Jeans sewing – why bother?

Giulia left a couple of interesting questions on my last Ginger Jeans post which I thought was worth exploring further:

“I try to sew everything nowadays, two things though are not making it : underwear and jeans. So I ask, if I may, apart the interest of experimenting, is the fit worth it? I mean, more than a pair of very good quality jeans (bought at high discount :D)? And what pushed you to use a pattern rather than self drafting?”

RTW vs make your own

For me, the problem with RTW is not just an issue of fit. It’s also a problem of fashion (when you actually want a classic). And hating the whole process of shopping (except when it comes fabrics & sewing gadgets of course!)

Jeans count as classics for me. I only shop when old ones wear out and I basically want an exact replacement. But I have not managed to find a fit that I like among the brands that position themselves as classics (and always available). The ones I do like tend to be from fast fashion high street brands, which means that by the time I need them replaced, the fashion has long since changed.

Hence the need to make my own. True, trends in fabrics and notions may affect my ability to reproduce the exact same pair a decade later. But at least I have more control over the other elements of design. And if I manage to grasp the fitting principles, I won’t have to worry about the style I like not being available in my size.

I’m sure among the high end jeans there may be some new fangle technology that I can’t reproduce at home. But at least it doesn’t seem as daunting as the engineering required to make a good supportive bra. The latter I aspire to, but may never get around to making.

Commercial pattern vs self drafting

This really depends on how easy it is to draft my own and whether there are commercial patterns that are already pretty close to my blocks.

For skinny jeans, because of the lack of usual waist darts, the stretch nature of the fabric, and the number of pieces involved, it would take a lot more effort to draft from my Block. Plus you then need to work out the construction procedure.

I gave Ginger Jeans a go because Heather of Closet Case had already done so much of the homework and thankfully her pattern isn’t too far off from my 0-ease Pants Block. (I also have Baste + Gather’s Birkin Flares jeans pattern, but haven’t gotten around to trying that out yet.) It’s also nice to be able to support independent pattern companies who put in the effort and do so much of their own research. Not all are to my taste, so when I come across one that suits my style and saves me time & hassle, I make an effort to support them with a purchase.

But if the style is simple enough to replicate from my Blocks, or if it takes too much effort to alter to fit, then I won’t bother with commercial patterns. I may still buy the pattern for the instruction and/or pattern shapes, but I’ll use my Blocks & replicate the style lines. In fact, I’m doing that right now with a sailor trousers from a Burdastyle magazine. I did trace out the pattern, but gave up alteration when it looked too complicated to get it close to my Slim Trousers Block.

 

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Closet Case Ginger Jeans High- & Mid-rise

My RTW jeans are on their last legs. So it’s Ginger Jeans time again. The last couple of pairs – my first jeans-making ventures – are great success judging by how frequently I wear them. But this time I need black versions. Actually I would have preferred grey. But the stores just don’t seem to want to sell me grey. So black it is and I’m hoping they’ll fade fast.

The Pattern

Mug Shots

Size Used

Size 4, as recommended by the sizing chart.

Changes Made

Fitting changes

The last two pairs I made were pretty good. So the fitting changes I made last time were the starting point of this batch. I did tweak a couple of things:

  1. Crotch: There was slight pooling at the front crotch on last two pairs, though after washes the pooling disappeared temporarily. This time I tried taking a small wedge off at thigh level (1/4″ at inseam tapering to nothing at side seam). The tilting made the front crotch extend beyond the leg a little bit & I end up shaving this little bit (made Front  Crotch shorter). Shaved off similar amount from Back Crotch as well for my thinner thigh.
  2. Lower legs: The last two pairs twisted slightly & was very snug because of my big calf & how X are stacked. I widened Front Leg below the knee – a bit more on the inseam than the side seam.
Design changes
  • I didn’t like the constantly falling down feeling of the low-rise jeans, so this time both pair were based on high-rise View B. But for one pair, I lowered the waist by 1″ for a mid-rise version. Front Leg (A) was shortened at the waist. Back amount was split between the Yoke (C) and the Back Leg (B).
  • For the mid-rise version I also added flaps to the back pockets based on one of my soon-to-retire RTW jeans.

