It's about exploring and sharing my creative adventures (mostly sewing these days) ~
~those activities that sometimes obsess, usually inspire, occasionally frustrate
~and always provide a delightful maze to wander through.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Adaptive Clothing - a Wrap-Back skirt from any basic skirt pattern

This post is one in a continuing series of my desire to sew workable clothing for my darling, and aging, Mother, whose needs are shifting as her body, and her abilities, shift.  As she become less mobile (she's quite crippled with rheumatoid arthritis, and getting weaker), her clothing needs are shifting, so my brain is trying to wrap itself around ways to make life easier for her (and for me, as her caregiver)

The goals at the moment are to make (or adapt) clothes that are:

1.  Easy to get on & off while she's seated
2.  Easy to open at the back for bathroom needs.
3.  Necklines that are small enough to keep her neck & chest warm, but large enough to slip over her head.
4.  Comfy!
5.  Fitted enough at the neck & shoulders to stay on, but loose everywhere else.

Buttons down the front require a lot of twists & turns & leaning forward in order to get the arms into the sleeves.   The same sort of manipulations are necessary when slipping a top over the head - if the neck hole is large enough, it's going to slip off her shoulder at some point. The best solution I've come up with, that meets ALL of these points, is clothing that opens at the back.   I have another slip-over-the-top adaptation that I'll address in another post, but this post is all about skirts.

Note:  This post is meant to give ideas on how to adapt a skirt pattern - I'm gearing it towards beginners (with some experience), but it is not a complete tutorial; it's simply meant to be a (hopefully!) helpful addition to the pattern you are adapting.

An addition to my list of "what-I-love-about-estate-sales" is Old Patterns!   I'm still finding uses for the goodies from one craigslist find (I FILLED my car to the brim with sewing goodies - including my dress form - and all free free free!....except for the fact that I worked my washer to the bones getting rid of the smoker's smell from all the fabric....but hey.....).

This old see & sew pattern gave me exactly what I needed for a skirt:

Pleated in the front, to allow for tummy spread on an otherwise rather tiny woman.
General darts locations in the back.

That's pretty much all I needed.   Easy enough to draft yourself, but I'll take the easiest route possible whenever I can, & I don't feel the need to re-invent the basic wheel if I don't need to ;^).    Any basic skirt pattern would be easy to adapt - you can use pleats in front & gathers in back, gathers all the way around, even a more fitted skirt if you want, but I think that a more casual skirt with lots of ease is probably a more practical choice for someone who spends most of their time seated.

This particular pattern had pockets & a back zipper - I eliminated both of those, and redrew the side seams to eliminate the pockets.  BTW, my model is understandably reluctant to go through many fittings, so I just laid the pattern pieces on a skirt I had previously made, for sizing.

PATTERN CHANGES & CUTTING ~ For the back pieces, I extended the left side, at Center Back (CB) by a couple of inches, and extended the right side at CB by about 10".   The size of the wearer will determine how far you want to extend the pieces.   The back pieces had darts, for shaping - I added an additional dart in the extended piece.

I cut the waistband long enough to extend around the wearer's waist to end just in front of the side seams.    You will need to have a waist measurement of the wearer - cut your band the length of the waist, plus enough so that the band will cross itself in the back, and extend on each side as far towards the front as you want it to go, plus seam allowances.  The waistband will extend further on the short side of the back.

Simplistic drawing showing the basic layout
of the three skirt panels and the waistband.
MARKING ~ If you are making pleats and/or darts, mark them on your fabric.

SEWING ~ If you're working from a pattern, you can simply follow the pattern instructions (up to the waistband installation) for most of the skirt, eliminating any zippers, & ignoring the back seam instructions .   My following notes are just the basic steps I took for this skirt.

Pin your pleats in place 

Baste the pleats, starting at the waist, and sewing down a couple of inches.  Now is a good time to stay stitch the waist as well, for stability.  

Pin, then sew, all of the darts.  Press towards the center.
Sew up the side seams, and finish your seams.  
(On this skirt, I staystitched the seam allowances, then pinked the edges.)
Finish the edges of your back pieces as well.   I simply turned under the edges 1/4", stitched, turned again at about 1" & stitched again - essentially a machine stitched hem.

I added fusible interfacing to my waistband.  
You can fuse the entire band - for this one, I just fused one side.   
A note on interfacing:  Interfacing adds stability - unless your fabric is very stable & beefy, you probably want to add it to a waistband.  I have a stash of inexpensive Pellon interfacing, which is what I used here, but I do NOT recommend it!!!!   If you care what your work looks like just get some good stuff & save yourself some puckers (on your fabric, and on your face, from all that frowning!)  I recommend  buying from Pam Erny at fashion sewing supply
Continue following the instructions on your pattern for waistband installation, but pin your band in place following the drawing above, extending the band from both edges, with a longer extension on the shorter back piece.
Pin the Right Side (RS) of the band to the Wrong Side (WS) of the skirt, and stitch in place.  Trim the seam allowance, and press seam toward the waistband.

