Sunday, November 15, 2015

'Pants Class'

A few months before we left Japan, I signed up on PatternReview for a 'pants class' with Sarah Veblen. Sarah is American, so this is pants as in trousers not pants as in knickers. I read the material and watched the videos, and bought some very cheap fabric to make the muslins, but didn't have time for anything else, as we were starting to get quite busy with things-to-do-before-we-leave-the-country. We moved to the UK in Dec 2013, but the poor sewing machine had hardly any action as we were living a confined sokobox lifestyle at my Dad's house.

By 2015 we wer settled in our new house, and almost all my trousers had holes in. My stretch jeans pattern already fitted well, so another pair of these made the trip to Japan in January possible. A little later on, a pair of pajama bottoms were made. Then in July, spurred on by a lack of unholey trousers for our trip to the USA in September I finally got around to doing the class properly. Luckily the videos are all still online (hurrah for PatternReview!), and I was able to follow it all through. It was a fairly enormous amount of work, making patterns, cutting them out, sewing them together, making changes, making new patterns etc. Eventually one gets pleased enough with the fit (or runs out of muslin fabric) and starts to make things using nicer fabric, that may be wearable.

The 'slacks' style which the class focussed on is too, well, American, but I've arrived at a non-stretch pattern that fits really well, and is super comfortable, and a stretch pattern that almost fits really well (I reckon one more iteration is required - just needs a bit adding to the front crotch and the same taking off the back). But out of all this I have 3 wearable pairs of trousers: 1 pair of orange cottons, 1 pair of black stretchy fuzzy stuff, and 1 pair of blue flowery stretch woven. I also have a pair of tartan trousers that are wearable, but being a bit short in the back, not that comfortable for all day every day. I have also patched up my other trews, and am wearing them out at home...

I'd hoped there would be photos of all these new trews naturally occurring through our trip to the USA, but James hardly took my photo, and when he did, I was wearing shorts (which, incidentally I notice are wearing through at the arse).

I'm not sure that fabric one buys in fabric shops is as durable as it ought to be, but I suppose it is good to wear one's clothes until they fall apart...


Addendum: I see my last post was made in February after the trip to Japan, and shows the fabric haul from that trip. The blue flowers shown there became the blue flowery stretch woven trews mentioned above. The green stripes on the right has also been used to make a new pair of 'carpet trousers' for James. So I suppose I have to say that, so far, this year has been completly pants!! ( black stretch jeans, PJ bottoms, carpet trews, tartan trews, black fuzz trews and blue flowery trews.)

Monday, February 16, 2015

ShoPping in Japan

On our recent visit to Japan, we were lucky enough to stay in Tokyo and also have enough time off to visit a few shopPs! Staying in Asakusa, we were just a short trip from the fabric district of Nippori. We spent about an hour there one morning, but it was a bit miserable as it was snowing quite hard. I bought some stretch fabric, from which I hope to make some leggings for running/cycling.

Later, we went to Shinjuku and I spent a large part of the day in Okadaya. Here's the haul:

Lots of Japanese thread, some stretch flowers for trousers, some brushed cotton for pJ bottoms and some ethnic  upholstery fabric to make some more "carpet trousers" for James. Let's hope I bought enough fabric this time, as sending James off to pick up an extra metre, as happened last time, would be quite a long trip.

Must take a spare check-in bag next time! 

Black jeans for jules

Having been worn almost all of last year while we were living in boxes, my Jan 2010 jeans started to get holes in. I patched the knee, but with an upcoming trip to Japan, I thought it was time for a new pair. They are made from the beautiful stretch black denim used last to make a pair of jeans for James. There is still some left - haven't measured it to see who gets the last pair, or whether it will have to be shorts. 

The pictures show the jeans nicely creased after the two week trip to Japan.

I used the same pattern as last time, but got confused when it came to the waist band as their weren't any pattern pieces in the bag. Despite the blog, I still fail to write things down and so end up swearing at flakey past-me. Eventually I thought perhaps I'd used the pieces from the Marfy pattern, and I think still think that's the case, although I think that I took some off the length even last time. So I cut the pieces and fitted them to the leg pieces

, tacked them in place and tried them on. I decided to have a go at improving the shape at the back to avoid the gap that tends to appear at the spine. 

