Category Archives: Sewing

Operation Buttcover 2k14: Part 1

I know, I know. I’ve got a million finished things I should definitely show off, like all of my Tour de Fleece spins and the shawl I just blocked a couple of days ago, not to mention some months-old sewing projects…



I’m way more excited about these Real Pants Shorts I made with the fabric left over from Vogue 1172. This is going to be an unflattering butt-and-tum-heavy post.

I’ll begin Operation Buttcover 2k14 with some essentail details. Item the first: most of my wardrobe is about the same age, which is to say, falling apart. Item the second: there is very little I won’t do to avoid shopping for jeans. Thus, item the third: McCall’s 6610.

I selected my size based on finished garment measurements, not McCall’s chart of body measurements, on account of The Big 4 and the Case of Excessive Design and Wearing Ease, and ended up tracing a 6. Then I folded an entire two inches out of the rise so it didn’t sit at my ribs and retraced, cropping the pattern at mid-thigh and redrawing the legs for a bit of a flare to get away from my ill-fitting cut-off jeans roots–the point of the exercise was a wearable muslin–emphasis on wearable. Then I cut the main pattern pieces and basted everything together with standard 5/8″ seam allowances. It was a tiny bit too tight, so I disassembled and basted again with 3/8″ allowances at all vertical seams. That was just about right, with a little excess ease at the back yoke, which I took in during final assembly.

At this point I basted in the pattern waistband–a long, folded rectangle. It’s meant to be slightly shorter than the top of the pants, using the cross-grain stretch to prevent gaping at the lower back. Without buttons, it looks like this:

Waistband Fitting: Before

Waistband Fitting: Before

Waistband Fitting: Before

For comparison, two pairs of RTW jeans–one with a straight waistband as in M6610, and one with a curved waistband:

Waistband Fitting Comparison: Straight

Waistband Fitting Comparison: Straight

These jeans, with their straight waistband, are the most comfortable I own–for about 30 minutes. Then the stretch denim relaxes and they start to slouch. If you look closely, you can see that the top of the waistband doesn’t quite touch my hips all the way around. With wear, that gets worse, and I’m constantly pulling them up.

Waistband Fitting Comparison: Curved

Waistband Fitting Comparison: Curved

These ones have a curved waistband, and while they’re a little tight fresh out of the wash, they’re very comfortable after an hour or so of wear–and stay that way! I don’t have to pull them up every time I stand up, and they don’t gape at the back.

So! I pinned out the ease in the waistband of my shorts.

Waistband Fitting: Pinning Out Ease

Waistband Fitting: Pinning Out Ease

Waistband Fitting: Pinning Out Ease

Whoops. Maybe I should have basted more carefully, but check out that totally adequate fly front! My first ever! My presser foot doesn’t actually go up high enough to really deal with all those layers of fabric though, and denim will be worse.

Plan A was to use this to trace new waistband pieces, but when I did that the curve was insane and messed up the fit all over. Plan B involved tracing pieces from a skirt pattern and extending the lines so it would fit at my hips instead of my waist. Plan B was successful, but could still use some tweaking.

Operation Buttcover Part 1 SUCCESS

Operation Buttcover Part 1 SUCCESS

Operation Buttcover Part 1 SUCCESS

Operation Buttcover Part 1 SUCCESS

The result is a surprisingly successful (and comfortable) wearable muslin. The yoke, crotch, and inseam are all flat-felled–no mock-flat-fell here–complicated by minimizing the seam allowances, the outseams are serged and edgestitched to the bottom of the back pockets (those need to sit a little higher, don’t they? also, next time, more prominent topstitching), and each leg has a 1.5″ handstitched hem.

Topstitching, Rivets, Bar Tacks

Still a little questionable at the front, things were slipping around all over as the presser foot and feed dogs tried to manage all those layers.

Oh, and that feathery tee? I made that too–Skinny Bitch*Curvy Chick’s Tonic Tee, in a cotton/poly print jersey from Girl Charlee and neck binding from some unknown purple knit I got at Fabric Outlet in San Francisco.

