First foray into jean sewing

So, as I mentioned yesterday I’ve been trying to make some jeans. Because I am a practical kind of gal and jeans are what I want to wear a lot of the time. And yet I really struggle to find ones that fit (camel toe and general not enough space in crotch, too low waisted, big gapes in my middle back). So, despite being really put off by the thought of many muslins, with the help of my new online sewing friends I’m giving it a go.

Here are some thoughts on my experiences of the jeans style pattern from Ottobre. This is not a sew-a-long because, trust me, I do not know what I’m doing!

  • Choosing a pattern – I considered the Closet Case Patterns Ginger Jeans because it is everywhere in my blogfeed at the moment, but went with the Ottobre ones in the end because I had the magazine already and hadn’t made a single thing from it. Plus I’m not really into skinny fit jeans and tracing a pattern is marginally better than fighting a pdf in my book. Oh yeah, and the Ottobre ones have a wider range of sizes, there’s a different set of pattern pieces for the larger “curvy fit” jeans, with the same set of instructions as the smaller “Lady fit” ones.
  • How to fit? cos, err, you know muslins (or toiles as my mum would say) and stretch fabric, of which I had none. I was eyeing up this purple stretch denim (more tasteful than it sounds, a dark shade) in a local shop, but had told myself I had to finish the pink wool Junipers before I bought it. But then when I went back it was gone, horror. So I found some black denim instead that is brown on the back (brown warp threads?) – making it a nice subtle shade. Then it turned out they did still have the purple, he’d put the last 2m on one side after a customer had complained it had a mark running down the fold line. So I bought both. And decided, the black are going to be a wearable muslin, the purple the real deal, hopefully. Both are quite lightweight but doable as trosuer fabric.
  • The dreaded seam allowance cos, you know, Ottobre patterns don’t come with seam allowance. So as well as tracing from this

    cue concentrating face

    (onto my greaseproof paper, cos all I can get locally are tiny packs of tracing paper that last half a garment), you have to add seam allowance. They suggest 1cm. I had decided to go with 1″ so I had room for some fitting. Now, I saw a top tip recently to tape two pens together then you can trace the seamline and seamallowance at the same time. I tried it with my two fabric pens and got a perfect 1cm seam allowance. So I rigged up something to increase that.

    my model of the space shuttle

    my model of the space shuttle

  • think thrice before doing clever things like using different seam allowances for different pieces. Yes, the back pockets don’t need 1″ seam allowance just in case you want to adjust how the fronts and backs are joined, so you can get away with 1cm there. But honestly how did you forget that the yokes join to the backs so really should have the same seam allowance. And the hip pockets. Sigh.
  • Pay attention Pocket bags are designed to be cut from a different fabric. Like it says. Read the instructions. Sigh. (more on how I’d do the pockets in hindsight another time)
  • Consider adding in notches Now, I struggle to see notches on the Ottobre patterns as they’re marked as a line at right angles to the seam line on the inside of the pattern piece. I didn’t find any on this pattern. Nothing. However I wouldn’t put money on them not being there. In general this wasn’t a problem, everything lined up. But the yokes. I’m really struggling to get them the right way up. Next time I will add a notch to the top of the backs and the bottom of the yokes and save myself head scratching and multiple unpickings.
  • Pattern lay out There isn’t one given. Which threw me. I’m not sure why, as I normally ignore the pattern lay out and do my own thing. But hey. I only had 2m of this denim, the pattern called for 2.2m. Plus I’d increased the seam allowance. I made it, just. But if my fabric had nap, I wouldn’t have made it as the fronts and backs lay in opposite directions. And the waistband (which I haven’t cut yet) will need to be four pieces, not 2. Either that or cut with the grain, rather than across it as directed. And I decreased my seam allowance at the bottom of the legs to fit things on, cos I’m fairly confident there won’t be fitting issues there.
    creative seam allowance

    creative seam allowance

    Right then, that’s everything traced and cut. Next up, the first bits of sewing.

  • Trouser-A-Long

    None of my peers sew, which means it could be a quite lonely hobby, but of course it isn’t. Apart from the friendly staff at my local fabric shop who are always happy to discuss fabric and projects, there is the marvelous online sewing community. Sure, sometimes it can feel a bit cliquey, but I’d still be sewing rectangles if it wasn’t for all the inspiration, tutorials, tips and encouragement out there.

