Idea Log: Side pocket pants

Idea Log: Side pocket pants

I’m fixating on an idea that might not even be a good idea, I don’t know, but I can’t stop running scenarios in my brain. The final pick for my third Summer of Basics Make-along piece remains undecided. I still want it to be some kind of simple pants, but can’t quite decide what exactly. And of course I’m complicating matters by dreaming and scheming something that would require pattern work on my part, rather than just picking a pattern from the thousands out there. But the idea I’m locked onto at the moment is a pants version of Purl Soho’s Gathered Skirt for All Ages. (Which I’ve made twice unsuccessfully, in different ways — here and here— through no real fault of the pattern.) As we head into fall, my top sartorial priority is figuring out the cool-weather version of my black linen pants I’ve been wearing nonstop since April, so that’s what I want: easy, wide-legged, elastic-waist pants, but in a nice flannel or melton. (I have a lot of charcoal melton at my disposal.) And I love the pockets on that skirt. So I’m trying to work out how to pattern that. This is all slightly complicated by the fact that I’ve never sewn pants so don’t have any reservoir of knowledge or experience to draw on as far as pattern modification. But here’s what I’m thinking:

Couldn’t I take a really simple elastic-waist pants pattern — such as Sonya Philip’s Pants No. 1 — join the front and back pieces into one big flat wraparound piece, and from there work out how to carve out the center strip for the side panel/pocket? Or maybe those pants are square enough, straight-sided enough, that it would be even more straightforward than that to figure it out.

The real question is whether I have enough time for this little project to be part of my SoB 3 … I still have a lot to do on my fisherman and my Archer.

UPDATE: Savvy commenter @jddietrich has pointed to the Tofino Pants from Sewaholic that look like they could be the perfect starting point for this.

(Fashionary sketch templates from Fringe Supply Co.)


PREVIOUSLY in Idea Log: Indigo kimono jacket



Great scenes from the Summer of Basics so far

Great scenes from the Summer of Basics

You guys realize next week is August? And you know what comes after August? SEPTEMBER! We’re almost through summer, and already 2/3 of the way through the Summer of Basics Make-along. There have been so many great garments and moments and photos on the #summerofbasics feed so far, and I thought today would be a good time to share just a few:

TOP ROW: From @ashleybennett88, this is such a clever way of solving the tricky problem of shooting pattern+fabric choices, while also spelling out her three-part plan for SoB. (NOTE: She’s just getting started — you can, too!)

SECOND: Likewise, this is such a gorgeous photo and sweet scene by @paddleboatstudio, which also happens to be a killer idea for showing off finished garments. Hannah appears to have been something of an SoB overachiever in June!

THIRD ROW: The “look at my new PANTS!” twins, @bethtais (her intro post here) and @sv_azimuth (her original plan here)

FOURTH ROW: Such a great, summery WIP scene by @hi.hilde, who is knitting her first-ever socks (her full plan here)

BELOW: And proving that “basic” doesn’t have to mean either boring or neutral, there’s this amazing shot of @callmedwj in her rainbow cardigan, which clearly not only thrills her but will work with everything in her closet and get a ton of wear. Basic at its finest. ;)

What are some of your favorites so far, and how are your projects going?

Great scenes from the Summer of Basics





Make Your Own Basics: The shirt dress

Make Your Own Basics: The shirt dress

In addition to the “little black dress,” I think every closet is well served by the inclusion of a good shirt dress (or shirtdress, if you prefer), whether it’s the ultra-classic knee- or calf-length button-front shirt or any of the million variations thereof in the world. Here are a few good sewing pattern options:

TOP: I’m sure you can find a super standard shirtdress pattern from one of the big companies, or you could lengthen your Archer (the very first MYOB). Grainline has posted a couple of tutorials for Archer+Alder mashups: a super simple one merging Archer on top with Alder on the bottom, or a more involved one fitting the Archer sleeve into Alder’s more tailored bodice (pictured)

MIDDLE LEFT: The Reeta Midi Shirt Dress from Named has a ’70s-safari vibe and drawstring waist

