Tuesday, October 3, 2017

New Pants Like Old Friends - Guide to Sewing Wide Leg Pants.

I'm sharing the details of the self-drafted wide leg pants I started making 2 years ago! Read on for a guide to the books and tools I used to draft and make these custom pants, and wide leg pant sewing pattern suggestions if you're not in to starting from scratch.

A while ago I read a post on Instagram where someone at least one fashion cycle younger than I am talked about what a revelation high waisted pants were to her. How they are surprisingly comfortable, and flattering to someone raised on low rise. That post stuck in my head for days. I love high waists and wide legs, but to me they were no epiphany, more like old friends. The kind of friend you haven't seen in years, but can pick up right where you left off. Age has few benefits, but at least when the fashion pendulum swings, I already know what I'm going to feel good in.

A few years ago, when I'd totally had it with squeezing my bootie into skinny jeans, and was missing the pants from brighter days, I decided I wanted to recreate a style my past self lived in. Something anchored at my natural waist, flowy, but not to the point of palazzo pants. Before, I would have searched high and low for those pants, found only a few choices at the tip of the fashion trend wave, and lamented the price point. This time, I drafted myself a pattern, and made myself some pants.
This particular pair of WLPs is sewn with Sew Classic Slub Linen from Joann Fabric. It's pretty good fabric, with a nice drape, doesn't cost much (don't forget your coupon!), and is easy for me to get when I feel like experimenting. When I make such a simple style of anything I feel the need to compensate for the lack of technical difficulty with an extra thoughtful finish on the inside. I bias bound the pocket bags and the faux fly on the inside. I serged and topstitched the inner leg, and crotch seams, and serged and top stitched to the edge of the pocket opening on the outer leg seam. The dot tag is a tiny scrap of Nani Iro double gauze.

These pants are pretty effortless to style up or down. This is my black Brussels Washer Linen Blend (affiliate) Scout Tee, and the DIY Pipe Necklace I made a few months ago. I've worn this necklace in 4 out of 5 of the last blog posts, so I'm gonna go ahead and label it a success (and try to wear something else next time :).

Books and Tools to Draft Your Own Sewing Patterns

Just before tackling my first WLPs I took a pattern drafting class at Made Institute in Philadelphia. The class was fantastically informative, but if you don't live near a fashion design school don't despair. A confident maker can work out basic pattern drafting without formal instruction. The main resource I took away from the class was the book: Pattern Making for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong. The book shows where/what to measure and gives step by step instructions for drafting your own patterns with suggested ease for different styles. Based on this book I drafted my first version of the  pants. They fit, but as with anything some tweaking was necessary.  I made a basted muslin, when I got the stitching where I wanted it I traced over the stitching with a Sharpie (wish I had pictures of that!) so I could be certain which line of stitching was the real one. The resulting pair of "final" pants were pretty good. As I wore those pants (and once I came down from the maker's high) I identified a few little things I wanted to make better. I used the book Pants for Real People: Fit and Sew for Any Body by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto to tweak the fit. This is an absolute must read for anyone sewing pants. It very clearly diagrams common fit problems and their solutions. With subsequent versions I made the length shorter, the legs wider, tweaked the crotch curve, and the rise to near perfection (I'm still on the maker's high for this version, gotta wear them a few times to get my objectivity back).
Pattern drafting is easy with a few simple tools. An 18" clear plastic ruler makes pattern layout and finding right angles easy. A french curve is essential for creating elegant curves. A 24" curved ruler (let's just pretend I remembered to put this one in the picture), for long gentle curve blending. And your favorite pencil. I like to make the guidelines in a color, then go back over the final outline in #2. You could probably free hand the curves if you want to limit your investment in specific tools, but the standard curves definitely make the finished product look more professional. For the class we drafted onto brown craft paper. I like to use my embarrassingly vast stash of old building plans from my recycling bin in a past life because they are white, but equally sturdy. In a pinch I've used old rolls of gift wrap. The standard way to transfer the marks onto new paper is with a tracing wheel. The points on this one are much sharper than the one you may already have to transfer marks to fabric. I prefer to trace my patterns onto the same architectural tracing paper I use for tracing all of my purchased patterns. Then I can easily pin it to fabric with no steps in-between. When I get to a final design, I then transfer the pattern to sturdy paper for reproducibility.

