Craftsy course – Pants Fitting Techniques – Part 1

I recently enrolled in a course with Craftsy.  Pant Fitting Techniques – how to get a good fit on trousers that you make from a supplied Vogue pattern.  It was a new course so there weren’t many reviews to go on, and no finished student projects, but pattern fitting is an area where I am very interested to learn more.

A pattern comes with the course for a pair of slim fit trousers with a princess seam down the front of the leg.  The idea behind this pattern is that there are now 4 seams you can adjust instead of the regular two only at the sides, and by having so many places you can adjust you will be able to get a great fit.  I’ve never sewn real trousers before so this seemed ideal.

As I am overseas, the pattern took some time to arrive from Vogue so I sat and watched all of the videos first before doing anything else.  Sandra is clearly a very experienced sewer and pattern designer and has also run her own sewing school.  She is well-respected and well-known in her field and designs the Today’s Fit range of patterns for Vogue.

That being said, I found her a little difficult to follow as a teacher.  She clearly has so much knowledge that she wants to get across to her students that she goes from one thing to the next to the next very quickly with no break in between.   I also found that instead of starting with a new pattern piece for each adjustment, or for each section of the tutorials, all of the adjustments were carried out on the same pieces and she would cut bits off, stick extra bits of paper on, and redraw over old lines.  It was sometimes difficult to follow this and would have preferred if she had been more prepared for each section by starting with a blank pattern piece so the students could really see the alterations in isolation.

But my difficulties with the course are solely down to me being really new to sewing and patterns.  Anyone with a little more experience will fly through this and have awesome trousers in no time.

Another area of cunfusion for me, was that the students were asked to make all of the alterations to the pattern before cutting out any fabric and making a trial piece.  Sandra said that we should do all of the alterations first then by the time we cut and sew, the fit should already be almost perfect.  But how?  How did I know what alterations to make if I had not yet made a first attempt?

So once the pattern arrived, I carefully checked the pattern packet for sizing and took a look at the pattern pieces for finished measurements etc.  I decided on cutting a straight size D as my measurements exactly agreed to those on the pattern sizing so I assumed that I would already get a pretty good fit, if the pants were designed to fit someone with my measurements.

But how wrong could I be – and suddenly I realised why this course was necessary for pants. Here is my first trial piece cut from the unaltered pattern according to my sizing.

Clicking on the photos will bring up a larger version so you can see my notes.

The fit on first impression is good – the pants fit smoothly at the waist, high hip and lower hip and the side seams feel smooth and not too loose.  So yes, they fit.  But YIKES – they fit badly.

  • There is a lot of very loose fabric at the front hanging from the waistband down to the crotch and I can create a couple of large pleats of excess fabric running top to bottom there.  This I don’t understand, if it fits at the crotch and waist and the body of the trouser fits to the waistband, where does this extra come from and how can I get rid of it without taking it out of the waist measurement so that the body no longer fits to the waistband?
  • The backside is very loose and baggy and unflattering.
  • The legs overall are very loose and wide.  I’ll need to take them in quite a bit from the crotch down to get a more flattering line for me.  Wide leg trousers make me look short and dumpy.
  • The whole back leg area has acres and acres of loose fabric.  But it doesn’t hang across, its diagonal coming from the hips.
  • The side seams don’t hang straight down – they veer sharply towards my toes.  I assume if I remove some of the excess fabric in the back leg, then the seams will hang straighter.

Sigh – I clearly need a lot of very large alterations to get these trousers to fit me in the same way a store-bought pair would fit.  It’s a bit disappointing, I had hoped to have less to deal with for my first attempt at trousers.

At least now I have the first trial made up I know what alterations are needed.  The course does cover several alterations for the rear baggy bum, but I’m not sure I came across the problem with the baggy front too.

So from today I start watching those videos again, this time with renewed interest and I’ll try to pick up on just those alterations that apply to me and my pattern and I think it’s all going to be a lot clearer and more concise now I don’t have to learn all of the many many adjustments Sandra covers in the course.

I’m glad that I signed up, and at the end I’m going to have an awesome pair of custom fit pants.  But if you are thinking of taking the course, and you are a new sewer, I recommend making up a trial piece first before watching the video sections that deal with all of the alterations, so that you can concentrate on those areas that apply to you.   Otherwise it can be rather overwhelming.