With RS of the waistband together, fold in half, and stitch the extended edges together.  A tip on getting a sharp, crisp corner:  Stitch once all the way to the edges (don't pivot at the corners).   Then set your machine for a shorter stitch, and stitch a second time, but this time pivot at the corners - however, don't pivot a full 45º; instead, pivot halfway around the corner & take one tiny stitch, then pivot the rest of the way & continue.  Trim your seams, & clip the corner up to the stitching.  Turn the band & press.

Your instructions may have had you turn & press the other long end of your waistband before stitching it on to the skirt.   If you haven't already done that, turn & press now, & check to make sure that your band is and even width all the way.  Pin the band in place, and stitch from the right side, through all layers (both sides of waistband and the skirt).  I did a 'stitch in the ditch' method, so that the stitching is hidden on the outside of the skirt, but you can topstitch along all edges of the waistband.   (Sorry, I won't go into details about this step here - this is really just meant as a basic 'how to alter a pattern' post)

Now you can add a buttonhole to the band for one end of the band extension to pass through.  (It really doesn't matter which side you place the buttonhole on; there's no 'right' & 'wrong' here)  ;)
This is not my prettiest buttonhole, but it does the job.  You want it to be wide enough for the band to pass through easily, but still have good reinforcement on each end.

For ease in both construction and getting dressed, I'm a fan of velcro!  Add  a strip, or a square, on the end of each waistband extension,  and the mate in the appropriate spot on the band.   This would be a good time for a fitting, and you can also check the length.
Hem the bottom....

And you're done!
Unless you've narrowed the ends of the waistband, you'll get a little puckering where the band passes through the buttonhole.  Since this was basically a prototype skirt, I'll likely narrow the band extensions next time.

Finished Front

I hope that someone out there finds this helpful :).   Many of us will be finding ourselves in the position of being involved with an aging relative, or someone with a disability - no matter which side of the equation we are on, may we be there with grace, and do what we can with a smile in our hearts :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Who wears Animal Prints? (The Colette Sorbetto Top)

I've realized that I have a love/hate relationship with animal print fabrics.  Love the coppery/black/tan/brown colors - they're perfect for me!   But there's something about slinky, silky, animal print clothes that can so easily say cheap & tawdry.  I mean, what's the go-to print to portray a tv prostitute, eh?  And yet, done well, an animal print can be both elegant and hot!

I found myself doing a bit of curious soul-searching while playing with which fabrics to use for the lovely little Colette Sorbetto Top that Sarai has offered as a FREE download.  I liked the thought of using this lovely silk I've had for awhile...except that it's sort of leopard printish...... Is this the pattern that I can finally use to pull off a nice-looking animal print?  And feel good wearing it?   Hmmm...... each their own, but, well....No.   (Sorry Snooki)

Runway looks.   All righty then......

Not saying I hate it, not saying I love it.... (what do YOU think?)

Kind of classically elegant Dior.....even though you won't find me dead in it!  ;D

Givenchy - definitely A Look!  (and it does NOT look cheap!)  And OK -
you can go ahead & bury me in this one lol! (Just don't put it on me before I'm dead, 'k?)

So, back to the Colette Sorbetto....and the fabric I pulled from my stash:

This is a yummy silk, and I've been waiting for the right pattern to use it on.  However, I did NOT want it to look like negligee, which would be pretty easy with a simple top like this.  It needed a little sumpin'sumpin' extra...... I found these buttons in my vintage button stash - just unique enough to funk up the look & make it something I would enjoy wearing :)

The bias trim is a vintage cotton percale - I thought it would be perfect, but it definitely turned into a Learning Opportunity!  What I Learned:  All of the bias seam binding I've done on garments, so far, have been self-made, and very flexible & stretchy.   I did know that ready-made bias binding isn't going to have quite the stretch of any of the fabrics I've used before, but this tape was REALLY close woven (Percale, I discovered, is a type of weave that is tight).   The results were a binding that did not lay as flat as I would have liked.  I pressed it into semi-submission, & it's perfectly wearable, if not perfect :)  (It's a good thing I spent all those years working on my perfection issues!  I would not be sewing if I hadn' least I wouldn't be happily sewing!)
I'll toss in a shot of my wearable muslin here; mainly to note that the self-fabric bias strip I used worked MUCH better than the ready-made.   The bad news is that this really does need to be a wear-only-at-home piece.   The fabric was a shawl, then a tablecloth, then a "I'll-keep-it-until-I-figure-out-what-to-do-with-it-next" bit of stash, & by the time I made it up into this top, it had real live holes in it.   Tiny holes, but still.....  The good news is, I discovered a new color that's really good for me!   Potential wardrobe expansion! :D

You can see the waviness & gaping of the tape here - it's not bad, but not perfect.
And I LOVE the buttons!  The color matching looks better IRL, but they are
just different enough to stand out, & still look like they belong there :)

The Finished Top
And a perfect fit!

