Leopard Print Self-Drafted Pajamas

For the longest time, I’ve been avoiding buying clothing, because “I’m going to sew myself some clothes that fit”. Occasionally, I’ll run out of things to wear, because I still haven’t sewn any, and I’ll break down and buy some clothes from a thrift store, since it’s a lot less painful to spend only a little money on ill-fitting clothes I hate to wear than buy them new.

My old pajamas are completely worn out. Seriously, there’s not even enough of them left to make decent rags. But guess what? I finally sewed some new winter pajamas! I used four way stretch leopard print cotton knit. I made three tops and two bottoms, and used up a huge piece of fabric that was taking up room in my stash. Well, almost used it up. There are some good sized scraps I might be able to use – I can’t quite part with those ;)

To draft the pajama pattern, the first thing I tried was copying my best fitting T-shirt to see if I could use it as the base for my pajama top. I made a rub-off pattern from the T-shirt, and it turns out the shirt really doesn’t fit as well as I thought. My version is too tight under my arms, and it is obvious the shoulder slope is too square. Also, the chest is a little snugger than I like. The original fabric stretches and drapes nicely, hiding the fit issues. I guess I at least have a new T-shirt to layer over, if nothing else.

Leopard print pajama topSo I went back to the drawing board. First I tried draping a shirt pattern. After about five minutes I lost patience with that and I pulled out my patternmaking textbooks. They don’t have a whole lot on knits, and none of the drafts were exactly what I wanted, but they did give me some ideas. I pulled out my torso block pattern and rotated the upper bust dart to the armhole where I left it unstitched as ease. I rotated the back shoulder dart to the armhole and left it as ease as well, then smoothed out the armhole shapes.

I looked at some other long sleeve T-shirts to get an idea of the neckline shape, ease around the chest, length, and sleeve cap height that I wanted. I drafted sleeves to fit the armholes, and added seam allowances. I sewed it up, and it was almost perfect. The only change I made was to shorten the sleeves a little.

Drafting from slopers seems like magic to me after all the fitting woes I’ve had. I don’t even really feel like I know what I’m doing, but it works anyway and the fit is perfect.

I also made pajama pants to go with the tops. I wanted them to be loose fitting leggings, with zero ease at the hips. Pants drafts based on measurements don’t work for me at all, since they all make assumptions about how much your butt sticks out based on your hip measurement, and I have relatively narrow hips and a round butt, which makes a big difference in how pants fit. I decided I needed to drape a pattern. I basically used the “plastic wrap patternmaking” method.  I stuck Glad Press’n Seal on my body and reinforced it with tape, with seams at the inseam, similar to this tights tutorial. I cut it at the inseam, clipped and spread it here and there so it would lie flat, and traced around it. Leggings PressnSeal Pattern

When I sewed up the leggings I realized I needed to take some out of the center back seam from waist to hip, since I’d spread the pattern too much there, but that was easily pinned out in fabric. Here’s what the final pattern looks like:Leggings Final Pattern

These are sooo warm and comfy. I don’t like being squeezed by tight clothing while I sleep, but neither do I like loose pant legs to get tangled up in, so these are perfect.Leopard print pajama pants

I actually hadn’t planned on sewing animal print this month, but since it’s Jungle January, that worked out pretty well. It’s a good thing I can’t see my pajamas while I’m sleeping, since the print is so loud it just might keep me awake!

I’ve made a list of the things I want to sew and next on my list is jeans for me. I’m not sure I’m ready for that, though, because I still seem to be burned-out on sewing jeans after the nine pairs in a row I sewed last fall (mostly for my kids). Maybe I’m ready. I might try draping a pattern, because for the life of me, I can’t get the back thigh and crotch area to fit right, and I hate sewing up one muslin after another, only to discover my latest alteration actually made things worse.

Posted in Uncategorized

My First Tried and True Pattern!

