aren't good (IMO anyway).