If you are an experienced sewer and have maybe made trousers before – you will LOVE this course, I’m sure.

I’ll be posting again in future once my second trial is ready.

If you would like to sign up for this course, I have a referral link you can use which won’t cost you any more but will earn me a small commission.  Wordpress don’t allow me to insert the link so you will need to copy and paste this to your browser:    http://shrsl.com/?~302x

Thank you very much.  All comments and fitting suggestions very welcome.

Is it a purse or a handbag?

You may have noticed from my writings that I am British.  Or maybe you didn’t.  I was born in the UK and lived there living a ‘normal’ life for many years.  Until my husband and I decided to get away from it all and lead the lives we should have lived when we were younger.  So we became scuba diving instructors and moved to Thailand – quite a departure from real estate and accountancy in grey England.

Rum Point, Grand CaymanWe now live in Grand Cayman, in the Caribbean and have been here 5 1/2 years.  Naturally we now come into contact with very few Brits and very many Americans.  In order to make ourselves understood we have to modify our language – the boot of the car is now the trunk, a tap is now a faucet, the rubbish = trash, and there are many many more examples.

One in particular is the term purse.  In the UK, a purse is used by a woman to keep her money and cards in.  This in turn is carried around inside of a handbag.  A wallet is used by a man only and carried in his pocket.  So today, to be clear, I am making a handbag and I will use it to carry my purse !

I have some scraps of fabric left over from the two paper bag skirts I made.  Some in a brown and some in a heavier weight cream.  It seemed a perfect solution to use them both up together to make a handbag that would match either skirt.

Molly handbag

I fell in love with the Molly ruffled bag and had just enough left.  You too can get the free pdf pattern and the MOST comprehensive step by step instructions I have ever seen anywhere for anything.  For my first ever bag, this detail was invaluable and I am so grateful to Reba for making this available to us all.  You can get the pattern by signing up for the newsletter – right hand side.

I am delighted with my bag, although I think I could have got a better result with a heavier weight interfacing.  The only sewing shop here only sells one type of interfacing and its very light weight intended for clothing, so it didn’t give the bag as much stiffness as the original Molly bag.  But it does OK and I suppose if I made this again, I could probably add two layers.

I’ve happy with my bag and may go on to give some others a try to use up left overs and remnants.  It’s a great way to use up all of your fabric and get an (almost) free handbag (or purse).Molly handbag

 

Total cost:

Fabric – left overs – free

Interfacing – 1/2 yard? – $2.50

Button – 50c

Total cost $3.00

Paper Bag skirts

Clearly I was going to be at a great disadvantage in sewing my own clothes if I could not do zippers and with my zipper foot a long way off on the horizon, I scoured the internet for ideas for clothing that didn’t need either zippers, nor buttons (too advanced for me !)

Most elasticated waist skirts are for little girls and simply look too frou frou for the more mature lady :-) but then I came across the paper bag skirt.  Not actually made of paper or bags but cinched in at the waist, top of paper bag style.  Perfect, no zipper needed.

I found the very best example for ladies and a great tutorial here at The Sewing Dork.

The example in this tutorial is a really eye-catching striped skirt but I settled for another brown remnant for about $4 and used existing thread left over from the Nancy dress and the unfinished A-line brown pinstripe skirt.

 

Paper bag skirt

The instructions are super easy to follow, with great photos on the tutorial all along and again with this skirt being basically more rectangles, it was finished and wearable in no time at all.  I did make some belt loops to go with it to hold the belt nicely over the elasticated waist which I think looks better again.  These too were rectangles which I just sewed on either side of the elastic casing and tried to get them fairly even.

Success – even my husband was quite impressed although he didn’t think the look was very flattering on me.  Like most men, he prefers a more fitted or closer style and thinks this makes me look rather heavy in the waist.  I actually agree with him there – most ladies will agree that this is another reason the gathered waist skirt is not the most flattering – too much fabric all bunched up there.

Paper bag skirt

But I wore it to work the very next day and got lots of compliments.  I enjoyed wearing something I had made so much, that I made another than evening – using a cream remnant.  I think this fabric was rather on the heavy side and was probably intended more for cushions and curtains than clothing, but it does emphasise the shape and the waist nicely.  I certainly don’t have any other clothes for my bottom half in such a light color so I think I am liking the change.Paper bag skirt

Included is my attempt at some photos of the finished product – self timer photos were never my strong point – and I also attempt to emulate the stylish poses of other sewing blogs.  Except I just look awkward and embarrassed – which I am !