An interesting shaped back pattern piece resulted and I was skeptical that it would work, but it did! Note to dimwit future me - the front waistband piece in the bag is still about a cm too long! I think a little off the width off the leg pieces is probably in order, as I ended up easing the waistband somewhat more than might be ideal. 

With the upcoming trip to Japan, I took the tori in Kamakura as inspiration for the design on the back pocket.

Helen's Penguin PJs

In December I made some PJs for Helen, my sister in law. She's got long limbs and complains about trousers not being long enough. Now I'm living in the same country my excuses for not making her something that fits have run out. My women's PJ pattern is Jalie 2686 which has a huge number of sizes, so I got Helen to send me some measurements, and picked the nearest size. Unlike me, Helen is normal in that she's the same sized top and bottom. I made adjustments to the pattern according to the difference between the pattern pieces that are closest for me and her and between the measurements of me and her. This included lengthening arms and legs, decreasing crotch length and decreasing the width of the jacket. The thing about the pattern is that it has details at the trouser hem and cuffs, which makes it not entirely simple to alter the length of the limbs after the garment is finished. So I just finished it off and hoped my calculations were good enough.

The fabric is a penguin patterned brushed cotton which I bought from a UK shop on the internets. I'd been assuming that I would no longer be able to import fabric due to the high import duties in the UK compared to Japan, but the fabric seems so relatively expensive here, even online, that it might not make much difference! 

Helen says they fit, and she wore them while visiting us over Christmas, but hasn't sent me a photo, so perhaps they're being used up as dusters now. :-)

Luckily I had enough fabric left to make some PJ bottoms for myself - both my pairs from Feb 2009 are now in the bin after ripping on the rear, although the jacket is still in reasonable condition. I suppose I ought to take a photo of the new pair! I also bought some fabric for another pair of PJ trousers while in Japan, so I should soon be back to having 2 pairs again.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

hisashiburi hat

Hisashiburi - Japanese for "long time no see". We moved from Japan in December last year to the north of England, and into our new house in August this year. Until this week, the sewing machine was been switched on just once to repair a cushion cover. :-( But then sister in law Helen came to visit us in the fast cooling north of England and asked for... hats. The super sewing area was all ready set up, new iron purchased, so all I needed to get going was something to make stitching seem more important than one of the zillion new-house jobs.
Measuring ear to ear over the top of her head, Helen's head is quite a bit smaller than either mine or James' heads. I had a beanie that I had got for free that was too small for both of us, but fitted Helen, so I based the pattern on that. It is made from Polartec 200 fleece previously used for a jumper and a loud pink and black striped lycra that I bought years ago, but never made into anything as the stripes make too much of a psychedelic effect for a large garment to be a reasonable proposition. The hat is actually reversible but I guess it will be warmest with the fleece worn on the inside and the lycra on the outside. To break up the psychedelics, for the front panel the layers are reversed, and the lycra is reversed on the side panels. 

Normal fleece lets air through it very easily, so I should make a more wind proof version, and also some slightly larger versions of these for me and James, who are also quite short of warm hats. Probably I just need it to be slightly longer ear to ear, and James needs a slightly wider circumference too.

New house decorating seems to occupy the same space in my brain as stitching, and there is lots more still to be done, but there is also much stitching to do. I am wondering what to do with all the lightweight or solar resistant clothing in my stash carefully shipped from Japan. Perhaps I'll just have to line everything with fleece!

Update 7 Nov 2014

Hat 2:

This is the proper winter version. Helen seems to feel the cold, and I hope to defeat her with this hat as it must be far too hot in almost every circumstance. The inside is a non-stretch thick windproof fleece, and the outside is polyester fur stuff, previously used to make this hoody and others of similar ilk. If you wanted one, it's too late now - the purple is all used up! The inside fleece is annoying stuff, as the windproof layer is on the "inside", which makes it useless in a single layered garment.. the whole point of fleece is that it traps the warm air next to your body. However, used as a lining, as in this circumstance, one can reverse the fabric and so it should really work to heat things up. Quite lucky with the sizing. Unlike the first hat, this one is non stretch and Helen was not on-site. I thought the first hat a little tight at the front horizontal seam so I sewed a narrow seam allowance on the rim  pieces and the lowest couple of cm of the vertical seams. It was a bit subjective - I'd gained an idea of how much smaller Helen's head is than mine so worked from how right it felt on me - probably added 1.5cm of width.

