Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bring it on Sandy!

So I needed a new swimsuit, but in view of the impending "storm of the century"* I REALLY needed a new pair of waterproof pull-on pants.  I bike to work.  I really hate taking the bus, and at this time of year I don't relish getting soaked to the skin.  I can keep myself (relatively) warm and dry with the right gear and my old pants had lost their ability to keep me dry some time ago.

Enter Kwik Sew 2841.  Published, the envelope tells us, in MCMXCIX (1999), this is a reliable recipe for non-sexy pull-on pants or shorts, which I already used to make my no-longer-waterproof pants.  The pattern has front and back pockets and a drawstring waist and lower leg finish.  Last time I added the hip pockets but left off the rear pocket, and used elastic instead of a drawstring.  This time I further simplified and omitted all the pockets.

I had traced the medium, which is roomy enough to fit over jeans (as shown below), let alone tights, which are my usual bike wear.  I knew from experience that the pants generally fit me for the intended purpose, but that I wanted the pleated knee to fall a bit lower, and more length generally in the leg.  So I added about 2cm at the lengthen/shorten here lines both above and below the pleats and the finished length is exactly what I wanted.

Without further ado, I introduce my extremely uninteresting but (I hope) very functional and long-lasting Gore-tex pants (shown with my more interesting and very functional Gore-tex bike jacket).

The pants are made from single layer Gore-tex which is probably no longer made or sold - its membrane is exposed and anything made from it must be fully-lined to protect the membrane from wear.  I bought this fabric from an on-line coop a while back.  I've been very pleased with its performance in my jacket.

Knee pleats in "action"
I had some iron-on seam sealant tape which I used up on the pants.  They are lined with some sort of horrid athletic mesh from my stash.  I didn't quite have a long enough or wide enough piece, so the back crotch is pieced and there is a "decorative" band of bright yellow horrid athletic mesh at the bottom.  It's our little secret. 

The only remaining question is whether I should attempt some kind of shoe cover out of the remaining goretex, or if the X-country ski gaiters in my closet will keep the worst of Sandy's rain out of my shoes.

* For anybody who is, as of the time I write this, living in a cave, or for those who are reading this post a long time after it was written, Hurricane Sandy is now forecast to combine with some sort of early winter storm and hit the east coast of the USA sometime early in the week.  It's also supposed to track north into Canada, where it will in all probability dump lots of rain on my city.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This could be boring

I swim regularly and a couple of weeks ago I lost my swimsuit when I absent-mindedly left it at the pool.  Who would take a used, wet swimsuit, you might ask?  I'm asking too, because someone did.

So I have fabric, a pattern, and elastic, and I'm not letting myself set foot in a store to spend money to buy more of the same, assembled into a bitty little scrap of a garment.  No-sirreee!

Instead, I spent an inordinate amount of time  assembling a muslin swimsuit from my pattern, Jalie 3134.  It took so long because my fabric (from Speedo according to the selvedge, 100% polyester, will wear like iron) has less stretch in the length than Jalie wants, so I had to guesstimate the length.  I'm wary because I used the fabric once before, to make a bodysuit, and it was too short.

Inevitably I overcompensated, and this post is intended, in part, as a personal note so I will remember what I did, should I ever decide to make this pattern out of similar fabric again.

I traced size R on top, S on the bottom, and used size V length.  I discovered that the inset on the front hip has no shaping in it and since I'm not using any contrast fabric, I have stuck the two pieces together.

I made my muslin out of slightly stretchier 100% poly and the length was fine.  Comparing the traced pattern and the pattern for my bodysuit, I found they were the same length so I added an inch of length to all pieces and cut out my suit.  So now I'm taking about half this extra length out on the fly.  I slid the centre front piece down by that amount and cut off the top and upper side and I did the same with the lower back piece.  I plan to adjust the side front in sewing, by sliding it down and cutting off the extra length at the leg edge.  I think there is enough wiggle room because of the straps to adjust the final fit once the elastic is installed.