Wide Leg Pants Sewing Patterns

image credit True Bias / 100 Acts of Sewing / Named Clothing
Megan Nielsen / Helen's Closet
If full on pattern drafting is not your thing, you could start with the True Bias Emerson Crop Pants (like these lovelies by Andrea), the Named Clothing Ninni Elastic Waist Culottes (like Katie!) or the 100 Acts of Sewing Pants No. 1 (like Theresa's) pattern and and use the Pants for Real People book to tweak the fit. The Megan Nielsen Flint Pants are a slightly more structured jumping off point (loving Heather's basic black pair). The Helen's Closet Winslow Culottes also have a more structured waist, but plenty of delicious width through the leg (and Sara's version is va-va-voluminous!). Or check out the Sew News Pants Month for a great overview of popular pants patterns.
The repetitive oscillations of the fashion sine curve keep getting closer together, retro 70's, follow vintage 80's, with grunge 90's hot on their heels until everything seems current all at the same time, in one big jumble. Those seeking fashion will fall pray to these trends, a sewist seeking style can make whatever she finds most appealing, and flattering no matter what is in the window at Anthropologie. I've had this post on my mind for a few weeks, but saved it for today to coincide with Slow Fashion October. Making my own clothes allows me to think of my wardrobe as a continuum rather than something that gets tossed every few years (or even months!) as tastes change. Participating in the online knitting and sewing community has changed my way of thinking about my relationship to clothing and following sustainable fashion blogs (here, and here) have changed the way I think about dressing myself. I can safely build a wardrobe around reproducible silhouettes, that flatter my body. When WLP's vanish from store shelves, as is their certain destiny, I'll be ready. Wide leg pants and I need never be parted again.


Pants Pattern: Self-Drafted
Shirt Fabric: Kaufman Brussels Washer Linen Blend from Fabric.com (affiliate)
Necklace: Tutorial Here


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lou Box Top as Dress

For the last little while I have been chasing the perfect sack dress. A dress that can hit the moving target of what to wear today, without too much thought. Something that works for mothering, and satisfies my need to be a little bit pretty. A phantom most-basic dress, in a most-basic black.  This solid attempt to check all those boxes is a Sew DIY Lou Box Top modified into a dress with cuffed sleeves. I made a few rough drafts (one here) to experiment with key elements such as the ideal hem length, a neckline that just grazes the collar bone, and a fabric interesting enough to act as the only detail across a large blank rectangle. 
Part of the beauty of a simple dress is its versatility. Shoes, and jewelry (or total lack of it) can make very different looks. I've styled my dress two ways, whose dramatic difference is possibly only noticeable to me!

This fabric is Tencel Linen from Joann. I carry a running list of things I want to make in my head, and sometimes when my hand hits upon a particularly nice fabric, one item on the list jumps to the front of the line. The drape and subtle texture of this fabric compliment the pure geometry of the dress.

The material is substantial enough to be a bottom weight, and would make great wide leg pants, or billowing shorts. The only downside is its ability to carve the wearer's movements in permanent relief across the front. By that I mean, it wrinkles easily. There is a crease down the front where I cut the front pattern piece on the fold (no iron, just pins). I've steamed, and ironed, but it won't budge. I'm afraid Photoshop is the only way to fix it! Maybe the evidence of wear will add to the character of the fabric (that's what I'm telling myself :).
MODIFICATIONS: Narrow hipped ladies can probably sew the same size dress, as they would for a top. Ladies with a bootie (ahem, me) should choose their size based on the hip measurement, rather than bust. I compared the width of the Lou Box Top sizes to the width of a few of my other woven dresses, and chose a similar size.

The Lou Box pattern is drafted with different hem options that are separate pieces. The top shirt piece has a straight seam along the lower edge that I extended to just above the knee length.

I tweaked the neck curve a bit based on previous versions. My neck opening is big enough that I didn't need to use a button back neck opening, but I cut the back as two pieces anyway. The seam gives a more structure to the shape, and counteracts the tendency my full back version has of sticking to my butt. There are other sway back shaping tricks that would achieve the same goal, but I wanted to keep it as simple as possible.

Inspired by the many sack tops and dresses floating around the sustainable fashion inter web (here, here, here) I wanted to add cuffs to my dress. I like the addition of the clean detail to a very plain dress. Accentuating the shoulders, also gives visual balance to my pear shape.