I'll list all of my construction notes & alterations in my Pattern Review, but the short version of my take on this pattern is that it's a winner!   And for free too?   Can't beat that!

Now then, fess up.......what's YOUR feeling about wearing animal prints - do you have any, & do you wear them?

Monday, June 20, 2011

What I love about Garage Sale-ing

The treasures you can find!  Especially the free ones!   Like a bag of sewing notions - if I ever buy a machine, I'll always fill a bag with loose notions & ask if they'll throw that in (they always do).   And the cabinet drawers of a vintage machine ~ veritable little treasure chests.  :)

I'm making the cute little Colette Sorbetto top (another freebie!) & I wanted to funk it up a bit with some buttons, & wondered if I might have some nice bias tape in my stash to use as well.

Yup - vintage freebie finds to the rescue!

There's an upside/downside to vintage button finds - often you find a delightfully unique & fabulous button...and there's only one.   The good thing is that creativity gets triggered in figuring out how to use it.  I'm thinking of combining these buttons, & that wonderful 100% cotton bias tape, on my animal print(!) blouse:

But THIS is what really caught my eye - on the back of that bias tape package is this:
Love love LOVE this phrase:  "we will reimburse you for the reasonable cost of your labor and all material used in making the article on which it is applied."  What are the odds of finding THAT guarantee on anything made today?

Here are a few more packages of tape from roughly the same ($.15 per package) era:
All cotton or rayon, & even different companies have that same guarantee!

Love the washing instructions on this one:
"Boil with pure soap or soap flakes.  Rinse in clear, luke-warm water, Iron before quite dry."

Many of these finds have no monetary value, and little value of any sort to anyone but us sewists, but they make the little cockles of my heart go pitter-patter when I sort out my bags & drawers of treasures after a day that is often filled with delightful chit-chat & sharing goodies & stories with other bargain hunters.  :)

What fabulous vintage sewing finds have you come up with in your estate sale wanderings?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Jalie Jeans #4 - From Contour Waist through Rivets to Completion!

Everyone who has raved about this pattern was right!  I have a (nearly) perfectly fitting pair of Jeans!

Back to where we left off, which was the completed zipper.  I did things a little off from the instructions, just because I wanted to be able to do a fitting before adding the back yoke (which is one of the first steps in the instructions).  I was prepared for a gaposis issue, and sure enough, I had it.  I took the CB seam in a bit, including the CB of the yoke, before attaching it.

Next came the topstitching.   I treated these jeans as my "test lab" for which feet to use where while topstitching on a vintage straight stitch.....and I still don't have the magic solution, but I am getting better!  One problem I have is my inherent frugality - I'm STILL using the old style foot pedals on all my vintage machines, and I REALLY need to upgrade, so that I can have better speed control.

I tried using the zipper foot (moved as far over to the right as possible in this pic, with the foot edge butted up next to the folded edge of the fabric - here I'm attaching the yoke to the back).   This worked OK for a stitch really close to the edge, but with no foot flattening the fabric as you sew, it's less than ideal:

 For the second row I tried using a quilting foot.  With a little practice, this could give a nice straight line.

I love my original, open-toe foot :) :) :).   As long as my first line is straight, this one works well.

Leg & CB seams - stitched, then serged (with blade up), then pressed to one side for topstitching.

Trying to use the zipper foot for the second row of stitching = pretty much a fail!

~For some odd reason, I'm reminded of an old Norwegian ski instructor, whose words (when I was whining about my old wooden found-in-the-garage skis) are still burned into my brain: "Is not the skis, is the skier!"~

All Topstitched!

Belt Loops too!  (folded in thirds, per instructions).   I used Tacky Glue to hold them place - I'm now totally sold on glue as an essential sewing notion!

 Gaposis Darts added in the yoke (I'll transfer this to the yoke pattern piece, & cut & curve at the pattern level for the next pair):

Don't forget to staystich all around the top edges, if you haven't done this already!  Here's the last bit of topstitching down the sides, from waist to hip:

And now it's time to fit the waistband.  This step, I'll say flat out, was the worst part of the whole process for me!   I knew I was going to want a contoured band.   Most sewists who did this said something like "I used the contour band from my favorite ______ pattern".   OK.   But but but....I don't have a favorite pattern!  I even dug through all of my unused patterns, & didn't have a single pattern with a real contoured waistband!   Not only that, I couldn't find any thorough instructions in any of my books.  Yeesh, why do I keep coming with these seemingly simple ideas that I can't find help for?   