Operation Buttcover Part 1 SUCCESS

Operation Buttcover Part 1 SUCCESS

Operation Buttcover Part 1 SUCCESS

I have to say, I am pretty pleased with myself. I hardly swore at my sewing machine at all! But if anyone has a machine with a little more power than my poor Singer Tradition, or a lead on the type of needles a vintage Mammylock 623A serger takes or what size needles are 1 and 5/16″ in length (hint: it is not BLx1 but if you need BLx1 needles please let me know because I have 10 each sharp and ballpoint, size 80, I think?), well, I would not say no to that!


I Don’t Have the Skills to do THAT

Friends, I am so so tired of hearing this. I am so tired of hearing “oh, that’s so nice, I wish I were that talented.” Didn’t your Bob Ross lessons sink in? You know, the one about how “Talent is pursued interest” and if you’re willing to practice, you’ll get all awesome at it because you develop the skills you need? That one?

As Oona’s just pointed out, we don’t need to put ourselves down to lift other people up. The amount of skill and talent and beauty and general awesomeness in the world is not finite.

Oh, wow, I could’ve done a better job of pressing the back there, huh?

So I get a little frustrated when people claim that the thing they want to do, they just aren’t good enough for it.

If the worst that can happen from trying is having to rework a lot of times, and no one’s safety or security is threatened, then you should totally shoot for that ambitious goal.

So here is a thing I made that I really do not have the skills to make. (And some really strange, awkward selfies. For which I am not at all sorry.)

Vogue 1172. Out of the envelope, it is mid-calf length, with princess seams, extended shoulders,  wide v-neck, godets, side zip, lingerie straps, waist stay, and facings.

My version is knee-length, fully lined, with in-seam pockets, horsehair braid at the hem, and the (handpicked) zip moved to center back. Both skirts have a combination of French seams and bias binding. I drafted pockets myself, and added three seams to the skirt to make them work.

Until I made this dress, I had none of the experience needed to make this thing happen. I had 3 weeks to figure it out and make a ton of stupid mistakes, like assembling the bodice and lining completely, then stitching them together at the neckline and the armscyes, then clipping and grading seams AND ONLY THEN trying to turn the thing right-side out. After which I took a guess at which seam I’d have to unpick and then handsew to make it work. And guessed incorrectly. And ended up handstitching the lining and shell together at both armscyes and the neckline.

And when THAT was all done, I still had to catch stitch a full 10 yards of hem, insert the zipper (then grit my teeth because the zipper was so close to the right color that it looked like a mistake), wash it, press it, get on a plane and fly across the country with it (almost miss the plane), arrive on the other coast and rip out the zipper to replace it with a contrasting one that matched my belt, and insert the waist stay.

And let me tell you. I’m still not sure I have all those skills, not really. I’m not really good at modifying patterns yet, or sewing princess seams, and I don’t quite understand the trick to clean finishing a sleeveless bodice. But I did make the thing, so I know I can muddle through, and the next time I muddle through will be a little easier, a little less dramatic, a little tidier. And when I muck it up, it won’t be the end of the world.

This dress isn’t perfect, but it is nice (it makes me feel like a very ferocious sort of princess), and it taught me a lot of things.

Having done it once has made me braver, which means that once Tour de Fleece is over, I have something else to show off. In fanciness, it’s got nothing on this baby, but I’m still awfully pleased.

And if I can come out excited after a battle with my old nemesis “sewing,” well, friends, you can definitely do that thing you think you’re not good enough yet to try.

Wanna hear a secret?

I already know you can do the thing.

Merry Knitmas

Hmm, it’s spring now, isn’t it? No matter, the northern parts of the east coast are still mired in Ragnarok (probably), so the holiday knits I sent out a couple of weeks ago are still relevant to my family.

First, the non-knit crafty things though–


“Is that a trio of dinosaur print flannel jimbly-jambles,” you are asking yourself, I’m sure. And let me tell you, friend–it certainly is. I sewed all three in a span of three days near the end of January and I’m pretty pleased with myself. I recently learned that all seams have to be “finished” or your garment falls apart, which really might’ve been nice to know about ten years ago. Then instead of being incredibly frustrated with my abysmal sewing skills, I might have had a couple of encouraging successes, leading me to practice more, and, in this alternate reality, I would now be capable of inserting a cuff placket instead of a miserable failure at same. But never mind, that’s a story for another day.