Paper bag skirtPaper bag skirtsPaper bag skirts

Making a pencil skirt sloper

Have you EVER owned a pencil skirt that fit you properly?  I find the ready to wear either gape in the waist, or are too tight across the hip or thigh or the darts aren’t right.  I guess perhaps my waist to hip ratio does not match the ideal hourglass figure.  Neither is my widest point in the regular hip – I am a true pear with my thighs wider than my hips.

Now that I can sew (a little) I thought it was about time I tried to rectify this with my own pencil skirt.  But buying a pattern would not solve the problems and would require so many alterations and I don’t know how to do this to get a good fit.  So drafting my own pattern from scratch seemed to be the way to go.

I found a brilliant description of how to take your measurements and draft a pencil skirt basic pattern sloper here.

It starts with photos of how and where to measure and takes you step by step through constructing your very own pattern for a skirt based on your own measurements.  There are recommendations for ‘ease’ so that the skirt isn’t skin tight!  It took me a couple of hours after I went wrong once and had to start again, but at the end I had a pattern all of my very own.

REMEMBER TO ADD YOUR SEAM ALLOWANCE.
But I’m still very new to this – would it work?  I had to test it right away, and I grabbed some navy blue satin from my stash.  So far, I’ve only ever bought remnant pieces, never anything from the roll, because I still don’t trust myself to make something worth wearing and would hate to waste the fabric (and the money) if it turned out wrong.

So I carefully cut and marked my skirt, stitched the darts, and pinned for a first fit.  Not bad !  But hard to really tell without sewing it all together.  Ah – and it was here I forgot that I was running before I could walk, and of course a pencil skirt in a woven fabric needs a zipper – and I don’t have a zipper foot and can’t buy one here in the Cayman Islands.  Damn it.

So, the pattern and the fabric has been carefully folded and labelled and put away in a zip loc bag ready for the heavenly day I can continue on these ‘zipper needed’ projects.  One day (soon) I’ll return to this project and reference this post and hope to show my perfectly fitting pencil skirt.

My first real limitations

I am heady with excitement as I head back to my sewing machine for my next project.  The ‘Cute dress !’ comment about my Nancy dress leaves me salivating for more new clothes courtesy of the remnants bin.

I read all over the web about making clothes from your existing ready to wear favorites.  I actually have a really well fitting simple a-line skirt which I had made to measure during a trip to Vietnam (I am such a lucky girl) so I tried to give this one a go.  I pinned out the skirt, drew around carefully and made my pattern pieces.  I checked the measurements, everything was good.

Ah, then I ran into my first difficutly – this skirt needs a zipper.  I rummaged around in the box the borrowed sewing machine came in, found nothing, called my friend who lent it to me.  No, she doesn’t know where the zipper foot is. Damn – on an island with only one small sewing shop I knew I was in trouble.

Saturday comes, and my trip to the shop is unsuccessful – they don’t stock any of these sort of accessories – there just isn’t enough demand.  And although I can find plenty online, the international shipping fees are ridiculous – $35 to ship a tiny presser foot !  I think I will wait until someone visits from the US.

So I make up the skirt as much as I can, and I sew the side seam closed, basting at the top where the zipper will (eventually) go.  I can’t even try it on to see if it fits, but to be fair, it looks like it won’t.  I probably need to concentrate more on the size of the seams I have made if I want it to be exactly the same as the original.

Oh, and I also managed to make it much more difficult than it needed to be by picking a striped material.  Its way difficult to make a triangle shaped shirt with lines – how can you get them to match?  If they match in one place, they won’t match in another.  Hmm.

I think this may be my first ‘wadder’. A term I see online for things you made that are failures, don’t fit or aren’t right for one or more reasons.  Totally my fault – poor seam allowance control, picking the wrong fabric, probably poor pattern drafting, beginners over confidence, and the lack of proper tools (a zipper foot) all lead to this one being put aside for one day in the future.

If the road to success were easy, it would be crowded with people all heading in the same direction.  I guess they can all travel on that road without me today……hmm, but what next?