MIDDLE RIGHT: The Factory dress from Merchant and Mills is a popover with a hint of war-era flavor

BOTTOM: And Closet Case Files’ Kalle Shirtdress pattern is a bit trendier box top/shirtdress hybrid


PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The ski sweater





Elsewhere: Yarny links for your clicking pleasure

Having had to take a pass on the chance to visit Shetland with a bunch of my knitting-world friends last month (someday I’ll get there!!), I’ve been living vicariously through Instagram and now Fancy Jaime’s multi-part recap of the trip (photo above left). So that’s my number one recommendation for your weekend reading. Still, more gems:

Bristol’s jaw-dropping Shetland souvenir project

– Stellar piece: Jane Jacobs, Georgia O’Keeffe and the power of the Marimekko dress

– Beyond being therapeutic, knitting might actually deter dementia

– If you’re in Portland OR, please go see Narangkar Glover’s beautiful knitted color studies (photo above right)

Well said: “They come [to learn] also because they understand handcraft as a form of meditation that has a sense of creativity. When you work with handcrafts you oftentimes develop a surge of energy of that creativity, and happiness; fulfillment. A meditative quality, really. It brings in the surge of energy, the qi of creativity, which is a sensation of feeling happy.”

– I hope this comes true: Sketch templates in your own measurements

– Love the needlepoint Eve evolution from this (1822) to this

Natural Dyeing and dye gardening made it into Better Homes & Gardens

I want this poncho

– Have you looked at the #summerofbasics feed lately? So good!

– And I am a surprisingly taken with this Wonder Woman shawl! It’s so beautifully done. I personally can’t deal with red and yellow together under any circumstances, but I secretly want a b/w or tonal neutrals version of this, and then only I would ever need to know what it really is or means.

Have a happy weekend, everyone! I’ll be advancing both my Archer and my fisherman sweater for Summer of Basics. How about you?






Sunday Funday: Fitting my Archer muslin

Sunday Funday: Fitting my Archer muslin

You know how sometimes the thing you’re dreading turns out to be BIG FUN? Such was the case yesterday, when I finally started on the Archer button-down shirt that drove me to propose the Summer of Basics Make-along. A shirt like this is the hardest thing for me to fit — any woven, set-in-sleeve shirt that suits my big shoulders will inevitably be too big in the body and in the upper sleeves as a result. Which is why I want to make my own, and also why I’ve been dreading it. This is also a garment that involves cutting out and assembling 19 pattern pieces. (My average is more like 3.) So never have I been more committed to the traditional muslin process. Meaning, after tracing them off onto my beloved Swedish tracing paper, I cut the five key pieces (left front, right front, back, yoke and sleeve x2) out of muslin so I could assess and adjust the fit. As a starting point, I cut a straight size 14 after comparing the shoulder measurements to my favorite flannel shirt.

Sunday Funday: Fitting my Archer muslin

Upon stitching together the yoke/back and front pieces, and setting in the right sleeve, I was thrilled that — ta da! — it actually fits, with very little fiddling. I’m ok with the ease through the body; my only issues were that the sleeve was a little big (not terribly, but why not tweak while I can?) and too long: It hit perfectly at my wrist before a cuff was factored in. So I laid the left sleeve back on the pattern, sloped the sides down from a 14 at the underarm to a 10 at the cuff, and shortened it by 2.5″, then sewed it on. The difference in the upper arm is subtle but meaningful, but it’s a much better width at the cuff than the 14 was. To make sure I’ve got the length just right, I cut out the cuff and pinned it on, and I’m officially good to go.

That was surprisingly painless. So now it’s time to cut all 19 pieces out of my beautiful blue cotton-linen chambray. The thing is, I’m so excited about this shirt now, and know I’ll want to make several, so I almost want to cut them all at once and have them waiting in the wings for gradual future production.

