Sunday, January 28, 2007

Simplicity 5562 - Drawstring Pants - 1st Project - Completed July 2006

And now back to our regularly scheduled program...

Before I took up sewing in July 2006, the only garment I had ever made was a pair of elastic-waist crop pants that I made when I was in my early teens.

So for my first project, I went for crop pants again, using Simplicity pattern #5562. I made View C.

This was one of several patterns that I found by going through Simplicity's online catalog. I really like being able to search for patterns that way, versus having to go to a fabric store and troll through the paper catalogs.

One thing you get with the Simplicity site is a very nice "Design" view of the pattern. With it, you can see the front design picture, line drawings of the front and back, and a view of the back of the envelope. For the last, you will need the Adobe Reader installed on your computer.

With that information, I was able to get an idea of the size I would need, and the amount of fabric I would need.

Lesson #1 - Don't let the pattern sizes throw you!!!!

I had a rough idea of my measurements when I started and OMG!!!! According to those, I needed to get a size 20!!!! I figured "Holy Smokes! That can't be right!".

Well my friends, it is right - well mostly right anyway. There is a standard sizing method that all the major pattern makers (and most of the independents too) use to size their patterns. The result is that the size you need to get in a pattern rarely matches what you normally get in a RTW (Ready-To-Wear) garment.

Sometimes the size you need will be smaller. Most of the time though, I think people find their pattern size is larger than their RTW size (mostly because of RTW "vanity" sizing). The best advice I've heard for this is to buy the size you need. You're making the garment yourself - no one need ever know what size you used to get there.

I ended up going with a size that was closer to my RTW size (size 16). As it turned out, it was the right size to get, but for the wrong reasons. I didn't learn about why until after this project was done though.

I picked my initial set of patterns up at WalMart. While I was there, I picked out some fabric for the project. My DMIL had made my DD a cute little circle skirt out of a fabric with a butterfly print. There were two variations of that fabric available and I purchased some with a blue background (my DD's has a black background).

Oh yeah, and I picked up my sewing machine too while I was there. :)

Lesson #2a - Read the instructions...

With this first project, my goal was get through the basics. So I read the instructions beforehand very thoroughly and followed them very closely during construction. The only thing I changed was the pockets.

Lesson #2b - but feel free to deviate as needed or desired

I wanted the leg finishing on View C, but not the cargo style pockets. The pockets I wanted were in View D. It looked like a simple enough change to make and it indeed turned out to be relatively simple. When doing this sort of thing, you want to be sure to notate the changes, or mark them directly on your pattern instructions. That way you don't get lost in the middle of construction.

With one slight exception, this pattern turned out to be a great beginning pattern to work with. I knew a little about sewing before I started, and the instructions were pretty complete and complimented what knowledge I had very well. The pants are fairly loose and the pattern seems to forgive slight mistakes easily. So this is definitely a pattern to try out early on in your sewing adventure.

Lesson #3 - However, pattern instructions are not always perfect.

About the one problem I had. I did not understand the instructions for putting the back pocket together. I ended up with something that looked wrong to me. Instead of the pocket top having a nice fold, I ended up with a "mini-pocket" inside the main pocket. I have yet to figure out if the problem is with the instructions, or with me.

So, you might be asking, how did they turn out? I thought the pants themselves turned out well, especially for a first attempt.

However, as you can see from the picture, they don't fit as well as they could. The pattern says that the waistline falls 1 inch below the natural waistline. As my body proportions are not "average" the waist is lower on me. I also have a bubble-butt, so the waist in the back tends to pull down quite a lot when I sit down. Lastly, the leg bottoms came out a little wide for my taste.

Let's just say that making these pointed out to me very quickly that I was going to need to do more than just follow patterns out of envelope.

Overall though, I really enjoyed the experience. I found I that really like that sewing projects have multiple steps with tasks that are sufficiently different to keep the whole thing interesting. I have other craft hobbies, such as crocheting and knitting, but I tend to pick those projects up and put them down over the course of years because much of the work is really repetitive.

I can certainly say that this project was enough to put me fully on the path of becoming a sewing junkie!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Don't Wait for Perfection...

My last post on "Thinking Outside the Box" immediately triggered another thought that has been wending it's way through my head the last couple of days.

So here it is, not well thought out, but down on paper, as it were.

Don't wait for perfection.

As a beginning sewist, I find myself struggling with perfectionism. I don't want to start a project until I know I can finish it successfully. I want to know at the beginning that everything is just right, even before I start a muslin.

But I'm not "good" at sewing yet. Sewing, like all skills, has to be practiced. Not only that, but sometimes, the mistakes you make become the best learning opportunities you will ever get. Lastly, when we make mistakes in sewing, as with so many other things, we get the chance to exercise our creativity by figuring out how to turn that loss into a win.

Just something to think about.

Thinking "Outside the Box"

I spent a portion of my lunch hour today over at PatternReview perusing their "Tips and Techniques" section. I found a tip that I really liked and then realized that I had thought about doing the same sort of thing myself.

Then I realized, I didn't do it because I thought there might be a reason why I shouldn't. It was "against the rules".

Now I break sewing "rules" all the time. Most are just guidelines anyway - and there are no sewing police that are going to hunt you down when you don't follow them.