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

  • Mostly same as last time. But I revised my construction order slightly as it wasn’t as efficient as it could be (see updated PDF Consolidated Jean Sewing Checklist). There was also extra steps for the back pocket flaps (not in the PDF checklist).
  • For back pocket designs I used the Reinforced Straight Stitch (triple stitch) on my Husqvarna Sapphire to make the black-on-black design stand out a bit more.
  • For button holes I went with keyhole shape this time. The thick stem of jeans buttons didn’t like the straight slits of the Heirloom Buttonhole stitch I used on my last two pairs. (That is the stitch on my sewing machine recommended for Jeans.) They wore the stitches out too quickly. The RTW jeans all seem to have a slender tear-drop shape. I don’t have anything similar on my machine. So this time I went with a keyhole shape using a combination of Heirloom Buttonhole stitch for the straight portion of the keyhole & hand buttonhole stitch for the round hole bit.
  • My button & rivet attachment skills are still a bit rubbish. The button tool kit that came with the buttons I used this time did help with the button setting. But I didn’t have any tool kit for the ring rivets, so wasted several pairs when the posts went in slanted. Thankfully I didn’t have the problem of the post poking through the ring rivets that I had last time. These posts are less pointy, and maybe using the button die base to support the rivets also helped a little. I did also added a couple of scrap denim layers to deal with problem of the posts being too long instead of trimming the posts. However for some reason I always seem to have problem with the left front rivets. It came off one of my last batch, and same thing happened again with this batch during the first wash. Come to think of it, all the wasted rivets were for the left front too! Next time I’m going to try donut buttons & nipple rivets I bought from Citron Jeans in Japan (also available on Etsy). They both come with hand tool kits. If that doesn’t work better I might try DM Button’s Jeans Button/Buttonhole & Rivets service. – it seems like London’s answer to NYC’s Jonathan Embroidery Plus that the NYC sewing circle raves about.

The Verdict

Not so great. These new pairs are too tight! Because I did gain a bit of waist flab recently, I made sure to try these on before top-stitching the inseams & side seams. They were fine then. But after I finished them, threw them in the wash at low temp & line dried them, they came out too small. I couldn’t even button up. And this was before I even worn them once! Arrghhhh. (Yes I did pre-wash & even tumble-dried the fabric at least a couple of times before making these Gingers.)

After a few days of torture attempting to wear them in, I was able to slowly zip further & further up, and eventually button up. But I’m definitely getting the muffin-top with these, unlike with my previous Gingers. And they’re also not as comfortable as those old pairs either. These sit much closer to the body at the crotch giving me that constant wedgie feeling. Not sure if it’s the slightly shorter crotch or the fact that the too tight waistband went seeking for a smaller circumference further up (the waistline on these are not at the smallest bit of my waist), thus pulling the crotch up with it. The front waistband also twist a bit.

I think my woes may partly be caused by interfacing the wrong part of the waistband. Unlike last time, I interfaced the quilting cotton facing instead of the stretch denim outer. The quilting cotton is probably already stable (ie not stretchy) enough. This may have left the facing too constrictive & the outer unstable enough to twist.

Unfortunately there’s no easy way to alter these pairs. Because the waistband is cut with no side nor back seams, there’s no place to let out. I would have to replace the whole waistband if I want more comfort. Or do more waist exercise to lose the flab!

Note to self for next time:

  • Use the stretch denim for both waistband facing & outer, and interface the outer with knit interfacing. Hopefully even with top-stitching the stretch denim will be more accommodating than interfaced quilting cotton.
  • Cut waistband with CB seam to allow alteration in case waist continue to spread.

 

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Choli Blouse Block Odyssey part 3

Firstly, thank you for your kind comments & understanding in response to my post about dialing down my self-imposed blogging perfectionism.

… now continuing from part 2 of my choli block quest months later …



Hypothesis Half-Popped

It started with such good intention…but I didn’t have the stamina – nor time – to test my hypothesis thoroughly. To recap, I thought that to secure low open neckline & increase sleeve mobility, I simply have to:

  • not have back neckline edge on shoulder blade peak; and
  • make the shoulder slope more square than my actual shoulder slope.