Sunday Funday: Fitting my Archer muslin




What I Know About: Dress forms (with Liesl Gibson)

What I Know About: Dress forms (with Liesl Gibson)

Easily the one thing I get asked about more often than anything else is … my dress form. Every time I post a picture of it (ref. above), there’s a handful of people quite reasonably asking where I got it, do I like it, how did I pick it? I know exactly nothing about dress forms — mine came from the first page of a hasty search on Amazon for “collapsible shoulder dress form,” and I use it to hang things on in our booth at shows and for taking photos of WIPs in my little workroom at home. It tells me nothing, really, about how anything will fit me since we’re completely different, she and I. She has narrow shoulders, meaningful breasts and a nice short torso; I’m the exact opposite of all that. She’s nothing but a prop. So I’ve asked pattern designer Liesl Gibson (of Oliver + S and Liesl + Co) to give us her expert thoughts on the subject! For more of Liesl’s bottomless wisdom, check out her blog and her Instagram, and if you’ve never watched her bias tape tutorial on Creativebug, I’m telling you: It changed my sewing life. (No pins!)

[N.B: Don’t miss the SALE news at the end of this post!]

. . .

KT: So, Liesl, this is a one-big-question inteview: Does the average home sewer or knitter need a dress form — and if so, what kind?

LG: Whether you need or can use a dress form depends a lot on what you want to do with it.

Many dress forms or mannequins are made solely for display in stores for merchandising the clothing. These can be great for taking photos of your sewing projects, but they’re not very useful for sewing or for draping because they aren’t very accurate in terms of body shape or sizing. On the other hand, if you’re a blogger and hate to pose for photos, go for it! I totally support this idea, especially given my personal dislike of posing for blog photos.

Here’s the truth about dress forms: Many people assume that a dress form will be really useful for making clothes that fit properly. But unless you have draping skills and plan to drape your clothes from scratch, it’s very likely that you won’t make much use of one. I was pretty certain I needed one when I graduated from design school, and then I got one and it served mostly to frighten the internet installation guy until I finally sold it.

Personally, I find that I prefer to fit clothes directly on my body. It’s difficult to find a dress form that mirrors your body, and truthfully I think it’s really important to feel how the clothing feels and looks on your body: How much easy do you need; where does the neckline look best; can you bend over, turn, and breathe? And if you don’t know how to drape, there’s a good chance you won’t know what to do with a garment once you get it on a dress form anyway. If you fit a pattern to your own body you’ll be able to see and feel what needs to change.

Yes, there are all sorts of custom options out there: the duct tape dress form, padding a basic dress form to mimic your body, 3D modelling, etc. They each have advantages and disadvantages. One distinct disadvantage of a duct tape dress form is that, although it’s quite inexpensive to make, you can’t pin into it without gunking up your pins. And frankly, when you’re wrapping yourself in duct tape (or someone is wrapping you), it’s going to distort your body, so the finished dress form won’t be very accurate. The custom models can also be really expensive. Padding a dress form to mirror your own body can be done, but it’s complicated and difficult to mimic your shape and stance. Are your shoulders forward, or is one higher than the other? How straight is your back? If you don’t get the essential posture of your body just right, the dress form probably isn’t going to give you the results you want. 3D options can be quite pricey for something you might not use as often as you think you will.

Having said all that, I own two dress forms. Here’s how I use them.

For our Oliver + S kids patterns I use a traditional Royal form, which is basically a paper mache torso, legs, and arm covered with linen. This dress form works well for checking the fit and proportions on our sample size, but I mostly develop patterns with a flat pattern technique, so the dress form serves mostly as a check to confirm that the patterns fit and look well before they’re graded. Once all the sizes have been developed we do a lot of further testing on real bodies to check the sizing and fit for all the various sizes.

For our women’s Liesl + Co patterns I use a custom AlvaForm, and I love it because it’s anatomically very accurate. By that I mean that the shape is much more accurate than the traditional dress forms like Wolf and Royal, so the fit through the bust and armhole can be better than it would be with a traditional form. If you’ve ever sewn a pattern that gapes at the armhole even if it fits well through the bust, chances are it was developed or fitted on a traditional paper mache form that didn’t allow correction of the concave area between the bust and shoulder. Alva forms solve this problem but are very expensive (and the shipping from Asia costs almost as much as the form itself!), so this is really not an option for most home sewists. But again, on a professional pattern-making level this form allows me to develop sewing patterns that adhere to a standard fit before we grade to develop the different sizes and test those sizes.