    Recently I joined the Sew-A-Longs & Sewing Contests facebook group, which is “a place to find the latest (as well as the past) sew a longs! Discuss, show off your marvelous work, rate them! Whether they be garments for any age, bags and purses, quilting related or home decor”. My sewing fairy godmother is also a member and we were planning on following Lladybirds Thurlow Sew-a-long together (I bought the pattern last month when said Fairy Godmother pointed out that Sewaholic had a sale on. Bad Fairy Godmother). A couple of other people wanted to join in with other but had other patterns, so it broadened out to a trouser-a-long. We’ve been supporting each other with the intimidating process that is fitting trousers, a kind of online self help group. We’ve been discussing muslins and processes on the facebook page and have set up a flickr group so that we can post photo’s of our rear ends and practise reading wrinkles and diagnosing adjustments. If you’re interested head on over to the facebook page to join in – you have to request to join but it’s a painless process.

    Along the way I got sidetracked (ok, confession time, I kept failing to buy printer paper to print out the Thurlow pattern) and I’ve actually started making the curvy fit trousers from Ottobre 2012/5 (no 10 on the alldesigns pdf). They’re designed for stretch cordroy/denim. Expect more posts on them soon, because I couldn’t find any on the blogosphere (please let me know if you come across any). In general I find their magazines great value and I love the size range of the models, but the instructions are rather minimal, so I thought I’d share my mistakes as if it helps just one person it’ll be worth it!

    Have you got any top tips to make the most of the wealth of information that is the online sewing community?

    Pink Trouser details

    I have been a bit trouser obsessed of late. Trouser making obsessed. First I made my amazing stripey junipers. Which I love. I wear them a lot, but even if I could I wouldn’t want to wear them all the time as they’re very wide and stripey so I can’t cycle in them and I can’t wear half my t shirts with them (the horizontal striped top half with vertical striped bottom half look isn’t one I want to adopt).

    So, high of my first success I wanted to dive into more trouser making. I gave myself an £80 budget guilt free (the cost of the cancelled trouser making course that was refunded).

    I decided to start up with remaking the junipers as the first pair were successful. I used the adjusted pattern pieces from last time, with the redrawn crotch curve at the front and 4″ taken off the length (still leaving me 2″ to hem them). The width of this pattern gives them very definite style and I knew I wouldn’t want more than 2 pairs, so I wanted the second pair to be in a quite different fabric. As soon as I’d thought that some fabric I’d spied locally popped in my head, and suspected wool mix (labeless fabric) pale pink with subtle flecks of colour it was. Which is odd, as that’s not normally my thing. Hubby was surprised.


    Smartening up my finishes

    As I had bought two colours of bias binding to choose from for the baby kimono I decided to take inspiration from my fairy sewing godmother and use the unused green binding to finish the pocket bags. I was very impressed, it looked very neat. I used some left over blue to finish the fly off too. This, combined with my knowledge I could flat fell both inseam and outseam on the junipers due to their width (do the outseam first) should’ve left me with gorgeous interiors. Except I’d not taken into account the itchiness of the fabric and ended up bodging together a lining and badly hand stitching it in. So all my beautiful binding is now hidden. Oh well.


    My pocket bags lined up this time!

    I managed to attach the pocket bags the right way round this time and they lined up perfectly. Hooray.


    Ugly triangular “holes”

    So I was surprised that I again had the problem with the pocket facing not lining up with the main front trouser piece – spot the triangular gaps where it should line up at the top and side? This happened last time and I assumed it was some mistake due to me fudging trying to match up the stripes. I have no idea why this happened as the notches where the pocket bag meets the facing lined up and the pocket bags lined up perfectly, so I can’t work out what I did wrong. The most likely explanation would seem to be an error on my part, but I also wonder if it is a drafting error. Both times I’ve made a size 18, the largest size. Any thoughts anyone?

    There is a slight dip in the line of my waistband to make sure I caught all the fabric there.

    Other than that they made up just fine. I swapped the zip opening around to the other side successfully, I prefer them opening on the right. I did the waistband properly this time, well, aside from not reading the instruction about shortening the facing on the opposite side to the main waistband (as they need to be mirror images of each other), so I had to patch a piece back on.

    I’m not convinced by the overlap on the waistband. It seems overly long. Oh well. I guess it’s a style thing.

    Anyway, one second pair of Junipers done. They’re not quite as nice as my first pair, but they are a bit smarter and the wool makes them semi waterproof and the lining means they’ll do in the winter nicely.

    Now to get around to taking the machine basting out and to hem them properly by hand instead, they’ll look better for it.

    Does anyone else wear things before they’ve actually finished them? (This pair had a safety pin for a few wears until I got around to sewing a popper (snap) on them).

