A Closetful of Jeans

Over the past few months, I’d noticed that despite having many pair of jeans, I was drawn to the same 2 or 3 pairs of jeans everyday, and I had been running into problems figuring out what to wear when all three pairs were in the wash. When I stopped to think about it, I realized that all three pairs were jeans that I’d made, and that I had no intention of wearing the closet-full of store bought jeans for anything other than yard work or puttering around the house. Partially inspired by the great timing of Pattern Review’s One Pattern, Many Looks contest, I decided to donate all of the old jeans that I hadn’t been wearing and replace them with better-fitting, me-made jeans.

The One Pattern, Many Looks contest challenges you to use one pattern to make 2 or more different garments without making any substantive changes to the pattern itself. The goal is to use different fabrics, trims, embellishments, etc. to create a variety of different looks without needing to go through the fitting and alterations process for each item. For the contest, in the case of self-drafted patterns such as my jeans, the first pair made counts as the base pattern, which determines what you can and cannot change in subsequent versions. In preparation for me jeans-making spree, I tweaked my base jeans pattern a bit, adjusting the grainlines, rise, and pocket curve. Because my pattern is for stretch denim, and each stretch denim stretches differently, I had been basting each pair together, tweaking for fit, making note of the correct seam allowances and where needed deviating from the norm, and then carefully un-stitching everything before sewing them up for real. With the first pair that I made for the contest, I changed my construction order, making it easier to adjust the fit with less seam-ripping.

I used my tnt jeans pattern, which I made a few years ago using Kenneth King’s Craftsy class, and tweak for fit every few months. I ended up making 5 pairs of jeans during the month that this contest ran.

This pair is a medium-weight stretch denim from FabricMart Fabrics. If I remember correctly, it was Marc Jacobs fabric. The back of the fabric is primarily white, and I thought about doing some sort of color blocking to play up the reversibility of the denim, but decided to stick with the more classic, solid color and subtle tone-on-tone topstitching. Since they were pretty basic once sewn, I decided to add a bit of embroidery to the back pockets, and a second decorative button and loop (non-functioning, purely decorative) to the front to give them a bit more personality without making them too casual.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the classic bright gold on dark denim look on jeans, so for my take on “classic, dark wash jeans”, I went with a goldish-brown for my topstitching and the embroidery on the back pockets. The ‘contrast’ stitching became a bit less contrast and more subtle after the first run through the wash, and I’m hoping it doesn’t lose any more brightness in the future. Other than that, they are pretty much your standard jeans, without the coin pocket (which I’ve never seen the point of and rarely put on any of my jeans). The denim is a medium-weight stretch denim that I got more than a year ago from FabricMart Fabrics.

Since my attempt at a dark wash jean with contrast stitching sort of flopped, I decided to go with a definite contrast for this pair, in an effort to make a more casual pair of jeans. I ‘auditioned’ a variety of colors on a scrap of fabric before settling on two lines of stitching for most topstitched seams: a thick white thread closest to the seam and two strands of blue variegated threads for the second row. I used the bolder of the two variegated threads for the embroidery on the back pockets. With the exception of the back pockets, the fabric/thread combination isn’t quite as ‘in your face’ as I had expected, and I like the finished product a lot more than I expected.

Made with Black Bebe Diagonal Twill-Weave Knit from FabricMart, this is my take on the jeggings/yoga pant craze that seems to be sweeping the nation. After basting most of the pants together to see how much I had to adjust due to using a knit rather than a woven (turns out, not at all with this fabric), I realized that these actually slightly resembled slacks rather than jeans. So, following that thought, I left off the back patch pockets, changed the front pockets to slash pockets rather than the classic jeans pocket curve, and eliminated some of the classic jeans topstitching. The stretch of this fabric also allowed me to eliminate the traditional zippered/button fly for a faux fly and make pull-on, elastic waist pants. For the elastic waistband, I used my regular contour waistband pattern piece, and added a narrow strip of elastic to the top seam. Since it was elastic waist, I also left off the belt loops for a smoother fit.

