Fitting Some Damn Pants Part II

I took a spin at tailoring my muslin from Burda Style Magazine Dec. 2017 trousers #127. (Can you say that five times fast?)

Following the “Pants for Real People” Palmer/Pletsch process to my muslin with 1-inch seam allowances and fitting gridlines for guidance, I made these changes:

  • Took a 1 cm tuck along the center back to reduce fullness. I did this just on the left side (when viewed from the rear) but left the right side alone so you can see the difference this adjustment makes.
  • Removed the stupid elastic from the back waistband and added two darts for shaping and fit.
  • Revised the crotch curve and sewed it with a 1 cm seam allowance to give my rear more real estate.
  • Revised the low hip (widest part of my leg) with a 1 cm seam allowance to give my front thighs some relief.

Behold (complete with photobombing dog):

Here’s the “before” picture:

We are getting somewhere, but still have work to do.

Issues on the back:

  • The tuck down the front of the pants works well to remove all those crazy wrinkles. I could do more – I will try another 1 cm tuck parallel to the first.
  • Wrinkles under the seat – not sure what do do there – must investigate.
  • Waist fit looks good. I may need to do more later to bring up the center back.

Issues with the side:

  • You can see how the blue grid lines on the muslin slope down on my butt and there are wrinkles across the side. That’s because the crotch curve still isn’t right. I need to change the shape and deepen the curve more.
  • My legs tend to hyperextend toward the back, which results in those wrinkles along the side, pointing toward my back calves. Basically, between my prominent front thighs and my extended back calves, pants on me tend to go sideways. You can see how the side seam is not straight up and down but rather shifts forward in the front and back in the back. I believe that if I can get the crotch curve right and remove those wrinkles under my butt, I’ll make a start at eliminating this problem. But I need to investigate more.

Stay tuned for muslin #3!


Fitting Some Damn Pants

I am really trying to fit some slim-fit pants. I can do high-waist, wide-leg pants, but anything slim-fitting is just a shit show.

I was inspired by some pants in the Burda  December 2017 issue to try pants that have a back yoke, a little back elastic, and slim legs with zippers at the ankles.  Here is my muslin with gridlines per the Palmer-Pletsch method to identify trouble spots:

You’ll see from the side views that the lines that should be horizontal are dipping – that’s because my ass needs more fabric in the back. I am not sure where the wrinkles in the front are coming from, or what the solution is there.

The elastic in the back is doing bupkes. Besides that there is a crazy number of wrinkles and weird angles in the back. And twisting around the calves.

Basically, a shit show. Is it worthwhile to continue?


My Many Mistakes

I finished this blouse today – a project from the Italian sewing magazine La Mia Boutique. This is a design from the up-and-coming Italian designer Eliana Riccio. Her style blends girly boho shapes with edgy details. I thought a little edgy blouse would be useful in the wardrobe.


I made a resolution this year to get over my tendency to make a lot of mistakes when sewing. I would sew a lot faster and enjoy it a lot more if I could stop doing stupid things. So with this blouse – a rather complex project, what with the split sleeves with plackets and cuffs and the collar with collar stand – how did I do?

  • I sewed some of my flat-felled seams backwards.
  • I sewed the left sleeve onto the right side of the bodice.
  • I sewed things wrong side to right side a couple of times.
  • I sewed little tucks into things and had to unpick several times.
  • I tore open a buttonhole a tad when cutting it open.
  • The collar pattern matching is dodgy.

I fixed most of these errors but said the hell with the collar.

I also ran into a problem where the sleeves were way way way too long, and I elected to make the cuffs smaller instead of shortening the sleeves and having to calculate where to put the pleats and worrying that the cuffs wouldn’t fit.

So, I’d give myself a C- in Home Ec, per the usual. I really need some strategies to get over my error-prone ways. Any ideas?

Skirt of Doom

Do you ever know when a sewing project is doomed from the start?

A colleague of mine wears a cute kilt-like skirt to work that has a little asymmetrical overlay. I like it and figured it would be easy enough to sew, so I grabbed New Look 6326 to try View D (the floral print skirt on the pattern envelope).


New Look patterns are nice for a few reasons. The envelope usually includes a wide range of sizes (sizes 10-22 in this case) and some various views that are truly different, not just minor variations on a theme. The patterns also are pretty inexpensive because there’s just one garment, not a wardrobe.

