Wedding dress: constructing the skirt

This is the second post in a series about making my sister’s wedding separates, which were completed in mid-June. The next posts will cover bodice construction, lace, the final dress and resources. The next few posts on construction won’t be strictly chronological; I bounced back and forth between bodice and skirt, depending on which piece had hit the skids. The bodice was generally more labor-intensive and complex, so I tended to work on the skirt when I needed some time away from it.


Hi folks! I’m back to talk about constructing my sister’s wedding skirt. (We made the decision to do separates instead of a dress somewhere in the transition from muslin to final pieces.) Since my sister wanted a flowing chiffon skirt above all else, I decided to use the fitted-through-the-hips Gabriola pattern for the underskirt, with the gathered chiffon layered on top.

We chose an off-white silk charmeuse for the underskirt, with the satin side facing towards the body (sister hates shiny) and the same color of chiffon for the overskirt. Pattern-wise, I combined the two yoke pieces into one, and took off approximately 1″ per panel piece at the skirt hem so the skirt could fit in 2.5 yards of 55″-wide fabric. I underlined the new yoke pieces with stashed silk habotai, and stabilized the seam where the yoke met the panels with silk organza selvedge since the seams were no longer on the straight grain.

Then, I made a decision I lived to RUE – I sewed the gored panels without underlining.

Looks fine here, right? The bodice shows through, but one would think it looks good enough to be covered in chiffon.

crabandbee.com | Sewaholic Gabriola wedding dress skirt

Once I began playing around with the chiffon overlay, however, the yoke revealed itself to look like big weird reverse undies.

crabandbee.com | Sewaholic Gabriola wedding dress skirt with chiffon overlay

I sulked and stomped around for a couple of days, cursing myself for french-seaming the panels. Then I bucked up and ordered more habotai to underline the panels. I grumpily cut the habotai, finished all the seams with a serger, opened the side seams of the finished skirt, stitched it in along the yoke seams, and sewed the side seams all together.

Blegh, blegh, blegh. This was the absolute nadir of the entire project for me.

crabandbee.com | Sewaholic Gabriola wedding dress skirt with chiffon overlay
Skirt of sorrow

It was over within a couple of days, however, and I got to sooth myself with catch-stitching the yoke and side seams down. I also got to move on to the chiffon overlay (again). I used two pieces of 52″ wide chiffon, essentially making a gathered tube over the underskirt. Believe it or not, the 100″+ tube was narrower than the Gabriola underneath it! Both hems were so wide and fell so nicely that I don’t believe it made a difference.

Instead of positioning the chiffon selvedges at the side seams, one was at center front and the other was at center back. This allowed me to avoid cutting a seam in the back for the opening. I sewed the back closed up until the zipper and folded the selvedges under, floating freely on top of the underskirt. I applied an invisible zipper on the underskirt only.

crabandbee.com | sewing wedding separates

As I mentioned in my post on Gabriola, the straight waistband didn’t work on me and I assumed it wouldn’t work on my sister/body double. Since the waistband needed to be fitted enough to support a 10-lb skirt, however, I didn’t reuse my pattern pieces. Instead, I sewed a rectangle of very firm canvas to test the fit. I took the waistband top in at the side seams only so I could still harness the straight grain; my waistband pieces looked like trapezoids.

I chose a piece of the duchesse silk satin from the bodice and fortified it with two layers of muslin for the outer waistband, and two layers of lightly crisp sew-in interfacing on the inner waistband.

The waistband closures were hooks/eyes and buttons, but I added a very special glass button from my grandmother’s collection for looks.

crabandbee.com | sewing wedding separates

I held off on hemming until the bodice was mostly finished. I hemmed the underskirt by measuring 1″ from the floor, and then adding a tiny bit of length to the chiffon overskirt hem. (I love how that looks.) I did find a rather ugly but ultimately not very visible mistake on the underskirt – there was one spot where the charmeuse was 1/2″ shorter than the desired hem length! Luckily the habotai lining/underlining was long enough, so I sewed down the raw charmeuse edge to prevent it from unraveling. The chiffon layer obscured the mistake. I was all out of patience for the skirt so I didn’t even entertain the notion of hemming it by hand – underskirt and overskirt alike got relatively speedy machine baby hems.

