Monday, August 20, 2018

Pattern Review: Closet Case Ginger Jeans

It's fair to say we are in the midst of a denim phase at the moment. Here we are blogging about jeans making again. Sewing your own jeans is a fair undertaking, what with all the top-stitching and hardware, not to mention the fitting... it’s time consuming. But at the end? You feel like you’ve unlocked a new sewing achievement. Even better? YOU NEVER NEED TO GO JEANS SHOPPING AGAIN.

These jeans were started in my head a couple of years ago. I gathered together pattern and fabric then promptly decided that I really wasn’t much of a jeans wearer anyhow, so into the stash they both went.

Fast forward two years and I was becoming “jeans curious” again, missing the ease of a good pair of jeans in my wardrobe. So out came the pattern and fabric which had now marinated in my stash long enough for me to feel ok about using it for a wearable muslin. Jeans were on once more! Maybe I’d be a jeans-wearer after all? (And if not, I could use them in the shop as a sample, so nothing lost, except perhaps a fair whack of time). 

Fabric choice
I used a 10oz black cotton denim with 2% lycra content from M Recht - purchased over 2 years ago before we had found a good source of black stretch denim. Even though the pattern calls for at least 2% stretch, I suspect there's not quite enough stretch in these (actual stretch in stretch wovens seems to vary according to thread weight and type). I’d recommend you get your hands on a few stretch denims before making your fabric choice. We currently have both black and Tarragon cotton/spandex stretch twills plus these coloured cotton blend stretch denims (though the latter may be slightly too light for View A). Lining is a light cotton from the stash.

I decided on View A, stovepipe option with low rise. Fitting and sizing was always going to be a bit tricky for me, falling across 2 different sizes for hips and waist. (Does that make me apple shaped? An inverted triangle? Gah!) After much deliberation I chose the size to fit my waist, figuring that removing fabric to fit my hips would be easier than adding it at the waist. (Incidentally, the Cashmerette Ames jeans pattern (available in store) carries lots of different options to accommodate apple and pear shapes, I think that might be an interesting jeans pattern to try too). 

black garments, so hard to photograph, and omnipresent dog/s not really helping to illustrate jeans, sorry!

So much good stuff has been said about the Ginger jeans pattern, and I can see why. If you are at all teetering about making jeans, then this is a great pattern to start with. Heather Lou’s instructions are extremely clear, and there’s an excellent online sew-along with great photos if you have any head scratching moments. The directions for the zip fly are the best I have ever come across. (I look forward to doing it again - seriously!)

Another thing about jeans making: you may think you need a significant amount of kit in order to get started, but that really isn’t the case. As a test to see if it was up to it, I sewed this pair entirely on my 1981 Bernina. I needed to flatten some of the bulkier seams with a hammer and use the hand wheel to push the needle through thicker layers, but it managed just fine. As far as using one machine goes, using the same colour topstitching thread as the construction thread helped because I didn’t have to change bobbins constantly, only needles and top thread. Next time I’d have two machines going (and probably an overlocker), but this was entirely doable just with a little bit of switching stitches, needles and thread (and making notes about tension settings etc along the way!) 

Made a cutting mistake, so the coin pocket ended up on the right hand side, oops. 
We stock the very handy Closet Case Jeans hardware kits at the shop. These are great, but - sewers of black jeans take note - that these contain only 7 inch BLUE zips. For the Ginger pattern, the length of the recommended zip differs according to not only which style you’re sewing (high or low rise) but also your size. I ended up using a 7 inch (black!) zipper when according to the pattern I should have used an 8 inch one. However, I still ended up cutting mine down by more than an inch, so don’t worry too much about sourcing the perfect length, at least for the low rise option. 

The kits include rivets and jeans buttons too. It was a first time rivet install for me - and my only piece of advice is to follow the instructions. There really is a reason she recommends using a cast iron pan/steel base for these! Incidentally, I needed to cut my rivets down as the posts were on the long side (perhaps too much hammering down of seams?!) but some heavy garden snips did the trick.

note broken rivets on table. use an anvil or cast iron pan, folks!

Before I started this project, I read a few pattern reviews and it seemed like almost every sewist raved with glowing enthusiasm about how their Ginger Jeans fit like a glove first time. Because of my measurements - no surprises - I wasn’t one of them. These have taken plenty of tweaking, and I still have a laundry list of adjustments for next time. The fitting guide on the Closet Case website is a brilliant resource that really takes the mystery out of the intimidating world of pants adjustments. On this pair I did a partial flat seat adjustment and a full calf adjustment. Despite my size deliberations, they were were also too big at the waist and in the leg - in part style preference (turns out I prefer a skinny leg to a stovepipe) and other part the reason why we make muslins. After taking out about an inch from each side seam from the hips down this pair is wearable with a belt to help rein in some of the excess at the waist.

Before waistband and adjustments. So baggy!
After. A bit better.
Pre-waistband and side adjustments, compared to a pair of rtw jeans (on the top)
The thing about jeans is that you can’t really fit them properly until the garment is quite advanced. By which time your investment is considerable and you are really wanting these puppies to WORK. I got these to the point of the side seams and then baste fitted them (I’d read this tip somewhere and it really helped). But, I also reckon subjecting your jeans to some good old wash and wear is the best way to really find out how they fit.

