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!

Hey, I finished my coat!

crabandbee.com | Named Clothing Yona coat

I finished my coat last Sunday (!!!) to, well, no fanfare. Sewing projects are like that to me – I hoot and holler when a pile of fabric finally starts to look like a garment, but sewing on the final button never feels like the party it should. What I did feel was a huge sense of accomplishment and a burning desire to wear it immediately.

My coat took over two months and took many twists and turns so I’m a little unsure of where to start. Maybe starting with the fabric makes the most sense. I first spotted it in the summer at Nancy’s Sewing Basket. I texted pictures of it to my sister, I cradled it in my arms and carried it around the shop, and then I wistfully put it back on the shelf. It’s a gorgeous wool, a little loosely woven, with a geometric/lattice motif. I knew I wanted to make a coat, but I didn’t even have a pattern yet.

crabandbee.com

Enter Yona. Named Clothing contacted me to see if I’d be interested in one trying one of their patterns. I initially said no, that I was too busy with all of my planned sewing, which included a winter coat. While I’ve always been intrigued by their designs, I tend to stick with $5.99 sale Vogues; I love 1-2 designs per collection, I’m familiar with the fit, notations and instructions, and, well, the price is right.

I ended up cruising their site on a slow day at work and found Yona. I had overlooked the pattern until I saw the line drawings – it was my dream coat. (I pride myself on being able to see beyond styling and fabric choice, but wow, the fringe and contrast lapel facings really fooled me!) I’d also heard they draft for taller, broader-shouldered figures, so I went ahead with it after making sure our expectations were the same: I would muslin the pattern, but if the muslin didn’t work there was no expectation I would sew a finished coat. This post is by no means intended to be a straight product review, for two reasons: 1, I altered the pattern quite a bit and completely disregarded the instructions because I wanted to construct my coat using traditional tailoring techniques (my guess is that the instructions would be closer to RTW tailoring) and 2, I think it’s tough to review something objectively you received for free. Andrea has an awesome post on this topic.

Anyhoodles, here’s my disclosure! I received this pattern for free from Named Clothing in exchange for trying the pattern.

crabandbee.com

crabandbee.com | Named Clothing Yona coat

The design changes I made were as follows:

  • 1″ wider lapels and collar
  • 1″ wider front overlap & adjusted roll line
  • 3″ longer width
  • Combined collar stand and collar since I would be hand-tailoring it
  • Button closure instead of a wrap
  • Welt pockets

Oh, the welt pockets… I had every intention of using the patch pockets included in the pattern. I generally prefer welt pockets but my head was already exploding with all of the steps in the coat and I had happily resigned myself to patch pockets. I waited until I’d sewn the shell to the lining so I could try the coat on. And guess what? the extra inch in the overlap crowded them out; welt pockets it was. I spent two days stewing and making best friends with Claire Schaeffer’s welt pocket instructions in Couture Sewing Techniques. Cutting into a coat front that you’ve underlined, interfaced, tailored, taped and catch-stitched is not for the faint of heart.

crabandbee.com | Winter coat welt pocket

Fit-wise, the design was pretty close for me and the changes were what I might have expected: small bust adjustment, broad/square shoulder adjustment and some futzing wit the back arm scye. All these were made very interesting by the simple fact this coat has raglan sleeves. There is significantly less information available for fitting raglans! There’s still somethin’ happening at the back raglan seams, but hey – I have a full range of motion in a coat, for the first time in my life.

crabandbee.com | Named Clothing Yona coat

I cut out my coat and started sewing before I’d translated all of my design and fit changes to the facings and lining. I had to, or I would have lost the will to make this coat. Still, I was cursing my past self when it came to the lining, and frantically paging through my Joseph-Armstrong textbook  where I once again encountered the dearth of information about raglan coats! Whatever I did – and I really could not tell you what it was – turned out fine.

crabandbee.com | Named Clothing Yona coat lining

I constructed most of this coat using  the “custom” or traditional tailoring methods from Tailoring: Sewing the Perfect Jacket, with one exception – I machine-sewed most of the lining to the front and neck facings. Even though the hems are sewn in by hand, I just couldn’t imagine hand-sewing in my fantastically slippery, heavy lining all the way around. Next time, maybe.