crabandbee.com | sewing wedding separates

Here’s my order of skirt operations, with faults included:

  1. Combine the Gabriola/underskirt yoke pieces for both front and back
  2. Cut out Gabriola/underskirt skirt pieces in charmeuse
  3. Cut out Gabriola/underskirt yoke pieces in habotai and underline charmeuse yoke pieces
  4. Sew Gabriola/underskirt together
  5. Hand-baste zip at CB to test fit
  6. Baste on rectangle test waistband
  7. Pin chiffon over underskirt
  8. Realize error of not underlining underskirt panels
  9. Sulk
  10. Sew underskirt panels in habotai
  11. Open finished skirt side seams
  12. Sew habotai panels to charmeuse panels at the yoke seam and side seams
  13. Close side seams again
  14. Remove basted zip
  15. Machine-sew invisible zip
  16. Measure chiffon yardage length needed
  17. Tear chiffon
  18. Sew chiffon tube, with an opening left at CB to match zipper length
  19. Gather chiffon
  20. Distribute and baste chiffon to underskirt
  21. Baste test waistband to skirt
  22. Fit waistband
  23. Construct waistband
  24. Add hook closures to back waistband
  25. Add decorative button to back waistband
  26. Measure and pin underskirt hem
  27. Machine-sew baby hem on underskirt
  28. Measure and pin chiffon hem
  29. Machine-sew baby hem on chiffon

Ultimately, I think the pattern was beautiful but not the best choice. My sister never liked the look of the yoke, which was the element that caused all the problems. I think a gored, flared skirt like Simplicity 4401 would have been better and easier, but that pattern art would have been a tough sell.

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Anyway, the finished skirt looked spectacular and deceptively effortless. When I look at it, I can almost forget the pain of sewing it… almost…

crabandbee.com | Sewaholic Gabriola wedding dress skirt with chiffon overlay
Me trying on the finished skirt, like a creep!

Back soon with a post on the bodice!

Wedding dress: design, pattern and muslin

This is the first post in a series about making my sister’s wedding separates, and covers planning and design. The next posts will cover construction, the final look and resources.


When I first started working on my sister’s dress, I had hoped to find a single pattern to suit my sister’s exacting tastes. She was sending me tons of gorgeous Pinterest images, and I was sending her links to patterns, and boy, was there a big divide in aesthetics. None of the patterns ended up appealing to her even though what she wanted – a sweetheart bodice with some kind of flattering shoulder and armpit coverage, and a floor-length skirt – wasn’t too outlandish.

So we put down our phones and laptops and did some field research at a boutique where my sis could try on a dress by her favorite bridal designer, Monique Lhullier. She fell in love with this dress bodice, which gave us something more solid to work from.

Image credit: weddingchicks.com
Image credit: weddingchicks.com

She also fell in love with a-line skirts with chiffon overlays, like this one:

Photo credit: glamour.com
Photo credit: glamour.com

My diagnosis was that we’d need a strapless bodice – and all accompanying structure – with an overlay of lace, and a skirt that was shaped at the top with a full hem.

With some basic design decisions made, I found myself cobbling together patterns. The skirt I chose – Sewaholic’s Gabriola – was an instant hit with Bee and fit with only minor de-hipping. After a false start with Simplicity 1606, I made some flat pattern alterations to an unlikely candidate, McCall’s 6325 (a bustier top pattern with a button placket, which I’d sewn as designed here and here), by eliminating the front closure, removing the peplum, and extending the cups both horizontally and vertically. I documented three muslins (there were probably more):

crabandbee.com | making a wedding dress
Muslin 1: utterly unwearable but good enough to prove the concept
crabandbee.com | making a wedding dress
Muslin 2: with boning and batting, shown on yours truly
crabandbee.com | making a wedding dress
Muslin 3, with minor fit and design tweaks and what passes for straps at Crab & Bee Bridal

I won’t delve into the muslin construction too much, but I will mention that Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture book has a section muslin-making that I benefitted from immensely. I used quite a few of her techniques, like thread tracing the muslin pieces, wide seam allowances and marking the natural waistline with elastic. I also added boning and a simulated waist stay to the muslin –  techniques I would have assumed were for the final bodice – and stabilized the neckline with twill tape, which was necessary for keeping the shape during fitting.