I have also made a version for me. It is more like the first hat, and no photo yet. The purpose was to make, an ear warmer for cycling that also had a top to protect from the bitter Yorkshire wind, and that could also go under a helmet. I am not sure it is a success. The fabric is 100 weight wind pro, but really isn't really very wind repelling! From relative measurements of me and Helen, I added a couple of cm of over the head distance to her pattern. I also slightly reshaped the front piece to make it a bit more snug on the forehead. The top is a single layer, and the rim doubled.  I also shaped the hat to fit over the ear lobes, as a cycling hat should do. I wore it mountain biking this week, and it performed quite well, although perhaps it is a little too long at the front. I am not sure if I can be bothered to re do it, however. Probably better to see how the winter develops and make another in a more windproof fabric if required. 

Monday, September 09, 2013

Trews and PJs for J

It is just starting to cool down a little here, with top temperatures now barely scraping 30C each day. However, that means it is still too hot for James to model either the trews or the winter PJS that I recently made for him. Hopefully I will add some photos to this post later, when the weater cools some more. [20th September update: just about cold enough to bear the wearing of long trousers, so here they are!]

Both were repeat of previously sewn patterns. The trews were made from a cotton fabric bought this spring in Cortez, which is near Mesa Verde National Park, in the USA. I'd been a little concerned I might not have enough fabric as the bolt in the shop was finished with less than the length I'd requested. But it was actually just right. 

The PJS were from a rather narrow bolt of printed brushed cotton, and, although I bought many many metres (purchased in Yuzawaya in Kamata), the pattern pieces were actually a tighter squeeze onto the fabric than the trews. I had to cut out the arms separately in order for it to fit. It was only while laying out the jacket pieces, after having cut the legs, that I realised that the pattern on the fabric ought to be positioned nicely and could be matched across the pieces. So the jacket looks quite smart in this repect, while the legs are a little off! 

Thursday, April 04, 2013


They never made Ron Hill running legs long and thin enough for James, but in the early 90s at a rowing regatta we found something called "4runners" that did fit, and he bought two pairs, in blue and black, and they've been used for running and cycling ever since. I spotted some rather similar looking/feeling fabric in Yuzawaya in Kamata. Just this year James decided that his blue pair were past it so he wore them on a trip to Kamata and we decided the fabric was near enough to give it a whirl. 

I took the pattern off the old pair, using the voile left over from making the beer-bag. It is partly transparent, supple but not stretchy and I was able to make a pattern without cutting up the old pair. The trick I missed was that, although the widthways stretch was similar to the originals, the lengthways stretch of the new fabric was quite a bit less than the 4runners fabric. I'd already added an extra inch to the legs for luck, but it really wasn't enough, and I ended up having to add 5cm to the under-foot straps. I actually put the cord and toggle from the old leggings back in the new pair. I didn't bother with the piping on the sides for this pair, which were really a test fit. He is wearing them for a while before I embark on another pair. Apparently I may need to lengthen the rear crotch too next time.

Brew in a bag (BIAB)

Apparently, after millennia of evolution, in the last 5 years, the Australians have discovered that making beer is much more simples than anyone had ever thought. But, in order for brew in a bag to work, you first need to get your stitcher to make a bag. We bought some lightweight white voile from Swany in Kamakura and here's the bag:

And here's the bag again in its pan, bought super cheapo in Yokohama. I made a french seam and used two circles of ribbon threaded through the casing to make it easy to pull the ends, close the bag, and hang it up to drain. 

It seems you heat up the grain in the bag in the pan and then lift up the bag and let it drain. The beer tastes pretty good, and is much more flavourful than the results from brew-kits, although a bit cloudy. 

Monday, December 31, 2012

J jeans

First he wanted a button fly. Copied it from some Levi 501s. Then he wanted back pockets with lids on so that his bulging wallet stays safe. So I did those too. Then (admittedly, after he realised the fabric was stretchy) he wanted them tight, like in his youth. So - I think I'll just call them trend setting. :-)