Aaaand, from the back. Looking super wrinkly without a belt to hitch them up!
Next time, I’ll do a proper flat seat adjustment and will be more generous with the wide calf adjustment (there are probably a few too many wrinkles around the knee). I’ll go down a size and sew the skinny leg option, adding about 1-1.5 inches to the low-rise. I’m also going to use the pocket stay option from version B because more, erm, stabilizing in that area can never be a bad thing! I’ll lift the back pockets and endeavour to put the coin pocket on the right side too, oops. So, yup, basically make a whole new pair of Gingers. That said, for a wearable muslin these will do - I’ll get plenty of wear out of them. 

It’s terrifically satisfying to get really stuck into a big project like this and end up with something that looks like the real deal. I’ve learned a lot - not only about jeans adjustments but also about how I like to wear them. All artillery for next time. The idea that I can work toward making the perfectly fitting pair of jeans is, well, a bit thrilling… (but perhaps I need to get out more, ha!)

The Closet Case Ginger Jeans pattern can be found here

- Fiona & Jane 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Pattern Review - Merchant & Mills Francine Top

Francine is a top & dress pattern from British company Merchant & Mills' recently released Denim Collection. It's a stylish and simple take on a workwear style, 'inspired by the fishermen of Brittany'.

For the purposes of a true-to-the-pattern shop sample I made a size 12 top with no alterations. 

This size was chosen based on my previous experience with Merchant & Mills patterns, but my measurements would put me in a size 14. Not all Merchant & Mills patterns are quite so generous in ease, as I discovered! If I was making this specifically for my own wearing I'd have made a muslin first, so please bear in mind the fit comments below are not intended as criticisms of the pattern, but as observations that may be helpful to others who make it.

The process

I find Merchant & Mills instructions to be quite good, but often a bit different to methods I'm used to. I don't mind this, and quite enjoy surrendering to the process, trusting in the instructions and usually learning along the way.

For example, the front neckline slit is staystitched on the bodice and facing separately, then each is snipped open, and the two not joined together until somewhat later. You get to sew the front collar edges and neckline slit all in one smooth line which is quite satisfying.

The collar is attached to facing and bodice necklines separately and you end up with a bunch of seam allowances pressed open and kind of floating about loose inside the collar edge. It seems fine for now but I do wonder how this would go through wash and wear. Might the seam allowances decide to move around and maybe fold the wrong way and make lumps? Hmmm.

A quirky feature of the Francine is the option to place the pocket on the outside or the inside. I didn't notice until I read the instructions, but the garment on the pattern cover has the pocket sewn on the inside. Perhaps this is a traditional 'fishermen of Brittany' feature but honestly I just find it a bit weird so I opted for an outside pocket!

There's a lot of satisfying topstitching on this pattern and as per when I sewed my jeans, I set up a second machine for this because it requires special thread, needle and tension and it's done at many different stages of construction. It makes a relatively simple top take a bit longer to sew but the extra detail is what makes it special.

Everything came together nicely. There's minimal ease in the sleeve head, although it appears there's a bit at first because of the generous seam allowance.

I recommend pinning as close as possible to the actual stitching line, and having the sleeve side down towards the feed dogs of your machine as you sew, to help ease the curves together.

I'm not sure that I've really mastered the split side hem on any garment yet. I found the end result difficult to visualise so again just walked through the steps as instructed and it worked well enough. I added extra topstitching and then, later, a bartack along the top of the split because it looked to me like it needed a bit of reinforcement.

The fit

I'm used to Merchant & Mills patterns being on the generous side for fit so it came as a bit of a surprise to me that the Francine was quite snug across the bust, with a feeling of pulling my shoulders forward. (It has no darts so perhaps not so surprising really.) As mentioned above, my size per measurements is really a 14 so this would have provided me with more breathing room. However the shoulder width in the 12 fits me, so I would choose to do an FBA on this size.

Without an FBA the top rides up in front. Once corrected, it's possible I still might want this top a little bit longer. I like the length but this girl needs to move without flashing her belly.

These are certainly long enough. The shoulder sits nicely when my arms are by my sides. However, if I raise my arms the entire garment lifts... a lot. It's another case of high sleeve head and sleeve fitted in at a sharp angle, such as I experienced with the Papercut Patterns Skipper Tunic. I'm not sure if this is specific to my body shape, but for me at least, I will redraw the armscye and sleeve head from a favourite fitting pattern (Deer and Doe Aubepine) to give myself freedom of movement without indecent exposure!
poor quality photo for the sake of sewing information!

I find the top a little bit of a struggle to extract myself from, around the shoulder area. Possibly an FBA will also help with this. Overall there seems to be significantly less wearing ease in this pattern than the other two Merchant & Mills dress patterns I've made (Factory Dress and now out of print Union Dress). I expected that the fit might be a bit like the Top 64 (I've tried on our shop sample size 12) which is also quite generous on me. However it's much more of a shirt-like fit than an overshirt, and it's a fair bit shorter.
perhaps one day I will learn how to adjust something without a waist seam to fix that pooling in the back


Merchant & Mills Francine Top (& Dress)

100% cotton Japanese Denim, 'Schist', 1.65m x 110cm wide (as usual with M&M patterns I found the fabric allowance accurate and pleasingly non-wasteful).


None for this sample, would add bust dart and change sleeve head/armscye for personal fit.

A very appealing style, more fitted and shirt-like than I was expecting. Versatile, because it works well in denim weight but I can also imagine it in a light cotton or linen with short sleeves - and also as a dress - for summer. Measure yourself carefully and if in doubt, make a muslin!

- Jane & Fiona xx