Looking back over what I sewed in 2014, I counted 26 items for other family members and 2 for me. The 2 for me are actually just wearable muslins for my jeans that I sewed up in gray canvas (which I’m wearing in the pictures below), since I’m still not happy enough with the fit to make them in denim. I also spent a lot of time last year working on half-scale dress forms and patterns. Actually, when I started designing the paper half-scale dress form, it was because I was procrastinating on making jeans for myself, because I knew I’d have lots of trouble fitting them. I’ve decided 2015 is going to be the year I sew myself a new wardrobe.

I’ve been purposely not buying any clothes for myself, hoping that not having anything decent to wear will motivate me to do the hard work of designing some clothes that fit me. I actually have plenty of clothes; I just don’t wear most of them because they are uncomfortable due to poor fit. It wasn’t until my ready-to-wear jeans were completely disintegrating to the point of being indecent to wear in public that I was brave enough to try to sew some jeans, so I guess it’s working.

I have bodice and skirt slopers I made for myself, but I was too chicken to do anything with them for a long time. My fitting shell has just been collecting dust on my dress form. Designing half scale basic blocks and dresses finally gave me the confidence and knowledge to start designing my own clothes.

Torso_block_patternThe first step I took toward designing my own clothes was to make a torso block from my bodice and skirt blocks. Making a torso block for a real person is not as easy as it is in the patternmaking books. Well, unless you happen to be shaped like a dress form. I used a combination of a couple of different methods (from Armstrong and Knowles) to make the torso block. I wasn’t able to get a close fitting torso block due to my extreme lower back curvature – I had to reduce the back waist dart so it hangs away from my body a bit at the back waist. Even with the looser fit there’s still a big dart back there. But I’m pretty happy with it. It’s not like I’ll usually want a blouse or dress to emphasize my sway back anyway.

Before I got too far into designing my own patterns I decided to do a reality check and sew up a commercial pattern. I wanted to make sure I hadn’t given up too easily on altering commercial patterns. I’ve never been able to alter a commercial pattern to get a good fit – I just have too many fitting issues, and not enough fitting skill and patience. (But somehow I’ve had the ability and patience to teach myself patternmaking. Go figure.)

I decided on the Colette Sorbetto tank top for a test, since it is about as simple as you can get, and Collette designs for a C cup, which is what I measure for. I printed out and traced my size from the Sorbetto pattern. Then I lined up my torso blocks over it, rotated the front upper bust dart, and traced my patterns for comparison.

The only significant changes I made to the back pattern were to increase the armhole depth* and increase the width a little at the waist and hip. On the front, the bust dart on my torso block was over twice as wide as the dart on the Sorbetto pattern. I still cannot explain that, since I thought Colette patterns were drafted for a C cup, so theoretically I shouldn’t need to do a full bust adjustment. My final front pattern has a wider waist, a much bigger dart, and a different curve at the armhole. The neckline and shoulder strap position fit well without changes – my bra strap sits right in the middle of the tank top straps. I removed the box pleat down the front, but that doesn’t affect the fit since the pleat is stitched down at center front.

There is no way I would have been able to figure out how to make even this simple tank top fit so well without comparing it to my torso block, so I’ve convinced myself I made the right choice when I decided to design my own patterns rather than alter them. I did like the approach of comparing my sloper to a commercial pattern, though. The fit was really good after the changes I made on paper – when I made a muslin, the only change I had to make was lowering the dart a little more. I’m not sure how well this approach would work for a more complex pattern, however. I may try looking at commercial patterns for neckline shapes, amount of ease, etc. and designing similar patterns from my slopers.

*If you do a Google image search for Colette Sorbetto, you will see lots of people with wrinkles pointing to their underarms, so I think most people will want to lower the armhole on this pattern.