Inspired by these buttons, I decided to make something a little more fun than a standard black jean with black stitching, and went with a medium-weight charcoal black denim, light grey-blue contrast stitching with a hint of shine (embroidery thread). To further show off the buttons, I added buttoned flaps to the back pockets. Well, really faux flaps, as I like the look of flapped/buttoned pockets, but in reality like my pockets to be easily accessible and get frustrated when I have to unbutton a pocket to slip my phone in. I sewed the flaps first, then serged the top edge of the flap into the facing of the pocket so that I would maintain the look of a separate flap, but would have an open pocket. The button goes through both the flap and the patch pocket but not through the back of the jeans.

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Burberry Brit- Inspired Outfit

Since I’ve started making my own clothes, I’ve found that I enjoy browsing catalogs/websites searching for inspiration. Back in the beginning of March, we got a thick Bloomingdales catalog in the mail (they were advertising some upcoming sale, if I recall correctly). Out of the entire catalog (which was close to an inch thick), I tore out about 6 pages of things I liked – either in color, silhouette, or style. Apparently I liked one complete outfit much more than I realized I did because it kept popping back into my head off and on for the next few weeks. Even through I’ve never been a huge fan of stripes or polka dots, these fabrics started catching my eye – in other garments, in store windows, and in fabric shops (the most dangerous place known to woman). When I saw the Barganista Fashionista challenge on Pattern Review, I knew that I had to make this outfit that had so constantly wiggled its way into my subconscious.

At the time I began this project, I couldn’t find photos of any of the three pieces online. About midway through the month, they did appear on Bloomingdales’ website. However, the blazer has the stripes going in the opposite direction (vertical rather than horizontal) and the pockets are a bit different. I like the horizontal stripes much better, so I decided to stick with the original magazine photo rather than the photos from the website.

These pieces are:
Burberry Brit White and Navy Striped Blazer: $465
White and Navy Polka Dot Sweater: $350
Navy Highcross Skinny Trousers: $325
The total cost for this outfit is $1,140

With Needle And Thread - Burberry Inspired Outfit

For my outfit, I started with the blazer, which seemed like the most time-consuming piece. Since I’ve never worked with stripes, it seemed like darts rather than princess seams would be the better choice. So, I started looking for a pattern that would suit these needs. I ended up using Lekala 5018, a classic darted blazer and making a few tweaks to make it look more like the inspiration blazer, The fabric is, I believe a cotton canvas type home decor fabric that my mom picked up at a flea market several years ago. She got a bolt that had about 7 yards for $5 ($.072 per yard). While the inspiration jacket claims to be navy stripes, the first time I saw the photo, I was sure they were teal stripes, and a perfect match for my fabric. I still like the teal stripes.

As far as the pattern goes, it fit well “out of the envelope” and I only had to make a few fitting tweaks: removing some ease from the sleeve head and narrowing the sleeve by about an inch. I also lowered the break of the lapel and curved the front hem rather than using the straight lines of the pattern. I decided not to line this jacket, and instead drafted a back facing to attach to the front facings/lapels. Even after washing, this fabric is rather stiff and bulky, so I decided to simply serge all of the raw edges around the hems/sleeves/facings. I opted against shoulder pads, going for more a dressy jean jacket type feel, and used random white buttons from my stash. This was my first time working with striped fabric, and I am fairly happy with how the stripes lined up throughout the jacket.

I had planned on making patch pockets with flaps, as in the inspiration photo, and even cut them out, but didn’t like the way they fit on my jacket, so I decided to leave off the pockets. Yay for making clothes yourself and being able to do whatever you want with the finished look.

