Tag Archives: sewing

Building better trousers with SCIENCE

I’m still very much in sewing mode rather than knitting mode these days. I’ve decided I need new work trousers and the only way forward is to sew them myself.

Unfortunately making trousers that fit well is a high-level challenge. All those intersecting topographies at the crotch! Once you’ve got that bit right the rest will follow. I’ve not found a satisfactory crotch-seam drafting tutorial on the internet and I’ve watched my own mum have limited success with the Palmer & Alto tissue-fitting method. Frankly, everyone seems to be relying on standard crotch seam templates and blind trial and error, which just isn’t good enough for a professional woman of science such as myself.

The best advice I ever got as a Physics undergraduate was this: YOU CAN SOLVE ANYTHING WITH LASERS

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This is the Bosch PLR15 Laser Measure. It can measure distances to an accuracy of ±3 mm, which is the highest acceptable accuracy I was willing to pay for.

So what I did this weekend was measure the profile of my crotch to an accuracy of ±3 mm. Yes, I genuinely believe the findings are worth a blog post on their own! Let me detail the method: I marked up the centre of an A3 piece of paper with 1cm increments, and stood in my knickers with my feet either side of the paper, whilst my incredibly good-humoured boyfriend moved the laser measure along the marks, noting the distance measured. He also noted the ideal inseam placement.

So we ended up with a piece of paper like this:

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Which I translated into the following x-z plot. Not well, mind you, I had to redraw a few points.

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There’s some variation here, which we will have to chalk up to measurement uncertainties and also any movements I made whilst standing. Nonetheless I think it shows a fairly clear profile. Two things immediately jump out: the lowest part of the crotch is slightly behind the inseam, making it almost dead centre of the profile, and the front crotch is very long.

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I then added error bars and a generously deep line of best fit. I had to think about that line. How closely should a crotch fit before it starts to highlight the er, “topography” a bit too well? I then cut the curve out of the paper and holding it against myself, the backside seemed to fit absolutely fine, but I had been skittish about the front and the resulting curve had too much depth. The overall length of the crotch profile was fairly spot on.

Compare the seams though, against the Palmer/Pleutsch trouser pattern, McCalls 6361.

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The curve of my backside starts later, and is shallower than any of the suggested sewing lines the pattern has helpfully marked out. You can see my inseam marking through the paper here. It’s clear I really need to move the inseam if I’m going to make this pattern. The front crotch on the other hand…

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Completely different to the pattern! Even moving the card back to compensate for hypothetical inseam movement, I can see that I need a very long front crotch. It explains a lot though. In shops, I always find trousers pull at the front crotch (the Palmer book calls them ‘smile lines’), or I get that oh-so-flattering camel toe, or both. At the back, I occasionally find some odd folding under the butt-cheeks but not very often. Incidentally I really hate shopping for trousers.

Redrafting the crotch seam to the extent I need it will take some doing, but hopefully my scientific hubris will pay off. At any rate, I feel like I’ve figured out an awful lot of trouser problems without doing any actual sewing.

Updates to follow when I have something wearable!

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This post is dedicated to the lovely man in my life, and any other S.O. that, on hearing the question “Can you point this laser up my butt?”, says yes first, asks why second, and starts worrying about centering methods third.

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Sewing on schedule!

Haha! My Anna dress is totally on schedule! It’s a Christmas miracle! Unfortunately that schedule clashes with the time of year where I absolutely cannot get my camera to behave, so just a quick ‘WIP’ look will have to do.

Anna Dress 1

It looks almost finished, but there’s actually a bright yellow lining in there that is currently only held in place at the neck. Over the holiday I will be doing leisurely handstitching to fix it to the zip and sleeves, and then we’re ready to roll.

You  may also be wondering what is going on with that skirt. Well you see, the original pattern suggests you may like to add a thigh high split to your design. I have taken the road less travelled and added…

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A box pleat that goes alllll the way up and only shows itself during movement. It’s worked out really nicely actually. What good ideas I have! Best of all, it’s all fitting really nicely. I can still see room for improvement cos I’m picky –  there’s just a tiny bit of gaping in both the front and back neck, and I reckon I could take an entire inch of ease out of the waist and still have it fit nicely.

Hopefully I shall be able to bring you some better photos next year!