    Preposterous Pink Pantaloons

    I made some more Juniper's, in a suspected wool mix fabric (no label). I'd like to tell you more about them but WordPress is being wierd and not letting me add any text*. At all. I do like them, despite my facial expression here,  the scowling is actually due to sunlight.

    I made some more Juniper’s, in a suspected wool mix fabric (no label). I’d like to tell you more about them but WordPress is being wierd and not letting me add any text*. At all. I do like them, despite my facial expression here, the scowling is actually due to sunlight.

    Improvised lining due to bad fabric choice proving itchy

    Improvised lining due to bad fabric choice proving itchy

    I rediscovered this shirt when trying to work out what to wear with them

    I rediscovered this shirt when trying to work out what to wear with them

    Alledegdly this is a photo of my trousers, but that cape rather steels the show

    Alledegly this is a photo of my trousers, but that cape rather steels the show

    Back view, I'm thinking they could be a better fit

    Back view, I’m thinking they could be a better fit

    Hmm, must remember not to stand like this when wearing them, quite unflattering

    Hmm, must remember not to stand like this when wearing them, quite unflattering

    *I have now fixed my editor, which just needed enlarging, but I’m leaving this post like this cos I kind of like it (apart from swapping the order round to make more sense). I might blog some more details soon, as I had a couple of issues with these, but then again I quite like the minimal post look.

    Rectangle to dress (a guest post by The Boy)

    fabric before I started.

    fabric before I started.

    Sister’s birthday coming up, I thought I could make her a dress so I mentioned it to mum.We looked in her stash & found some fabric I thought she would like (above).

    measuring the skirt.

    measuring the skirt.

    OK, so I’ve chosen the fabric. Now it’s onto the measuring. Not too hard. (Apart from annoying little sister trying to find out what we’re making her for her birthday).

    Cutting out (there are probably a few pins in the fairy eyes as well)

    Cutting out (there are probably a few pins in the fairy eyes as well)

    Chosen fabric, measured it out, next it’s cutting out the pieces = not so easy, she’s still there.

    The space between the eyes of the fairy is a nice distance for pinning.

    The space between the eyes of the fairy is a nice distance for pinning.

    After all that, it’s time for pinning so I can sew it together. As you can see I’ve been pinning the fairy eyes = very fun.

    Sewing the seam.

    Sewing the seam.

    Seams sewing and more sewing. I did a French seam on the side seam of the skirt. I put gathers at the top.

    a thimble for a pocket (I'm actually turning the pocket).

    a thimble for a pocket (I’m actually turning the pocket).

    I sewed my first pocket (I made 2 later on too) using the tactic I made to make my blanket. Then I sewed ribbon across the top. (I’m also wearing a t shirt mum made.)

    OK, I'm the Molly.

    OK, I’m the Molly.

    The dress is at a stage where I can’t quite give it to sister.

    Although at first look it looks finished enough so who do you think I am?

    You guessed it, the Molly.

    OK a new invention on the pocket!

    OK a new invention on the

    Done the important parts, and the sister will complain if not pockets.

    Now it’s on to the last two pockets and decoration. I wanted to have a curved pocket but mum said it would be to difficult… so I designed my own using the idea that if you cut out a straight bit on the corner of the rectangle it is slightly curved.

    Finished the dress, sister's wearing it, doesn't it look good.

    Finished the dress, sister’s wearing it, doesn’t it look good.

    I’ve sewn some ribbon onto the bottom of the dress. Finished it without help the day before sisters birthday.

    I am very proud of the neat stitching and sister likes it too.

    Anna inspired cape

    Hi there, how’re you doing? I hope the sewing gods have been keeping your bobbins full and lining up your pdf’s for you.

    This week I have (probably unrealistic) plans for 3 woolly things with linings. This is the second started and the first finished. As The Boy decided to make his sister a dress for his birthday (blog post coming soon, well, as soon as he finishes it), I ditched my original idea of making her a dress (I didn’t want the competition!). Instead I decided to use the Oliver and S Forest Path cape pattern

    Princess Anna is Elsa 's younger sister, Dez's Cousin and the main ...

    to make an everyday wear cape that was inspired by Princess Anna (from Frozen of course)

    Any resemblance?  (excuse the photobomb)

    Any resemblance? (excuse the photobomb)

    I couldn’t find the fabric I wanted locally, so after a lot of dithering I bought some wool suiting online. Turned out I did too much dithering before purchasing, as it only got here the day before her birthday. Having given up on it getting here in time, I then rushed out to gather the other supplies needed and planned an evenings sewing to get it finished in time. Only to end up falling into a deep sleep before the kids bedtime due to unexpectedly having to take medicinal antihistamine (note to self, don’t believe the manufacturer when they say they’ve listed all the potential allergen ingredients in bold, read the non bold items too, just in case). Probably a blessing in disguise as there’s less pressure to rush when you start a project after the deadline.