After the struggle of finding a pattern, fitting was the next major challenge.  Part of it was a lack of experience on my part; I rarely make or wear close-fitting garments, and when I do, I prefer a low-profile look through the bust. Bee wanted this bodice to fit like a bustier and support like a bra. Getting a good fit through the bust, especially as we wavered on undergarments, was something I had to really focus on.

As I mentioned above, I wanted the bodice support itself as strapless to reduce stress on the lace. My sister and I share the same shape, which is broad through the shoulders, no difference between upper and full bust and a fairly narrow ribcage. I can’t imagine a shape less conducive to holding up a strapless bodice! Tightening the upper edge created the dreaded back overhang and the whole bodice would eventually creep down anyway. Adding the boning and waist stay to the muslin were critical to proving the bodice could stay up.

crabandbee.com | longline bra in progress

The same fit issues with the strapless bodice applied to RTW undergarments that Bee was trying out. I ended up making a bra for Bee based on the bodice, thinking it would be easier/faster than waiting for her to find a product that may not exist. Even if it ended up getting abandoned, making the bra was what allowed us to move on from the muslin phase.

So, because I love a good summary, here’s a list of what this phase entailed:

  1. Search for dress patterns
  2. Fail at finding dress patterns
  3. Try on real dresses
  4. Start searching for skirt and bodice patterns to match favorite real dress
  5. Try Simplicity 1606 for bodice pattern
  6. Reject Simplicity 1606
  7. Choose Sewaholic Gabriola for skirt pattern
  8. Alter McCall’s 6325 for design
  9. Muslin McCall’s 6325 for fit and design, adding boning and padding
  10. Try to find strapless bra
  11. Fail to find bra, and make one myself
  12. Graduate from muslin phase

I’ll be back soon with more posts! For now, I’ll leave you with an image that captures the turning point of the messy, amorphous muslin process, when both Bee and I started to feel more confident and excited. Seeing the bodice and skirt come together, even in muslin, was magical.

crabandbee.com | making a wedding dress

In-between times

It’s been a few weeks since my sister’s wedding, but it’s still weird being done with the dress. In the month leading up to the wedding, I spend 30-ish hours a week on the dress, kicking up to about 60 hours in the week before. And in the six months before that, I spent anywhere from 5-15 hours per week on it.  The time I spent sewing was the tip of the iceberg, however, compared to how much time I spent thinking about it. Given a construction problem (when and how to underline, boning channel placement, sew-in cups, neckline stabilization…), I’ll chew it over and over like the ruminant I am. A perpetual internal dialog about construction and 200+ hours of sewing is a commitment of a completely different scale than what I’ve invested in any previous project, including my coat. I loved (almost) every minute of it, but it’s left me in a rather odd state.

For one, I’ve come to the realization that I bought a bunch of sewing stuff while in my wedding dress trance – vintage/used patterns and some new (and rather vibrant) fabrics. I got to hang out with Sanae this week and she hypothesized that my sewing wishes were coming out in the form of purchases. I completely agree. Even though I loved sewing the dress, I still lusted after other projects that had to be put off.

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Paradoxically, with all the fabric and patterns and projects ready for me, I’ve found it a bit hard to get sewing again since finishing. I’ll get excited about it when I’m at work, but will end up happier spending time in our until-now neglected garden or watching Star Trek TNG with Nathan. I did plod through a black linen Gabriola last weekend. I love wearing it, but the sewing felt a bit like a chore.

crabandbee.com|garden

So I’m rolling with that feeling. I’ve gotten less and less good at forcing myself into things, which I’m taking as a sign of personal growth. “Disciplined” and “motivated” were words that people used to describe me when I was younger. Those compliments were like food to me at the time, but when I look back I realize how little I trusted my own instincts and interests at that age. I worked for good grades in every subject because that’s how I viewed success and I logged miles of running and ate low-fat foods because that’s how I viewed health. I try to ease off sewing when I get that duty-bound feeling, that I should be sewing because it’s the only way to enjoy myself. When that beyond-excited-to-sew obsessive feeling comes rushing back, though, you’d better believe I’ll be following into my sewing room.

