Friday, March 30, 2012

Pants Pattern Project - Almost Done!

I’m getting close to the finish line on my pants project. At the beginning of the month, I wanted to develop four properly-fitted patterns. I’ve got two of them finally perfected, one more finished but not photographed, and the final one I think (hope) will go much more quickly.

I first attempted the fitted, narrow-leg pant, starting with B5614. I made adjustments for the round belly and the flat seat. You will recall that the first pair was very baggy and the second pair was a bit too tight. I did get my Goldilocks ending, but only after I took in the sides on the third pair, which somehow was too large again. The fabric was a medium weight stretch twill. It is amazing that the small amount of stretch really makes that much difference in fit. I made a note to myself on the pattern to cut larger or smaller depending on the fabric.

Here are the three pairs, you can see that I also shortened them as I went on.
They all fit well. I took in the black pair quite a lot, I let out what I could in the light blue pair, and the new teal ones are a good fit although not the skin-tight look that you may expect from something like the popular Clover pant. The Clovers look gorgeous in the photos I’ve seen, but I don’t think they’d look quite that smooth and sleek on me. I posted a review of B5614 on PR.

My next style was the wide-leg trouser, which has always been my favorite for both looks and comfort. I started with V8718, took in the back inseam by an inch, and drafted a curved waistband. The first pair, the gray ones, fit fine. I couldn’t quite believe it, so I made a second pair to be sure.

This is a beautiful deep green basketweave cotton from Fabric Mart. I was very brave, and added side seam pockets. They work! And the sides don’t gap open when I'm wearing them!

Both pairs are lined, the gray in Bemberg and the green in very lightweight cotton.

Next time: Self-drafted patterns - jeans and sailor pants!


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's Another Pie!

The April issue of Southern Living finally arrived and we tore through it, looking for the next big thing. My vote was for Strawberry Cream Pie, and the Piemaker wanted to make Strawberry Mousse Cake. Guess who won?

Isn’t it gorgeous? This is a simple no-bake pie with a cream-custard filling in a chocolate cookie crust. The strawberries are just sliced and placed on the top.

The Piemaker added a little bit of genuine Southern flavor by replacing the currant jelly called for in the recipe with some mayhaw jelly from his friends in New Orleans. Mayhaws are berries that grow in swamps in most of the Southern U.S.

VERY good pie: there are not many things in this world better than chocolate, strawberries, and cream!
Do you have any favorite strawberry recipes?

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Notorious 70s

I have stalled a bit on the pants project, because:
a) one of my dogs was sick for a few days (he’s okay now!)
b) my glasses broke (ordering a new pair today, hopefully)
c) the new season of Mad Men started (Zou Bisou Bisou!)

But let's continue with our theme of bifurcated garments, even though I have no new trousers to display, by enjoying some treasures from the pattern collection.

Having sorted through the 40s, 50s and 60s, it's time to dig into the patterns of the 1970s. What springs to mind if you think of 1970s fashion? Probably many things, but polyester is bound to be among them. The most notorious fashion of the time is the polyester pant suit, sometimes referred to scathingly as the "leisure suit."

But the pant suit reached both high and low points during the 70s. Some designer coordinates from that decade are still beautiful (IMO), while other outfits truly deserve our disdain except perhaps as Halloween costumes.

Here is a fitted, belted style which I think looks great:

Apparently the nautical look was popular:
It seems that you could turn any dress or jumper style into a pant suit - just chop it off and add matching pants:
And these? I don’t think you could pull it off today.
I hope to get back to my pants fitting project later this week. Will I reach my goal of four styles by the end of the month? Oh, the suspense!

On another topic, I would like to say Happy Birthday to a very important person. Tomorrow is his 49th birthday! Sending wishes for lots of cake and happy days, Bro.


Friday, March 23, 2012

It’s Nuts Here

Our weather is even stranger than usual. In just one week, we’ve had highs in the 80s, followed by cold winds and a rainstorm, and then one night with the lows hitting the freezing point. Now we’re headed back up to the 80s. I’d already put my sweaters away, then I had to pull a couple back out. Now what – put them back?

What else is nuts?