    The fabric is from Remnant Kings and is described as “Colourful cerise lightweight coating wool. Ideal for a light summer coat or suit … 30% Wool, 70% polyester … Dry Clean Only”. It was more than I normally spend on fabric, but I only needed a metre and I’m really happy with how the end garment looks. Note to self, sewing with decent fabric has the potential to make your creations look more professional. However, the fabric doesn’t seem so very different from the cerise boiled wool available locally at half the price. I’m not sure how different as having initially dismissed the boiled wool, I’m loathe examine it in more detail only to discover it’s the same stuff. Oh well, like I said, I only bought a metre.

    side view

    side view

    I also washed it on a wool cycle in the machine. Despite it being dry clean only. I was using Lladybirds theory of treat it how you want to treat the garment before you start. It seems to have survived fine although it stank of germaline when wet, presumably something they’ve treated it with.

    Attatching the bobbles

    Attatching the bobbles

    I put bobbles on to mimic Anna’s cloak. I nearly didn’t, because they are so twee, but I knew my daughter would love them. They were the end of the roll and not quite enough, I thought I got some matching ones at another shop, also the end of a roll (hmm, local shortage of pink bobbles suggests that I am not the only person to be making something like this), but when I got them home they were bigger and orangier and clearly didn’t match. However, this lot went from the centre back to the curve at the front, so I decided that looked intentional. I attached the ribbon in my seam allowance, bobbles facing inwards, before sewing the main cape and lining together, like you do with piping. It went ok, but then when I clipped my curves I must’ve clipped the tape because one bobble each side under the arm had a snipped through thread and fell off, so I had to reattach them by hand. Other than that they went well.

    Nearly there

    Nearly there

    The lining isn’t “proper” lining fabric, but a heavier fabric that colour matched better, possibly polyester satin, but I’m guessing here. My fabric knowledge is pretty low and the shops I use often have no labels on their fabrics. Anyway, it wasn’t as bad to work with as I feared and has added some weight to the lightweight wool which I think works well. I was good and tacked it in place before pressing it. My old sewing teacher would’ve been proud.

    Mandarin collar

    Mandarin collar

    I used this tutorial to draft a mandarin collar. I figured I could always remove it if it didn’t work, but I’m really pleased with it. It’s 2cm high rather than 1″ as suggested, to scale it down a little (and because I had metric graph paper to hand 😉 ) and I changed the height by .5cm rather than 1/2″, but other than that I followed the tutorial exactly and it was remarkably easy. I didn’t bring the collar all the way to the front due to the overlap and I curved the end down. I also stitched some “stuff” on to make it look more fancy (no idea what to call this, not normally by cup of tea). I like how it came out. I was planning to put more “stuff” around the edge of the cape but the Girl vetoed it and I think she was probably right. Sometimes less is more. So now I have several metres of this “stuff” leftover and something similar yet different I bought in green (silly me, shopping without fabric samples so I bought both).

    understitching on collar and hanging loop in action

    understitching on collar and hanging loop in action

    The only other change I made to the pattern was to add a hanging loop to the facing, because why wouldn’t you?



    The buttons are just perfect, large, dark wood with a snowflake design painted on. I was so pleased to find those. (Yet I failed to get a decent close up of them sorry). I sewed them on with some vintage button thread I inherited.

    Moon spotting

    Moon spotting

    I’m really pleased with this make, it’s come out better than I’d imagined and looks really smart, like something that you’d find in a trendy kids clothes boutique (with associated price tag). As we’re coming up to spring here I’m hoping it will get a lot of wear and will take less persuading for her to put on (she doesn’t like layers, but I’m hoping the Anna factor will win her over, combined with the fact that its not fitted in the arms, a coat over jumper is a major uncomfortable issue with that girl!). I’m not likely to make this pattern again in a hurry (I don’t think she needs more than one cape) but if I had a timemachine the only thing I might change is to add a pocket. I realised at the end this doesn’t have one. I think you could get away with a welt breast pocket on the lining.

    I think she likes it!

    I think she likes it!

    The pattern is a super easy make and comes together quickly. The instructions are good and cover things like gathering the seam allowance of the curves before bagging it out to help the lining lay flat – I would never have thought of that. And, with a few minor tweaks, I reckon it makes a good practical every day dressing up item too.

    What’s your favourite every day dress up make?