But for whatever reason, I went conformist on this particular item.

"Thinking Outside the Box" is one of those buzzwordy phrases that get way overused. But in this case, it's appropriate.

When it comes to sewing, it's perfectly OK, even proper, to think "Outside the Box". I just bet you'll get some of your best ideas that way. :)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Let's go backpacking!!!! AGAIN!!!!!!

When last we met, I had just completed making some camping gear for the family.

Well, we went on our short backpacking trip last weekend. It was not a bad trip, but I'm a little done in for a while. My DH, however, is not. He's raring to go again already, and has another trip planned for this weekend. My DD and I are taking a pass, but my DS wants to go with Dad.

So, sometime Wednesday evening, DH pipes up and says, "Our son needs a warm hat for this weekend, it's supposed to get chilly. Do you know where DD's green knit hat is?". Actually, the green hat is crocheted, not knitted, but how's DH to know? I told him I didn't know where it was. The conversation continued and I ended up with another item on my sewing to-do list.

Luckily, it was a very small item and only took a couple of evenings to get made up. It's the hat from the same McCall's pattern (4234) I used to make the kids' fleece camp pants. It turned out to be really quick and easy - and fairly cute.

Lessons Learned: The use of kids' washable markers on fleece fabric for making pattern marks is not really recommended.

I tried out one of the kid's washable markers to mark the fleece with. I don't think I'll do that again. Although the marks stayed better than chalk marks, the ink rubbed off all over my fingers as I was working with the fabric. That, and now we have to wash the hat to get the marks off, rather than brushing the chalk marks off. Ah well - can't know if something will work until you try it!!!

When DH and DD saw DS wearing his, they said they wanted one too. "NOT UNTIL I GET TO WORK MORE ON MY JACKET!!!!", says I. ;)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Let's go backpacking!

Am I ever going to get back to my regularly scheduled program? Am I ever going to get to finish talking about the projects and techniques I've learned so far? Sometimes it seems like I'm never going to get there. But SOOOO much has been happening since, oh, about Thanksgiving...

Right after Thanksgiving, I switched from the project I was working on (a jacket) to making Snuglets as gifts for Christmas. As soon as that was done, I started working on the list that my DH made for me.

A while back, he requested that I make some camping gear for the kids and us - some "camp" pants (fleece pants to shlump around camp in), some hiking pants, and fleece liners for our sleeping bags. And he wanted at least some of it in time for a weekend backpacking trip planned for this past weekend. Whew - what a tall order!

I did get a serger for Christmas, so I was able to complete some of the items on list. Yay me! But there was no way I could get all of it done.

I did finish two pairs of fleece pants, one each for my DD and DS. I used McCall's 4234 (view E) for those. The pattern was very straight forward and very easy to use. They took me a day each to finish, including tracing the patterns and making some size alterations. I definitely recommend this as a beginning pattern if you want a nice, easy pair of sweatpants-style pants for the young'uns.

I also made 4 fleece sleeping bag liners . DH and I thought that a plain liner with no zipper would work, but on trying it out we decided pretty quickly that a zipper would be required. I ordered zippers and got them about a week before the trip.

Then I got to go figure out how to insert one. It turned out not to be too difficult - although the finishing isn't particularly nice. But these aren't "fashion" liners - they are not really going to be seen by anyone.

I finished up the last two the night before the trip, with the help of my DMIL and her now working serger (that's another story). She sewed the zippers in with her regular sewing machine and I finished the rest of the liners with her serger.

As it turned out, I need not have tried so hard. We only took two liners, mine and DS'. DH figured it would be too warm for them, but DS' sleeping bag isn't rated for cold weather, and I HATE being cold. Well, he was right - it stayed fairly warm. My liner stayed in my backpack. DS used his liner, but on top of his sleeping bag, like an extra blanket. DS did use his fleece pants that night, but DD had a little accident with hers while trying to use the accomodations (a lovely spot behind some bushes and a tree). (It's no fair, guys have it so easy).

I still have lots on his list to get through, but my list is getting pretty long at this point too. I think I'll get back to work on that jacket ...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Technique - Double Folded AND Mitered Corners

Happy New Year!!!

As promised in the previous post, here are instructions for how to get edges to be both double folded AND mitered in the corners. It may not seem like much, but it took me a few tries to get it right, so I thought I'd share...

First, cut the corners off the edges of the fabric. In my case, about 5 inches on each side.

Second, fold the corners together, with the right side of the fabric together and sew about half way down the corner edge line. That's down to where the pin is in the picture. I used a 1/4" seam allowance.

Third, push the corner out so that the edges fold to the wrong side. You can see from the picture that the partially mitered corner gives you the first roll.

Next, fold half of the edge down to give you your second fold and pin it down.

Finally, sew the folded edges down from the wrong side.

I figured this method out through trial and error. The result is that I arrived at how much of the corner to cut in a rather haphazard manner.

Although I don't have time to test it, I think you could determine how much of the corner to take off if you first fold one edge up where you want it to be and mark where it falls on the adjacent edge. Unfold the first edge, then mark it by the same amount. Then, fold the two edges right sides together, making sure that the marks meet.

Happy sewing!!!