crabandbee.com | hand worked buttonhole

And that anti-climactic finishing step: the buttonhole. I don’t care for bound buttonholes for some reason, so I attempted the hand-worked variety. I found that a couple of days’ practice got me to a buttonhole that was totally fine – it wouldn’t win prizes but it also wouldn’t catch my eye when I was wearing the coat and make me regret not practicing more.

crabandbee.com | Named Clothing Yona coat

I could go on and on about what this coat asked, nay, demanded of me, but I’ll be sharing a brain-dump post later this week with detailed lists of resources I used and my order of operations for construction… so I remember what I did…

About halfway through the coat, I started getting fantasies about other sewing projects: blouses, jeans, quilts, anything and everything. I thought I’d be blowing through quick projects at this point but now that I’ve finished, I haven’t done much other than clean up my sewing space and muslin a blouse. After a two-month project, I guess there’s no rush!

Some thoughts on 2014

I typed this title and started blankly at the text field for awhile. How do you sum up a year?

Maybe it’s best to consider how it began. I started this year blissfully unemployed. Then I went back to full-time work as a contractor. It was a rough transition, but it happened at the right time. I’d done all the reflecting and rejuvenating I possibly could, and I needed to hatch from my cocoon before I started stagnating. There’s a part of me that feels like if I’d just stuck with those feelings a little longer I might have found the perfect balance of employment, free time and 100% fulfilling work but that’s probably untrue. Being at home for so long was starting to shake my confidence in my ability to interact with other humans, which has never been that strong.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.53.56 AM
Hiding from my office party

So I went back to work and my sewing changed. The “thinking” part of sewing lessened in favor of the “making” part. I spent the early part of this year working on my bodice sloper and adapting a pleated pants pattern into a jeans pattern, but my spring and summer was full of dresses and tops and wearing the jeans enough to realize that a) they would need future improvements and b) they should be given to my sister.

crabandbee.com
Unblogged V.2 jeans

Now that I’ve become re-accustomed to working, my desire for longer projects is increasing again. I made a jacket. I fitted and sewed a button-down for one of our best friends who doesn’t fit RTW. After a year of talking about it, I’m sewing a coat that should be done by the end of this month. It’s been a slow process, with the construction interspersed with lots of book flipping and internet scrolling, but to me that signals I’m learning something.

crabandbee.com

Next year, I’m slated to sew a wedding dress for my sister and I’d like to renew my quest for awesome pants. The quickest way for me to develop an aversion to something is to set a hard goal to complete it, so (aside from the wedding dress) I’m not going to do that. I’ll just say this: I’m excited for another year with you people, shared through the magical lens of sewing and creating.

Raglan progression

Like many, I’ve been taken with the raglan-sleeved sweatshirt trend. I had a vintage 1980s pattern in my stash, which turned out to be disastrously large through the armpits, chest and sleeves. (Every time I’m facing extensive pattern changes, there seems to be a McCall’s/Butterick/Vogue sale and a pattern that promises to save me from my fit issues.)

I bought McCall’s 6992 and tried it out using a thrifted jersey sheet. I used my hip size all around, but the bust came out huge. And my sister, bless her heart, tried to hide the wrinkles by pulling the shirt down before taking a picture. I felt like a cat with a coat on.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6992 | thrifted sheet sewing

Here I am, trying to get that blouson feeling back.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6992 | thrifted sheet sewing

And here’s the usual swayback scene.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6992 | thrifted sheet sewing

For Version 2, I traced a smaller size up top graded to the larger one through the hips. I used some organic cotton French terry and honest-to-goodness RIBBING! And please enjoy a liberal dose of wrinkles, because I’ve been living and sleeping in this sweatshirt.

