Steely Seamstress

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Cashmerette Concord t-shirt: A great pairing of two jersey fabrics

I have always admired anyone who can pair two (or more) fabrics together and make it look chic. I have quite few left over scraps, usually enough for a t-shirt front, or two t-shirt arms, but never seem to be able to pair anything together that looks good.

A couple of weekends ago, I was in Like Sew Amazing looking at the remnants and I spotted a reasonably sized piece of cotton-elastane jersey that I knew would make a short-sleeved t-shirt. Great, lovely – I need more t-shirts. When I got home I happened to be looking through my scraps and noted I still had a small amount of this violet jersey. It was a match made in heaven! Just look how brilliant these two fabrics look together!

Cashmerette concord t-shirt: Using two jersey fabrics

The pattern I used was the Cashmerette concord t-shirt. I made a previous version here and noted the excess fabric at the front shoulders. I made a small adjustment here to try to lose some of the excess . I think it is a mild improvement. I’m not sure whether this is the perfect fit yet?

This t-shirt is a little short, an awkward length really that just about tucks in, but doesn’t fulfil the untucked look either. I was limited by the amount of fabric I had available (as I was using a remnant) and did consider using some of the purple jersey as a hem band. But that would have compromised the sleeves and the neckband, and I was keen that those should be prioritised.

Cashmerette concord t-shirt: Does the shoulder fit look good?

Do you ever find you have an unexpected talent in life that really isn’t that useful. Well, mine is that I can match buttons and thread, with only a memory of the fabric. I really do get this so spot on I shock myself with this ability. Handy if I forget to go to a fabric shop without a swatch of fabric, but other than this what possible use is this weird talent? I would instantly trade it for better sea legs or a remotely average sense of direction!

Button matched with fabric from memory!


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Tai Chi Uniform: The finished jacket

I’ve been writing a series of posts about my progress with this self-drafted jacket that is part of a Tai Chi uniform. Here are the previous posts:

First thoughts on designing the pattern

Selecting the fabric

Cutting out and first sewing steps

It’s all coming together

Since my last post, I have completed the collar and the sleeves with their contrast cuffs. I have also finished the mitred corners and jacket hem. These were relatively easy steps given that I had worked out what I needed to do in each case. I did have to redo the collar, because I decided that I needed to work with white bobbin thread to make my slightly wobbly stitching less visible. I am now reasonably happy with the collar, although it isn’t particularly neat. I have even attached a special Kylie and the Machine “Ta Da” label.

Finished Tai Chi Jacket: worn unbuttoned

The last month I have mostly been finishing off the Chinese ball buttons. These, along with the button-holes that complete the frog fastenings have been extremely time consuming. I also managed to replicate the very fancy top button and button-hole which are finished with spirals. I found finishing buttons and button-holes very tricky. I am left wondering whether the materials I have been using were actually the most suitable for such a fiddly job. The video I used is in Chinese and although I could follow it very easily, it doesn’t tell me in English what materials they used. I used some shiny polyester bias binding, but would silk bias binding have worked better? Is this actually easy to get hold of silk bias binding. Then at one stage some “starch” is used, presumably to stick and stiffen the frayed ends together. I purchased some starch that looked similar from the internet, but again I have no idea if this was a good approximation of that used in the video. The buttons are also quite a different navy blue, but I am trying to think of that as a “feature”. This is very noticeable in all the photos below, so I expect given time I’ll stop noticing it too.

Finished Tai Chi Jacket, worn buttoned

On Tuesday the jacket had its first outing at the Tai Chi class and everyone was very complementary. I took it as a compliment (as was intended), but I do wonder why people say “you wouldn’t know it was home-made”? I mean, essentially every sewn garment is hand-made and there isn’t a huge difference between the fabrics, equipment and construction techniques used at home and commercially. Why wouldn’t it look like something you’d buy in a shop?

A bit of a Tai Chi pose!

I was pleased with the fit of the jacket. I definitely made the right choice changing the design so that the sleeves came out horizontally, rather than at a slant. I talked about that design change here. I do notice that the jacket rustles a bit when being worn and I felt a bit conspicuous because of the noise it was making. I bet no-one else noticed, though!