Posted in Patternmaking

KAM Snap Pliers Adapter

A while ago I got all excited about KAM Snaps and bought a bunch of them (quite possibly a lifetime supply) along with the pliers to install them. I have problems with tendonitis, and it turns out that using these pliers is really painful for me, even for just a few snaps. Since it doesn’t make sense for me to buy an expensive snap press for home use, I adapted the pliers to be used like a press. I cut up some scrap pieces of wood, then wedged in and strapped the pliers down onto a base. It’s not pretty, but it works really well. I just have to press down on the handle, which is a lot less effort than squeezing pliers.

KAM Snaps Pliers Holder/Adapter

KAM Snaps Pliers Holder/Adapter

Posted in Uncategorized

A New Free Half-Scale Dress

I added another free dress on Craftsy to fit my DIY paper mache or stuffed half-scale dress forms, just in time for the new year.

Posted in Half-Scale Patternmaking and Sewing, Patternmaking, Sewing

Favorite Sewing Tip of 2014

This last year, I’ve been working to improve my sewing, and I’ve learned a lot of new things. I taught myself to sew in the days before the internet, so I missed out on a lot of good tips, and I’m still catching up. However, my favorite sewing tip I discovered this year is something I actually came up with on my own.

So here’s the tip: Before you pre-wash your fabric, sew or serge the cut ends together. It’s such a simple thing, but it makes a big difference. You will have a lot less problems with the fabric twisting in the washer and dryer, and reduced permanent creasing and fading in fabrics like denim.

sew fabric ends togetherI was sewing jeans when I came up with this idea. It kept bothering me that every time I washed new denim, the ends got creased, with fade marks on the creases, ruining the ends of the fabric. At first I thought about sewing scrap fabric onto the ends of the denim, since creasing and fading mostly happens at the ends of the fabric. Finally it occurred to me that I don’t have this problem with pant legs, where there are no cut ends, and the fabric is sewn into a tube. If I sew my fabric into a tube, there are no ends! So I tried it with some fabric, and it worked great. There were no ruined ends, and the fabric did not get twisted up in the washer and dryer. I was amazed at the difference.

Then I had to do an internet search to see if everyone else had already figured this out. I only found a few references to sewing the cut ends of your fabric together before washing, most notably a brief mention in this Craftsy blog post, so it’s definitely a tip that needs to be spread around some more.

Creased ends on denim that was washed without sewing the ends together.

Creased edge on denim that was washed without sewing the ends together. These creases don’t iron out.

Denim that had the ends sewn together before washing.

Denim that had the ends sewn together before washing.

Happy sewing in the new year!

Posted in Sewing

Cord Keepers

I was always losing or breaking the rubber bands or elastic scraps that I kept around my tape measure and sewing machine cords, so when I saw some leather cord keepers on Etsy, I was inspired to make my own. I’ve gone a little crazy making these. Every time I notice another cord that needs to be tamed, I’ll make another one, plus a few extra.

The cord keepers are fast and easy to make. Just cut a strip of leather and attach a snap at each end. I used KAM Snaps, since I have a lot of them, but metal hammer-on snaps would work just as well.

Leather_cord_keepers Leather_cord_keepers_detail

Posted in Crafts

Free Quarter Scale Sloper Patterns

I made quarter scale versions of a few of the half scale sloper/basic block patterns I developed to fit my paper and stuffed half scale dress forms. I’m putting the quarter scale patterns out there for free so you can print them to use for flat patternmaking practice. I’ve seen several other small scale pattern sets that have dart legs that don’t match, seams that are supposed to sew together that are different lengths, etc., which I find frustrating. This set has been tested: The seams have been walked and I’ve actually sewn up the half scale versions, so I know they fit together correctly. The quarter scale pattern set does not include seam allowances.

Quarter scale patterns include:

  • Two dart front and back bodice
  • Two dart front and back skirt
  • Darted sleeve
  • Dartless sleeve
  • Front and back torso with one double-ended dart

Click the image below to download the pdf.


Posted in Half-Scale Patternmaking and Sewing, Patternmaking

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