Pattern in hand, I looked for some fabric in New York’s Garment District. This store at 257 W 39rd Street beckoned because it offers deep discounts and usually has a great selection of wools. I wanted a plaid – maybe a Tattersall or Buffalo check – to highlight the asymmetrical front hem.

I have shopped in New York’s Garment District for years and have learned to put up with and even sometimes enjoy the crowded stores, the haggling, the thrill of the hunt and the mercurial customer service to get the best quality and greatest variety of fabrics imaginable. The store at this location is currently called Gate 232, but it’s gone by various other names over the years. It has some nice stuff and a lot of junk.

I found some navy wool crepe in an uneven windowpane plaid that would be perfect – not too heavy with a good drape. I found it in the wool section of the store with big signs everywhere saying the fabrics were $10 a yard. When I inquired about the fabric, however, I was told it was not part of the “sale” and instead was $12 a yard. I bargained with the guy to get the $10 a yard. I am OK with this in theory – haggling is part of the Garment District culture, but it rubbed me the wrong way that magically the very thing I wanted was not part of the so-called “sale.”

I inspected the fabrics before asking for a cuts, since I have also learned the hard way that fabrics can be stained, torn, or have defects. It seemed fine, but it is dark and cramped in that store, so I didn’t do as good a job as I would have elsewhere.

At the register the guy took my credit card and mumbled something about “10 percent.” What? I asked him. He was trying to charge me a 10% fee for using a credit card. There is no sign of this “store policy” anywhere. I grabbed back my credit card and walked out. He guy yelled at me that I had to pay for something once it was cut. I yelled back that he was chiseling me for a bogus fee after we’d agreed on the price, and I’d be happy to take it up with the city’s consumer protection bureau. He relented, cursing that he’d been in business X years and this had never happened before, blah blah.

When I got home, I found that the wool crepe was shot full of little holes that are visible if you hold the fabric up to the light. I guess moths had eaten it? I sent the fabrics to the cleaners to be steam cleaned, to be sure any moths were dead.

I soldiered on. I was able to squeeze the skirt out of the fabric (I had bought enough to make a long skirt but settled for a shorter skirt). The front asymmetrical overlay went together well, but I stupidly did not stabilize the crepe and because it’s slightly on the bias, it pulled a little when I sewed it, distorting the plaid a bit.


I decided I could live with it and kept going. I sewed the back darts, sewed rest of the skirt together plus the right-side waistband (but not the facing yet) and tried it on for fit. I usually need wide darts or double darts in the back of a skirt, and indeed, I did in this case, so I sewed another set of darts near the first. When I tried it on, it looked a little lumpy back there, but I figured it would press out and look right once I’d installed the zipper and waistband.

I set the project aside for about a month because of illness and other commitments. When I came back to it yesterday, I looked in dismay at the waistband – it was sewn on crookedly. How did that happen? I unpicked it, only to remember too late that I’d graded the seam (sloppily in some places), accounting for the goof. Yikes. I marked the sewing line with chalk, using a flashlight to follow the old stitching line, since the seam allowance was gone and unevenly graded.

Thinking I was back on track, I put in the invisible zipper and the waistband facing. I gave it a good press, smoothing out the hips on a ham, and pinned up the hem to try it on. Oh brother. My backside looks like this:


What the hell?!? I cannot account for this weird pleating and crazy excess fabric! I pinched it out just to see what I was dealing with, and the result is a hot mess because the plaid is ruined. Also, the waistband is uneven despite my best efforts.

So, is this my first wadder of 2018? Can this skirt be saved?

Jumping into Burda Style Sewing Patterns

Look what arrived in the mail yesterday!

IMG_20180111_112536My first Burda Style magazine, ordered as a back issue from the magazine distributor. I was inspired by some bloggers I follow (Dressmaking Debacles and Doctor T Designs)   to give Burda a chance, and the December issue had several patterns that interested me. Plus, there’s advice on how to alter patterns for asymmetrical shoulders, which I always do (but not the “right” way, I’ve learned).