However, I never rely solely on a dress form for pattern development. It’s important to see how a pattern fits and feels on real bodies, so we do lots of fittings and wear testing before a pattern is ready for grading. I sew our women’s patterns for myself and wear them for a few weeks, at least, before they’re graded. I make basic pattern adjustments for my body when I sew the samples — I’m longer waisted and smaller busted than our standard sample size — and this way I can tell if there might be as issue somewhere in the basic pattern. Maybe I notice that the armhole is too high or that the neck is uncomfortable, or perhaps it needs more room across the upper back so you can move. This is the role that a traditional fit model plays, but of course being the small company that we are I don’t have the budget for a professional fit model. So I alter the patterns for my body and fit test them myself. I also rely on our pattern testers to do the same so we can check the sizes on a wide variety of body shapes and sizes, and I sew the samples for our photo shoots so I can check the fit against our models as well. (I have a very reliable group of testers — some experienced and some quite new to sewing — who help me with a lot of this process.)

But when it comes to sewing for myself for fun, I sew for my body and don’t use a dress form at all. And that’s despite the fact that I’m quite close in size to my Alva dress form! I honestly don’t use it for myself. It’s much more useful to fit the pattern to my body in the form of a muslin. This is what I teach in my fit classes, too. It helps to have a sewing buddy who you can work with, but none of my friends sew so I do it myself. I make a muslin, look in the mirror, ask my husband or daughter to take some photos from the angles I can’t see very well, and then I take off the muslin and make adjustments before starting the procedure again. It’s trial and error until I like the result. My best tools for fitting? A mirror, a camera and a copy of Fit for Real People, which I highly recommend to all my students and all our customers because it explains how to get a good fit in ways that are relatively intuitive, with lots of photos, diagrams and examples to help you along the way.

So do you need a dress form? It’s sort of up to you, but I generally counsel against it. It looks cool in a sewing room and in blog photos, but unless you’re developing sewing patterns yourself my personal opinion is that you won’t get very much use out of it. Use your own body and a few tools, and you’ll get much better results.

. . .

Thanks so much, Liesl! Happy weekend, everyone—

IN SHOP NEWS: We’re clearing out the magazine shelves and a few other straggling gems — check out the Sale section for some rare markdowns while they last! But I should also warn you we’re expecting the long-awaited Lykke (full/standard) interchangeable sets to finally arrive this afternoon (although I’ve probably jinxed it by posting that). We’ll put them back in the shop the moment they arrive, so check in late today! [UPDATE: The Lykke needle sets are here!]


PREVIOUSLY in What I Know About: Holding yarns together






Happy Friday! Happy last day of June! Happy start to the long weekend, if you get such a thing! Here are some links for your amusement and enlightenment—

A project small enough for me to crochet! But I would make just one and wear it as a pendant (above right)

– If I ever knitted a Mitered Crosses Blanket, I would want it to look like this one

Can natural indigo work at industrial scale?

– What do bicycles, comfortable clothing and a woman’s right to vote have to do with each other? (I love this!) (above left)

14 hem tutorials

Is the tourism boom harming Iceland?

– How do you make the right garments for you? Three things to ask yourself

– “Nobody cares about these old things anymore” </sad face>

– Knitters’ life lessons: “I’ve ignored what I know to be true before, and the result is always the same …

June has been an absolute whirlwind for me. I’m looking forward to a proper weekend and might even extend it into the holiday! However long it lasts, all I want to do is sit still and knit my sleeves. (Although I’m hoping for a surprise burst of energy to do some cutting.) What do you have planned?

SHOP NEWS: We’re down to just a handful of army-green Porter Bins for the moment, but it’s back in production and we’re building up inventory to get the stores stocked, so if it sells out before you get there, look for an announcement about its return in about a month!


PREVIOUSLY: Army green + Elsewhere