trousers anyone?

Or pants if you’re from the other side of the pond but whatever you call them, they’re giving me grief at the moment. In a previous post I said that a pair I had recently made only needed hemming but when I put them on to mark the hem, something niggled about the fit so I took them apart, checked the fabric pieces against the pattern and decided that I’d sewn them with the backs as the fronts. I cut new back pieces and began again. I did several more test fits and made a few adjustments and after stitching them properly to completion, tried them on to mark the hem and thought that the fit was no better than when I had sewn them back to front! Arrrgh! I cannot explain this. It is beyond my understanding. The fabric obviously has a life of its own and does not care to be wrapped around me. I am however not yet defeated.

Enter McCalls trouser pattern M6901 from their Fashion That Fits range to the rescue! I’d seen one of their tissue-fit methods demo’d in a You Tube video and with 8 sides of printed instructions in the packet how can I go wrong? I know, easily. Anyone tried one of these pattern types? Any success?

Between sewing and ripping out, I’ve been dipping in and out of three volumes of The Modern Tailor, Outfitter and Clothier books, formerly owned by a tailor which were given to me last week. My copies are the ‘new and revised edition’ which I think was published in 1949. One thing I keep noticing in the books is how the trouser back crotch seam is more acutely angled than the front crotch. This is illustrated quite well in the image below which shows a pattern for military overalls (trousers to us) which according to the book are “worn with full dress uniform for parade purposes  … the waist and seat must not show any surplus material … sitting room is of no great importance, the chief essential being an elegant and smooth effect when standing”.   Perhaps this is the pattern I ought to be using! Along with the books, I was given the wooden L square you can also see in the image. I’m not sure I’ll be using it to make test patterns in quarter or third sizes which I believe is its primary function but it’s already come in handy for marking long perpendicular lines.

tailor's books

dressmaking with light

I have been busy sewing and the first thing I made was up-to-date pattern blocks. Those took ages as it’s difficult to fit the body block easily without the assistance of someone else who sews but after much trying on and marking and re-marking I’ve got new basic blocks that I can use. I also looked through my various books and the trusty internet for help when I got stuck.

The first actual wearable item I subsequently made was trousers with an elasticated waistband for keep-fit class which turned out well and are a suitable weight for wearing all year round. Encouraged by those, I used the remaining fabric (ponte roma) to make a pull-on top which will be handy for keeping the chill off in the autumn/winter when I’m scruffing around the house. I based the design on a combination of a Guernsey fisherman’s top and a kimono-type sleeve and the amount of fabric available.

pull on top

Next I made a proper pair of trousers with a fly front (not shown). I had several yards of suiting-weight grey fabric bought years ago and reckoned that if the trousers didn’t turn out too well, I hadn’t lost much except a few hours of my time. They do fit me well but are still unhemmed as I’m undecided about whether to reduce the leg width a little more. Sewing with 100% matching thread meant that I could hardly see the seam when I needed to rip out some stitching. Luckily for me I had some birthday money to spend and bought a flexible sewing machine lamp (model DN1180) which was unexpectedly delivered within 24 hours. It’s fab! It has two sticky mounts so you can transfer the lamp for use with something else. I’m not being paid for this review but I would highly recommend this lamp to anyone whose machine lighting is not as good as they’d like. An alternative to the additional lamp is not to use matching thread – I watched a tailor explain on YouTube that it didn’t matter much what colour thread you used as it was on the inside and not seen. Fair point.

sewing lamp

I currently own nine books about pattern drafting, cutting, and fitting (you can just see them behind the sewing machine). The earliest was printed in 1951 and the most recent in 2003. The styles in most of them are now extremely old-fashioned but as ‘vintage’ is currently very popular does that make me up-to-date for a change? Fortunately the basic principles of drafting and fit remain the same so if you fancy dabbling in pattern drafting and come across an old book on the subject, don’t let the illustrations put you off.

I’ve enjoyed all of The Great British Sewing Bee and I’m currently watching a series of Project Runway USA but I’ve never understood how the contestants are able to pull off some of those outfits (particularly tailored ones) in such a short space of time. I’ve never considered myself slow at dressmaking but I would find it difficult to match them. Do they have assistance off-camera or is there some judicious time-editing going on or am I just jealous?





Mother and Child

I embroidered this version of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Mother and Child in 1998. I don’t know how large the original red chalk drawing is but my version is 4.5 x 5.5 inches. In the drawing, the mother might actually be sewing something but it wasn’t possible to say for sure from the greetings card that I used as my source. I had forgotten that I gave her a piece of needlelace. I’m not even sure that the fountain in the background is part of the original either.


journey piece finished

I picked up my recent journey piece again this week and finished it less than half an hour ago. When I’ve posted this entry the embroidery will be put in the box that holds the other finished projects that I have no use for.  I didn’t enjoy sewing with crewel wool as much as I do with standard embroidery floss and I don’t know if it’s the wool itself or the fabric I was using.

journey piece2


dress form a la Mrs G

I can rarely buy trousers off the peg within my budget that fit me and since I actually took an evening class course on how to construct patterns, I thought it was time that I made my own again. I’m an avid fan of the Great British Sewing Bee, even if I don’t always agree with the judges, and I’m sure that watching the latest series played no small part in my decision to put pattern to fabric once more, that and the fact that if I make my own clothes I have no-one to blame if they don’t fit.

This week my pattern drafting books were brought back into the workroom from the garage where they’ve been for ten years and I began again to construct base paper patterns. In one book I had entered my measurements as they were then, twenty years ago – the last time I actually did any proper dressmaking, and I was slimmer then by almost two sizes. I consoled myself at that point by reminding myself that I am now a mature woman and it’s alright to have a mature figure to match but I don’t much like me this way so the calorie counting starts again Monday.

I knew that making the patterns would not be too big a problem but without a fellow dressmaker to hand, checking the fit of the resultant muslin would be. I had bought what is really a shop display dummy (as opposed to a proper dressmaking form) from a charity shop a decade ago but the size was too small for anything but checking hems or hanging scarves from, until this week when it struck me that I could simply pad it out to my size. In a trawl of local charity shops yesterday, I bought a padded cot bumper and an extra-large simple sleeveless cotton knit dress. The bumper wadding  was used to roughly pad the form where necessary and then stitched to the original stretchy cover and the dress was made into a new cover. I think I now have a workable dress form and although it’s not an exact copy of my shape, the essential dimensions match me sufficiently to be of use and the wadding can be removed or, heaven forbid, added to easily. The wadding also makes it a little squidgy in places, just like me.

dress form 1

dress form 2

Jasper update

Jasper likes nothing better than to recycle the recycling. With a paper bag clamped in his jaws he padded in from the kitchen one morning, with an “I dare you to try and take this bag from me!” gleam in his eye. I noticed that the bag was from my son’s shop Tea Ink, so I had to take a photo.


Big Sis’s wip

I added a few stitches yesterday and then thought that I ought to take a piccie before doing any more. I’ll post again as I do more to it so that Big Sis can see that it’s not just stuck in a cupboard!

The office I worked in twenty years ago had organised a coach trip to a stitch and craft show at the NEC in Birmingham and as Big Sis was visiting me at the time, we took the opportunity to go. She bought this Footpath to Quarndon Rowandean kit and I bought Barbara and Roy Hirst’s book Raised Embroidery. I have to own up to always wanting to stitch this. I think I badgered Big Sis into buying it, saying that it would be quick to stitch. Quicker than twenty years anyway! I haven’t given up on my own thirty-odd years old wip in case you were wondering. I keep it near and add some more stitches now and again so it too will eventually be finished – promise!

footpath to Quarndon


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