One element that wasn’t clear to me from my research or the pattern art is that the one-piece sleeve has a shoulder dart. At first I was irritated to sew a dart into knit fabric, but it really improves the shape.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6992

Satisfied with the fit, I began working on what was my ultimate goal: a raglan-sleeved sweater-knit dress. The only initial change I made was extending the hem. I also underlined the front and back (with cotton-hemp jersey from a failed dye experiment) because the fabric was scratchy. It was supposedly a wool/acetate blend and felt a good deal cheaper / a lot less wooly than its price tag led me to believe.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6992 dress

After basting together the pieces, I trimmed down the arm/side seam multiple times. I also added a hem band at the bottom and finished the neck and sleeve hems using – surprise! – this tutorial – which adapted quite nicely to my sweater knit.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6992 dress

I hated every minute of sewing this fabric, but I like the dress quite a bit; it’s warm and easy to wear. There might be some room for improvement in the fit of the back raglan seams, but it’s comfortable.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6992 dress

And speaking of raglans, my coat progress continues. I figured out the main problem with the back fit and added a whopping 3/4″ to the back shoulder seam. Everything fell into place!

crabandbee.com | Named Patterns Yona muslin

I still have some work to do on my lining pattern pieces, but I was starting to feel scattered and kind of hopeless I’d never get to start sewing with my real fabric. So, I’ve begun constructing the shell! I began with the back, just to get my bearings with the fabric and underlining on a simpler piece.

So the verdict after all this raglan-ing? I’m not sure the raglan is the best design for me, as my shoulders are supremely broad and square, but I appear to be riding this silhouette until the wheels fall off.

See you next spring, jacket

One of my big, big sewing focuses right now is sewing myself some outerwear. It’s a challenge, and a very timely one. My winter arsenal consist of a 5-year old puffy down coat and a woefully drafty, short, thrifted Banana Republic thing. My light-weight jacket situation is a little better and includes Minoru, Mini-ru and a thrifted jeans jacket that’s debilitatingly tight across the back. Even though I need winter coats more, starting with a fall jacket seemed prudent and still-useful.

crabandbee.com | Burda collarless jacket

I downloaded this Burda pattern in May with the best of intentions to start my jacket early, and promptly buried myself in fluffy summer sewing. It didn’t help that the instructions looked like they’d been crammed through an online translator without proofing (how does Burda manage to get all of those weird a’s with carats sprinkled throughout their instructions?). When the weather got chillier in early September, my sense of urgency overcame my mild fear/irritation, and I started my muslin.

What my pattern lacked for in instructions was made up for by (what I then thought was) a perfect fit. The fact that the pattern, chosen for my bust/waist/hip measurements, fit my broad shoulders and upper back should serve as a warning for all you normal- and narrow-shouldered folks!

crabandbee.com | Burda collarless jacket

My only fit adjustment was to correct for my swayback. (Now, of course, I see some wrinkles that may have been worth investigating!)

Other deviations from the pattern were as follows:

  • Different, simpler cuffs – the floppy zippered cuffs looked like a nightmare to me
  • Adding a full lining, with an action pleat
  • Underlining the front and back shell pieces
  • Catch-stitching the shell seam allowances
  • Completely ignoring the instructions

My muslin was a black mystery woven with some drape, and my final fabric was a hemp and recycled cotton canvas. Some issues I hadn’t spotted in my muslin showed up in the garment, namely some weirdness through the bust.

crabandbee.com | Burda collarless jacket

crabandbee.com | Burda collarless jacket

This is me explaining the importance of documenting my side-wrinkles to my photographer/sister. It looks just like a dart, doesn’t it? I love dartless flat-front styles, but they often leave me yearning for easier fitting solutions.

crabandbee.com | Burda collarless jacket

My favorite element by far is the contrasting bias binding I added to cover the zipper and finish the neckline. Sanae, a connoisseur of tasteful linens, gave me a gorgeous striped specimen that I made bias strips from.

crabandbee.com | Burda collarless jacket

The jacket doesn’t call for a  lining, but I wanted to get some practice in, and not have to finish my shell seams in a pretty way. I used the very last scraps of a thrifted rayon, first seen here.

crabandbee.com | Burda collarless jacket

I could have spent more time on the fit, in retrospect, but this jacket will be worn next spring. And I feel more prepared to dig into my coat project. I’ve started the muslin process and have been sharing a few in-process photos/soliciting fit advice on Instagram.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 6.45.11 PM

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 6.44.00 PM

So far, the takeaway has been that my upper back is at least two full sizes larger than my bust. Oh, fitting! Outerwear, onwards!

