Thursday, September 17, 2015

Pants or Trousers and Finding the Right Knits

Warning: This is going to be a long, rambling post with maybe a little bit of ranting.

First of all, before I get into the main subject I want to talk about what we call these things. I was born and have lived all my life in the U.S. so I mostly say "pants" but I understand that in the U.K. "pants" only means underwear. Is that correct? So, a while back I decided that, in order to be more international I should start saying "trousers". But I'm finding that I can't get comfortable with that. You see, in my mind "trousers" is an old-fashioned word for a male garment. That's not an official definition; it's just the definition I have in my head, right or wrong. It's stuck there and when I use it to talk about a modern women's garment I have the uncomfortable feeling that I'm using it wrong even if I'm not. I'm a little more comfortable with "slacks" but I think of those as a dressier garment. Again, not an official definition. But now I'm not even comfortable using the word "pants" on the Internet because I'm afraid someone will think I'm talking about my underwear. Of course, I'm probably just flattering myself to think that I have more than one reader. So anyway, I'm probably going to keep on calling them pants because that's what I am accustomed to.

I recently decided that I need more knit pants. A few years ago I decided that I was not going to wear knit pants anymore because "only old redneck women wear knit pants". (Hush! I am not! I'm listening to Bach's Cello Suites right now. Rednecks don't listen to Bach.) I started making pants out of stretch cotton twill, which looks really nice and is comfortable, though not "Am I still in my pajamas?" comfortable like knit pants. I still do have several pairs of cheap knit pants from Walmart and one good pair from L.L. Bean and I have been wearing them around the house when it's not too hot for pants. (I mostly wear dresses in the summer but this summer hasn't been ridiculously hot.) My problem is not that they're wearing out. Even the cheap ones are still in really good condition but the pockets are not big enough for my Galaxy S5. (Yes, I'm one of those people.) So, basically, I was down to one wearable pair of knit pants, the ones from L.L. Bean.

So of course I decided to sew a few pairs. My ultimate goal, more like my impossible dream, would be to find a fabric like or similar to the cotton/spandex fabric L.L. Bean uses to make their Perfect Fit pants. (I would buy more of those but they only come in a few dark, dull, and very uninteresting colors.) Ages ago I bought two pieces of cotton spandex knit from and made a couple of long sleeve t-shirts. It was a fairly hefty fabric, thicker than the average t-shirt but it would be just about right for pants so two or three months ago I ordered two pieces for pants. One, burgundy, was a little disappointing, too soft and lightweight, but acceptable. The other, a nice olive green color, was perfect - sturdy with a firm stretch. Just what I wanted. I sewed the burgundy fabric first and I'm working on the olive green right now, almost finished. Just a couple of weeks ago I decided I wanted more. I need a grey pair and they have a lot of other nice, tempting colors so I picked out one of those just because. Here's what I got:

That green is apparently very hard to photograph. It looks nothing at all like the photo on the website (They call it Jewel Jade.) and not much like my photo. It's a very bright green with just the slightest hint of blue. It's not the color I thought I was getting but I like it. I love it. I'm just not sure if I want pants that color. They describe it as "heavyweight" but it is lighter weight than the olive. (which they no longer have) The grey fabric is extremely lightweight and not suitable for pants at all. Maybe leggings but I don't wear leggings. I could but I'd have to make something to wear with them. I don't have any tunics with pockets. Must have pockets.

Anyway, this is my issue with Spandex World and buying knits over the Internet in general. The descriptions don't tell you what you need to know and are very often just completely wrong. The grey fabric ("gunmetal") is described as being 6 ounces per square yard. The burgundy that I bought last time is also 6 ounces per square yard and they are clearly not the same weight.* And that's just the weight. Fabrics with the same percentage of spandex can have very different stretch and recovery. Spandex World does offer swatches and yes I know I should have ordered swatches first. I would say that "I will always get swatches from now on," but a further issue is that their shipping charges have gone up and are outrageous. Really outRAGEous! Almost as much as the fabric itself. I almost didn't order when I saw the shipping cost. Because of that I am done with Spandex World!

(*By the way, I also bought some cotton/spandex knit from Girl Charlee what was supposed to be "12 ounces per yard" and it feels exactly like the 6 ounce per yard burgundy fabric.)

