Thursday, 7 June 2018

SIMPLICITY 1069 CULOTTES / you look radiant!

Hello! Back again! This time with a garment that scores such high compliment ratings, I recommend you all go and make one forthwith!

The item in question is a pair of cropped-length culottes, sewn from view B of Simplicity 1069. I can't remember where I first came across this pattern, but it was love at first sight: the shapes in the pictures caught my eye, and then I realised it was a multi-garment pattern consisting of both culottes and wrap skirts, and was immediately smitten. Two items at once so similar and so different, both of which I'd been wanting to make for a very long while - whenever it was, this pattern hit me at just the right time, as I had neither thing in either my wardrobe or my pattern library. I had to have it!

And then of course I didn't actually do anything with it for over a year. (In fact, it might even have been two).

When I did finally open the pattern envelope, I discovered that the first page of the instructions was missing, so I didn't have any of the diagrams or general info, just the text - in Spanish. Fortunately I've sewn enough pairs of trousers to not need a great deal of info, and just googled the relevant vocab to check which way to press the pleats and suchlike. Also of great help is that there are only 4 pattern pieces: front, back, and front+back facings. It was traced and cut in no time!

Cutting was a pain, though. As you can hopefully tell from this marvellous pose, my fabric is a lovely drapy crepe (probably a polyester-rayon mix: inexpensive but prone to creasing) which shifted all over the place during the making process. But thanks to the minimal pattern pieces, it was manageable - and upon completion I forgave it instantly anwyay, because let me tell you: THIS FABRIC IS LUSH. It hangs beautifully without clinging anywhere, just swishes around in a cool and luxurious manner - these culottes are an absolute delight to wear, and I would probably do so whether they were flattering or not.

However, it seems they really are! I wore this exact outfit to work yesterday and had two people tell me how fab my trousers were, three people telling me I looked "radiant" (!!) and, one, well ok it was more of a backhanded compliment, but I'll take it: "Jo! You look great! Different somehow... really quite... chic!"  Er, thanks? Yes probably quite different from usual, indeed.

Personally, I think it's all down to that shape that grabbed me in the first place. These trousers are wide and pleated and culotte-ish in perfect balance. There is no bulk where it's not needed, but just the right amount of fabric to skim down from the waist into those deliciously wide (but not too wide!) legs. I mean, look at those lovely pleats:

And the back view is not bad either. Having learned from previous trouser-sewing experiments, I carried out a flat seat adjustment on these, which I think makes a good deal of difference - if there was too much more fabric there, the back legs wouldn't drape nearly as nicely. Small things, but important! The method I used was from this book, which I find absolutely invaluable. Often the methods it describes are different - and frequently simpler - than most tutorials online, and in fact I wanted to link to a version of how I did it for this post, but couldn't find one. So, if there's any interest in a quick tutorial for an easy flat bum adjustment, let me know and I'll post it :-)

The main thing to note about the fit of this pattern is that, as we have come to expect from the Big 4 pattern companies, it comes up large where it should be more fitted. I chose my size based on my waist and hip measurements, and it's not far off being just right - but the pattern does explicitly state that:
  1. the culottes are designed to sit 1" above the natural waist, and;
  2. the finished waist measurement has 1" ease above the actual body measurement.

But as one can clearly see here, these neither reach my natural waist, let alone 1" higher, because there is a lot more than 1" ease.

These didn't turn out a lot too big, but big enough to not be wearable, because they just wouldn't stay put. Time for some ninja fixing skills. While I had been quite looking forward to wearing proper trousers with a zip for once (y'know, like a grown-up), resorting to elastic AS USUAL was the obvious remedy. (I realise now that I haven't blogged all the trousers I usually wear, but yes, elastic waists everywhere).

So, I made an elastic casing by topstitching the trousers to the facing at 2cm below the waistline, leaving gaps of +/- 3cm either side of the centre-back zip. I then fed my elastic through and secured it to the zip seam allowance on either side to hold it in place, stitched the gaps closed, and that was it. Waist brought in nicely! And I actually think the resulting trousers are better this way than if they had fit properly to begin with - they're certainly more comfortable, but because the elastic is only a few cm longer than the waistband itself, there's no bunching or gathering - they still hang as smoothly as if they were properly, more closely fitted. WIN!

Yes, I like them very much.

Not that you can tell from my facial expressions, but we've already established that I'm giving up on those.

These pictures are just me swishing and swooshing my culottes around, hoping you can tell how fab they are.

Make no mistake: these culottes are fab. Go sew yourselves some, you radiant people!


Saturday, 2 June 2018

MORGAN JEANS + GRECO TEE / plain and simple

OK so having gone on about how great the iphone camera is, I'm not sure what happened to make these pics come out all grainy - but I'm not re-doing them! And actually, I think that's entirely appropriate to the makes themselves: low-key, laid-back - basically, clothes for lazy days off.  In keeping with the whole theme, here you also have me posing without even having blow dried or tied up my hair*.  Today we are doing the very casualest possible, thank you very much!