Cost: $1.94
Fabric: $0.72 x 2 yards = $1.44
Notions: 2 3/4″ buttons from my stash, $0.55

It was harder than I thought it would be to find a white with dark dots polka dot fabric. I finally found a white polka dot cotton jersey at lowpricefabric.com. I ordered the fabric (1 yard at $4.00) on a Saturday and had the top finished the following Friday. I did deviate from the original inspiration a bit in this piece. The Burberry top was a long sleeve sweater, and since Summer is quickly coming (and it’s a relatively warm Spring), I went for 3/4 length sleeves. I used my tnt knit top pattern, NL 6735, in which I have made the armscye smaller, changed the angle of the shoulder, removed ease from the sleeve head and sleeve, raised the neckline, and removed some ease from the sideseams through the waist area. I gave my top a banded neckline, and used my coverstitch machine to hem the sleeves and bottom hem.

Cost:$4.00
Fabric: $4.00 x 1 yard = $4.00
Notions: none

In the inspiration photo, it looked like the model was wearing dark skinny jeans, so that is what I decided to make (coincidentally, dark skinny jeans have been on my ‘to make’ list for several months, so that is one thing to cross off). When the pants finally appeared online, I realized that they actually aren’t jeans, but decided to stick with my jeans anyway. The jeans were easily the most expensive undertaking for this outfit, though that’s not saying much. I used a dark denim that I bought last year from Fabric.com. The pattern is my tnt jeans pattern that I made using Kenneth King’s Jeanious class on Craftsy, and have used many times before. My pattern is a cross between straight and bootcut legs, and I wanted tapered legs. Since all stretch denims seem to stretch differently, I baste the legs on every pair before stitching the inseam/sideseam, which provides me with the perfect opportunity to tweak the seam allowances all along the leg for a custom tapered fit. I’ve found that I like a skirt/slacks zipper better than the traditional jeans zipper because the pulls are typically less bulky and are less likely to create ridges along the fly.

Cost: $11.86
Fabric: 6.98 x 1.5 yards = 10.47
notions: basic 7″ zipper and jeans button from my stash, both of which I bought in bulk several months ago, $.039

Total cost for all 3 items: 17.85
Total percent savings: 98.4%

Winter 6Pac 2013: Completed

I’ve had all of these garments sewn for about a month and a half now, but just got around to taking photos of them yesterday. So…here is my winter 6pac.

 Winter 2013 6Pac - WithNeedleAndThread

You’re looking at:

Grey M6844 Peplum Cardigan – view C – worn with a belt to keep it closed

I did manage to get this one photographed and blogged. See the details on this cardigan here.

Grey Boucle Knit M6844 cardigan – view A – with buttons added to the collar band  

winter 2013 6pac - WithNeedleAndThread

I picked up this great boucle knit from fabricmart a few months ago, as a birthday gift from some relatives. I had intended to make a simple pullover long-sleeve sweater and only ordered one yard of the grey. But, from the moment I opened the box, it screamed shawl collar cardigan/sweater jacket, and I was determined to make it happen.

I used the straight version of McCall 6844. I knew from the fit of the peplum version that the collar piece almost overlapped, so I used smaller seam allowances (3/8 rather than 5/8, I think) to give myself a bit more room. Then it was just a matter of figuring out how to put the buttons on. I liked the look of the folded-back collar, but was a bit unsure whether I would be able to get the machine to make pretty buttonholes through four layers of textured, lumpy knit. I even went out and bought some sew-in snaps, thinking the snaps would be functional and I could just sew decorative buttons over the top.

Before I began sewing the snaps in, I did what I probably should have done in the beginning, stopped being a wuss, and ran 4 layers of the knit (scrap, of course), through the buttonhole attachment on my Singer 15-91. Of course, it had no problems with the fabric and made me feel like an idiot for fretting about it at all. So, I quickly made my three buttonholes before it had a chance to decide that it didn’t like the fabric after all.

I love the way this jacket turned out. I think I’m going to try to tweak the collar pattern piece to create the illusion of an angled collar while still keeping the wide band. If it works, stay tuned for a similar jacket.
M6796 in teal rib knit

winter 6pac 2013 - WithNeedleAndThread

This is my tnt knit top pattern (see details below) merged with McCalls 6796. I learned from the first time I made this top (blogged here) that as much as I love this top, the bones of the patten didn’t fit quite the way I want. To Fix this, I traced a copy of my tnt tee pattern, then merged in the neckline and collar of the size 6 pattern so that I could get the details I wanted with the fit I was looking for.