I have sewn Burda tissue patterns twice and have gotten good results, although the skirt I made last year was more of a slog than it should have been. The fit baffled me and I didn’t like the way the lining went in. I was pressed for time because the skirt was for a contest.

At the time I said I hated Burda. I am giving it another chance. I’ve learned that Burda’s block may be a better fit for me because they draft for someone 5’6″ and some patterns are for women 5’9″, so I am less likely to need to lengthen bodices and hems. Their “plus” sizes have great dimensions for my shape. Finally, tracing patterns onto paper and adding seam allowances annoys me less than it used to. I have realized that the tracing and measuring can be a good diversion for me; at times when I am too tired to cut or sew, I can trace and measure and feel like I accomplished something. Also, I just got a big roll of Swedish tracing paper, so I am all kitted up.

Burda Dec 2017


BS1712_Modellenuebersicht_NL_2Burda’s pants hold great promise for me. I am starting with these, from the “plus size” collection in this magazine. The line drawing’s rough and the photo of the project doesn’t really do it justice. Anyway, these are pants with a curved waistband, a side zip and a little bit of elastic at center back, which should be great for my big waist-to-butt ratio. I really like a pair of RTW pants that have this feature, and I have no idea how to do it myself. The pants also have zippers at the ankles, which I like for a bit of edgy style.

The pattern suggests stretch woven fabrics, and I have some nice charcoal stretch woven wool gabardine in my stash.

I will make a muslin out of the Swedish tracing paper, using the Palmer-Pletsch method I learned in a class in 2016 of adding 1-inch seam allowances and drawing some horizontal lines along the pattern at key places to check for fitting issues. The lines should be parallel to the floor, so if the lines on your muslin curve out or in, you know you need to make an adjustment there. Typically, I need to pinch out fabric at my hip crease and add a bit to center back.

Assuming these pants go well, I have my eye on a dress, blouse and jacket in this issue. I am trying not to get ahead of myself.

More Pussyhats for More Fresh Hell Ahead

I’m making more Pussyhats for the Women’s March in New York on January 20th. Last time, I made 22 hats out of remnants of polar fleece, about half from my stash (leftover from my niece’s Halloween costume) and half purchased off the Joann’s remnant rack.

This year, in the spirit of environmentalism, I am upcycling fabrics for the hats:

On the right you’ll see the old hooded bathrobe I retired this year after faithful service left it with too many stains, tears and pills to be quite decent anymore. Each hat takes about a fat quarter’s worth of fabric, so I estimate I can get about 12 hats out of the robe. I will definitely use the striped front band as headbands for the hats, and I may do something creative with the hood.

The pink garments on hangers are two items I bought at Goodwill for $5.25. The item on the left is a tennis dress in French terry that has a little stretch. The item on the right is a short nightgown in four-way stretch jersey. I estimate I can get 8 hats out of both, maybe using the nightie’s lace and rouleau straps creatively.

I got both items at my neighborhood Goodwill store. I have donated many times to this store but have never bought anything there. I was disappointed to find no sewing supplies or yardage on sale, just a sad-looking Singer from the 1970s.

As I perused the clothing racks in search of suitable fabrics, it occurred to me that my sewing project might pose a hardship to someone. I found a couple of pink sweatshirts, but I thought, “It’s so cold. Maybe someone needs this sweatshirt to stay warm. Is it right to buy it?” So I chose items that I imagine no one needs, at least not in January in Connecticut. Maybe this is presumptuous of me? Anyway, it’s done.

I plan to make 20 hats in all. I already have orders from a few friends and neighbors who missed out last year, and I imagine others will roll in. A bunch of us, including my sister, are going to New York on the train for the day. A friend from has drafted a hat for this year’s march. If yo want to try that pattern, send me a message with your email and I will send it – it’s on a .pdf.  I am going to use it instead of the free “Fleece Fun” hat I tried last year. While it got the job done, it was rather inelegant and ill-fitting.


Are you marching too?


Top 5 Hits, Misses and Lessons Learned in 2017

Oh damn. The year is almost over. Time for reflections on what I did and didn’t do. Let’s start with the positive, shall we?

My #1 lesson learned from 2017 was to make more simple, wear-anytime items. Previously, I used to make mostly complex, expensive, time-consuming items, such as lined blazers for work, party dresses and other things like that. I’d love them and wear them occasionally, but I realized I could enjoy my sewing projects more (and save money and time) if I sewed more everyday things.