So for now, I’ll leave you with a peek of the lace draping for my sister’s dress bodice. Still trying to figure out how to blog about this project…

crabandbee.com | wedding dress lace draping

What do you do after finishing a large project? Any rituals to share?

Flare bear

I was on a major flare high after making denim trousers, and was certain that a pair of flared jeans would be just the thing. So I made them out of this fantastically thick no-stretch denim I found at SCRAP and… meh. They’re fine but they’re just not the 70s jeans of my dreams. I wear them about once every two weeks.

crabandbee.com | flared jeans

I’m not really sure why they feel so underwhelming! They’re technically the best pair of jeans I’ve ever managed to sew. They fit really nicely. I just feel a bit frumpy when I wear them. Maybe it’s the thickness of the fabric? I also added a total of 1/2″ of ease to the outseams to compensate for the lack of stretch* (and took them in a bit when I fit them), so it’s possible they’re more relaxed than I was intending?

crabandbee.com | flared jeans

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They also don’t seem to work well with any of my shirts, most of which were sewn to partner with other jeans. Any suggestions on what to pair with these flares? Please? Help?

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Let’s move on from my frumpy pants to wedding sewing, shall we?

Since finishing the wedding bra (pic at the bottom of that post), I’ve been building the dress bodice. On a lark, I tried inserting the molded sew-in cups I used on the wedding bra into the bodice directly, and they worked on their own! So, after all that, we’ll be skipping the bra. It’s a little bit sad, but it will prevent me the worry of having to secure the bodice to it. And, my sis has a completely custom super-sturdy white foundation piece to do with as she pleases.

crabandbee.com | wedding separates bodice

“Dress” is actually a misnomer now – I lobbied successfully for wedding separates instead of a dress, hoping my sis could repurpose the pieces more easily and maybe even dye the skirt. I lengthened the bodice into more of a bustier top that could be worn with skirts or even pants. Next, I’ll be draping the lace bodice overlay with the expertise of my friend Casey – who finally has his own blog!

* Edit: I completely forgot to include pattern info for the flares! They’re based off my moderate-stretch jeans block, which I used most recently here. I added width at the bottom, reducing to nothing at the knees. Like I mentioned above, I added a total of 1/2″ ease per leg at the outseams to compensate for the lack of stretch. Thanks to Emma Jayne for asking!

Bossing myself

You may recognize this pattern – it’s Vogue 8926, and I sent it off to Sally for our Sew Bossy exchange. I was more than a little envious of her final piece and had meant to sew one up for myself ever since I laid eyes on hers!

crabandbee.com | Vogue 8926

crabandbee.com | Vogue 8926

Based on my own fit quirks, I made the following adjustments to fit my broad/square shoulders and small bust:

  • small bust adjustment, removing 2″ total from the bust
  • square shoulder adjustment

I also lengthened the ties by nearly double and finished the sleeve hems by hand.

The fabric was a gift from Sanae and I made my own binding. I waffled between white and grey binding more than I’d care to admit. Grey won, as per usual!

crabandbee.com | Vogue 8926 detail

What I like, nay, love about this top is it’s a very simple sew (aside from two pivoted seams) with high style impact. I haven’t seen too many other patterns out there like this one and wouldn’t mind having one or two more of these in my wardrobe. Wouldn’t it be great in white as an alternative to a classic buttoned shirt?

crabandbee.com | Vogue 8926

I made this top about a month ago, before I cut myself off from any more non-wedding sewing. In a series of escalating (sewing) dares, I found myself making a bra/corset contraption for my sister. My sister possesses a similar figure to mine – broad upper back, smaller bust and rib cage – all of which make strapless designs creep towards the waist. After extensive shopping, all she could find were strapless bras that unflatteringly squeezed her back in order to stay up. I decided to create her undergarment as a time-saving device so we could continue fitting the bodice. I converted the dress bodice pattern, which is bustier-style, into a bra pattern and reduced the ease dramatically as I was using powernet.

