Tag Archives: fitting

Iris Shorts: A First Step Towards Sewing Trousers

Iris Shorts

Check it out! Shorts!

I tried on 20 pairs of pants at a thrift store the other day. Well, some of them I only tried on with one leg up to my knee before rejecting, so this wasn’t as time-intensive as you might suspect. Thrift store shopping itself is an endeavor not to be taken lightly. It’s like a treasure hunt, so of course you know going in to it that you’re going to have to sift through a lot of duds to find that special item. But pants, ai yi yi!

Iris Shorts Side

Hmm. Sorry about the t-shirt shots. Not much of an effort there, huh?

Iris Shorts BackI usually bring a tape measure with me to measure the waist of the pants I’m going to try on, as sizes seem to be so arbitrary, but I’d forgotten it and had to resort to holding up items and hoping I was in the right size range. As it turns out, I’m not sure the tape measure would’ve been that much help. The difference in rises was so different from one pair of pants to the other that it would’ve been hard to read a waist measurement on most of them. The ‘waist’ could really be anywhere from high hip to low hip and most likely not anywhere near your actual waist at all. Then there were funny fabric contents, odd leg shapes, and pockets and embellishments in the most peculiar places. It would have been demeaning if I hadn’t had a sense of humor about it. The whole experience was comical.

Iris Shorts Facing

I used some quilting cotton I had on hand for the facing and pocket lining.

I have had no desire to sew pants for myself in the past, but I’m considering taking the plunge after trying on so many pairs and thinking the only way to a good fit is to make them myself. I am bummed I missed out on Steph’s pants block service that she used to offer. I was in the middle of losing weight when I discovered her business, and by the time I reached goal she had moved on to other ventures. I’m excited about Cake patterns, and hope there’s a pants pattern coming up the pike so we can learn from her pants fitting knowledge!

I bought Kenneth King’s Jeanius course through Craftsy, but now my favorite jeans that I thought I would copy are way too big. I want to trace a pair of well-fitting jeans that don’t have stretch in them so I can reproduce them in corduroy and other fabrics without stretch. I’ll have to dig through some more thrift store piles to find a pair of non-stretch denims. It seems like everything has stretch in it today. Wow, I sound like a cranky old lady: In my day… he he. I’ll keep you posted on that project.

Anyway, since I’m on a Colette roll, I thought I’d try the Iris shorts as a way of dipping my toe into the pants-making waters. It’s a cute and simple pattern. I made the first pair in a solid navy cotton twill. They are comfortable and flattering, even on someone who’s not 20 years old anymore. When I look at these photos, I see wrinkles that might mean something to someone with more pants-fitting expertise, but overall I’m pretty happy with the fit for a first attempt. It’s closer than anything I found in the store, that’s for sure!

I traced from my wider waist size to smaller hip size when tracing off the pattern. I ended up pinching out an inch at the waist and tapering it down to nothing to get a nice fit in the front.

Changes I made:

  • Extended the pocket pieces up to the waistband so they don’t flap around loosely but are anchored at the top.
  • Made the pocket openings 1″ wider.
  • Lengthened the back darts 1/2″
  • Lengthened the legs the tiniest bit: 1/2″

I’m working on a second pair in gingham with the buttons on the pockets. This has definitely boosted my confidence that sewing a pair of trousers that fit could be possible.


Corduroy Beignet

Colette Beignet skirt

Beignet side view

Windy day for a photo shoot

I’ve been excited to make this skirt for a while. It’s another lovely pattern from Colette, and I can see myself getting a lot of wear out of it. I had to draft out some of the curviness to fit my frame. I started by tracing a size 6 at the waist tapering to a 4 at the hips, but ended up having to add more to the waist in the front and sides. I traced an 8 at the waist for all seams except the back and side back seams, which stayed at a 6. The muslin fit really well in that area.

I used an old sad curtain to make a muslin, and while I was walking around in it, my husband confided in me that it really didn’t look good at all. I think he thought he was being helpful in that spouse way, like telling someone you love that they have spinach stuck in their teeth because you don’t want them to suffer embarrassment out in the world. I reassured him that the faded curtain iteration was only the practice piece. Silly guy.