Late to the (clown) party

crabandbee.com | Pierrot clown costume

Hello, hello! I missed Halloween festivities this year due to a plague that blew through my husband’s family. Ironically, my symptoms came on just as I’d sewn up the last rosette. (Last year, I was still sewing up my tiger costume minutes before I left for my friend’s party; I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t scrambling to get a costume together the day of Halloween!)

Anyway. I have a hard time picking costumes because I’m afraid I won’t be able to get into character. Anyone who’s ever heard me try to speak with a fake accent knows that this concern isn’t unfounded. A clown, I decided, would be perfect – I can make exaggerated faces and hop around silently as well as anybody.

crabandbee.com | Pierrot clown costume

The foundation of my Pierrot-style costume was a billowy white 80’s pajama shirt pattern. I love a full gathered sleeve, costume or not, and I would have welcomed more puffiness. Still, I’m tempted to see if I can integrate it into my daily wardrobe. And really, how different is it from this? The neck and leg ruffles are from a linen sheet gifted from my friend (and cosplay whiz) Meris, and the edges are finished on my serger with a very short stitch length. The rosettes are scraps from this top.

crabandbee.com | Pierrot clown costume

Is there a socially acceptable way to wear a neck ruff in daily life? Should I just do it? I love how it looks.

crabandbee.com | Pierrot clown costume

After getting gussied up for a mini-shoot with my sis, I couldn’t resist running outside to freak Nathan out from his office window. Happy belated Halloween from this clown.

_DSC0155

Dressing like a feminist

Since I posted last, I finished my jacket (snapshot at the end of this post) as well as a Pierrot-style clown costume for Halloween, but neither has seen any wear! The weather has turned quite cold and rainy, and I came down with a gnarly head cold that prevented me from any Halloween reveling. I hope to have pictures of one or both soon, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share some reflections on a topic near and dear to my heart.

When I was a sophomore in college in the early aughts, my uncle and parents visited me. We went to the mall, because that’s what we did back then for fun. As we walked through the perfumed air, my uncle said something I never forgot: “You know that women’s fashion is all about vulnerability, right?”

The more I thought about it, the more examples I came up with. Tight waists that restrict breathing and make eating difficult. Long hair and jewelry to grab. Exposed skin. Constricting skirts and pants that limit range of motion. No pockets, which necessitates carrying a bag. Shoes that prevent the wearer from running, walking or sometimes even standing in for more than 20 minutes. Sizes and shapes that make people feel like genetic aberrations. And, perhaps most debilitating, the expectation that women should be gorgeous, fashionable or at least “current” at all times so you have a hard time thinking about other things.

I’ve worn all of the garments and accessories I’ve listed above. Skinny jeans that were so tight I’m pretty sure they gave me heartburn? Yep. Painfully tall, cheaply-made, blister-inducing heels? Yep. As I get more comfortable in my skin, my tolerance for these particular sorts of pain has declined dramatically. Physical comfort is on par with aesthetics for me now. I’m done with skirts I need to keep adjusting or shirts that cut into my armpits. I tend to wear shoes that I can walk at least a mile in. At the same time, I’ve never been more certain about what I want to wear and look like.

I think making your own clothing can be an act of resistance to the shortcomings of mainstream fashion – I’m empowered to make the clothes I need and want, and I can make them to fit me. I know techniques to make my clothes last longer than the store-bought items I could afford, so I’m not always scrambling for replacements. My imagination, skill level and free time are the constraints I work within. I feel lucky.

I still think a good deal about fashion and clothing, and sometimes I question the amount of time I spend on sewing and sewing-related activities. Aside from work, it’s without a doubt what I spend the most time doing. “Sewing” has come to encompass a whole range of activities for me, however: learning, writing, working with my hands after a day of digital work, challenging myself, relaxing, meeting people and being creative, with the hope of a useful object at the end of the process. I like new clothes quite a bit, but would they be interesting enough on their own to sustain my sewing practice?