There was a time when I thought I would never order fabric over the Internet because I want to be able to touch it before I buy it. But then I looked at online fabric retailers and I was hooked. I live in a rural area. There are only two places to buy fabric that are fairly nearby: a small quilt shop and Walmart. The next nearest places are in Tulsa, about an hour away from me and when I am looking for something specific, more than half the time after taking the time to drive all the way there it turns out they don't have anything close to what I want. I am entirely confident about buying quilting cotton online. There are variations in weight, hand, etc. but I always know pretty much what I'm getting but with knits I feel like it's a complete crap-shoot.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Simplicity 1803, First Try

Have you ever bought some cheap fabric just to try out a new pattern (a "wearable muslin" as some call it) and then fell in love with the fabric while you were sewing and really really hoped that it would turn out perfect? That's what happened here and, well, it's far from perfect but I'm going to call it wearable.

I want to use Simplicity 1803 for a great piece of fabric I have that I love too much to risk on a new pattern, especially one with a square neckline, which often does not work for me, so I bought this floral print at Wal-mart. When I bought it I merely liked it. Once I started sewing it I quickly started to love it.

The fit of the bodice is just all wrong and, as I feared, the neckline is a little wide for me. I'm finding it very hard to keep the bra hidden.* But, in spite of that, I mostly like it and I will wear it.

(*Forgot to mention, it does have strap keepers. Where the bra tries to show is at the corners of the neckline. I do have one that works with it a little better. Must buy more of that style.)

I didn't make the tie belt because I generally hate them and whenever a pattern calls for one I put elastic at the back waistline instead and it always works out beautifully. This one wraps around and ties in front though and I sort of like the way it looks on the pattern envelope so I might make one with the belt sometime. Other changes: I don't like unnecessary seams down the front of the skirt so I used a plain skirt from another pattern. And of course I added pockets. Must have pockets.

Here's a look at the back. Believe it or not, this is my first scoop back dress. I wasn't sure if I would like it. I thought it might feel weird because I'm not used to it but I do like it and I definitely want more like this.

I found something that looks helpful: Raising or Lowering the Bust Point on a Princess Seam. I have searched for this at least half a dozen times before and didn't find anything so I was thrilled to find this. It actually looks very simple and it's one of those things that makes me feel a little bit slow for not having figured it out for myself. I don't think this is the entire problem with the fit though. This will require some more experimentation.

(I had the hardest time getting good pictures of this dress. I took a bunch of pictures last week and didn't like any of them, and I had forgotten to take any of the back, so today I set up again and took more pictures and those were even worse so I ended up using the very first picture I took. The more sharp-eyed among you will notice that the facing was turned and peeking out a little bit. Oh well. I don't like to sew down facings because of the stitching showing but I might have to on this dress if it keeps being a problem.)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Never Too Old

This is not really about sewing but it is about clothing so, close enough? This delightful lady is 87. (article) I'm not on Instagram but I'm tempted to sign up just so I can follow her. Feast your eyes on the color, style, and confidence.

No, I'm not about to start dressing like that. Not really my style and besides, my fashion-conservative husband would either divorce me or try to have me committed if I did, but the point is, she's doing her own thing and enjoying what's left of her life. No matter what your age, life is too short to let other people tell you what to wear so wear what you like, what you feel good in, and don't be afraid to be a little out there. And one of the greatest things about sewing is that we can. We're not stuck with what the fashion industry thinks we should be wearing this season.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Just a List

This morning on my other blog I posted a list of 10 Ordinary Things That Bring Me Joy. Of course one of the things is fabric. Then it occurred to me that since I haven't posted anything here in what seems like forever and I don't have anything finished to show off yet I could just make a sewing related list, so...

10 Kinds of Fabric That Make me Ridiculously Happy

1. Brightly colored prints with a black background. I'm working on one of those right now.

2. Delicate, old fashioned floral prints.

3. Paisley. I have always loved it but the fact that someone thinks it's evil makes it even more appealing to me for the humor aspect of it.

4. Fall leaf prints. My mother was especially fond of these so they're sentimental for me as well as the fact that I simply like them too.

5. Antique document or ephemera prints, such as sheet music, handwriting, newsprint and advertising, etc.

6. Cotton lawn. It amazes me that something as ordinary as cotton can be so fine and delicate. I don't sew with it very often because it seems too fine for everyday wear. I always imagine that this must be the fabric that angels wear.

7. Fun or silly novelty prints, especially insects, chickens, sewing notions, and ordinary household items

8. Plaids, flannel or any other plaid fabric

9. Batiks

10. Almost anything pink