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.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The By Guess and By Golly Fitting Method (DK Skinny Pants)

I've been avoiding the dreaded "skinny pants" patterns for ages.   Besides my short stubby legs, there's this memory of my go-to casual attire in the dark ages of fashion, the long baggy sweater over leggings.   So comfortable, and so bad!  It's become clear that skinny pants are an actual gap in my wardrobe though, especially since all of my old RTW yoga-type pants are way past the shouldn't-be-worn-in-public phase.

The only skinny pant I'll wear though must have a bit of flare at the ankle - no peg legs for me, period.   Don't even try to argue the (questionable) merits!  So when I saw the fabulous seaming details on the new Donna Karan skinny pant (Vogue 1378), I couldn't get it in my cart fast enough!   No side seams!  Shaping details!  A cool slit at the bottom that gives them that bit of flare I want/need/love!   Yes!

Luckily, shams sewed these up and posted her review just before I was getting ready to make mine, and the tips in her post about fabric choice and the length of the pants (along with a phone call from me begging for advice!) were so invaluable that I'm going to repeat the info here, along with my own discoveries.

  • The suggested fabric is Rayon Spandex or Cotton Spandex.   What they don't say - anywhere! - (unless you pick up the concept by reading through the pattern instructions ahead of time) is that nearly all of the seaming has exposed raw edges and topstitching - and there is a LOT of seaming!  Unless you like the curly/rolled edges look, I suggest a much more substantial fabric, like a ponte/doubleknit.
  • See how tall and lean the envelope model is?   That's the body this pattern is designed for.   I am not tall and lean; in fact, my legs are not only short relative to my torso, but my thighs and knees have never, ever, been referred to as lean or skinny.   Ever.   If you are 5'6" or taller, and you have skinny legs, this pattern is designed for you.   Otherwise, be prepared to make adjustments. (More on this later)

My measurements put me in a size 14.   I'm so used to buying the smaller sizes in nearly everything, and that's what I automatically did with this pattern.   The smaller pattern grouping tops out at a 12, but instead of making a muslin (since I didn't have any ponte-type muslin fabric) I decided to go ahead and cut a 12 out of my good ponte.


  • The only way to figure out how well these pants will fit is to make them.   Start to finish.   When you're done - all finished - THEN you get to try them on and see if they fit!   (chant along with me "muslin, muslin, muslin...."
  • Wait.   There is an alternative.   You can sew a bit, baste a bit, unpick a bit, baste some more, unpick some more, sew some more, baste a bit, unpick some, then get to the point where you can actually baste a somewhat finished piece, say "Uh oh...", unpick a bunch, and THEN sew it up, all the while following the "By Guess and By Golly" method of fitting.   Hereinafter known as ByGABGyMOF.   This is what I did.
Luckily, It worked out in the end.

However, I don't recommend it.

Let's back up a bit.   I was prepared for the pattern being too long, so I laid out all of the pattern pieces and taped them together to get the lay of the land.   Let's call it my version of the muslin.  After taping the pieces together (and it's drafted beautifully, btw), and holding the paper next to my body, it looked like the legs were going to be about 5" too long.   Chopping the 5" off at the hemline would mean losing too much of the interesting detail of the opening slit at the bottom, so I really wanted to take off at least a portion of that in the leg.
That's an interesting assortment of seams, no?   Note the ruler just below the marked crotch line.   This was the only logical place I saw to shorten the pants.  I shortened by 2" at this spot, and figured I could cut 3" off at the bottom without losing too much detail

Here are the pattern pieces after folding out 2":

And after smoothing out the edges:

I knew I would risk my pieces not matching up so nicely (remember that most of these seams are overlapped and topstitched, with only one seam, plus the crotch seam, stitched normally), but this is where I started invoking the ByGABGyMOF.

You start sewing at the bottom, by piecing together the two pieces that form the slit at the ankle.  Sorry, it can be really hard to show black stitching on black fabric - it's way cool though, trust me!

And I love the way it flares while being worn -
it's really an unusual touch!

Onward to the ByGABGyMOF issues....   I continued with the piecing and lapping and topstitching, bearing in mind the distinct possibility that these pants were going to end up being way.  too.  tight, and wondering how in heck I was going to adjust for that, if necessary, since there are NO vertical seams in the legs - they ALL run at an angle!    When I was finally able to pin and baste an entire leg together it was clear - all too clear - that these pants, in a size 12, were NOT going to work on my thighs and knees!   (have I mentioned that my Mom had the beautiful shapely legs in the family, and my Dad had the short stubby muscular legs?   And which leg genes I inherited?)   This began the unpicking session.   The first of several.  

Luckily, it was a gorgeous sunny day, and I was able to do all of the reverse sewing on the sunny front porch :).

Overlapping the seams with a much smaller seam allowance ended up working quite well.   The pieces still fit together well enough, it just took a fair amount of ByGABGyMOF'ing to make it all work.