Two more adjustments were needed for fit.  I took a wedge of approximately .5" (1.5cm) out of the inner edge of the lower back piece.  You can see why in the photo at right (published in the interests of science but with some trepidation, I must say).  Ignore the interesting moebius strap effect please.  (I'm wearing my ancient suit underneath to compare the shape and placement of straps etc.)

And to improve coverage at the side/back leg, I'm adding extra width there.  You can see the reason why at left.  That model has no butt at all.

Pink palm trees.  Probably not to be finished...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hits and misses - the dress edition

A while ago I showed you some jackets that worked and compared one that didn't.  Here's another glimpse into The Sewing Lawyer's closet.  This time let's look at some dresses.

I think my dresses fall into three four categories.  (Bear with me, I'm making this up on the fly.)

First, there are the easy-to-throw-on and easy-to-make knits.  You know, like Vogue 1250 and McCalls 5974.  I've made them both.  Twice.  That's a lot of dress for a little investment of sewing time.

Every pattern company makes these patterns.  Knit dresses are great in warm weather.  They can look dressed up with very little effort, they're reasonably cool in the heat, and with a jacket, completely comfortable in air-conditioned "comfort" (even when frigid, as is too-often the case).

Total success.  Almost all of the time.  However, I find that many knit fabrics just don't wear very well.  These are one or two-season dresses.  A case in point is one of my current favourites, Simplicity 2369This one (Simplicity 3775) is totally past it (made in 2009).  I wish I could more reliably choose good quality knits that will look great for longer - any suggestions for me?

Second, there are woven-fabric dresses that are, like their knit sisters, easy to throw on and to wear.  Making them, however, can be a little more involved.  Unless a dress is intended to be extremely casual, I like to line my dresses.  Sometimes I underline them, and then it's a whole sewing production.

Some woven hits:

My latest Burda sleeveless dress.  I love it.  There's not much more than needs to be said.  It was wearable in the summer and now that it's cooler outside, it looks great with my latest woolly jacket.

All my self-drafted sheath dresses.  At right is a picture of the very first one I made, pre-blogging days in June, 2009. Linen.  All these are underlined with silk organza and lined with Bemberg.

And then there are those which I reach for less often.

Even if I really like them, in theory.

Case in point:  my linen trench-dress from the April, 2001 issue of Burda World of  Fashion (as it then was).  I made it in June, 2008.  I love  the colour, the style, the fit, its swishy full skirt (which is less full, if you can believe it, than Burda intended).  It looks great on, if I say so myself.

But it's very heavy.  And it's impossible to wear it with a jacket, or at least any jacket in my wardrobe.  And, being linen (and not underlined), it wrinkles.  I might have worn it a dozen times.  In total.

It's still in my closet, because I really like it (in theory).

If you have suggestions to make it more wearable, I'd love to have them.

And then, there are the complete misses.  Luckily, there are not that many.  But have a look at this.  I made Vogue 1352 (Emanuel Ungaro, 1990s) in July 2007.  I used some really lovely and drapey rayon.  I really liked the paisley print.  In theory I liked the flowy skirt and the fit of the upper body, shoulders and sleeve of this pattern.  (In truth, I might have fallen for the colour-blocking on the pattern envelope.)  But my version looked like a house dress. I did reduce the shoulders, but it needed pretty serious shoulder pads to sit properly on my body.  And I didn't fill it out. I never felt comfortable in this dress, and at some point I gave it away.

Now some of you may think that the common feature of the dresses I don't like to wear is the overall silhouette.  Front-buttoning, short-sleeved, flowing, full and long skirt.  But (she protested) I love this silhouette!  I love front-buttoning dresses with short sleeves and flowing long skirts!  At left is my version of another vintage dress pattern - Vogue 1245 (1970s Nina Ricci) which I wear quite a lot.  It looks really good under this jacket.  I made them both in August, 2006.

My conclusion?  I should avoid dresses with a big "feature" in the bodice or sleeves that makes pairing the dress with a jacket awkward.

Do you have any other thoughts?