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More and more sewing…

My sewing rampage continues. Now I’ve decided to make a dress for New Year’s Eve. Success is hinged solely what I am able to achieve over the Christmas holidays. What am I doing?? This is madness.

The lucky pattern for NYE is the By Hand London Anna dress. It’s relatively simple and seems to have a high success rate if the internet is anything to go by. Load up Google Image search and look at that parade of knockouts! So far I’ve made two mock-ups of the bodice just to be sure I’m going to get it right. The UK Size 18 fit me pretty well straight off the bat, but I still ended up doing a whole load of tweaks in a quest for perfection:

  • Narrowed the neckline by 1 1/4” to ensure bra straps don’t show.
  • Raised the back shoulder seams only by 5/8” as the seam was off-centre and the front rode up a little.
  • Deepened the front neckline by ¾”, which I suppose is equivalent to 1 1/4 “ when you take the shoulders into account.
  • Let out the front outer pleats by ½” at base, 3/8” at the top, then added that ½” to the back darts. This sort of compensates for a slightly full bust and swayback at the same time.
  • Lowered bust pleats by ¾” because my boobs don’t go there.
  • Added pockets. Remember the ABAP rule of successful sewing: Always Be Adding Pockets.

And finally, to really put the pressure on, I shall be cutting into this expensive and no longer available printed Liberty Tana Lawn I bought years ago.

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Gosh it’s so nice though. It folds like paper under an iron and has the dull shine of sateen. Will it all be worth it? Will I stick to the rudimentary timeline of tasks I wrote down to ensure my success? Will I end up going out on the town in a dress I bought last minute from Warehouse? Only Future Ellen knows the answer to these things, and she’s selfishly refused to master time travel to give me an answer.

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Oh hi there

Wow I really broke my blogging habit huh? Let it not be said my procrastination is half-arsed. Undisplayable secret knitting aside, I haven’t really had many successful knitting episodes to talk about. I finished my Hetty cardigan and it turned out slightly too small. Not because my gauge was off, but because I was being overly optimistic with how much negative ease a cardigan can withstand and still button up. Whoooops. I am still throwing it over things though, because it was too lovely to ignore.

Mostly, I’ve been sewing*.
It seems to take me longer, or at least more effort, but I am actually managing to finish things along the way. Behold! A fashionable t-shirt that is literally just a t-shape. Bless the 90s revival for lowering everyone’s expectations of fit.

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This is made in a relatively stiff pointe roma jersey, which was a delight to sew. I tried making a second version out much floppier material and it looked terrible. I then decided that maybe I’m not quite at the level of draft my own sewing patterns from scratch just yet and resolved to actually buy some in the future. So just this weekend I finished View A of Simplicity 1321. It’s so fresh I haven’t even ironed the hem yet, excuse me.

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This took far longer than it should have because I insisted on vertically aligning the fabric pattern at all points. It’s a 6 panel skirt and I only got one seam right first time. Never mind, I didn’t get to where I am in life by looking at things that don’t quite line up and saying “that’s fine”.

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It’s very odd fabric actually. My grandma gave me 4m of the stuff, and it looks great but it has no stretch. Despite being incredibly thin, slippery knitted jersey fabric. Makes no sense! I ended up underlining most of it with cheap gabardine which made it a lot easier to handle. However I suspect it’s gone the other way and is now slightly too thick for it’s purpose. I still have plenty of the check jesery left and now I’m thinking a bomber jacket would be a great idea, as long I cover the whole lot in interfacing first. One day I’ll get the hang of using the right fabric thickness…one day.

*and playing doge 2048

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Suddenly, sewing

Guys, I feel like such an idiot this week. I’ve lived in Bristol for almost 4 years, and up until now I have completely failed to notice Flo-Jo Boutique, a.k.a DRESSMAKING HEAVEN. It’s on the busiest part of Gloucester Road for crying out loud! I have walked straight past it on multiple occasions, sometimes even on the same day!

Luckily I have been able to rectify this grave oversight immediately.

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From left to right, I have: 3.5m of lovely cherry print cotton, two Colette dress patterns, lining for a long-planned, never-started project, and a knicker making kit, because why not? One day, someone will ask me if I made my outfit and I’ll be able to look them unblinkingly in the eye and say “Yes, I made all of it. And I mean allll of it”. It’ll be so worth it.