And then, to top it off, I had to take the seaming along the midriff IN by well over an inch to make it fit between my waist & crotch!   So I probably needed a size 10 here (or maybe even an 8), and a size 14 (or maybe 16) from thighs to calves.

Bottom line re: fit?   Methinks Donna Karan does not draft for my body type!

The good news:   After all is said and done, I actually REALLY LIKE THESE PANTS!!!!  I still need to figure out how to get a good fit from waist to crotch, but that's my issue, and is true with ALL pants on me.   I'm dying to take a class with Lynda Maynard, but the timing just hasn't worked out so far - it will happen!

Again, it's really hard to see the details on black pants, but here are a few shots.   Skinny Pants!   AND animal print!   On me???   Really?   So not my usual style, but you know what?  I will wear this out in public!

I seriously think these pants give the illusion that I have long legs!   Well, normal size legs, at least...

Of course, a shoe with a bit of a heel really helps.....

You can maybe see some of the seam detailing on the upper legs here:

The positives in this design make it almost worth trying again, and now that I have a good idea of what I need to do, I think that with a little patience I could end up with a great fitting pair of skinny pants!

My bottom line advice for others who want to make these?

  • Have skinny legs
  • Be tall
But if you don't fit in the above category,
  • Use sturdy, doubleknit, non-fray fabric
  • Make a muslin
  • And always.....have fun!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tunic Love!

My short legs leave me with a tendency to usually avoid the whole tunic thing,  but I've now made 2 tunics in the last few months, and I love them both!  The first light-weight piece got a LOT of wear during the warmer months, and now I have a cold-weather piece that promises to be in wearing rotation just as much, if not more!  I made it on Sunday, wore it all day Monday; here it is Tuesday, and guess what?   Yup...wearing it again.  :)

This is the first pattern I finished in my new batch of Vogue patterns - V8962.   I had said that I hoped the shaping of the seams would work with my body, and I'm happy to report that it lived up to my hopes!  

If Vogue had not shown this piece made up in these dramatic black & white stripes:
I'm sure I would have skipped right over the pattern envelope.  I admit that I often rely on the vision of others who can see the potential in some of these cover drawings,  because my eyes glaze over when I see colors and postures like these!:

The good news on the fitting front is that I'm still giddy over the successful concept of using a basic TNT (Tried 'n True) pattern!  Once again, I just laid my own front, back, and sleeve pattern pieces over the pieces from the new pattern, made my adjustments, and was able to sew up a perfect fit without a muslin!    It still amazes me that it doesn't matter how different the seaming might be on a different pattern - in this case, a back yoke, and seams that angle from the underarm towards the center front, the TNT was so easy to make the adjustments with!

Now, if I can create a TNT for knit pants with the same results... but that's another journey...

The neckline on this pattern is very wide, (especially with my narrow shoulders) and deeper than I wanted, so I made the whole neckline quite a bit smaller.   Curiously, the sleeves were way bigger than the envelope made them appear to be - I actually narrowed them quite a lot (very unusual for me, since I'm often doing a full upper arm adjustment!)

I graded out to a size 14 at the waist and hips, and kept the length as is.  I think the back is a bit long on me, but I'm OK with it.   (the back is several inches longer than the front)

The fabric I used is a fairly substantial yummy-feeling ponte from Stonemountain and Daughter, with a minimum of stretch.  I had a serious fabric shortage - the recommended yardage with the cowl was 2 yards, and I had a shade over 1-1/2, but by shortening the cowl width-wise by about 2" (which was actually necessary because of the narrowed neckline), and by piecing on a bit of black ponte to the underside of the cowl, I was able to squeeze it all in.   I love being able to use nearly every scrap of fabric!
Showing the cowl with black fabric pieced on:

The fabric shortage meant that I wasn't able to match up the stripes on the front seams at all.   It wouldn't have been possible to match them all the way, given the uneven widths & 3-color stripes, but I would have preferred a slightly closer match.   At least I was able get the sleeve stripes somewhat matched up to the body :)

You may have noticed the curly edge on the cowl - this was a little bit of fun that I tossed in near the end!  The drape of the cowl was fine as is, but I decided to play with adding some shaping at the folded edge of the cowl and see what it looked like.   I used some moldable plastic that I got from Lyla Messenger at Artistry in Fashion last year.   Unfortunately, it isn't listed on her web site, and I don't have any details on it - I'll add more info and a link if I can find it (anyone?).  I sewed a seam about1/4" from the folded edge of the cowl, slipped the plastic inside it, and anchored it in place with a zig zag stitch - it gives some fun options for shaping the cowl!

The finished piece:

Overall, I really like this pattern!   It was super easy to sew, and I think that the shaping of the side/front seams is a bit more body-flattering than a lot of the angled tunics that are so popular.  If I make it again I might change the cowl shape, but I call this one a winner!

The pants I'm wearing are the new Donna Karan skinny pants - they'll be next on the blogging agenda :)