I used this tutorial for turning small loops right side out to turn the long tie belt. However magical, I just couldn’t see the corduroy doing that maneuver on the belt loops so I cut them along a selvedge, folded them in thirds and stitched them closed. I also cut the loops 1/4″ longer to allow for the thicker turn of fabric when attaching to the skirt. Another change I made was to move the pockets up by about an inch. They felt too low on the muslin.

I’m very pleased with this make, and will definitely sew another one. I used a soft pinwale corduroy and I love the color. The contrasting lining, also used for the pocket bags, makes me happy. I purchased it on my last trip to New York while wandering around the garment district.

The funny thing is that although the muslin fit perfectly after altering the waist I had a lot of extra overlap on the final skirt when it came time to sew on the buttons. I’m not sure if I was having a ‘fluffy’ day when I made the muslin, if the corduroy had more give, or if I’ve continued to lose some size around my waist. At any rate, the next version I’ll adjust the waist down a bit again. I don’t want so much overlap of the front band that the buttons aren’t centered. I don’t think it’s that noticeable here, but it would be obvious if I used contrasting buttons.

Beignet lining

Contrasting lining. See how far the buttons ended up being from center front? I think I can take the waist back in on the next version.

Catching Up and a Blank Canvas

Laurel Flannel TopI’ve been knitting throughout the winter. Just a few more scarves/shawlettes to keep myself busy in front of the woodstove. Now that the sky is finally turning blue, my thoughts are turning to sewing again. I never realized how seasonal my activities were.

Colette released its latest pattern last week, Laurel. The ‘shift’ dress is something I remember my grandmother always wearing. Hers were handmade, always with a v-neck, and always with a brooch pinned right at the bottom of that ‘v’.

I love Colette’s patterns, but I’m not as curvy as who they design for. Let’s face it—I’m columnar, blocky, rectangular. Some of those sweet designs call for an hourglass figure to show them off. But a shift—hey, I can rock a shift! It seems like a simple pattern to purchase, but I like supporting indie pattern designers, and this seems to be the perfect blank canvas for playing around with. Colette has a free downloadable booklet with ideas for personalization, and is hosting a contest that is sure to have the creative sewing community popping out great ideas.

Colette Beignet Pattern

Working on the Beignet skirt as well. The tuna cans are my pattern weights.

I love Sarai’s attention to detail, and if you are frustrated with the usual sewing pattern foldout instruction sheets, you would enjoy Colette’s thoughtfully crafted instruction booklets. Inviting, clear instructions, room for notes, and a pocket in the back to hold the pattern pieces. Sarai’s a smart woman!Laurel Flannel

This time I purchased a PDF pattern instead of the booklet. No booklet, but instant gratification. It’s nice that there are options!

I used some gorgeous flannel I’ve had kicking around for a while. I made DH some pjs out of this years ago and still had enough to make a blouse. I used these fabric cutting tips to match up the plaid.

I made a size 8 with a few minor alterations. I shortened the darts in front by 1/2″ and lengthened the sleeves to a cool weather length. The muslin was gaping at the neck in the back, so I did a square shoulder/erect back/short neck adjustment by taking a wedge from center back above the armscye narrowing to nothing at the shoulder seam. Then I trued the seam along center back. I got the idea for the alteration from this post by New Vintage Lady and the lovely images from her vintage sewing books.

I was using the square shoulder adjustment from Fit For Real People, but it wasn’t quite perfect. I think this “move” works a little better for me.

I also added more room to the biceps. I’ve recently lost 20 pounds, but my arms didn’t get the memo.

I used some Kaffe Fassett shot cotton from this summer blouse to make the bias binding. I used Colette’s tutorial on hand sewing the binding. I found it a very relaxing way to finish this up and I had more control over keeping the binding even. I used French seams inside and serge finished the armscye.

It’s a comfortable, flattering top, and I’m looking forward to making my next version. It’s a great stash buster. I think the only tweak I’ll make to the fit of the next one is to narrow the shoulders a bit.