Finished Tai Chi Jacket: Really easy to move and I think it does look the business!

At the moment I am still in the mental phase of seeing all the “faults” with this jacket. But I’m sure that in the winter I will really appreciate wearing it. Our teacher is a bit of a fresh air fiend and with COVID still circulating, even in January I bet the doors and windows in the hall where we practice will be fully open!


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Quick Make: Quilted Bottle Cosy

I made something very quickly yesterday. I suppose I must be used to making tricky items of clothing with convoluted instructions, so this little make really surprised me. It was done and dusted within the day.

I have this little flask that I take on cycle rides with me. I have had it for many years and it is just one of those really useful objects that I wouldn’t be without. Except there is a problem. It just doesn’t properly fit the holder on my bicycle and for ages I have just wrapped a little bubble-wrapping around the bottle so it stays tightly in the holder. Anyway, yesterday I decided enough was enough and my sewing skills came to the rescue.

The flask I take on cycle rides

I decided to make a quilted bottle cosy so that the bottle would sit in the holder better. The added advantage is that I thought that the quilting would really help insulate the bottle too keeping a cold drink cool and a hot drink warm.

I chose a couple of scraps of fabric. The outside fabric is left over from my Lander trousers. The inside, is some travel-themed fabric which I used previously to make a passport holder. The bias-binding was found in the stash. I found some batting in the stash too.

My finished quilted bottle cosy

I used two fabrics (cotton lawn for inner fabric and cotton twill for the outer fabric) and batting measuring 30 cm x 30 cm. This was sufficient for my flask. However, you may wish to measure the circumference of the flask and the diameter of the base of the flask. Add these two together and add seam allowances to get a rough fabric size.

Fabric size (length and width) = Circumference of flask + Diameter of flask + 6 cm

I also used bias-binding approximately 3 cm longer than the circumference of the flask and a length of cord, which I just cut at the length I thought looked right once I had threaded it through the bias-binding.

The bottle cosy holding the bottle.
  1. Fold the outer fabric square in half along the diagonal. Press. Draw a line (using a fabric marker) on the fabric along the press line.
  2. Next draw additional diagonal lines. I drew these evenly spaced by using the ruler width as a guide.
  3. Draw additional diagonal lines at 90 degrees to the original line. These lines will create the stitching guides.
  4. Place the inner fabric right-side down, then the batting and finally the outer fabric right-side up on the table.
  5. Pin the fabrics together.
  6. Next tack (baste) the fabrics together.
  7. Sew along the stitching lines using your sewing machine.
  8. Wrap the flask in the fabric and mark how much of the fabric is needed. I used enough to completely wrap the flask and then added 3 cms for a seam allowance (1.5 cm at each side) . Trim the fabric.
  9. Fold the fabric in half right-sides together and stitch using 1.5 cm as the seam allowance.
  10. Cut a circle of fabric the size of the base of the flask + 1.5 cm around the entire circumference from the remaining quilted fabric.
  11. Pin the circle of fabric to the cylinder of fabric already created, making sure that the right side of the fabric is on the inside. Stitch.
  12. Turn so that the right side is visible.
  13. Fold out one side of the bias-binding and place the raw edge, with the right-side against the top edge of the inside of the cosy. Pin in place. Fold the short ends under and pin these in place too. Stitch along the fold line of the bias binding. Keep the short ends of the bias binding open as these will be the openings for the cord.
  14. Fold the bias binding over the top edge of the cosy and pin in place on the outside of the cosy. Edge stitch this in place.
  15. Thread a cord through the bias binding. Cut to a length that looks good and knot.

I feel a bit sad that I didn’t take pictures of the steps. So, if the instructions aren’t too clear just let me know and I will try to add some.

Note: I did not finish any of the inside seams. Ideally I would finish these with bias-binding, but the small size of the flask and the thickness of the fabric would have made this fundamentally too fiddly.