As someone who is completely satisfied with bralettes, I was grateful for the bra-making craze that’s swept through the blogging community. I surprised myself by having a basic knowledge of the supplies – I must have absorbed that by osmosis! Big thanks to Cloth Habit’s fantastic bra-making sewalong, too.

crabandbee.com | bridal undergarment

There’s lots of things I would do differently now that I’ve tried my hand at it, like make it longer, lowering the bridge, using sheet foam instead of molded cups, etc, but I think it’s going to work for our purposes.

Next up, constructing the bodice. Wish me luck!

Something different: a two-piece dressy set

I’ve been working hard to focus on my sister’s wedding dress, but quite a few so-called palate cleanser projects have sneaked their way in. One was directly influenced by my sister’s dress – I’ll be attaching Sewaholic’s glorious Gabriola skirt pattern onto the bodice.

I sewed the skirt in muslin and couldn’t resist trying it on myself. I rarely wear skirts these days, but the instant I put it on, I fell hard for this design. I’d always admired it but just couldn’t imagine myself looking like, well, myself, in it. The muslin was convincing enough to lead me to believe that I should sew up a practice version in appropriately flowing fabric to use during bodice fittings that I could ultimately keep for myself.

crabandbee.com | Sewaholic Gabriola

Who was I to argue?

After combing the internet and local fabric shops for an interesting viscose print, I surprised myself by settling on a loud floral print. The color wasn’t quite what I’d hoped so I dyed over it with a lovely blue and used the wrong side.

crabandbee.com | Sewaholic Gabriola

There have been a lot of these gorgeous skirts shared on other blogs, so I’ll just give you my construction bullet points:

  • I changed the front waistband from a rectangle to a curve
  • I did a lapped zipper (stabilized by a silk organza strip) and made the button tab overlap longer
  • I wish I’d stabilized the front and back chevron panels because they distorted over time. The skirt is heavy in viscose and you can still see that those panels can’t fully support the weight of the skirt.
  • Even after grading down a size in the hips, I still had to take some extra width out – perhaps due to the distortion mentioned above
  • By reducing the flare at the bottom of the skirt by a few inches, I was able to sew my skirt on 2.5 yards of 55″ fabric instead of the recommended 3.5 yards.

How could I not put that extra yard to use in a matching top?

I used my sloper and my trusty ol’ Helen Joseph-Armstrong textbook and made a bias-cut cowl-neck top. I love how the dark floral motif looks like a big dramatic necklace.

crabandbee.com | cowl neck top based on sloper

crabandbee.com | cowl neck top based on sloper

I think this getup (and maybe even the skirt on its own?) is just a *smidge* too dressy for work so I’m eagerly awaiting the first opportunity to bust it out. Wearing yards of viscose from head to toe is like being swathed in a fluffy dream cloud – certainly something to look forward to.

crabandbee.com | Sewaholic Gabriola

My sewing recently has been quite practical – coat, jeans, shirts, blue, white, grey. Everything about this project took me by surprise… and I liked it.

Further adventures with shoulder fitting

Goodness, it’s been awhile! Since I last blogged in late February, I started a new job. It’s actually with the same company and team that I left when I wrote this post, but it feels very different and exciting. Nathan and I are working hard to practice what we enjoyed so much when we were both not working – cooking for ourselves, getting enough exercise, and being mindful while I embrace this new, decidedly full-time job.

I’ve been sewing steadily (if a little less frequently) over the past couple of months. Shortly before my post on shoulders, I had started experimenting with fit on a buttoned shirt pattern I’d made a couple of times in 2011 and 2012, McCall’s 6436. Armed with a working diagnosis of my shoulder fit – rather broad, a few degrees shy of completely square, and slightly forward – I decided to revisit it.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436

You saw this first iteration a couple of times in my post about jeans – a sleeveless swiss-dot shirt. When I made it, I was trying out a couple of theories: that I could trace one pattern size as long as I made a major SBA, and that I could adjust for my square, forward shoulders by adding 1/2″ to the outside of the back shoulder seam. It was pretty flattering but I found myself taking shocking amounts of ease from the side seams. (I use the finished measurements when I work with patterns, so normally I’m not surprised by the amount of ease.)