Between this new discovery and the reappearance of the sun, my favourite heavenly body of all time, I am actually feeling like doing some sewing again. It’s been a while. I’ve never been a particularly accomplished seamstress, because I am messy and easily distracted. When I sew, the front room becomes a maelstrom of tatters and threads and stays like that for at least a week after I’ve finished. If things go particularly badly there might a surprise pin in the carpet.  Then I remember I still need to sew on buttons or something and just get drunk instead. Learning to knit was an absolute delight for me, because it meant I could finally(!) make my own clothes without sewing.

But feelings change, and I’m prepared to give sewing another shot. First things first, there is this fabulous dress I started well over two years ago and have been meaning to fix.

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It’s made from fancy Liberty Lawn cotton, and it was coming along pretty much perfectly, until I realised the neckline was gaping. Fixing the neckline just never happened…probably because I was knitting instead. I have gone ahead and fixed it now though! That’s only the half of it, I still have neckline binding and buttonholes and buttons to contend with. It’s not worth it’s own post yet. Maybe, just maybe I will have this done in time for summer.

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Little tricks, little tips

During the holidays, I made some good progress on my official cosy winter project. But after so much mindless, relaxing holiday knitting, there was sewing to be done. There was a quiet spell when I was staying round my parents, so I got down to it. I picked up the needle and threaded on the yarn in my usual way, licking the end so it rolled to a neat little point for easy threading.

Yeeccch!” said my mum. “Did you just lick the wool?”

“Yes? What?” said I.

“Here, let me show you a better way of doing it so you don’t have to lick wool all the time.”

So she did. Mum’s preferred method is as follows:

1. Fold yarn over darning needle
2. Pinch yarn tightly in place around the needle
3. Slip the yarn off the needle whilst still pinching it in place
4. Stick that tight little fold of yarn through the needle eye.

It’s one of these tiny, neat little tricks you don’t necessarily work out on your own, but luckily that one has been passed down several generations of my maternal line. Now the chain remains unbroken!

It got me wondering what other little things I might be missing out on. Do any of you have tricks of your own you’d like to share? Let’s hear ’em!

 

 

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Impromptu Jumper Surgery

One of my earlier completed jumpers is the Fair Isle Yoke jumper from A Stitch in Time Volume 1. It’s knitted entirely in Jamieson & Smiths 2-ply Shetland wool. I think it looks great, with those colour choices and texture. But it fits horribly. That unflattering neckline, those badly gathered and awkwardly short sleeves, the weird boob-eliminating bagginess, ugh. Whenever I’ve worn it I’ve spent the entire day tugging it into place.

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The problem is, even though I have enough leftover wool for small alterations, I’ve already washed this jumper and the wool has matted just enough to make ripping and re-knitting an exercise in futility and madness. It sat neglected for some time, until I suddenly decided to take action. When ripping your jumper is no longer an option it is time to start treating it like fabric.

This post contains a fairly long photo sequence, so you may enjoy this background music to set the mood.

First things first is to unravel the collar. It’s messy, because of the aforementioned matting. On the plus side I have no problem cutting open all the seams. Then it’s just a quick steam and squish with the iron, and I have all these lovely pieces of knitted fabric just waiting to be measured and re-cut into a more suitable shape.

fiy-7Most of the increases are cut off the sides to reduce the blousiness. Bonus: watch as the winter sunset ruins most of my picture-taking.

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Then it’s time to deal with the neckline…

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I did this by eye because I am goddamn hardcore.

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That edges of that scrap are completely solid by the way. I know some of you would rather eat your own hands that cut into the colourwork you laboured over, but trust me, Shetland wool won’t let you down.

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I don’t know how the sleeves got so poofy originally. Total mistake on my part. Here is one sleeve laid atop t’other to show how much I ended up taking off!

Because the sleeves are too short I will be picking up and knitting along the bottom edge, then reattaching the cuff once I’ve inserted the extra length. It only needs an extra 1.5 inches to make it solidly elbow length, so it’ll be easy.

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And so, after all that, a new and slightly different garment begins to emerge…

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Join me in my next post where I will either be adding extra sleeve length and buttonbands or howling in despair at the realization of what I’ve done. Either way, fun times!

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