My tnt Knit Top in a variegated, textured knit

winter 6pac 2013 - WithNeedleAndThread

One of my sewing goals, both in general and for my winter 2013 6pac was to develop a TNT (tried and tested or tried and true, depending on who you ask) knit top pattern. I’ve tried several knit top patterns from different companies and wasn’t thrilled with any, though New Look 6735 came close. I wound up combining (or “frankenpatterning”) New Look 6735 with M6796, then making some adjustments on that pattern, narrowing the shoulder by about an inch, raising the armscye by about the same, and removing some of the ease from the waist through hip area. I also added several neckline options, a v-neck, low scoop, and high scoop.

I don’t have photos of all of the muslins that I made, but I think it took me about 6 attempts to get to a pattern I am consistently happy with. Not to worry, those of you who dislike waste, I did finish all of the muslins and have since donated them to a local nonprofit.
2 pairs of black jeans from my tnt jeans pattern –  one with jeans pockets/stitching and one without.

These are probably my most commonly worn pants yet. And the most versatile. And my most commonly worn. And quite possibly the most boring to make. There’s really nothing exciting about black jeans, but they sure are useful.

As you may expect by now, I used my regular jeans pattern, with the waistband from the Jalie dress pants (that I still haven’t gotten around to making up). The first paire is a very lightweight denim and seemed to have a lot of stretch. So, I ended up sewing nearly the entire pair of pants twice. First, I basted the main pieces together (including the zipper fly) to check fit and determine how much extra I’d need to incorporate into my seam allowances for each various piece. Then sewed, serged, and topstitched everything for real. Though this process does make the jeans take longer, it also gives me more control over the fit, since each stretch denim has a different stretch to it.

These jeans look good with a casual knit top and ugg type boots, but I can also dress them up with a sweater and/or blazer for a perfect outfit to wear to the office. I could easily wear these jeans every day of the week and think nothing of it.

The second pair is a heavy scuba knit that I got from fabricmartfabrics. There wasn’t much stretch to the fabric, but just enough for my pattern to work well. After basting the pieces together, I realized that leaving off the traditional ‘jeans’ details would result in a much nicer-looking pant, so I left off the back pockets and most of the topstitching. I also used a sew-on button rather than a traditional metal jeans tack button. My only complaint about this pair is that the fabric picks up every little bit of fuzz that blows by.

I love all 6 of these pieces, and they have all quickly become “go-to” staples in my closet. So, a very successful 6pac. I’m now looking forward to adding to them with some pieces that will transition from winter to spring. Though with our super mild winter, there’s really not going to be much of a change.

Chocolate Corduroy Jeans

As soon as I started thinking about sewing for Autumn/Fall (way back in July), I started thinking about chocolate brown corduroy jeans. Three months later, they’re finally done. I used my TNT (tried and true) jeans pattern, but since this fabric doesn’t have as much stretch as the denims I’d used in my past few pairs, I added an extra 1/4 inch to the outseam on the front pieces. Turns out I only needed it through the hip, as I ended up taking about the same amount back out after putting the waistband on, but I’m glad I had added it.
 Corduroy Jeans - With Needle and Thread
The only other change I made was to the waistband. I ‘borrowed’ the waistband from Jalie 2561, which I plan to test in the next few weeks. Since I don’t know how the pattern will fit, I basted the waistband pieces together, then took out equal amounts from each seam until it was the right length for my jeans. I really like the way this waistband fits – it doesn’t feel like it will stretch as much as the waistbands in some of my other jeans have.
Now, I just need the weather to cool down enough for me to wear them without looking silly. Actually, on second thought, I think I’d rather have the weather stay nice and wait to wear my jeans.