After some wear, I realized the neck was huge – an issue I’d never encountered.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436

Well, I went back to fix my pattern and realized I’d forgotten to subtract out some seam allowance when I converted it into French(ish) placket. The horror! I did take a little more width from the bust, but not nearly as much as I thought I needed to. For my second try, I wanted to try a new variation with a bias-bound neckline. I also cautiously threw sleeves into the mix and cut into some lovely cotton-linen from Sanae.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436

I have very nascent understanding about how sleeves are drafted (although Ikat Bag’s post – holy cow, what a revelation – and the Fit For Real People book have been helping). After removing some width from the bust and raising the arm scye, the sleeves were much too upright and tight (probably also due to the fact that the bodice of this pattern is supposed to work with sleeves and without and I made some adjustments based on the sleeveless version). I used FFRP’s “Very Large Arms” adjustment and it worked perfectly. I’m actually ambivalent on the appearance of the sleeves, but I think they fit pretty well for a first try. And just look at this shoulder seam! Never have I beheld its like on my person.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436

So overall, mistakes aside, I’m excited to say that the fit adjustments I made on this shirt have become my new standards – at least until I learn enough to become dissatisfied with them! (Isn’t that just the way it is with sewing? I love it.) I’ve also started adding 1″ wide seam allowance to any shoulder seams just for good measure; it’s so little fabric but it can make such a huge difference to the fit for me.

I did muslin a bodice for my matron (!) of honor dress using these adjustments and the fit was nearly perfect. Yes, I was shocked. I’m still not sure I believe Fit For Real People when they say that all Big 4, Simplicity and Burda blocks are exactly the same, but I will say that I’ve had success with my two-pattern sample. I did find it surprising that I was able to use one pattern size to get the shoulder fit I wanted, especially after seeing I would need to go up many sizes in the two pattern brands that provide shoulder fit information – Marfy and Style Arc.

How are your fit experiments coming along? Any revelations about fitting shoulders or any other body parts?

Pants progress

My last post dealt with shoulder fit, but I’d like to take a detour to Pants Land (or Trouser Town, if you’re British?)

Last year I made my first two pairs of jeans. The first one was the best-fitting pair of jeans I’d ever worn, and an undefinable and wonderful (to me) style: fitted but not tight, tapered but not skin-tight, ankle-length. They bagged out a little bit with wear, however, especially after I put them on damp.

crabandbee.com | jeans
The original fit

On the second pair, I got overzealous and took 1/4″ out of the out-seams and tightened up the waistband. They looked good but, creature of comfort that I am, I really didn’t want to put them on. They stayed a dark indigo blue while the first pair earned that oh-so-delightful fading.

Over the year, the first pair started to feel more like the tight pair. I know what you’re thinking, and I thought it, too – I was outgrowing my jeans. Then I held up the first pair to the tight pair, and they were the same size! The denim had shrunk with washings and (very occasional) dryings.

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1367
The shrunken fit

Both pairs were lovingly folded up and given to my sister, who they fit as originally intended.

After giving the jeans away and a full Marie Kondo wardrobe sort, I was left with two pairs of everyday pants – a lackluster pair of thrifted jeans and my khaki pleated trousers. Right around this time, I’d been casting about for a project after finishing my coat but nothing sounded like fun until the idea of revisiting my jeans pattern occurred to me.

I may have called that pattern “self-drafted” at the time I wrote that post, but “self-cobbled” is more accurate. Now that I’m older and wiser/have read more Helen Joseph-Armstrong, I know that converting a pleated trouser pattern into jeans was nothing short of major pattern surgery! According to HJ-A, jeans have a higher back rise and lower front rise, which I did not take into account in my first two pairs. In fact, I’d reduced the back rise for the trousers. Add my ample rump into the mix and there’s just too much booty.

For this iteration, I added a full inch to the back rise, grading to nothing all the way to center front. I also added 1/4″ of ease to the front and back outseams to guard against future denim shrinking, which can apparently happen over the course of many washings. (I did wash and dry my denim twice this time but who knows if it was enough! I used the leftovers from my other two pairs so I’m suspicious that it’s waiting to do me an ill turn.)

Anyway. I love them.

crabandbee.com | jeans

crabandbee.com | jeans

I was inspired by Heather Lou’s Ginger sewalong to use pocket stays, which are amazing because of the extra room for my hands and the cozy stability across the entire front.

crabandbee.com | jeans detail

I was bolstered up by my success, enough to do some more pattern cobbling, and made a pair of stretch-denim flares with back darts instead of a yoke. I added 4″ length and about 4″ of flare on both sides of the legs.

crabandbee.com | flared denim trousers

Flares. Flares! Why did I ever stop wearing this wonderful silhouette?