HOW-TO ADD CUFFS to the Lou Box Top:
To add the cuffs cut a pattern piece based on the dimensions in the image above. This creates a 1 1/2" cuff. The long dimension will vary depending on the size you are sewing. With right sides together, sew the short edges with a 1/2" seam allowance. Press seam open. Fold the loop in half with wrong sides together, and press. Then make a 1/2" fold along one raw edge of the loop and press. With right sides together align the other raw edge of the loop with the arm opening, aligning the cuff seam with the side seam of the dress. Sew with 1/2" seam allowance. Press the cuff and seam allowance away from the body of the dress. Using the creases made earlier, fold the cuff in half toward the wrong side of the garment. Pin the smaller fold just over the previous seam line with the seam allowance sandwiched between. Pin. With right side up top stitch as close to the seam line as you feel comfortable (I stitched in the ditch). Be sure you are catching the inside edge of the cuff as you go.


Dress Pattern: Modified Lou Box Top by Sew DIY
Dress Fabric: Nicole Miller Solid Linen Blend from Joann Fabrics
Necklace: Tutorial Here
Bracelet: Wrist Ruler from Tolt Yarn & Wool


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Blanc T-Shirt Worn Two Ways

We spend most of the summer away from home. Living out of a suitcase for a few weeks at a time makes the idea of a summer capsule wardrobe very appealing. I followed the Style Bee 10 x 10 summer challenge very closely because I'm always looking ways to pack less, but wear more. At the end of last summer I made this crisp white Blanc T-Shirt from Blank Slate Patterns* for the Melly Sews blog. At the time I thought it was an exercise in white t-shirts (I also have a Jane Tee by Seamwork and a couple of styles of Lark Tee by Grainline Studio in the same white fabric for comparison purposes), but it's turned out to be a lesson in versatility. For the Melly Sews post, I came up with two simple outfits around the Blanc Tee.

The first outfit is the Blanc Tee tucked into brown linen, pull-on, wide-leg pants (my own pattern). Worn with classic black sandals, and a long necklace (that I got for my 18th birthday! #slowfashion :) it's an easy everyday look. 

The fabric for the t-shirt is Telio Organic Cotton Jersey Knit Off White (I would just call it white) from Fabric.com*.  I have at least 3 kinds of white cotton jersey knit in my fabric cabinet, and this is by far my favorite one. It is the perfect (perfect!) weight, drape, stretch, opacity, and resiliency for t-shirts I bought 2 yards. Knit tops tend to fit a little differently depending on the fabric, so I sew up a white muslin in this fabric so I can isolate the fit variables, and make the modifications that work for my body. My "real" version of the Blanc Tee never made the blog (not because I don't wear it, because this white one stole its thunder. You can catch a glimpse of it on Instagram.)

The second look is the same white Blanc Tee tucked into a knee length black rayon gathered skirt (my own pattern). I wear it with a brass and leather statement necklace and some snazzy "snake skin" sandals for slightly more dressed up occasions.  

A white t-shirt goes with everything, and I'm pretty sure you can never have too many. Of all my white t-shirts I wear this one the most. The dolman sleeve is an easy fit, and this knit is the perfect weight for tops. I've been rationing its wear lately because I want to keep it nice. Time to throw caution to the wind, I can always make another!


Shirt Pattern: Blanc Tee from Blank Slate Patterns*
Pants Fabric: Sew Classic Club Linen in Tobacco Potting from Joann Fabric
Skirt Fabric: Telio Viscose Rayon Challis Onyx from Fabric. com

*Blank Slate Patterns & Fabric.com links are affiliate links. 


Monday, July 3, 2017

Seersucker Polina Dress & Sunny Day Shorts

We are spending the long weekend as the founding father's intended, road tripping to a family reunion. I feel duty bound by a time sensitive color scheme to get these outfits documented before the last charred sparkler sticks cool. This is the Polina Dress from Coffee & Thread, and the Free! Sunny Day Shorts from Oliver + S.
In the evolution of gratuitous holiday sewing ideas, the dress came first. The moment I saw Rachel's beautiful chambray dot Polina I bought the pattern. It's not the first pattern I've purchased under her influence, and I'm sure I'm not alone! I was envisioning a patriotic twirly skirt worthy of L's now discontinued Molly doll. When the skirt gets moving it could steal the show from any PA legal bottle rocket.