The bottle is now held snugly in the holder on my bicycle.


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Grainline Augusta Dress for the Hot Weather

I have been procrastinating. The Tai Chi jacket is still on hold, because I can’t face the fiddly job of finishing the Chinese buttons in this heat. And then, there are all the makes I promised myself in my #makenine which still aren’t happening. So what have I been making? A dress. Don’t fall off your chair! Yep, dresses and me aren’t exactly best friends, but with the weather ramping up to 40 degrees, even I have to admit that I actually want to wear a dress!

For Christmas I received a 2 metre length of cotton lawn fabric, in a bold print. On Instagram there are a couple of versions of the Grainline Augusta in really bold floral prints and these were the inspiration for my version (see Below). Naturally, I would have been happy with an Augusta shirt, but with 2 metres to play with I decided to make the dress. My reasoning was that if I didn’t exactly like it as a dress, I could always convert it to a shirt.

Here, I will just mention my one and only bugbear with Grainline Studios patterns. Jen is very very generous with the fabric requirements for her patterns. Looking at my size the Augusta is said to require 2.8 metres. Well, I used only 2 metres and I wasn’t skimping at all. In fact, I actually put the interfacing on one of the wrong lapel pieces and simply cut it again. I still have a little left over, but not much. My guess of needing 2 metres was actually pretty close; 2.8 metres are definitely not needed.

Augusta Dress Back View

The fabric

The fabric is a cotton lawn from Like Sew Amazing. It is quite a crisp fabric and isn’t transparent, so a perfect choice for this pattern.

Grainline Studios Augusta Dress

The construction

Having made this pattern before, it wasn’t a difficult make. I speeded through it nicely. There is also a very comprehensive sew-along on YouTube which is very clear. The lapels look tricky, but being guided through the process they come together beautifully. The instructions for the mitred corner hems are impeccable too. I think I made a better job of these two steps on this version too. (Practice really does indeed make perfect).

Yes, I made a minor error when I ironed the interfacing to the wrong lapel piece, but that was a total user error. I was doing some general ironing, and thought “oh yes, there is an ironing stage I can do on my Augusta” and I couldn’t be bothered to look at the instructions. It happens.

With this version I made the short sleeves with the cuffs. The cuffs are odd. They look fine when completed, but I really thought they were going to look like a hot mess until I got close to finishing them. The way they are folded up hides some seriously weird, “inside on the outside” action. The cuffs work, but somehow I feel uncomfortable knowing that only the fold hides an overlocked edge. I will have to just suppress that thought until the memory of the construction fades. Surely cuffs like this can be made more elegantly? That said the fold does stay firmly in place, unlike other cuffs I’ve made in the past, so perhaps this can be forgiven?

Grainline Studios Augusta Dress

The Outcome

It’s been hot this week and I am so grateful to have this dress to wear. There is plenty of air around me and it looks summery too. But there are no pockets. I know that that will put a lot of people off this pattern. I did toy with the idea of adding in-seam pockets, but I wasn’t sure and left them out. I like the Augusta dress modelled with the Grainline Driftless cardigan, so this would get round the pocket problem, although not in hot weather.


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A tour of Vogue sewing pattern envelopes from the 70s

I have quite a collection of 1970s patterns and I must admit a certain fascination with how the fashions and styles of the time are represented on the envelopes. Sadly, I don’t own all the patterns below, so just thank Ebay for the pics.

There are some pattern envelopes that represent the garments in a way that has hardly changed between the 70s and today. Take a look at these two envelopes: disregarding the fashions themselves, the style of the pattern envelope has scarcely changed and even the artwork is similar. I often think of this as evidence that the world of home sewing hasn’t changed too much in forty years.

Modern vs Vintage: The pattern envelope doesn’t seem to have changed much in 40 years.

Then there are the “aspiration” pattern envelopes that feature predominantly in the seventies. We see our fashion hero / heroine in opulent surroundings, descending from an aeroplane (definitely aspirational in the 70s) or standing by a shiny new car. I can think up whole stories around each of these so perhaps the photography is actually doing its job! Take a look at these offerings:

70s Vogue pattern: Galitzine

Here we have our heroine relaxing at her Scottish retreat, dressed up warm just before grabbing her coat for a long, but stylish ramble in the highlands. (That hat won’t stay on long, I fear!)