I changed the pockets to a slant instead of jeans-style pockets.

crabandbee.com | flared denim trousers

And I got terribly lazy and left off back pockets (which are universally credited for “breaking up the expanse” of rump.) I had every intention of making some nice welt pockets, but my fabric was quite thin and I thought the visible outline of pocket bags might be equally distracting. I may still add some sort of classy patch pocket, if such a thing is possible on pants. There is some wrinkling on the back, but it may just be from sitting? I don’t know. This fabric is probably best suited to dresses and the like.

crabandbee.com | flared denim trousers

I would love to try my new flares pattern in another thicker fabric, possibly as jeans with a yoke. As-is, they have filled a wardrobe gap for me, which is nicer work wear (with a longer top, of course). I’d add another inch of length, too.

crabandbee.com | flared denim trousers

Hope you enjoyed this detour to Trouser Town! They’ve been a nice simpler sew while I muddle over the fit and design of my sister’s wedding dress… I’m documenting the process but I can’t decide whether to post as I go or plan to summarize at the end, in case it all goes to $hit and we have to buy a dress!

Shoulders.

crabandbee.com

Shoulders: the topic has come up in almost all of my posts recently – coats, jackets, sweatshirts, et al. As I learn more about fit, here’s the question I keep running into: why is it so difficult to find information about shoulder fit?

I used to think I had little to no fit issues, and it’s true that my bust/waist/hip measurements usually fall somewhere within one size of each other. Ignoring shoulders, my measurements would indicate a mild pear shape. My experience with RTW taught me to ignore the tight armholes and straining upper back, and to focus more on a slimming fit through the waist more than anything else.

crabandbee.com

Now that I’m aware of more than a fitted waist, I’m learning that fit through the shoulders and upper back changes everything. A recent sleepless night led to some late-night perusal of Susan Khalje’s site, during which I encountered a video on choosing size based on shoulder measurements (I can’t link to the video directly, but it’s called Choosing the Right Size and it’s on her homepage). Revelatory, and simple enough – I was completely on board watching the video, until I wondered how she seemed to just know what the standard Vogue shoulder sizes were. Rare, it seems, are the pattern companies that include this information! Measuring once you buy a pattern is an option, but so much depends on the intended style of the garment.

Marfy and Style Arc – both of whom offer single-sized patterns – are two notable exceptions, and I was rather shocked to find that that my shoulders were many Marfy and Style Arc sizes bigger than my bust and hips. I know that Susan Khalje recommends picking patterns based on shoulder size, but with such a dramatic difference, is it worth it? Would picking something closer to my hips and making adjustments be better? To complicate matters further, I’m somehow much broader in the back than in the front, to the point where I’m always surprised to see myself in photos from behind. I’m not the biggest fan of likening body types to sports, but I surely look like the high school swimmer I was!

I used to feel terrible when I didn’t fit easily into RTW. As I get older and sew my own clothing, I’ve been divesting myself of those sad, sweaty feelings and have a hard-won love and appreciation for my physiognomy. Now it’s just up to me to figure out the best techniques for my (quite) broad shoulders. They deserve it. And, someday I’d love to wear a long-sleeved button-up shirt without armpit wedgies.

Readers, are any of you gifted with broad shoulders and backs? Or perhaps you have to make adjustments for narrow shoulders and backs? Do you have any fitting resources to share, or tricks for fitting commercial patterns?

Coat Compendium

crabandbee.com | Named Clothing Yona coat

I started writing the post about my coat and realized that a lot of the information would be better suited to a list format. So, for those of you who are interested, this is a detailed summary of how I, a complete and utter tailoring novice, dove into the world of coat-making.


PATTERN CHANGES
I made two muslins for this project using 1″ seam allowances. This gave me a lot of leeway to sort out fit problems, especially for my broad/square shoulders.