On the flip side, my interest in clothing and sewing looks dramatically different from others’. I have friends who enjoy the performative aspects of fashion.  Playing with gender and identity through clothing can be extremely powerful and, I think, a feminist act as much as dressing to suit your body and comfort. That exploration may include the 6″ heels, a three-piece suit, a shaved head or cleavage for days. Why a person wears something can easily be as important as what they’re wearing.

Given how much time and thought most of us invest in our home-sewn garments, do these sorts of considerations enter into what you sew? Has making your own clothing changed how you dress yourself?

Further adventures in shirtmaking

It’s good to be talking shirts again. The last one I finished was over a year ago! The inspiration for this one was certainly the fabric, a plaid cotton-linen blend I bought this summer with every intention of making something for myself. I was holding the fabric up to my face, using the mirror in Nathan’s office, and pondering what I should make when his eyes lit up and he complimented… the fabric. There is a world of difference between “that’s an awesome fabric” and “that fabric looks awesome on you.” Begrudgingly, I held the fabric up to his face and it looked so much better on him that the decision was made.

crabandbee.com | Plaid men's shirt, McCall's 6044

(The plaids match because I spent what felt like hours making sure – looks like they’re a bit askew in this pic!)

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about plaid placement, spending a little bit of time each day over a week. I drew lines on my pattern where I wanted the dark horizontal stripes to land, pondered the benefits of a yoke on the grain vs. on the bias, sorted out how to continue the line across the sleeve… all efforts that paid off in the end. You can’t just cut into a plaid without a plan, especially when you work with it as infrequently as I do. I believe the last time I touched a plaid was in 2011, on a shirt for myself that has long since been donated to the Goodwill.

I also used this shirt as an opportunity to make the following changes to the McCall’s 6044 pattern:

  • Reduced the sleeve fullness at the bottom by slashing and closing
  • Made what I understand to be a modified French placket
  • Widened the placket to 1.25″
  • Removed 1/8″ from the undercollar and inner collar band seam allowance
  • Added a back yoke (same as black shirt)
  • Graded from a large in the shoulders/arm scye to a medium through the waist (same as both previous versions)

crabandbee.com | Plaid men's shirt, McCall's 6044

Semi-scientific sleeve fullness comparison.

crabandbee.com | Plaid men's shirt, McCall's 6044

I decided to use a French placket with stitching – is there a proper name for this? – because I thought it would both look nicer and be easier to sew. Instead of using the placket piece included in the pattern, I extended the shirt front and folded it over twice and edge- and top-stitched. I love it – how often does “easier” and “better-looking” intersect? Both of the other shirts look puckered where the shirt front and placket were stitched together after going through the wash.

I also used Andrea’s order of operations for sewing on a collar – highly recommended. Instead of fusible interfacing, I used a stiff cotton lawn for my collar and collar band; with the smaller undercollar and inner collar band, the collar curves ever so slightly and is really well-behaved. Still working on the perfect points, though – they’re not as sharp as they look in the image above.

img_0027

I forgot for a second time that I need to reduce the upper back width; I hackily removed 3/8″ from the back arm scye, grading to nothing at the shoulder, but I think there’s about 3/4″ or more of excess on either side. Unlike me, I think Nathan is broader in the front and may not need the larger size in the back. A pattern-making puzzle to consider; what does that do to the sleeve pattern?

crabandbee.com | Plaid men's shirt, McCall's 6044

This shirt has quickly overtaken the other two as Nathan’s favorite. How gratifying is that? While I’d like to claim that using this gorgeous fabric on something for Nathan is selfless, I really can’t – I get to see him wearing it all the time.

April_121_tech_drawing_large

I started the shirt after a post-Scraptember dress break and have since started a jacket I’ve meant to sew since May! If you could see the instructions, you’d know why it never sounded good to start. Why yes, it is a Burda pattern – how did you guess? But it’s almost finished and I’m loving the results. Even if my welt pocket has a pucker in the corner…

crabandbee.com | Burda collarless jacket