Here, our heroine sports matching shoes and a chic beret (because she is in Paris). She is just about to hail a taxi to get to a very important meeting. (She has a folder, a key indicator of importance!)

70s Vogue pattern: Balmain

Our heroine is in Rome. There is one of those three-wheel Piaggio vehicles in the background, so it must be Rome. Her expression is somewhat startled; I’m thinking post clandestine lunchtime meeting with lover and wondering whether her skirt hem isn’t tucked into her knickers at the back! Sorry the stories are getting worse!

70s Vogue pattern: Valentino

Of course, I can’t resist also mentioning “Lurking Man”. He appears on pattern envelopes skulking in the background. I haven’t quite worked out what his purpose is. Is he there is give an approving nod to our heroine’s sartorial choices? Or is he another “aspiration” indicator – our heroine is so great she has shock horror …..a man who follows her around attentively, looking brooding and staring into the middle distance!

70s Vogue pattern: Galitzine

Our heroine has just got married at a beautiful medieval castle in Umbria, Italy. Tragically, just after the ceremony her husband dramatically fell is his death from the ramparts, leaving her sad and forlorn and forever without Lurking Man.

70s Vogue Pattern: Fabiani

Just for balance I actually found Lurking Woman: “Ah signore, your beautiful jacket, let me stroke your sleeve, while I stare into the middle distance”

70s Vogue pattern: Valentino

My apologies for the above post, sometimes we just need to entertain ourselves!


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Me-Made-May 2022 Summary and some graphs

It is nearly the end of June and high time that I wrote up my observations from Me-Made-May. . I find the more I invest in recording and analysing the data from this challenge, the more interesting and informative the results. Unfortunately this year I have had some real pressures on my time and well-being and so I haven’t been as organised as I would usually try to be. Never mind! I’m sure there will still be some take homes from the month.

First of all, due to my circumstances I have been quite restricted when it comes to what I could wear this month and it became clear early on that living in trousers with reasonable pockets was best for me, so this will be a very “jeans-heavy” month.

First of all, the spread of wears per pattern company. Unsurprisingly, the largest slices are for Burda (21.4%) and Grainline Studios (17.1%). More than anything this reflects just the quantity of times I use their patterns. I make a lot using Burda’s patterns simply because buying a magazine can work out quite a cheap way of acquiring patterns and I don’t worry if I only make one or two things from each magazine. I have made three Driftless cardigans and as these are firm favourites the repeat wears of these show up as a large slice too.

The last company that makes it into the top three is Scout Patterns . I wore the Navy blue velvet Lulu cardigan so many times this month (10.0%).

I usually make a comparison of the RTW to me-made worn in the month and this year is no exception. The percentage of me-made dropped slightly this year (78.5%) compared to last year (84.9%). I think this was due to my reliance on jeans in the month and had circumstances been different I suspect the figure would have broadly been the same as last year. But, those RTW garments I do wear are well-loved key items in my wardrobe and I cannot stress how important it is to make good use of our wardrobes, whether RTW or me-made.

This all brings me on to a new category I decided to document. I was intrigued to categorise all my garments according to age. This isn’t a problem for the me-mades as these are all documented on the blog or Instagram and I can quickly look up when they were made. For the older items I can only roughly guess their age, because some were bought as far back as the nineties!

I am really pleased with the results shown on this graph because I can see clearly that old and new get equally worn. Yes, I overdosed on wearing my new Lander trousers (made in 2022), but then it made a successful pairing with an RTW shirt from c. 1992 (early university years). This is definitely the outfit of the month:

I have also included some of my older me-mades too; specifically the Bicycle blouse, which dates from 2015, and my first jersey t-shirt from 2015. Looking at the graph I wonder whether the age of the clothing correlates to particularly productive years; I can see there are a lot of items worn from 2017 and 2020. It would be interesting to compare my usage with someone (of the same age) who wears exclusively RTW clothes. Would their clothing age profile be the same?