Laurel Alterations

Two Quick Summer Blouses

Out of print New Look 6385 blouse side viewout of print New Look 6385 blouse front

Because that’s all that you have time for in the summer, right? This summer has been flying by, but I managed to eke out a couple of cute blouses. (And a Cambie dress, but that isn’t a complete success due to my seat-of-the-pants experimentation in fitting-land. I’ll get back to try that again later!)

out of print New Look 6385 blouse pattern

The first blouse I finished is an out-of-print pattern, New Look 6385. I made the first iteration of this blouse several years ago, out of a beige striped quilting cotton. I look awful in beige! It was a wearable muslin, and the thing is, I kept wearing it over the years. I clearly loved the blouse even though the color was all wrong for me.

I found this navy dotted swiss in New York at Metro Textiles, buried way in the back. As soon as I saw the color, though, I knew it would be perfect for this blouse. I tried different sleeves this time, did a square shoulder alteration, and lengthened it a scooch. I want to make another with the plain cuffed sleeves in a better color now! I finally retired the beige blouse—yay!

Simplicity 3786 blouseSimplicity 3786 blouse back

The second blouse I made recently is Simplicity 3786. I used a Kaffe Fassett shot cotton in a pretty blue with purple threads in it. I did a square and narrow shoulder alteration, shortened the pattern to squeeze it out of the yardage I had, and a biceps alteration because it looked like the sleeves might be too restricting.

The pattern instructions tell you to sew bias binding for the elastic along the casing line, but the casing line is marked for the other view with the drawstring and goes from seam to seam, even though this view clearly shows only a shorter line of gathering in the back. They don’t tell you how much bias binding to cut, either, which might be another clue. It does tell you to use 4″ of elastic, so I winged it and used 6″ of binding as a good guess. Simplicity 3786 blouse side viewIt brings in the back a little, but there’s generous ease, so I might use a longer length of gathering (6″ of elastic to 10″ of binding?) in the back next time. I sewed a size 14 but ended up tapering in the sides an inch on each side! I’d love to make the version with the long sleeves for fall.

Both of these were quick sews, and I’m so happy I chose colors I look better in. Steph recently wrote an interesting post on color, and it’s definitely something that’s been on my mind. What are MY colors and most importantly, where can I find them in the right fabric to sew up? That is actually the hard part. I’m kind of annoyed with ‘fashion trends’ that dictate the fabric lines each year. I walk into my local fabric store and just sigh when I see the color palette in front of me I have to choose from. Lovely for a painting, maybe, but not next to my face. Knowing what colors I look good in should make it easier to find what I want, but most of the time I find that there are NO shirting or dress fabrics in the colors I want. And I’m not talking anything radical. I’m talking colors like navy or green, jewel tones out of yes, lightweight summer fabrics. I don’t look good in very many pastels or vivids no matter what time of year it is. When I saw this dotted swiss and shot cotton, I bought both immediately only because they were colors I have a hard time finding. Who knows when I’ll see them again? Maybe someday navy will be on trend!

A Sketch Journal: MMM Days 25–31

Wrapping up  Me Made May :

Me Made May Days 25 through 31

One of these things is not like the others…

  1. Vintage McCall’s 5079 – repeat.
  2. Pyjamas – made years ago as casual summer pants out of cotton gauze. Now faded and comfy, they only see the dark of night.
  3. This looks like a chair.
  4. There were two of them.
  5. Wrap skirt McCall’s 5430 – repeat.
  6. Another McCall’s 5430 – this one out of a rayon batik.
  7. Butterick 4461 – embroidered linen from hell.

Day 25: This color makes me happy.
Day 26: Comfy.
Days 27 and 28: My weekend warrior project was to reclaim these two old wooden chairs that were props for my husband’s latest play. I painted the raw wood a bright poppy red. Several coats. It took a long time—look at all those spindles! I could have worn this travesty to paint in, but it was hot, so I didn’t. I kept thinking eventually I’d finish and clean up and put on something cute and me-made, but that never happened. Fail. But look! Two pretty red chairs! I’m thinking they’ll be perfect in the sewing area I have yet to carve out of the house.
Day 29: This skirt just works.
Day 30: Another version of the same skirt. The rayon print is covered with irregular batik polka dots. Very fun.
Day 31: This skirt needs to be retired. I picked up the embroidered linen from the red tag clearance section of JoAnn’s a couple years ago. I prewashed, ironed, and then underlined it, but the fabric has still grown and distorted away from the underlining making it impossible to iron. There is about an inch of play in each direction, and the top layer (linen) is bubbly over the bottom layer (cotton batiste). Time to let go and move on. The pattern is fine for a simple, basic skirt, but the fabric is all wrong.