Pie! The Piemaker was in an experimental mood, and the results were two variations on pecan pie.
On the left is a traditional pecan pie, and on the right, the same recipe with a mixture of pecans and walnuts. I was skeptical about mixing them, but the result is fantastic. Of course we’ve had several taste tests to compare the two. I just don’t think I can pick a favorite.

And, the pants pattern project is a little nuts. I finally gave up on ever finding a sailor-style pant pattern I liked, so I reverse-engineered a pair of RTW with a front panel that I thought I could convert to a buttoned version to mimic the sailor front. The muslin is in progress, but now I see that Burda is coming out with a gorgeous pattern of THE EXACT PANTS I WANT in the April issue of BWOF.


Why couldn’t they have put that out BEFORE I did all that work? I haven’t received my copy yet, so hopefully I’ll have recovered from my fit of frustration by the time it arrives. Also, I expect to have a series of finished pants/slacks/trousers for your viewing pleasure next week.

Hope all is well in your corners of the world. Have a wonderful weekend!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Cute Kitschy Cactus Skirt

I took a break from trousers to stitch up a skirt. When I first saw this fabric several months ago I loved it so I much thought I would have to run out and buy a bunch at full price. It’s a bit of 1960s kitchen combined with a dash of 1970s color, and to top it off, these surreal cacti.
Fortunately I waited, and the price eventually dropped to $3.99/yard. They still have a lot left here, but the price is back to $9 now.

I like this skirt pattern (M5431), which reminds me of the patch-pocket skirts we made in high school home ec class, and it seemed like a fun match for the fabric. I didn’t think about the one-way print when I ordered the fabric, so I didn’t have enough to make the full diameter of the skirt which is slightly more than a half-circle. I ended up just cutting the pieces as far as I could between the two selvedges, and using the contrasting lower band to add a bit more width.

Unable to leave well enough alone, I added a bit of orange trim to up the retro factor even more. I love the fit, the pockets, and the amazing fabric.

Now, back to the pant pattern project!


Monday, March 19, 2012

Garden Update: Better Late Than Never

I finished planting my spring/summer vegetable garden on Saturday, almost a month late. I could have gone to the nursery and bought seedlings to catch up, but I had the seeds already, and I’m not one to spend extra money on basics when I’ve got “good enough” on hand. (Obviously this does not apply to fun items like shoes, books, and fabric – I’m more than willing to spend money on those!)

In spite of the help from these two, I managed to put in five types of squash, two pepper varieties, a couple of herbs, and okra. The okra is the only thing that grows effortlessly here, and it grows so tall and so quickly that I now plant it everywhere to shade the other plants.

The day after I finished the seeding, it started raining, and kept going for almost 24 hours! What a perfect benediction for the seeds.
Soon, though, the season of endless watering and weeding will begin. The only real nuisance weed here is the Bermuda grass, which comes up again and again, sometimes within a day of my pulling it out by the roots. When we moved to this house 14 years ago, the entire yard was covered with green lawns of Bermuda, which had probably been there since the mid-70s. We made several efforts to remove the grass before building the vegetable planters, but Bermuda is persistent. Even when you think you’ve finally got it beat, it always comes back.

I planted around the herbs which were still going strong from last year.

It was exhausting work. This is the scene later that afternoon.

I know we've all had a fairly mild winter this year. Have you started on your spring gardening?


Friday, March 16, 2012

Pants Patterns Part 3

Are you sick of pants yet? I so appreciate everyone's comments and suggestions on the last couple of posts. I’m glad I set aside a whole month to work on this, otherwise I would have lost interest in the whole thing and started something else by now.

Good news, though, I think I’m getting very close to my goal of pants that fit.

First, the tapered pants. Last time we saw the black pair that had a saggy butt and were too large overall. It occurred to me that although the pique has no lycra, it may have a small amount of mechanical stretch simply due to the bumpy texture. That could have contributed to some of the bagginess. Anyway, based on the black pair, I made the following changes to the pattern:
• Cut one size smaller from the hips down
• Dropped the waist 1 inch
• Moved the zipper to center back

Here's the second pair, in a heavy twill with no stretch. These are a teensy bit too small.

Nice fit in front

Looks pretty good from the side, except that side seam is all over the place. It needs at least an inch moved from front to back.

Too much stress on zipper makes it gap open.

I can't believe how helpful it is to look at these photos!