I was going to test this out in two ways…

1. Authentic choli pattern instruction found online

I used the Sari Blouse pattern instruction from Vani’s Blog. The pattern came out looking a bit large – especially the back (dotted line in the pattern photo above is my KK Top Block with wearing ease already added). This made me nervous about testing it out with one of my pre-embroidered Nakkashi choli fabrics. As I was in a rush to get one of my Nakkashi outfits sewn up for a trip, I didn’t bother making a muslin of this. Checking instructions on a few other blogs, this instruction seems fairly standard. Maybe this is the everyday fit rather than the Bollywood glam fit. And given that the instruction doesn’t call for a low open back, maybe it won’t work so well when you lower the back.

There is one YouTube video I found in English that offers a theory of what changes you need to make to lower the neckline. The narrower shoulder lines you see above is my attempt to apply that theory. But I was still too chicken to test on my pre-embroidered fabric.

 

2. Body warp with tilt-to-square shoulder alteration

I ended up retreating to my comfort zone of tinkering with my own moulage. This time I did use the body warp instead of the Kenneth King Moulage I drafted a while ago. I was hoping the more precise body wrap would yield a better fit. Well, more isn’t always better. It was a nightmare trying to figure out what to do with my lopsidedness. You can see in first two photos above how my left & right sides differ. I wouldn’t have minded the extra work if the result was better. It wasn’t. Once you add ease back in, much of the minor lopsidedness wasn’t visible anyway. I guess if your lopsidedness was more extreme, then the precision may help. So the conclusion? Either Moulage Drafting or Body Wrap will work. Pick whichever method is easier for you: Moulage Drafting requires lots of measurements & calculations, Body Wrapping may be uncomfortable while you’re being wrapped & you’ll need to decide how much lopsidedness you’ll bother to incorporate into your Blocks. If you go with Body Wrap, you’re probably fine to gloss over minor differences between your left & right sides if you’ll mostly make stuff with wearing ease. Don’t drive yourself crazy like I did!

Now back to my choli pattern & drafting for arms up position, you can see in photos 3 & 4 how I tilted the shoulder seam by adding a wedge radiating from the princess seam / back waist dart to the side seams. This lengthen the side seams, make the shoulder more square and the neckline more U-shaped. The difference in side seam & shoulder seam lengths with arms up vs arms down was about 1.5″ for me. I ended up adding at the side seam about half that difference – because it seems like a sensible compromise & also it makes the necklines conform better to the pre-embroidered necklines. I positioned the pivot points of the tilt / wedge at the base of the necklines where they start angling up because I think this is where the tension will be and body movement will make the neck opening spread out, causing the sleeves to fall off the shoulder.

The last two photos are the final bodice patterns. The sleeve pattern was drafted to Sari Blouse instruction found on Style2Designer blog.

So how did it turn out?

Hurrah I can raise my arms. Boohoo no luck on stay-put low / open neckline. I ended up having to add the dori back ties to prevent wardrobe malfunction.

So what went wrong?

I now think stay-put low / open neckline is impossible once you add wearing ease to the bodice. What I noticed is that when I move, the ease at the waistline allow the whole bodice & neckline to shift up, and this make the neckline too big for the new higher position. So the sleeves fall off the shoulder.

I checked the House of Blouse top with the stay-put neckline again, and indeed the bodice was quite tight. Too tight for my new spreading middle in fact! As soon as I let out the side seams, et voilà – same off the shoulder problem as my own make!

So there you have it (I think, for now anyway), if you want open neckline to stay on the shoulders, go with stretch Choli Blouse with 0 or even negative ease. If you insist on lovely pre-embroidered woven choli fabric with low open necklines, then stop being stubborn & keep that dori back neck-tie. That’s me told off then! 🙂

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Choli Blouse Block Odyssey part 2

continuing from part 1 back in July 2017…



Going Native-ish

I began to wonder if my requirements are even possible. But surely billions of women from the Indian subcontinent over the centuries wouldn’t have put up with immobile sleeves that keep falling off the shoulder & bodice that offers no bust support! Time to go back to the sources & try to discern the underlying principles even if the surface instructions make little sense to me.