As I recall, the fabric is from Gorgeous Things. Unlike all the other black denim I have seen for sale, this, like the black denim used in RTW jeans, is actually black right they way through the fabric (the reverse and right sides are both black). It is quite soft feeling, and I think it has a slight nap, so I cut it so that it is smoothest when you slide your hand down a thigh. For the tightness part, I tacked them together and adjusted. Took in the back crotch seam about 0.5cm, and the side and inseams both about 1.5cm. The base pattern is the same as this one. James says the jeans are very comfortable. I guess the stretch is making them easier to wear.
I'd always bought the hardware for jeans locally (Kamkaura or Yokohama), but the range is very limited, and this time I wanted smaller buttons for the fly. We found them on Ebay, and subsequently I've also bought some rivets from Ebay. They are the same make as those found here (Prym), but I could get both silver and copper coloured. These only just arrived so haven't yet been installed - but will be soon - probably silver ones this time. James does that part, as he is the one who is more trustworthy with a hammer in is hand.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

stripey trews fix

Last year I made a pair of Marfy 0680 trousers in a stripey stretch fabric. At the time they seemed a bit long in the body, and James did tell me I should have made them tighter. I'd thought the less than skin-tight fit was OK. Maybe it was OK, but the stretch fabric doesn't have as much recovery as one might have hoped, and they got baggy quite quickly after each washing, and got sufficiently bad that the trews became distinctly un-smart. I pondered what to do and decided that the first thing to try was to sew a new seam 1cm inside the present stitching line all around the inseam. This would make the legs tighter and bring up the crotch seam, making the body part shorter. To keep the grain (keep the stripes vertical at centre front and back) I also took 1cm off the outside seam below the hip/pocket/crotch. I'd thought I would probably have to take the waistband off and move it lower but, magically the whole fit was much improved. They were too tight in the thigh so I tapered the new seamline above the knee. Here is the result - still not radically tight - but I am hoping they will not bag out much more. I guess I can try the same trick again if they do... The photo is taken after one day of wear.

The lesson is that Marfy 0680 isn't that good a pattern for stretch fabrics. The extra ease feels right in non-stretch fabrics, although I might experiment with taking the crotch junction up an additional cm or so next time I sew it.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mountain jumper

I have an ageing North Face fleece that I always take with me to the mountains, and often on other trips too. It is also a favourite for weekends in winter. It is over a decade old and so thin that it isn't very warm any more! It was time for a replacement. 

The short story: Starting from a Wookie... guesstimate a new pattern, make a few nips and tucks and, voila! - a technical mountain fleece!! 

The long story: My version has the same basic design features of the original, but is improved with shaped side seams and bust shaping. The fabric is Polartec 200 with Powerstretch inserts in the side and arms, all from Malden Mills online store. I started with my hoody pattern - the woolly hoody pattern was the base - but Polartec 200 is quite thick, so I took account of the differences between that and the Wookie pattern, and more or less guessed the rest. I measured the old top and drafted a revised neckline, collar, zipper and pocket.  As well as the neckline, I altered the side seam shape and moved the underarm in a bit (and adjusted the sleeve cap) to make the armhole more vertical, and adjusted the length. I had enough fleece to make the jumper twice so I just cut out back, front and one arm with a view to making pattern changes. It seemed surprisingly good, so I cut out all the pieces and fit the garment as I went along. The back neckline seemed slightly too wide so I curved the shoulder seams, to shift the shoulder line towards the back a little. The neckline was probably a bit wide all round, or maybe the collar was just too long. I tapered the collar to make it fit a little more snugly. I had drafted 1.5cm seam allowances, but sewed 1cm for the shoulders and side seams. This left the sides and armhole OK, but the arms themselves a little baggy, so I took them in. I think I effectively sewed 2cm seam allowances from a couple of inches below the armhole. The body length was just about OK (could have been a little longer for peace of mind during this fit-as-you-sew project), but the arms were too long by an inch or more. 

It wasn't until I was about to attach the collar that I noticed the flat seams on my North Face sweater. It was too late to apply this to the shoulder seams but it seemed worth copying for the sake of reducing bulk in the seams. I took a deep breath, trimmed the seam allowances to about 3mm, overlapped the pieces, tacked along the stitching line, and then sewed with one of the fancy wide stitches on my machine. I used this method for the collar and to attach the arms, and I really like how it looks. 

I am happy with how well it seems to have turned out, but with temperatures here above 30C, I've not worn it for many minutes! Perhaps I will be able to test it out at some sunrise photo excursions during our upcoming trip to the USA.

Note to self: Only the shoulder seam alteration has been added to the pattern.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Purple Panic

Oh no! It doesn't fit! And it's 28C in the shade. I wore this for about 10 seconds. Not only was I broiling, but photographer James was being eaten alive by mosquitoes (they find him almost as attractive as I do). 