So there it is—my attempt at Me Made May. Thanks, Zoe, for the inspiration! I had fun trying to meet the challenge. I realized that I enjoy and wear many me-mades on a regular basis, but there are definite gaps in my wardrobe if I want to wear more pieces I’ve made myself. Fitting and fabric selection make a big difference in whether a garment is successful or not and gets worn frequently.

Speaking of which, does anyone have any suggestions for the type of garment embroidered linen is good for or how to work with it? I thought underlining it would have saved the day, but I was just wrong. I have several yards of a dark brown embroidered linen that I fell for, and now I don’t know what to do with it.

A Sketch Journal: MMM Days 16–24 and New Blouse

More  Me Made May :

Me Made May Days 16 through 24

  1. Wrap skirt McCall’s 5430 – made last summer out of blue linen from stash with dark denim waistband and ties.
  2. Vintage McCall’s 5079 – blouse made out of Kaffe Fassett shot cotton – just finished, details below!
  3. New Look 6385 – wearable muslin out of quilting cotton
  4. Colette Sorbetto (free download!) out of an Anna Maria Horner voile
  5. Simplicity 2404 – out of tan striped linen
  6. Simplicity 2404 – again out of a gray polka dot cotton
  7. Yeah, didn’t happen.
  8. Repeat of the Sorbetto!
  9. Repeat of NL 6385

Day 16: This is a great wrap skirt pattern. Inside waistband fastens with button and buttonhole.
Day 17: Love this fabric – so light and airy and the color is wonderful! Details on the pattern below.
Day 18: I’ve been wearing the wearable muslin for many years. I think this pattern is out of print as there’s a new pattern with this number now. The color of this fabric is not flattering on me at all. Time to make another version with the tweaks I want in better fabric.
Day 19: Nice and simple tank.
Day 20: Comfortable dress that always makes me feel great on casual days. It’s linen and wrinkly and simple.
Day 21: Same as above. I probably should’ve made another version of the pattern, but it’s really perfect for hot summer days. The only issue with both of these dresses is bra straps showing. Oy!
Day 22: I think I’m averaging 6 days out of 7 for Me-Made-May. And on the 7th day, she wore jeans and a t-shirt. I’ve had no desire to make either jeans or t-shirts yet. Jeans seem like too much work, and I’m assuming t-shirts will be too expensive and time-consuming for an item I’m so hard on. (I might cave on the t-shirts eventually— we’ll see.)
Day 23: I’m ready for some new variations of this!
Day 24: Wore again so I could assess the fit throughout the day and tweak the pattern for the next iteration.

McCall's 5079 blouse pattern

Oo la la: editor’s choice!

Vintage McCalls 5079

View of McCall's 5079 from the side, sorta

View from the side, sorta, and bonus weird face

McCalls 5079 view C
directing the photographer McCall's 5079 view C from the back

Finished: McCall’s 5079, from 1959. I made view C. I’d like to make the other views too!

After wearing this for a day, I decided to let out 2 of the 4 back tucks. Even though I altered the waist wider I’m not used to wearing clothes that fitted. I think I’ll add more buttonholes to the front of this – I spaced these a bit too far apart. Next version I should make the sleeves wider to accommodate my arms better. I thought the muslin fit fine through the sleeves, but after a day of wearing this, it’s obvious I need a little more room. *sigh* (I am working on tightening up the arms in the gym, but that seems to be a slow process.)

Does anyone know what the frown-y drag lines near the armscye mean? Does the armscye need to be shortened? Or would just a little more width/ease across the chest help? Another fitting question!

They aren’t showing up in the tucked in shots, but I had just tucked and hadn’t moved, so I don’t know how representative they are of a blouse on a moving body. Of course, comfort-wise, I prefer the blouse untucked, which looks sloppier.

I’d like to make another version, but would like to fine-tune the fit a bit first.

Any thoughts appreciated!