My New Go-Tos – Jeans and a Top

As soon as I finished my white jeans (blogged here) in July, I realized that neutral jeans other than the typical light and dark blue denim were sorely missing from my closet. Since then, I’ve been on a mission to add more options to my wardrobe, starting with tan jeans. Much to my surprise, it was very difficult to find tan/beige stretch denim. I even contemplated buying a pair of RTW jeans in a large size and cutting them up to make mine. I ended up finding one shade of tan stretch denim at fabric.com a few weeks ago. It isn’t quite as dark a tan as I’d hoped for, and the finished jeans look a bit more spring/summer-y than autumn-y, but I’m glad they’re done and in my closet now. I must have just been looking in the wrong season, because now that I’m done, I’m seeing tan stretch denim frequently.

This is my TNT (tried and true) jeans pattern, with a contoured waistband that I borrowed from a random pattern in my stash – though I don’t remember which it was now. I think with the next pair, I’ll probably use the 3 piece, stitched waistband from Jalie 2561. Even though that puts seams in that aren’t in most jeans waistbands, it seems to give a snugger fit and to stay put without a belt. It’s rare that I wear a tucked-in shirt with jeans, and when I do, I wear a belt anyway, so no one will see the extra seams, or so I hope.

As I was making the back pockets, I had a not-so-fleeting worry that especially in my petite size, these jeans may wind up looking like school uniform pants, particularly if I ever wear them with some sort of collared shirt. So, I decided to add a bit of embroidery/ decorative stitching to the back pockets. Though with the thread I used, you can barely see it, I used one of the decorative stitches on my Babylock machine combined with a few rows of straight stitching. Regardless of whether or not anyone else notices it, I like knowing that it’s there. And just may use this same design detail on another pair when I make something with contrasting topstitching.

Also shown here is my now-several-months-old-and-never-blogged favorite short sleeve top, based on the Hot Patterns Fringe Festival Scarf Top. I omitted both center front and center back seams, as well as the scarf. To hem, I just folded up the knit fabric and ran the sleeves, hem, and neck edges through my coverstitch machine. I think I need a bit of work coverstitching in corners/vs, but that’s just an excuse to make more tops.

These are the first two items in my Autumn 6Pac collection based on the 2013 6-Piece Autumn Collection (6PAC) Sew-Along (August-October) thread on Stitcher’s Guild dedicated to 6-piece collections of basic wardrobe items, complete with seasonal guidelines. Items 3 and 4 are almost done, so stay tuned for more on them shortly.

Summer 2013 6PAC – Completed

I finally got pictures of my 6PAC. I’d been using my brother’s tripod, but he loaned it to a friend…so I enlisted him as a photographer instead. Which, of course, means that I was a bit rushed and didn’t style/accessorize at all.

I ended up with a nearly entirely different 6pac than I set out to create. I really wanted a white drapey cardigan, but tried 3 patterns that did nothing for me. Then, I decided that I really would never wear a navy jacket, so I nixed that one. Also ended up with three different tops than were in my original plan. But…I really like what I ended up with and have been wearing every piece a lot.

I ended up with:

1. White jeans – my own self-drafted pattern

2. Blue jeans with embroidered back pockets and grey topstitching – my own self-drafted pattern

3. Green-grey jacket – Simplicity 1919

4. Striped sleeved tank – Simplicity 1613

5. Blue-green wavy knit top – Hot Patterns Fringe Festival Scarf Top (without the scarf)

6. White drapey top with faux shrug – Simplicity 2364

Some comments on the patterns:

Simplicity 1919 runs a bit big. The first one I made was a size 12 in a knit fabric. When making knit tops, I usually use size 10. In a woven like the green jacket above, I went up to a 14, which fits great. I love the subtle peplum and princess seams in this pattern. I would love to make this jacket again, but wonder if it is too unique – and if the peplum detail will make it go out of style faster. Regardless, I am very happy with this jacket.