I have the third pair cut and waiting to be stitched. It’s a stretch twill this time, with a fraction of an inch added to the side seams. I’m hoping for a Goldilocks ending: this pair will be juuuuuust right.

In the meantime, I’ve also been working on the wide-leg trousers.

Vogue 8718 line drawing

They don't look super-wide, but the bottom width is almost 30". That's pretty big.

The first muslin, out of actual muslin, had my improvised belly bubble, and they fit well enough to move on to heavier fabric. I also tried on several of my RTW trousers and noted that the excess fabric on the back of the legs could be adjusted by pinching the inseam, pulling the back forward. I decided to try it with the pattern, and made this change to it for my first wearable muslin.

This change removes almost an inch from the crotch seam and narrows the back of the pants just below the butt.

I drafted a completely new waistband.

I think someone at Vogue was having a bad day when they designed the pants for 8718. Or, maybe the band is meant to go up on the actual waist, not the low waist. In any case, the curved band works much better for me.

They’re not quite finished and I had to pin the back for photos, but I think they are nearly perfect.

This is a medium-weight "linen-look" poly-rayon suiting. (Now I'm very glad I collected so many miscellaneous pieces of fabric on my thrifting trips.)

Front looks good except for bumpy darts.

Side fits nicely.

(Uh-oh, another gapping zipper?) The back now has vertical folds but no horizontal folds of excess fabric. It would be funny if I actually adjusted it too far and had to add some back!

I am pleased with my progress so far: the month is half over and I have two patterns very nearly refined into potential TNTs. I just need to keep my momentum going so I can have a few more styles to choose from.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and a Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pants Patterns Part 2

I have the first pair of completed pants with my adjusted pattern, and I am perplexed. Even with all the changes I made, the fit appears to be no better and no worse than any pair of RTW in my closet.

This is the pattern, B5614:

I made the full belly adjustment mentioned last week. After reading a few more fit guides, I decided on a fisheye adjustment for the back. The explanation is here. Due to my recent experience, I won’t post a picture of it, but the site is worth a visit.

This is what my pattern looked like after the adjustment: The overlapped areas are supposed to adjust for the fish eye (called that because the amount of material removed is slightly eye-shaped).

I apologize for the awful photo quality of the finished pants. I actually thought it would be better if I used the computer cam, but obviously these are much worse than my usual point and shoot. But I think we can at least see the general outlines from these photos.

Front: It looks like I needed more than the little ½ inch wedge adjustment I made for the full belly. According to most guides, vertical folds “point to fullness”, meaning the fullest part of the body.

Side: Oddly, the front looks like a good fit from this angle, but the back looks much too big. The excess fabric under my flat seat puffs out since it has nowhere to go.

Back: This is the source of my perplexity: the folds of excess fabric are in the exact location of my fisheye adjustment. Did I not remove enough of the pattern in this area, or was it the wrong alteration altogether?

Summary: I’m not disgusted with the pants, as they are a beautiful, comfortable cotton pique, and the fit isn’t any worse than I’m used to. So I will get some wear from them when I’m not using them as a study piece for the next set of adjustments.

What’s next? I think the pattern is slightly too large from the hips down, so I will shave it down one size in the legs, and increase both the belly and seat adjustments. If that doesn’t help I will at least know I’m moving in the wrong direction, and I’ll have to go back to the drawing board.

Any suggestions?


Monday, March 12, 2012

Consulting the Croquis

My croquis took form one night when I didn’t feel like sleeping. Hello, miniature Katrina!

Boiling it down to a few lines really helps. The fact that the legs comprise half the figure's height accounts for my life-long struggle to find RTW pants that are long enough.

More importantly, the croquis’ waist is slowly being swallowed up by the rising hip and the sinking bust which are so common among ladies of a certain age.
Compared to the figure illustration in Vogue Pattern Magazine (not a real fit model, I hope, but helpful for illustration purposes), we can see that there are going to be some adjustments required in the chest/bust, the waist, the hip, and pretty much all points between. If I’d remembered to give the croquis a mouth, she would ask for a better-fitting bra, which might counteract the droop and make the waist slightly more visible.

In any case, my little figure has already been a great help in wardrobe planning. She says NO! to high-waisted pants. Here's why:

Remember this incredibly cute pants pattern? I love it!