  • Looking at RTW & designer choli photos, some seem to show a bit of looseness / excess fabric near the underarm area.
  • Most of the Indian drafting instruction I found online has shoulder slope of 1/2″ to 1″ at most. According to Fit For Real People standard western patterns (Big 4 presumably) assume a slope of 1-5/8″ – 2″. And the Indian illustrations seem to indicate a more T-shape finished garment shape than sloping sleeves.
  • I decided to try a couple of  custom-made choli blouses from House of Blouse to see how an “authentic” fit may look like on me. Because it’s made to measure, you can actually pick & mix your design details. I pushed the envelope and went for very low back neckline with no dori back ties. One big caveat before we talk about fit: the measurements instruction was rather imprecise, so that may have affected the fit…

House of Blouse Choli 1

Regular length princess cut with Wide U Neck front & Classic U Neck back (no dori ties), back opening, bust pads, & elbow length sleeves.

  • Bust:
    • I was surprised that the bust pads actually created a more lifted look. I’m now tempted to try this in my own makes now.
    • Interestingly even with the princess seam, they added a centre front fisheye bust dart. It creates a nice shaping & probably holds the bust pads in place for better bust support.
  • Neckline:
    • Yeah! It stays on despite the wide open back, even when I tug at the sleeves.
  • Sleeve:
    • Cross-front feels a bit too narrow while cross-back a bit too wide. Can feel the back armscyes cutting into the arm joints. This may be a problem with incorrect measurement or my posture / posterior arm joint “feature”.
    • Total mobility. No problem with arms forward or up.
    • You can definite see the fold of excess fabric underarm & armholes feel quite high up against the armpits. In the soft fabrics that I choose this probably won’t be a problem. But I wonder if this would feel a bit uncomfortable in more heavily embroidered fabric like my Muslin 2 above.

House of Blouse Choli 2

Regular length 3-dart cut with Armband Sweetheart Neck front & Armband Sweetheart Neck back (no dori ties), front opening, bust pads, & 3/4 length sleeves.

  • Bust & sleeve: same as above
  • Neckline:
    • Problem here. It easily slips off the shoulders
    • I would assume they drafted this with the same measurements.
    • Not sure if they derive additional styles from a block like western pattern maker or each design is drafted from scratch using a different formula.
    • Not sure if the problem here is the Sweetheart neckline or the Armband design.
    • This problem + the excess fabric foldat underarm for sleeve mobility rather defeat the armband design.
    • As there’s not much excess seam allowance in shoulder & armscye seams the only fx I can do is to add dori ties to the back neckline to keep the sleeves on.


My current hypothesis

  • To secure low open neckline + increase sleeve mobility:
    • Don’t have back neckline on shoulder blade peak.
    • Pattern’s shoulder slope need to be more square than actual slope of the body. A bit of fold under arm is the price to pay for sleeve mobility without excess width. Try pivoting on princess line to shorten neckline & lengthen side seam at the same time. Draft for arms up (shorter shoulder length, longer side length).
  • To test this hypothesis I plan on trying 2 more pattern drafting approaches:
    1. Custom draft based on authentic choli pattern instruction found online
    2. Custom draft base on my moulage with the above shoulder slope modification

Flattened plastic wrap bodice front

Speaking of moulage… This time I will be basing my pattern on flattened plastic wrap. I’m not sure if my K. King moulage is 100% accurate as it’s drafted to a formula. Even though the muslin fitted like a second skin maybe it glosses over subtle concave areas like a slight hollow chest. This becomes more of a problem when you lower necklines or move the garment edges into these gentle valleys, thus exposing gaps. I’m hoping the plastic wrap would be more accurate. I have flattened & traced it, but haven’t rationalised the block yet. So you’ll have to wait a while for part 3!