Number of items for each age grouping. RTW items all bought in 1990s, 2000s and 2010s.

As a final note, I wonder whether this is just an exercise that is useful to me. I know I can thoroughly geek out on data and graphs! So, if you like to do likewise I have a MMM-template that you are welcome to use!


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Cashmerette Concord t-shirt: A useful basic

I decided to make this t-shirt after buying the Concord t-shirt pattern with the discount from the Sewing Weekender. I thought this pattern might help me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I would really like to get a great fitting t-shirt, and secondly, this t-shirt pattern had various options with different necklines and sleeve and hem lengths, so once I had perfected the fit I could revisited it time and time again just changing the neckline or the sleeve length. Couldn’t help thinking that Concord should have an “e” at the end of it, and have to check myself each time I write the word and remind myself I’m not writing about the plane!

The fit adjustments

After choosing my size (see this post), I selected the mid-length sleeve, hip length and scoop neckline. I then traced out the pattern and compared it to an existing pattern I have used before. I chose to compare my tracing to a t-shirt that I know fits well across the shoulders. I was rather perturbed by the result. It was obvious that the shoulder was way too narrow. (Looking online I found that this reviewer had also mentioned this.) This wasn’t surprising as this is a standard adjustment I make on patterns. The other thing that struck me as interesting was how “scooped” the armscye is on this pattern. I wondered about why this might be the case. Could it be that because the drafting is for the curvy market? I decided to widen the shoulders and then make the armscye less scooped. Better to leave in more fabric and “nibble away” at the fit if it needs adjustment.

I also needed to grade between sizes: between size 6 and size 12 from the bust to the waist, and from size 12 to size 2 from the waist to the hip. This is quite a big change and essentially makes the t-shirt very straight in shape up and down the body.

Concord t-shirt: Extra was added to the shoulder width

The fabric

I need good basics in my wardrobe, so I chose a very neutral fabric for this t-shirt. But I didn’t go for a plain colour, I chose this Denim-look design in dark grey. It is a cotton-elastane blend. I must admit, I was a little disappointed when it arrived in the post. I had been hoping it would be a marl, yarn-dyed with grey and black. However, it is essentially a print on white jersey. It isn’t what I was expecting. But I wouldn’t call it a bad choice, because it still looks like the sort of thing I was after, something rather plain and grey-ish.

The construction

The Concord’s instructions are nice and simple with very clear illustrations. I particularly liked the tip for basting (tacking) the neckline bands closed before attaching them to the t-shirt. The neckband is probably one of the most even I have ever done and I will keep using this technique, even if it takes a little longer.

My second disappointment with this project came in the form of the sleeve tabs. How I wish I had read the instructions in full before I started! I didn’t notice that these are designed as fake sleeve tabs and that they are not functional. You sew through all the layers and fix the buttons and the sleeve tabs in place permanently. If I had known this I would have made mine functional by adding a button-hole to the sleeve tab. However, I didn’t want to make a bad job of this and felt that the fabric, being light-weight, needed some interfacing in it for the button-holes. I thought it best to leave well alone and not try to take the sleeve tabs off, potentially ruining the sleeves, or indeed make nasty button-holes.

This also lead to a mistake, which was to add the mid-length cuffs to the t-shirt, rather than simply hem the sleeves as directed when making the version with the sleeve tabs. Actually, as this turned out fine, misreading the instructions and adding the cuffs wasn’t really a problem. I think though this is exactly how the t-shirt should be made if those sleeve tabs were functional.