In the spirit of embarrassing both children equally (a principe on which this great nation was founded), I picked up a slightly thicker stripe in the same seersucker color way to make J some summer shorts. Now we have star spangled matchy matchy outfits to dazzle at picnics, unless they fall victim to a cherry popsicle along the way.
I sized up on L's measurements to be certain she had some room to grow. Otherwise, I didn't change a thing. Even the hem length is exactly as the pattern specifies. The main fabric is Robert Kaufman Classic Seersucker from Fabric.com*. I used light weight chambray for the underside of the ruffles. It's whisky light and doesn't compete with the seersucker. I also used it to bias bind the neck, armholes, and hem (the easiest way to hem a circle skirt). 
These are the Sunny Day Shorts from Oliver + S made with Robert Kaufman Breakers Seersucker from Fabric.com*. I added length, as shown in my own tutorial from a few years ago, and Pockets as shown in the Skirt as Top tutorial. For the front and back pocket I mismatched the stripes to add some detail. This is a great versatile pattern that I'm sorry J has nearly outgrown. I made him the biggest size, and he's got precious little room to grow. This may be his last pair of Sunny Day Shorts!

Dress Pattern: Polina Dress from Coffee & Thread
Dress Fabric: Classic Seersucker from Fabric.com*
Shorts Pattern: Sunny Day Shorts from Oliver + S
Shorts Fabric: Breakers Seersucker from Fabric.com*

*Fabric.com links are affiliate links. I purchased this fabric.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Indie Sew : Biscayne Blouse & Mercer Tunic

It's the Great Tank Bonanza over on Indie Sew, where a bold group of sewists whip up two different summer staple tops to compare and contrast every aspect of fit, and construction. I'm excited to play along because woven tanks have a starring role in my summer uniform. 

Biscayne Blouse by Hey June Patterns

First up is the Biscayne Blouse from Hey June Patterns. This tank has gentle gathers along the front and back neckline, a faced neck band, two pocket options, and a shaped hem. The buttons on the button placket are concealed behind a decorative flap. The Biscayne is ever so slightly more fitted than the Mercer Tunic, though both work great worn loose over skinny pants. For comparison purposes, I'm wearing both tanks with my (often worn, but never blogged) Safran Pants by Deer & Doe
My Biscayne is made with the new Art Gallery Fabrics rayon print Mountain Mirror designed by April Rhodes. Rayon is a great choice for a design that really stands out in a drapey fabric. 

I chose my size based on my measurements, and I'm happy with the blousy fit. The only alteration I made was to raise the arm opening 1/2". 
The day I finished making this top I wore it the rest of the day with my Safran Pants as shown above. The very next day I wore it again. Two days in a row! I love it that much. Check out the last image of this post to see how I wore it the second time around.

Mercer Tunic by Whitney Deal

The Mercer Tunic by Whitney Deal is an uber simple top. It has an easy fit through the shoulders, and is oversized through the bust, waist and hips. The design highlights are the button placket, back yoke, gentle gathers at the front and back, and a straight hem. The arm and neck openings are finished with bias binding. The button placket, and yoke are a fun opportunity for color blocking, or using coordinating fabrics. This design has a very boxy cut. The wide shoulder is bordering on a cap sleeve, giving this design a respectable amount of shoulder coverage. 
My Mercer Tunic is made with my very favorite Robert Kaufman Chambray Union Light (also used as the contrasting fabric on the Biscayne Blouse). I sewed one size smaller than my measurements, and this top is still plenty roomy. I also took 2" off of the length so the hem would hit just at my hip. 
Both tanks took about the same amount of time to make from PDF to finished garment. Both are expertly drafted, and instructions are well presented. Either would be a great place to focus on perfecting your partial placket installation skills. I think the Biscayne blouse is a skosh more dressed up than the Mercer Tunic. The professional detailing of both designs would be great for the office as a shell, but the adult style lines, and modest coverage wouldn't prevent you from taking off your jacket or cardi. I wear breezy tanks with skinny jeans daily, here are a few alternate woven tank  outfits to get me out of that rut. 
I'm loving the chambray Mercer Tunic tucked into a self-drafted rayon midi skirt, and clogs. It's put together, but still heat friendly.
This is my favorite look and very "me" right now. The Biscayne Blouse paired with the longer of my Curved Copper Tube Necklaces, self-drafted wide leg pants (similar), and clogs. It's respectable, and easy to wear. 

You can get your copy of the Mercer Tunic and Biscayne Blouse sewing patterns along with a whole lot more summer tank inspiration over at Indie Sew. Check out Allie's blog post for a discount!

This post is sponsored by Indie Sew. All thoughts are my own.