Here is the line drawing:

Here is the line drawing on the croquis:
Oh, dear. Not good, unless I add underwires and cups to the top of the waistband and call it a jumpsuit.

It’s disappointing that I can’t wear this exact style, but what a relief that I didn’t put in hours of effort to make pants that would look bad.

This style of lower-waisted, wide leg trouser, on the other hand, works well with the figure’s short waist and slight pear shape (as long as she balances it on the top).

To my surprise, my little creation turned out to be well worth the effort. I recommend making yourself a croquis if, like me, you have trouble deciding on styles or visualizing what something will look like on you. (Or if you just want to try things on virtually. It's fun!)

For very good instructions on making a croquis from a photo, go to LladyBird(GIMPshop) or oonaballoona (Photoshop - see comments section). I have trouble following instructions, so I sort of winged it and ended up with the uneven lines, but I know others have made much neater (and more stylish!) versions of themselves.

Have fun!


Friday, March 9, 2012

Federal Crimes

This is so exciting! I’ve been accused of violating Federal law, and I feel like an international fugitive. Jason Bourne, here I come!

Have you ever heard of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act? I had, but I assumed that it was related to copying movies and downloading music and such.

Last Thursday, I received an email with the following subject line: “Blogger blog takedown notification”. With that odd wording, I initially thought it was a phishing attempt, but I ventured to open it anyway. Blogger wouldn’t really take down my blog, would they? Turns out it was sort of, but not quite, what it said: a notification from Blogger that they had taken down one of my posts. The email stated that they’d been notified that “certain content in your blog is alleged to infringe upon the copyrights of others,” and indicated the specific post in question.

The email offered a website where I could go to find the actual complaint, but as of today, more than a week after the email, this particular complaint still has not shown up on the site. Fortunately, the post in question – December 9, 2011 – only contained one photo, so it was easy to figure out where the complaint came from. I’d posted a picture of a German bread, with a prominent link to the source. You can go here to see the post if you are interested. I don’t think anyone much cares what I said 3 months ago, but for the sake of continuity I deleted the image and republished the post.

I went back to the source to look for use restrictions, and realized that the site is in German. Aha! I would not have gone to all the effort of trying to read the whole thing just for a simple photo. My mistake. After translating and paging through the volumes of legal language, I now understand that this particular site does not allow ANY use of their images under ANY circumstances EVER. “Not even for a fee,” it says!

So, I think this means I not only violated a US law, but possibly some German or EU law as well. This gets better and better! The CIA is probably vying with Interpol to get my phones tapped, right now.

But going back to the email from Blogger (really Google): why did they take the liberty of reverting my post to Draft status, rather than waiting for me to respond to the notification? Because the DMCA allows online service providers to attain “safe harbor” from litigation by blocking access to or removing the material in question. I can understand Google’s position – if the copyright owner were to sue for infringement, would they be more likely to sue me, a penniless individual, or Google with its deep pockets?

DMCA is one of those laws that seems great at first glance. On the positive side, if I posted original art or writing on my blog, and someone copied it and used it without crediting me, I would very much like to file a complaint against them and make them stop. The artists and designers whose blogs I read frequently mention that others have stolen their work or made unauthorized use of it, and I support them in trying to prevent that. In the future, I will not simply assume that images are just sitting there waiting for me to use as I wish, Instead, I'll review the terms of use on each site.

On the negative side of DMCA, however, there are no police, judge, or jury over this process of complaint and takedown. Anyone can file an infringement claim against any individual or company, and force them to either remove the content or go through miles of red tape to file a counter-claim. This creates the potential for people to file nuisance claims, and it’s likely that this is already happening. This could have a significant negative impact on individuals and small businesses.

My explanation here is short and oversimplified, but what are your thoughts on having Google or other service providers removing content from people’s blogs? Have you received any violation notices, and if so, how did you respond?


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pants Patterns Part 1

My first step on the pants project was to learn how to adjust a standard sewing pattern to fit a non-standard body. I am fairly familiar with the idiosyncrasies of my figure, and didn’t need help to realize that I have a protruding belly and a flat butt. But I definitely needed help translating that to fit. Simply measuring the pattern and comparing it to my own measurements just told me that a garment in my size would cover the proper areas. It did not tell me whether the front would pull, the back would droop, or the inseam would twist around my legs.