Fit changes:

  • Small bust adjustment
  • Broad, square back shoulder adjustment (added 7/8″ to shoulder point of back raglan seam)
  • 1/2″ added to sleeve length
  • Some minor changes to the lower back arm scye

Design changes:

  • 1″ wider lapels & collar
  • 1″ wider overlap
  • 3″ longer length
  • welt pockets
  • 1 piece tailored collars instead of collar and collar stand
  • Button closure instead of wrap
crabandbee.com | Named Yona coat muslin
Original fit: front
crabandbee.com | Named Yona coat muslin
Original fit: back

SUPPLIES
I bought my coating fabric and buttonhole twist locally, and my interfacing/hair canvas at Fashion Sewing Supply on several other bloggers’ recommendations. My underlining and lining were purchased while ago at a local second-hand fabric store, Our Fabric Stash.

  • Wool coating
  • Mid-weight cotton (underlining for body)
  • Muslin (back, raglan sleeve and pocket stays)
  • Hair cloth canvas (interfacing for collar, lapels, hems)
  • Pro-weft fusible (interfacing for facings only)
  • Charmeuse-like rayon/acetate (lining)
  • Buttonhole twist
  • Beeswax (I got cheap/lazy and used an old candle)
  • Button (harvested from my friend’s old coat)
  • Base pattern: Named Clothing’s Yona
crabandbee.com
Coating and cotton underlining (silk organza not used)

TECHNIQUES & CONSTRUCTION
Based on my nascent understanding of tailoring, I would classify the techniques I used as traditional or custom, with the exception of machine-sewing my lining to the facing. My main resource for the coat construction was Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket, but I used a few other resources.

Techniques used:

  • Hand-tailored undercollar and lapels (Tailoring, and some guidance from A Challenging Sew’s post on padstitching)
  • Underlining
  • Catch-stitched seams
  • Welt pockets (Shaeffer, Couture Sewing Techniques)
  • Pocket stay (Shaeffer, Couture Sewing Techniques)
  • Partial bagged lining, except for hems
  • Jump pleat (some guidance from this EmmaOneSock tutorial)
  • Hand-sewn hem (Tailoring)
  • Hand-worked buttonhole (Nordheim, Vintage Couture Tailoring)
crabandbee.com | welt pocket construction
Stabilizing the welt pockets

The Tailoring book includes an order of operations for tailoring a coat, and includes instructions for raglan sleeves, but most of the tutorials to attach the sleeves and sleeve lining were appropriate for regular sleeves. This is what I ended up doing:

  1. Underlined fashion fabric
  2. Constructed coat back: sew CB seam & baste back stay
  3. Shaped undercollar: hair canvas & padstitching
  4. Shaped coat fronts: hair canvas, padstitching, tape roll lines & lapels
  5. Sleeves: baste sleeve stays, sew to fronts and backs, sew side seams and top sleeve seam
  6. Sewed undercollar to coat
  7. Constructed lining unit: sew facings (fronts and back neck) to lining, sew top collar to lining unit
  8. Attached facings/lining to shell around lapels and collar, trim and turn wrong sides together
  9. Added welt pockets and said a Hail Mary*
  10. Hand-tailored hems
  11. Top-stitched collar, lapels & coat front
  12. Attached lining to hems
  13. Hand-worked buttonhole
  14. Attached button

*Not recommended! This should have been step #3, I think. I had a last-minute realization that increasing the coat overlap made my patch pockets look ridiculous and had no other choice. This brings me to my next category:

BLOOPERS

  • Realizing the wider overlap made the front too crowded for patch pockets
  • Cutting my top collar up-side down
  • Not pattern-matching my center-back seam
  • Leaving my front underlining pieces out where my cat could wiz on them

YOU GUYS
When I asked Instagram if I needed an SBA (and how to go about it), Jo offered to send me pictures from her textbook! Gail, Amy and Kohlrabi Bohemia jumped in when I was trying to figure out what was happening with the back fit.


To say that I learned a lot during this project is an understatement; I’d been wanting to make a coat since last winter but got too nervous (and also distracted!) I’ve been slowly storing up knowledge since then, which made the process a lot more approachable. I’m very much a beginner, but feel free to ask me any questions you might have about what I did. A lot of the photos in the post are from Instagram and you can see them all chronologically using the tag #crabandbeecoat.

Happy coating!