 

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Choli Blouse Block Odyssey part 1

Back in July 2017 before I gave in to the middle age slump…


With so many beautiful choli blouse fabric in the Stash I really need to get some pattern block for choli blouse sorted. And I have in fact been working on it for ages. So much so that I now have way too many pattern pieces, muslins (wearable & not), & mug shots to confuse me never mind you…argh! Long story short, no cigar yet. But I have a hypothesis with 2 more pattern drafting approaches to test. On to the nitty gritty…


My 3 requirements for Choli Block:

  1. Bust support lift & shaping: Depending on the back neckline design, I may not be able to wear a regular bra with my choli. So built-in bust shaping / support would be nice. But it needs to work for woven fabric & not constrict breathing.
  2. Stay-put neckline: Allow low / open front & back neckline without the top falling off the shoulders
  3. Fitted sleeve mobility: Allow arms up & forward without excessive sleeve width & winged effect on short sleeves


Experiments based on
K. King moulage > top block

Since I already had a top block that seems to fit alright I thought I’d get better results using that as the basis for my draft rather than follow the relatively less personalised authentic Indian instructions. (Typical Westerner!)

Well, it didn’t work out so well.

Wearable Muslin 1 >
Gajiwara 7384 Wannabe Choli with home embroidery

  • I tried to raise my ageing bustline unsuccessfully. It was only like 1/2″ higher on my pattern. But I think my custom embroidery shrunk the pieces despite being stretch taut on a frame frame. And because I was worried about metallic embroidery thread being scratchy I didn’t extend the embroidery far enough into the seam allowance to allow me to let out at the shoulder seams. I ended up with some draglines in the upper bust area for my big day. (Did let out what I could afterwards. But there wasn’t much seam allowance to fix it entirely.)
  • Lowered neckline (aka unintentional off-the-shoulder look) wasn’t an issue in this version as I used the cross-back ties that one finds in many authentic Indian choli.
  • But limited sleeve mobility was an issue despite a moderately shallow cap. The bit that feels most restrictive was mid arm joint height, as if the cap area wasn’t wide enough.

Wearable Muslin 2 >
Nakkashi 5036 gold embroidered Choli

  • I had to tweak my personalised pattern to fit the ready-made embroidery, which is presumably shaped to work with standard Indian pattern-drafting. Eg the allowance for back waist dart is smaller than my back waist dart, so some of mine had to be pivoted to the back cut-out area. In other areas I had to twist the fabric slightly to fit my pattern, or even patch a bald area with embroidered scraps.
  • Bust & neckline not an issue here as I didn’t attempt to lift the bust & this design has a back cut-out rather than lowered neckline.
  • Sleeve mobility wasn’t too bad, but comfort was my main issue here. I made the cap even more shallow & wider to increase mobility & tapered the sleeve width more sharply to minimise the winged look. The result was the heavily embroidered underarm areas getting too close for comfort. I felt like I was holding something with my armpits! Again had to suffer through it for a friend’s wedding, but redid the sleeve increasing the cap height (by shortening the sleeve seam length) & removed as much embroidery from the area as I could. Wearable. But now the sleeve’s more restrictive. So I wouldn’t reach for it naturally.

After armscye alteration…

 

More muslins & research…

  • Stay-put lowered neckline:
    • Tried the instruction for lowered F&B neckline from K King’s Moulage book. It was a method devised by his Indian teacher. Didn’t work for me. Actually made the shoulders slip off even more easily. Maybe I didn’t follow the instruction correctly?
    • My patterns had the back neckline at shoulder blade width, but the muslin necklines all spread out more widely. Perhaps it was too much to ask the neckline to stay put at the shoulder blade peaks?
  • Sleeve mobility:
    • Tried cutting sleeve on the bias. Sleeve looked marginally less wrinkly, but made no noticeable difference to mobility nor decrease the winged look.
    • Tried on a me-made choli based on older bodice block for comparison & was surprised to find that it actually had better sleeve mobility without excess sleeve width & winged effect. I had thought the shoulder slope & sleeve cap fit was off on that version, causing excess fabric folds pointing to armpits & draglines from centres of neckline as if the sleeves were pulling the neckline outward. Comparing the latest sleeve draft to that choli (don’t have the pattern anymore) that earlier sleeve shape was actually closer to my immobile fitted sleeve – cap taller & narrower than my latest drafts…WTF!?!?!

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