Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Suburban Sweatshop

In the absence of Imelda's talented workforce of minors, I have had to learn to sew myself. And in response to a much emailed question, I have a little sewing post for you all today.

One of the questions I am often asked is about the wide leg pants I make for myself. Let me preface all this by saying that I still consider myself a sewing novice, but I always have grand plans and usually learn by my mistakes.

The pattern I have used the most and found very easy to make is by Kwik Sew, pattern no. 2990. They are a wide leg palazzo pant with a mid to high rise waist and a rear zip. The rear zip ,(and absence of pleats in the front) means that they sit flat and are a very flattering cut. I have made them in everything from loud, patterned cottons to glittery evening fabrics. They work best however, in a fabric with some elastane. I'd recommend a mid to heavy weight cotton elastane. It means you can make them quite fitted and they still have a little give. Being a wide leg pant, the more fitted they are around the butt, the better. The pattern has them fitted to about half way down the butt/ thigh and then drop from there. Which, in my opinion is wonderful because it hides a lot of sins.

If you prefer a pull on pant, I'd recommend using Kiwk Sew No. 3156 for something casual or Butterick B4807 for something with a bit more of a Jade Jagger look to it.

As for getting the right fit - and this is a lesson that has taken me quite a while to learn - I find that the measurements on the packet just don't translate. For instance, when I make pants I usually go by the hip and waist measurement thinking that the size they give me will be correct. What happens is that they end up about 2 - 3 sizes too big! After much angst, I have now discovered that I need to find my size by using my bust measurement - even for pants. When trying to find your bust measurement, place the tape measure below the bust; in the same place you would measure the girth of your bra, and don't include the cup. I have been told that all patterns use this method and then assume the cup size to be a B, and you have to scale up or down yourself from there. So long story short, measure your bust and stick with that sizing for pants.

Start with the right tools. Before you start get yourself a decent pair of heavy weight dress making scissors. There is nothing worse than going for cheap scissors and then having them catch and ruin your lovely fabric. Also, get a fine needled, seam ripper. Chances are if you are just starting out you are going to need it, (and a mouth full of soap) quite often. Get a couple of packets of dressmaking pins with the brightly coloured heads and a magnetic pin dish. Better than a pin cushion any day.

If you're raring to go, but get all shaky at the thought of cutting into your $30 per meter fabric, knock up your first pair in calico. It will help you get more confidence in perfecting your zipper techniques. Then you can cut away with confidence.

If you don't have the confidence to tackle a pair of pants first time out of the gate, I suggest you try a couple of simple DIY projects. For some wonderful ideas of useful and cheap things you can knock up in a couple of hours visit the wonderful THREADBANGER.

I picked up these gorgeous vintage patterns the other day, but sadly my list of projects is so long at present it may take me a few months to get to them. And vintage patterns are a whole new challenge that I am only just starting to explore.

If you want to know more about sewing from vintage patterns, I'd recommend checking out A Dress A Day.


Amy G said...

Mmm, sewing! Kwik Sew patterns are excellent for beginners--their whole system is designed to be easy to work with and easy to alter for fit. Plus the patterns are printed on normal paper rather than tissue paper, so they last longer. Some of my favorite basics are Kwik Sew!

K.Line said...

Love the title of this post, SKM. And how crazy that everything on this earth eventually comes back to the size of one's bust :-)

trend de la creme said...

I took up sewing in a dream once, only to wake up with my fingers sewn together. I'm really more of a super glue girl.

Times of Glory said...

Darling, I am not good at sewing, but the post is so interesting and somehow your magic words make me want to try! Maybe I should get the pattern and trying one xxxxx

susie_bubble said...

Great post....very useful

Super Kawaii Mama said...

Amy G: They really are perfect for beginners. I hadn't thought about the paper issue, but you are right.
K.Line: Yep, it feels like that some days, especially when making a dozen fairy ballerina costumes.
trend de la creme: I was a super glue girl too, until I glued my finger together!
times of glory: I think it is more about the sense of achievement you get and being able to actually create something from the picture you have in your head, than about being good at sewing. I am sure you have times (like me, which is what pushed me into sewing) when you really want a particular piece in your wardrobe and no-one seems to be making them.
Susie: Thanks; (and I am nearly finished. :) )

Hammie said...

This post reminds me of my Nana. And she could have sewn that Dior new look pattern for you with the invisible seams on the wrap.
What a beautiful blog. Makes me wanna move back to Melbourne. No wonder Imelda Matt loves you.

Super Kawaii Mama said...

Hammie: Oh for the skills of yesteryear. I am trying to learn French seaming, but I often forget in my haste. And thank you for commenting, it is so nice to see another Australian (and a mother) here. Feel free to link me if you so desire. ;)

540 - HBSE 11 pg paper said...

Hi There,

I have been trying to find the Kwik Sew 2990 pattern for ages, but it's out of print. Any other easy, back zipper palazzo pant suggestions? Or another easy back zipper pant pattern that can be altered easier