So I plowed ahead, using the info I had gathered, & hoped for the best.   Unfortunately, I did this late at night.  (See my previous post, for the giggles on that fiasco!)

Anyway, I started by basting on a straight waistband (cut on the cross grain):

Once I established markers for the length (note that the sides will be slightly different lengths, to accommodate for the zipper area), I muddled through my attempt at an appropriate curve, with more curve in the back area, straightening out in the front.  I decided to have only seam, at CB, and place my CF ends on the grain, so that the curve in back would be on a bit of a bias.

OK.   Here's a do as I say, not as I did, example.  See how totally, utterly, completely wonky & uneven those edges are?   I mean, really, who cuts out pattern pieces that look like that????   
I plead midnight madness.
Do not sew after midnight.
I'm printing that out & putting it on the wall in my sewing room.  

 Waistband & Facing sewn together, still with wonky edges, & still I forged ahead & stitched it onto the pants  :(

RS of Waistband Facing stitched to WS of pants, RS of Waistband folded over 3/8" & pressed:

Next morning I unstitched (most of) it. :(

Lessons Learned:  There is no room for error in the pattern making & fabric cutting for a waistband that is going to be topstitched, with stitching showing on both sides.   1/16" off in the cutting will pretty much guarantee a 1/4" wonk in your stitching line later!    A wavy cutting line....well, let's just say I refused to even take pictures of the results.   Yup, that bad :(

   After staring at my partially unpicked work for awhile, I realized that if I completely removed the waistband, the edge of the pants would be unraveled dangerously close to the staystitching.   I decided to leave the facing stitched on, & just do my best to even up the denim portion before I stitched it.

 Band folded over, & raw edge folded & pressed & carefully measured to be an equal width for the entire length of the band:

This time I glued that puppy down!   I tried a glue stick at first, but this didn't hold the denim, so I went back to using Tacky Glue, which worked perfectly!  

For this step I used the measuring arm on the quilting foot - worked like a dream!  Oh yeah, I also switched out the bobbin thread from navy to white, so the inside work (which I already knew was not going to be ideal) wouldn't jump out & shout at anyone who happens to see it.

The end result:  OK on the outside, not so great inside, but much better than my first attempt, so I'll call it progress :)

Stitched up the belt loops:

And it's time for Rivets!   I did mention earlier to buy extras, right?   For practice - if you've never done them before, I highly recommend a practice session!
Tools Needed:
  • Hammer
  • Strong (like steel), Smooth surface
  • Nail or Awl or Nail Punch
  • Tin Snips or very strong wire cutters
  • Rivets (2 pieces for each rivet)

Step One (after practicing, of course!) -  Punch a hole through all layers of your fabric:

Step Two - Make sure the pin section is the right size (i.e., not too long) for the thickness of your fabric.  Once the pin is inserted through your fabric, there should be LESS than 1/8" exposed. One method recommends punching a hole through as many layers of fabric it takes to get the thickness you need, then inserting the pin through the hole & trimming around the pin head.

Once inserted into your fabric, it looks like this.  The potential for it fraying down to nothing is too great, imho, so I abandoned this method.

Here is an untrimmed pin showing through the pocket edge:

My old rusty (but still effective!) metal snips, ready to do their job!   Wear protective glasses, or at least close your eyes, for that final snip!  (You did practice, right?   So you know how much to snip off?  It's probably more than you think, for a nice, tight, rivet.........just sayin'......)

The back of the pin:

Oops, I don't have pictures of the pounding process!   I'll add some later - it's too dark right now.  In words:  position the head of the rivet onto the pin, turn everything over so the rivet head is facing down, on top of your strong, smooth steel plate or equivalent (I just used a flat garden tool - worked well!), & give it a tap with your hammer to set it.  Once you know everything is positioned evenly, give it a few pounds (it doesn't take a lot of's more important to try to land your hammer flat on the pin head.


Voila!   Rivets :)

I used a rivet/button thingy as well - the same process is used to set the button.

I'll add some more pics of me wearing the jeans when The Photographer shows up (& maybe after I procure a pair of Spanx? - they fit great, but they are snug!)

General Notes (mostly for me):

  • Contour the waistband a bit more - maybe place the CB on the grain instead of CF.  
  • Could lower the front waist another 1/2"  
  • Raise the back pockets - they seem to sit a little low.
  • Make the front pockets a little bit wider - extend the opening more towards the center.

Bottom Line on this pattern:  Who knew that a pair of snug fitting jeans could be SO comfortable!!!!   Really! When I put them on for the final fit check I didn't take them off until bedtime - how good a sign is that? :D 

Note:  I'm standing on a slope here - the waist isn't really slanted like that!

Now this is what I call a boot cut jean!

Hmmmm..... my sedentary Spring is beginning to show repercussions :(

The End :)