* and, it turned out, with the onset of my very first migraine. Ugh.

So let's start wth the jeans, shall we? These are a pair of Morgan jeans that I made two years ago. At the time, this was a big deal - they were the first pair of jeans I had ever made, in fact the first pair of trousers that weren't stretchy Hudson pants (I think). So there was quite a bit of nervousness about the both the fitting and the sewing processes being more involved than I was used to.

(By the way: yes, still struggling to coordinate photo-taking posture with photo-appropriate face. No longer struggling with whether to care, I shall just post them anyway.  You'll be able tell when I've lost all remaining self consciousness, when I stop even mentioning it...)

Of course by now you've probably read approx 1 zillion blog posts about the greatness of  Closet Case patterns' jeans-sewing instructions, and yes, I was pleasantly surprised to find that sewing jeans wasn't/isn't difficult (even allowing for sewing machine uncooperativeness when it comes to buttonholes). As many others before me have found, it was even rather enjoyable, especially because at the end one has MADE ONE'S OWN JEANS!! So as far as the sewing process was concerned, no problem.

On the fit, however, I stumbled slightly. I wasn't so lazy as to avoid making a muslin, but I was lazy enough to not bother attaching the waistband to it before deciding on my adjustments.... and I also didn't factor in that my denim had considerably more give than the upholstery fabric I muslined with.  With the first wear of the final jeans, it became abundantly clear that not only could/should I have gone down a size, but also that I really didn't need to faff around shortening the front crotch. At all. See those drag lines?

And that's with me wearing these jeans as low-slung as possible.  Even then, the waistband is all bunched up under my belt. Plus, that's a hell of a lot of extra fabric in the bum area too:

I've since come to the realisation that I tend to need a flat butt adjustment on most trouser patterns - but I also think that for the non-stretch Morgan jeans, sizing down and allowing the fabric to bag out a bit with wear is definitely the way to go.

In real life though, where for better or worse no-one tends to be looking that closely at either my front or back crotch, it's hardly a disaster. I have been wearing these jeans solidly for the last two summers and it's fine, even if they can't really be paired with tees any shorter than this, for the sake of covering up the fit issues.  The denim isn't super heavy, so they're ideal trousers for mid-temperature weather, and at time of making, it was a real relief to switch back to non-skinny jeans again. Plus I love the cropped length and look of them with the turn-ups. So, yay for Morgan jeans! I did immediately make another pair in linen, actually - but they just came out of the wash and need ironing, and I wasn't going to do that just for blog photos, so you'll just have to imagine them. They're grey and the fabric came from Ikea. They have the same fit issues but worse, because linen.

Anyway, on to the t-shirt!!  I think we can all agree that the ideal t-shirt pattern is an elusive beast, essentially because we would never be able to agree on what the ideal t-shirt pattern actually is. Everyone's ideal tee looks different. However, this one comes pretty close to mine - and, bonus points because it's FREE!

This is the Greco tee by Ensemble patterns. As you can see, it's a loose-fitting scoop neck t-shirt. The pattern comes with a couple of options - straight or curved hem, short or cuffed sleeves. I went for the curved hem and cuffed sleeves. The pattern notes mention that you can get different effects using different types of fabric - the less drapy your fabric, the boxier your tee - and in fact I made three of these t-shirts in three cotton jerseys with varying lycra content. This orange one is the drapiest and stretchiest, and has turned out to be my favourite to wear (plus, ORANGE). The others are a shade too boxy for me (something I never thought I'd say!), even though neither of the fabrics are particularly stiff. Perhaps sizing down for a slightly closer fit in less stretchy fabrics would be a good idea. Anyway, overall the proportions of the Greco are exactly what I want from a t-shirt. I don't have much else to say about it than that! I hadn't come across any other t-shirt patterns that quite fit the bill, so this one plugged a gap there perfectly.

Another good thing: the pattern pdf is available in A0 format as well as A4, so I splashed out and had my local printshop print it for me. I usually don't, as they charge 6.50 euros per A0 sheet, but this pattern is all on one page and I figured I could handle the cost this once, given that I hadn't paid anything for the pattern itself. These days I'm increasingly feeling that life/time is just too short to spend it sticking together patterns tiled on A4, and will just choose printed patterns wherever I can. But there are still plenty of patterns available in pdf format only, and at that price, having the local printshop do it isn't really a permanent option. So I've been extremely pleased to recently have discovered Patternsy - who will print large format pdfs, or even tile A4s together if you're prepared to pay a bit more, on excellent quality "heavy" tissue paper, and ship it to you at top speed at exceptionally reasonable prices (even factoring in shipping to Europe; they're based in the UK). Given that pdf-only patterns are usually slightly cheaper than paper patterns, the total cost of having Patternsy do my printing doesn't usually come to more than I'd have been prepared to pay for a paper pattern in the first place. All round win!

Right, so, there we are. I think I've said all that I possibly can about this most basic of outfits, and almost certainly more than was strictly necessary :-)