Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pants Fitting and the Rocky Mountain Sewing Expo

Last year I attempted to make a pair of shorts with McCall's 5391.  I hadn't made a pair of pants since college, and my body has changed quite a bit since then.  I decided I would make a muslin first so that I didn't ruin my good fabric.

The result was disastrous.  I tried to take it in at the side seams and at the crotch, but no matter what I did, it looked horrible.  I looked up information online, but I couldn't figure out how to fix the problem.  The muslin and the pattern got thrown at the bottom of my sewing box and I tried to forget my 'fail'. 

When I heard that the Rocky Mountain Sew Expo was coming in February, I decided to take two of their classes specifically for fitting pants.  Kathy Ruddy is a wonderful teacher who was super hands on.  In the class, 'Four Steps to Perfect Pants', she stripped down to a leotard to demonstrate the fit of different pants.  She showed us how the European cut of pants fit better than most women's pants patterns.  She explained that if we had one basic pattern that fit, we could change the pockets and the legs to any style of pant we wanted.  Kathy told us that if we wanted a pant to fit, we would first adjust the center seam and then the side seams.  She is a little scatter-brained, and I am very methodical.  I found it a little difficult to follow her at first but I really appreciated her visuals and common sense way of fitting.

Lorraine Henry taught the second class, called 'Pants for the Not so Perfect Figure.'  She taught us how to add more length to the front and back to accommodate for a bigger belly or a bigger butt.  We learned how to decrease the curve of the front crotch for a less prominent pubic bone.  I realized this is the reason that many of our pants bunch in the front just above the crotch, especially when we sit down.  She showed us how to use a flex curve ruler to copy the curvature of the crotch and compare it to a pattern to get just the right fit.  She showed us the difference in fit between McCall's, Simplicity, Vogue and Butterick patterns of the same and different cuts.

After taking these classes, I whipped out my shorts pattern again and made another muslin:

Again, not perfect, but so much better than the first muslin.  You will see that I omitted the pockets because they made it harder for me to make adjustments.  I lost my waistband pattern piece, but according to reviews on, the waistband was just a rectangle and didn't fit people well.  I made my own curved waistband, attached it to the muslin, and I think it looks pretty good!

I still have some adjusting to do to fix the crotch and the back of the seat.  I'm going to take in the inner thigh seams and if that doesn't work I'll have to revisit the muslin and make a third one.

I'm also taking an online class on called 'Pants Fitting Techniques' with Sandra Betzina.  Sandra designs for Vogue and she is all about fitting today's woman practically.  She is a big fan of European cut pants.  I will explain what that is later.  I'm liking this class because I can listen to the videos any time I want and when I do make my pants muslin, I can upload it for Sandra to help with the fit.  It's very interactive.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tutorial: Throw Pillows with Invisible Zipper

My couch throw pillows have been getting more and more flattened by the week.  We have a deeper couch - a.k.a. I have short leg syndrome - and so the pillows are a necessity.  A few weeks ago I noticed that the Kohl's pillows I purchased last year were fraying and just coming apart at the seams .  The batting was also coming out.  Seriously?!  Who didn't serge those seams?  I could do so much better!  So I took matters into my own hands.

I wanted the fabric to be durable so I chose upholstery fabrics.  I used a 44" jungle upholstery print for the pillow, above.  This was leftover from the bag I made a couple weeks back.  I used a 60" heavier weight upholstery fabric for the greenish blue pillow.  The second fabric was regularly $29.99 (yikes!), but I used a 50% off coupon.  If you choose a lightweight fabric, you should to apply fusable interfacing to it.

I did some research to find the best pillow insert I could afford.  I decided I wanted a down feather insert and Crate and Barrel had some very affordable ones for $12-14.  They don't flatten permanently like the polyester fill inserts. They are fluffable!  

For a 20" pillow insert, you will need:
2 - 20" square pieces of fabric
1 - 22" invisible zipper

*When making pillow covers, the finished cover should be 1" smaller than the pillow insert.  So, a 20"x20" pillow insert should have a 19"x19" finished cover.  This makes the pillow look fuller and plumper.  I took into account a 1/2" seam allowance on all sides, making the fabric squares 20"x20" to start with.  Make sense?

Grab your zipper and turn your iron on the 'polyester' setting - not cotton!  If it's too hot it could melt the zipper.  Open the zipper, and with the zipper side up, push the coils out and iron it as flat as you can.  Don't put the iron directly over the coils.

Now, grab your two pieces of fabric and serge (or zig-zag) along the edges that you are going to apply the zipper to.  I forgot to do this step the first time, so it isn't pictured here.  Pin the zipper to the two finished edges.  With invisible zippers, you have to think backwards.  The flat side of the zipper is the side that will show from the outside.  Place the flat side on the right side of your fabric.  The coils always face away from the edge.

Here is a close up of the bottom of the zipper:

Now, using your invisible zipper foot, sew the zipper to the fabric on both sides.  Leave the zipper unsewn 1 1/2" from the top and bottom.  Make sure to backstitch this seam a couple times.  You don't want it coming apart later.

Zip up the zipper and iron the seam flat.

Put the squares right sides together and pin everywhere except where the zipper seam line is.

Check to make sure your zipper is open.

Sew the two pillow sides together.  I found it easier to sew towards the zipper on both sides instead of starting where the red and black lines meet.

Do you see how I've folded the zipper in half and scooted it out of the way?  I don't want it to be included in this seam.

This is me turning the corner to meet where my zipper stitching line ends. 

Finish all of the edges with a 3-thread overlock at the serger or with a zig-zag stitch at the sewing machine.  Now all the sewing is done and it's time to take your pillow cover to the ironing board.

Oops, I need to turn it inside out first.  I turned the seams to one side and gave it a good press.

Turn the pillow right side out, and with the seam ripper, make those corners crisp.  I didn't grade the corners because I didn't want my pillow fabric to fray.  Again.

Insert the pillow.


 And you're done!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How to Slim Jeans

I am not a big fan of skinny jeans.  They make me look shorter, and heavier on the bottom, not what my pear-shaped figure needs.  (A good straight-leg is my go-to style.)  However, if I am wearing boots, skinny jeans are just what the doctor ordered.

These jeans were just over $10 at Forever 21.  I don't mind a thinner (cheaper) jean this time, especially since I'll only be wearing these with boots.  Even though they are advertised as 'skinny jeans', they are baggy on the sides.  The alteration I am about to describe would work the same when altering a bootcut or flare jean into a skinny jean.

First, I cut some length off the bottom.  These babies were way to long.  Then I put the jeans on inside out, and placed pins vertically where I wanted to slim the outside of the leg.  I also placed pins on the inside of the calve to slim the jean in that area.

After I slimmed both sides of both jean legs, I zig zagged near the stitching and cut of the excess fabric.

I re-hemmed the jean leg by folding over 1/2", then again by 5/8".  I sewed near the edge.

Here is the finished product without boots:

It is so much easier to zip the skinny jeans into the boots than boot cut jeans.

I also added a couple of quick back waist darts to fix the gapiness at the waist.  Fits like a glove.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Afton Tevas Boots

Do you love new shoes?  I know I do.  I found these 'Afton' Tevas on clearance the other day, after a snowstorm.  These flats may not be sexy, but they will keep me dry and I can wear them with skinny jeans or a skirt.  I was so surprised to see them again (I fell in love with them in late October but they were $150) in my size, US 7.5.  They totally made my day!