The ‘Nancy’ easy knit halter dress

Buoyed by the success of my first sewing project with the pink apron, I headed straight onwards and upwards and became (too ?) ambitious for my next project.  I wanted to make a dress.  The remnant bin this week produced a rather random print in blue and brown which I am never to sure about because this was the color of my old school uniform.  What’s more the fabric was stretchy and I had no idea what to do with it.  It cost about $5 and I bought some dark brown thread for 70c.

I came across the Nancy dress pattern and thought – yes, its only rectangles, I can do this !

So I cut out my rectangles according to the pattern pieces and measurements, sewed them up (in like, 5 minutes) and tried on my new dress.  Er….. sack/shroud?  Yikes it was way way too big and completely shapeless and here I came across my first fitting problem.  I think it was down in part to my choice of fabric because it has a lot of stretch so it was loose.  But because its only rectangles, it was easy to just pin in the sides a little (I did some on each side) and then sew up again, cut off the extra and retry.

Perfect fit – well, good enough for my first dress I think.  Do excuse the photo – it was a very windy day and everything looks a little windswept – including me!

Nancy knit dress

However, I wanted a bit more shaping in front, and I don’t like to go without a bra, so I added some halter straps made simply from long rectangles of fabric sewed up and then turned the right way out and hemmed the ends.  The shaping on the front was easy, I just gathered an inch and half of fabric in a bunch in the center and then sewed back and forward through it a couple of times and I had a little shaping.

That afternoon I wore my dress to the supermarket, and saw a colleague who said ‘Cute dress’ and I beamed and said ‘Thank you.  I made it myself.’ and my love of sewing was cemented for good.

So if you fancy making your first dress, try the Nancy pattern. It is easy to sew, has good instructions and you can customize it to fit your shape really easily, add straps etc.  And it can also be worn around the waist as a long or maxi skirt too.

My first sewing project – a half apron

So I had some cotton, a pink printed piece from the rummage section.  About a yard and a half, bought by the pound.  The remnants are weighed, and you buy by weight – I don’t remember now what this cost, but its $7.50 per pound.

What to make?  I’ve not sat in front of a sewing machine for over 30 years, but I know straight away that I want to make things to wear, clothes, things I can get use from.  But I don’t know anything about fitting, don’t have any patterns.  And the fabric isn’t the sort of thing I would normally wear.

So let’s start nice and easy and make an apron.  I’ve seen some lovely aprons for sale on Etsy, using mixed fabrics, with ruffles, bows, fabulous vintage or fashionable prints.  And really they are only rectangles right?  So with my single piece of cotton I get to work.

I cut rectangles.  One from the waist to just above the knee and a little over from hip to hip size, with a little extra to allow for some pleats.  Then a wide rectangle to use as a waist band which I can double over. Then two long thin rectangles to use as the ties.

Hmm, how to sew them all together.  Well actually it was pretty intuitive.  I hemmed 3 sides of the apron piece leaving the top edge open.  Then I prepared the ties by making long tubes which I turned right side out and top stitched and pressed.  Then I folded the waist band in half and pinned the ties in at either end and the apron part in the middle.

I added a couple of pleats for the front of the apron for a little shaping and volume.  Pinned them in place, and the top stitched around the waist band to hold everything in place.

And it was done!  I proudly put on my apron and danced around the kitchen with my finished ‘garment’.  It’s not really clothes, but it is something I can wear and use and it was really easy with no pattern at all.

I’m not exactly thrilled with it.  It’s a bit plain, I’m not keen on the pink print and I’ve already managed to get spots of chilli on the front (thank goodness I was wearing an apron!)  So do have a go for yourself and add a variety of prints and solids to add some great variety.

My suggestion for sizing:

First, decide how long and wide you would like your waistband to be.  I had a wide band, about 3.5 inches which I could fold over in half so I measured my rectangle as twice this, plus and extra inch for the seam allowance.  This gives a really wide band which I can fold over in half if I like too.

Then the apron part will be the same width.  If you want to add pleats like I did, add an extra 4 inches for each pleat and you will pleat them 2 inches into the waistband on each side.

There are so many fabulous free patterns on the internet for aprons that I’m not going to remake the wheel by posting lots of details.  Above are my notes on sizing so I got the apron to be the size I wanted.

And check out my pinterest board on some of the great apron designs and free patterns and tutorials here.  Why not follow me or the board on pinterest – I’ll be adding great new patterns and tutorials as I find them.

So my first project was a simple success.  From zero to hero !   Hmm, I still have some of that pink cotton fabric left over – what to do next?

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