But no need to panic really. This isn't for me, but for my friend Rob, who saw my fluffy hoodies on the interweb, and recklessly asked for a purple one. Serendipitously, a couple of weeks after his request we visited a new branch of a fabric store (new to me anyway) - Yuzawaya in Kichijoji (part of Tokyo) - and there were all the colours of the same fabric used for the other fuzzy hoodies. Mind you, there were no dark colours, which I expect Rob would prefer when being less reckless. Well, there was brown, and black but they would be no fun at all. And after finding the purple, there was no going back... 

Well now it is done. I went from measurements and am surprised that Rob is just 1 inch thinner than the extra large size in Kwik Sew patterns. I sewed the extra large with no alteration, as the fuzzy fabric takes up some of the ease. I was surprised by this sizing because Kwik Sew are American patterns and I would say that the majority of American adult men are bigger (at least in girth) than Rob is. Aren't fatties allowed to sew their own clothes too?! It seems mean to me.

I am hoping I have erred on the large side with this, and will take my needle and thread with me when I hand-deliver it to Rob later in the year. I sewed the pocket on a little high so that the hem can be turned up if necessary, and of course the same can be done with the arms. The side seam can also be taken in. Just hope it's not too tight! 

T-shirt alterations

No pictures here, since the t-shirts are now all at different stages of laundry and cupboard, but I altered 3 of my t-shirts to make them more wearable. Typically a commemorative t-shirt has some attractive picture on it, and reminds me of some cool event, but the un-contoured fit makes me rarely wear them, except in bed. All I did was contour the side-seams, including the arm holes. Now I have 2 extra t-shirts I can gladly wear to work. The 3rd t-shirt is a sports fabric, gained after running a 10K, but was so boxy I couldn't run in it. Now it fits well and can even be tucked into shorts if required. 

Quickest way of increasing my wearable wardrobe, ever! 

Of course the alternative, which I did with a Yellowstone t-shirt is to buy a Large or Extra Large men's T-shirt and totally remake the t-shirt with a pattern. That takes longer, but the final result does fit a bit better. The only trick with that method is to bit careful with the purchase, so as to make sure the neck is not too large.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Shutting the Stable Door...

Last Sunday the forecast was for cloud turning to rain in late afternoon, so we set off confidently hatless for a cycle to Yokohama and back. Forecast was wrong and the sun soon got hot, and hotter. James head somehow got burned through his thick mop of lustrous hair. So, in the afternoon I made him a hatlet, out of a cotton print. The criteria are that it has to be as lightweight as possible, absorptive of sweat, and at least partly sunproof. The lack of a peak is not optimal for avoiding nose-burn but it must be better than nothing for the head. We have baseball hats, but he doesn't wear them. James wouldn't want to develop the skill of knotting a scarf round his head each time he got on a bike, so I hand stitched the knots and bits into place. So far he has been wearing it at least... and it's so super fashionable! :-)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wookie Too

Well, I'd bought too much red fluff so... !

This is my evolving hoody pattern. James' red fluffy number turned out to be a little more snug than expected. I think this is due to the thickness of the fabric. So for my version I left the hips the same as the woolly hoody but increased the size a bit above hips, reducing the shaping on the side seams and increasing the upper arm width a little. The result was still snug, so I sewed 0.5cm seam allowances on the underarm and side rather than the 1.5cm on the pattern.

You might be relived to hear that I did run out of fabric this time. I had to cut the hood from 4 rather than 2 pieces, but this does not show at all, through the furrr. I also added a pocket on the front. 

It is basically too hot to wear this now, but tonight after a cycle ride in the rain it feels great. 

Notes on stitchin' furrrr: I learned a bit about how to sew fur by taking a class by Kenneth King on I pinned all the seams at about 2cm intervals, tucking in the fur. This would not feed through the sewing machine due to the thickness of the fabric sending the pins into the innards of the machine. So I then basted the seams and finally sewed on the machine. The fabric has 2-way stretch so the stretch stitch was a good idea, but no mistakes are allowed, as it is unpickable on this fabric. All the hems are done by hand, as is the pocket. So, all in all it is quite labour intensive. The flip side is that the stitching can be as untidy as you like, as nothing shows through the furrrr.