Top 5 Hits: The 5 most worn or most loved makes from your year!


My Top 5 Hits are (right to left):

  • Kwik Sew 3452 – This simple OOP jacket/sweatshirt has been worn almost weekly since I made it this fall. Love the color, the lightweight 100% cotton fabric and the fit.
  • New Look 6498 – I made this crazy dress from sari fabric I bought in India. It was my most creative project of 2017. It’s a bit over-the-top, but I like it that way.
  • La Mia Boutique Camicetta 20 and Simplicity 3688 – OK, this is two projects in one picture – I’m no martinet for the rules. I am proud that I think I finally conquered fit on pants and on button-down shirts. My previous sewing machine sucked at buttonholes, but my new machine makes perfect ones, so I no longer fear the button-down shirt.
  • Great British Sewing Bee Breton Top – Another very simple project that has been worn and worn since I made it out of lovely 100% cotton jersey.
  • Simplicity 8174 – This is my big, extravagant, complex project for 2017. It has 23 pieces and three zippers, made out of ultrasuede with a silk charmeuse lining. The fit is perfect and it’s RTW quality, IMHO.

Lesson learned #2 – Sergers are good things. Lesson learned #3 – Knits are fun. I’d avoided both for years. I thought sergers were complex and expensive, and giving a “cheap” result. If I was going to invest in the time to make a garment, I was going to make it right, using couture seam finishes or linings. I got a serger for my birthday and started using it with hesitation just to finish seams. This fall, I used it to make the two knit garments seen above. I’d avoided knits because both of my sewing machines didn’t like them very much. With the serger, the knit garments went together quickly and the quality was very good. I will still do couture seam treatments when the garment calls for it, but the serger fits well into my “everyday” wardrobe plans.

Top 5 Misses: These are all dogs.


  • Simplicity 8137 – This lined wrap top is just OFF – my biggest time and money waster of 2017, by far. I have worn it a few times to work, after pinning closed the bodice, so it’s not a total loss but still a huge disappointment.
  • Madalynne Noelle bralette – Another waste. Lesson learned #4 – Free patterns are rarely worth it. I never wore this. I will never do another free indie pattern unless it has plenty of positive reviews.
  • This Edith blouse from MariaDemark has been in the “UFO” pile since spring. I cannot get the darts even, despite many tries. I blame the poly crepe fabric (the fault couldn’t lie with me, could it?) I rarely have a UFO. If I start something, I almost always finish it. Lesson learned #5 – It’s OK to give up and cut my losses once in a while. The frustration is not worth it.
  • This bag from Burda 2562 (OOP) is just a hot mess – a true C-in Home Ec effort. I slapped it together from the leftover ultrasuede from the moto jacket project as part of the Sudoku Wardrobe contestLesson learned #6 – Don’t make stuff just for contests. I participate in many contests and sewalongs because I love the camaraderie, I’ve made friends, and I love a good deadline, but I’ve also wasted time and money.  I have used this bag a couple of times, so it’s not a total loss, but it’s embarrassingly poorly sewn.
  • This Cynthia Rowley design, Simplicity 8058 had all the makings of a disaster. Cheap fabric. Tricky design. Exposed zipper on a knit. Way too short. I should have stopped when I cringed at the fabric, bought on sale online. I forged ahead nonetheless. I lengthened it 4 inches, ruining the designer’s line. Despite the stiffest interfacing I had, the center front detail curls and warps the second you sit. The zipper is a hot mess. I will call this a “wearable muslin” that was worn exactly once. I would like to try this again in better fabric and without the piece that juts out at the tummy.

Finally, the #1 make of the year:


Pussyhats. I made 22 of these hats from a free pattern from Fun with Fleece for the Women’s March on Washington. I constructed them on the serger in an assembly line and sent them to friends protesting Trump in California, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and New York. Not the fanciest or best-sewn project, but the most meaningful for me. I was inspired to see the distaff side of humanity, brought into sharp relief by Trump and his ilk, who regard women as either sex objects or subhuman property, use their gifts to say to men who rule over us: WE RESIST.

I am thinking some more about my goals for 2018. See you in the new year.