In addition to belated holiday jammeroonis, I made a belated holiday point twill scarf for my dad (no finished object photos, sadly, as this item was given away before I had simultaneous light and time for picture-taking), a pair of handspun colorwork mittens for my mother-in-law, a tiny sweater for a brand-new nephew, and a cabled cowl for my dad’s girlfriend.

Let’s start with the least drama-fraught item.  This is a newborn-size Welcome to the Flock, and I shall henceforth refer to it as “wee sheepies.”

As almost the entire planet is probably aware, I become incoherent with delight where sheep (and especially lambs) are involved.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for my colorwork in this instance.

Just look at those fuzzy little sheep tummies and try to ignore the mess around them, okay?

I probably made quite a few modifications, but I couldn’t say what they are. I was too busy gibbering about the wee sheepies to make notes.

Next up, Irish Vine mittens.

Funny thing about these mittens. I was knitting along on the first mitten, delighted to be working with cormo, which is a lovely wool, which I had combed and spun myself, endlessly entertained to watch the pattern emerge with each round. But there were doubts, too. The fabric seemed a little thin. It was a little open. All in all, it was looking just a little bit on the side of not-quite-big-enough.

No, I thought. No, this will be fine. It’s going to stretch when I wash it. I’ve followed the pattern, it’s going to be fine.

I kept knitting.

I grafted the top closed.

I started the thumb.

It felt wrong. Really wrong. I tried on the mitten.

My fingernails nearly stabbed through the top.

I made despairing noises. I sighed. I carefully ripped the whole mitten out.

And I restarted with the yarn held double.

It was a good decision. Colorwork in too-thin yarn on too-large needles is a pretty sad sight.

Of course, I could have saved myself a great deal of time and labor if I hadn’t knitted on in denial for several days.

Last, and with perhaps the most dramatic story of all, this Nennir cowl:

I started this shortly after the Winter 2012 issue of Knitty came out, using Malabrigo sock in “Playa.”

After finishing the first chart, I decided I didn’t like the hand of the fabric. Too loose, almost mushy (not to be confused with smooshy, which is a great characteristic in a knit); my stitches looked sloppy and the cables really weren’t showing well. This is a big issue I have with Malabrigo Sock–it’s soft as anything, but it’s well on the “heavy lace” side of “light fingering,” with little twist in either singles or plying. For something calling itself sock yarn, you’d walk holes through it in about two minutes. That’s usually a deal-breaker.

But this is a cowl, not socks, so I ripped it out, held the yarn double, and started again.

Then I ignored it for a while. And then a year had gone by since I bought the yarn, but I wasn’t worried, I had lots left.

But then I knitted and knitted and knitted and knitted and suddenly there was not so much yarn. I began knitting faster, to outrun the end of the yarn. (Did I mention how knitting in denial is a very bad idea? Knitting in denial backfires almost every single time. Avoid.)

Suddenly there was half a chart left and I was definitely, definitely certain that the yarn was faster than me.

No matter, I thought. I will go to the yarn store. I will purchase another skein. Surely they’re still dyeing this colorway. If I use one strand from the original and one from the new skein, they will totally blend and no one will ever notice.

I almost didn’t find any Malabrigo Sock at the yarn store. When I did manage to locate it, there were only four skeins in just three colorways.

I ended up with “Primavera.” It’s not really close, at all, but it was closer than the others; nothing else even resembled the right combination of color, fiber, diameter, and texture.

I held out hope, though. Held double with “Playa” and kept to the back when possible, it wasn’t a particularly jarring transition.

But then, ten rows before the end, I ran out of the original color completely. And that’s why the inch or so left of center looks like a different color. Fortunately the person it will be accessorizing wears her hair long enough to cover the weird part.

It is a comedy of errors, friends.