This is the third time that I’ve made Simplicity 2364. You can see my first attempt here, from several months ago. Between the two versions, I went down from a 12 to a 10, and the pattern fits much better. I really like the combination of the shrug and draped neckline. This pattern comes together very easily – and I love that the neckline is finished during the sewing process – so there is no extra hemming to be done at the end.

I initially bought Simplicity 1613 for the twisted neckline t-shirt, which was included in my original 6pac plan. However, once I made up the shirt, I didn’t like the busy neckline. I think there was just too much going on in too small an area on me. Since I had the pattern, I decided to try the other view included. I didn’t make a muslin – just cut into my ‘real’ fabric and hoped it worked – and it did. I used a striped stretch lace, intending to wear this top over a tank top. I don’t know that this is really my style, and it will likely get the least amount of wear of anything in this 6pac. But, the pattern was very easy to sew, and if I do find myself wearing the shirt a lot, would not hesitate to make it again in another color.

Hot Patterns Fringe Festival Scarf Top is a free pattern that can be found on Fabric.com. I’ve made this top several times, and love all of them. In this version (and most that I’ve made), I eliminated both the center front and center back seams, left off the scarf detail, and shortened the top by several inches. I really like the fit of this pattern, and it has become my go-to cut-on sleeve pattern.

The Jeans – I love having a tnt jeans pattern. It’s great fun to make a pattern that I know will fit right, where I can focus on the details and creative design rather than on fit. Note to self when making white jeans in the future: use a thin, white fabric for the pocket bags and test before sewing to make sure they don’t show through too much. After sewing much of the white jeans together, I realized that the pocket bags showed through majorly. I ended up cutting off the pocket bags at the end of the facing. About all that will fit in the pockets now is some change or a stick of gum, but I don’t use my pockets much anyway.

SWAP 2013: Sunset on the Beach

I have officially completed Artisans Square/Stitchers Guild SWAP 2013. Sewing has been done for several weeks. Photos were submitted two days ago. For background on SWAP, see my previous post or Stitcher’s Guild.

I am calling my 2013 SWAP “Sunset on the Beach.” The first collection was inspired by the colors of sunset while the second collection was inspired by colors seen on the beach. Combined, you get “Sunset on the Beach.” Both collections are meant to be casual/dressy casual.

My linking piece is a black ponte knit jacket that works with both colorways, inspired by White House Black Market’s tiered ruffle jacket. I started with Simplicity 1919 and redrafted the front pieces to fit the stand collar and ruffle lines.

Sunset collection consists of:

  • Red skinny jeans, modified from my self-drafted jeans pattern in a lightweight stretch denim
  • Jeans from my self-drafted jeans pattern in a medium blue stretch denim with dark red topstitching and embroidered back pockets to fit with the colors of the sunset theme
  • A red knit top, made with Hot Patterns Festival Fringe, a free pattern on fabric.com, although I didn’t follow the instructions and sewed the scarf piece on differently to hid the raw edges
  • A multi-color floral smocked ITY print top, made with New Look 6735, without the neckband
  • A modified purchased multicolor variegated tank top that I cut apart, then used like fabric using the main pieces from New Look 6735

Sunset on the Beach SWAP 2013: The Sunset Collection

Beach collection includes:

  • A black ponte knit skirt, Butterick 5566 in a black ponte knit (same as the linking jacket). I eliminated the zipper and used an elastic faced waistband.
  • A polka dot elastic waist skirt, self-drafted (if it even counts as drafting – I cut a piece of elastic the size of my waist and sewed fabric to it without even measuring the fabric)
  • A white lightweight knit top, made from Hot Patterns Festival Fringe, a free pattern on fabric.com, without the scarf detail. I added a hand-tacked rope of twisted fabric to give the neckline more visual interest.
  • A sand colored top in a smocked-look knit that really had very little stretch to it, made again with a neckband-less New Look 6735
  • A missoni-esque variegated sweater-type knit top in shades of blue and green, made with New Look 6735

Sunset on the Beach SWAP 2013: The Beach Collection