This is where the fitting guides come in handy. There is an abundance of fitting guidance out there, in books, videos, websites, and classes, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the information. I tried to limit myself to two main sources, which I chose simply because they were the first two that seemed to offer a comprehensive approach to all possible adjustments.

One source was the Collette Patterns Pants Fitting Cheatsheet, which you may be familiar with. It is a long list of pant-fitting symptoms, the associated body shape, and the necessary adjustment. It’s extremely helpful in narrowing down the cause of odd wrinkles, bagginess, and crooked lines. Each adjustment is illustrated with a diagram. The only thing missing from this checklist is photos of the fit problems, which would be helpful in the case of something like “excess fabric pooling under butt”, which could be due to a swayfront, a low butt, or a flat butt.

My other source was a book I picked up at Goodwill some time ago: Sewing Pants That Fit, from the Singer Sewing Reference Library.
Still available here
I like this book because it has a big color photo of pants with each different fit problem, and the corrective pattern adjustment on the page right next to it. The directions are very simple and listed step by step. My one reservation about the book is it’s a 1989 edition, and the high-waist, pleat-front pant that is used to illustrate the majority of the book is not applicable to today’s styles.

Between Collette and Singer, I gathered that for the full belly, I would want to slash the pant front horizontally approximately 3 inches down from the waist. Then the slash is split apart to create a wedge and the seamline is redrawn.
This is a simple straight cut according to Singer, while Colleterie suggests a three-part slash and spread (see below).

I used the Singer approach on the narrow-leg pants muslin, adding a small wedge to cover the belly fullness. This seemed to work, although I also ended up adding front darts to the pattern to take up a bit more of the waist-to-belly difference.

On the wide-leg pants, it occurred to me that instead of wedging the waist up, I could try bumping the center front out.
Doesn’t the Collette procedure look as though it has the same result as drawing a curve around the belly?
This may not be the correct thing to do, maybe something to do with grainline at center front, but it made sense at the time. I drew the round belly shape on the new pattern, and sewed around it just like the rounded seams at the hip. The muslin pant front seems to fit fine.

Now, I need to do a bit of experimenting with the “flat seat” adjustment. My first muslins did not have any adjustment in the back, and they fit okay, at least initially. With ready-to-wear pants, I find that they fit well when I put them on and then after several hours of sitting the seat stretches out and bags down at the tops of my thighs. I don’t know whether this is a fit problem, or I just have too many pants made from weak, non-recovering fabric. I do think I will try at least two types of seat adjustment, and compare the results.

A couple of things I found that really helped the fitting:
• I inserted real zippers, rather than just pinning the seam closed for fitting.
• I sewed on the waistband to stabilize the top edges of darts and seams.
• I wore bike shorts when fitting the muslins on myself. This helped to prevent additional bulges that are created by underwear elastic.

After I get an acceptable fit in the muslin, I’ll try both patterns in inexpensive pant-weight fabrics, to double check that the fit still works.



Monday, March 5, 2012

Garden Goodness

March is gardening month here, and it’s usually the last time we Phoenicians can comfortably work outside until late October. So, although I’ve committed to muslining (is it a word?) my pants patterns, I also should get a few outdoor tasks done while I can.

I’m already late for the winter-to-summer vegetable garden transition. Most summer vegetables need to be seeded before the end of February so they have time to mature and set fruit before the over-100 degree heat arrives in May. Tomatoes in particular will flower profusely in the heat but not set a single fruit.

last year's tomatoes, right before summer

Fortunately, I’ve decided to omit the tomatoes from the garden menu this year, and do a little crop rotation with peppers and squash.

a great seed company with all desert-adapted varieties

I’ll put the squash seeds into last year’s tomato beds, and plant the peppers where I’ve just pulled the winter beans and peas out.

these pepper varieties have grown for me in the past

There are some survivors from the winter garden. I am still coaxing a few leaves of lettuce, harvesting loads of parsley, and trying to keep the cilantro shaded to postpone the inevitable bolt. And, the carrots are coming on strong! If any of you have tried growing carrots, you probably know that patience is absolutely crucial. Even though the seed packets usually estimate 60 days to harvest, I find it is more than twice that.

These were harvested at 140 days!

Wish me luck with the vegetables, although we are at the mercy of the weather, so... wish me luck with the weather!