Cashmerette Concord Tee: Useful basic

The outcome

Let’s look at the fit:

  1. The shoulder width appears to be fine, but this was only after my adjustment.
  2. I probably was too cautious about the armscyes and should have left them scooped. There is a little bagginess at the front shoulder and something to correct in the next version.
  3. The extra I added to the armscye on the back shoulder is probably just about fine.
  4. The bust fit is great. I don’t have any excess fabric or overly stretched fabric.
  5. The fit around the waist is generous, but I had to grade between several sizes (between size 6 and size 12 from the bust to the waist, and from size 12 to size 2 from the waist to the hip). I also don’t think the waist and bust necessarily hit at quite the right height in this pattern for my body, which might explain why this was off.
  6. The scoop neck surprisingly is spot on for me. Usually scoops are way too low for my body, so I was surprise that I used the pattern without altering this.
  7. The arms aren’t too tight or loose. I have skinny arms so others might find these a problem area.

I do like the way the sleeves look with sleeve tabs. Alas, this would be even better if the sleeve tabs were functional.

Cashmerette Concord Tee: A little too roomy?

As far as comfort is concerned I have worn my t-shirt all day and hardly noticed I was wearing it, so it definitely passes the comfort test. I do think I made it a little too large, but I will re-evaluate this later in the year. I may decide this is a better t-shirt for the colder months if it works better with a layer underneath.

Overall, I would say this is a great t-shirt pattern with a good range of options for the neckline, sleeve length and hem length. I’m not convinced that I managed to make a t-shirt that was the perfect fit, but it is closer than some of my t-shirts. Perhaps I need to go right back to the beginning and actually made a block for knits from scratch, just like I did for woven bodices.


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Improved t-shirt fit: some initial thoughts

Lately I have been trying to improve the fit of my clothes. Nothing major, it isn’t as if I have massive fit problems with my clothes, but I’m just getting ultra fussy and I’m intrigued to see if starting from scratch will yield improvements.

The first fit improvements I made were to sleeveless tops. I did suffer from gaping armhole problems here. I drafted a custom bodice and when I made a new top, used the improvement armhole and dart size and positioning to get a much better fitting top.

More recently, I have wanted to tackle the fit of my t-shirts. I have used various patterns and some fit better than others. During the sewing weekender I tuned in to Jenny from Cashmerette and was interested in her thoughts on fit. I must admit I have never used a Cashmerette pattern and have generally thought of it as a pattern company aimed at the curvy market. My body is the opposite, being very straight, with hardly any difference between bust, waist and hip. But, on discovering that I needed to make essentially a full bust alteration on my custom bodice, I thought that perhaps looking at the sizing Cashmerette offers might be interesting.

To find out what size you are, Cashmerette offers a sizing calculator. So I made the four measurements it calls for; High Bust, Full Bust, Waist and Hip.

The one measurement I had real problems with was the High Bust. After showing Mister Steely my armpit several times, we concluded that ‘measuring tape over the top of your bust and underneath your armpits’ is not a very diagonal measurement for me. Is that significant? I don’t know. I tried and my measurements ranged from 82-84 cm for the High Bust, so I decided to enter both of these into the calculator.

The two resulting calculations are below:

Those calculations are using the cup size though that I used to buy in the shops. However, when I measured my cup size for the Simplicity 8229 bra I calculated that I was a C cup. However, this uses a Chest measurement (under the bust), rather than the High Bust measurement. So, I tried this out on the calculator and got these results:

At least it wasn’t too inconsistent, despite my difficulties with pinning down one of the measurements:

Size 4 C/ D for the bust

Size 12 for the waist

Size 2 at the hip

There will be quite a bit of grading between sizes as I expected, and I won’t be doing that small bust adjustment.

Luckily, the Sewing Weekender armed me with a discount for Cashmerette patterns. The Concord t-shirt (I keep thinking it should be spelled with the extra e, like the Concorde plane) was just what I was looking for – a good basic t-shirt with several variations in length, sleeve-length and neckline.

I have chosen some not terribly exciting jersey for this pattern, but I fully intend to make some boring workhorse t-shirts.


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Tai Chi Uniform: It’s all coming together

In my last post about my jacket I was uncertain about large parts of the project and it”felt” like I was a long way from the finish line. Now I “feel” I’m not far off finishing the Tai Chi jacket, even though there is still quite some work to do.

The Frog Fastenings

After some investigation I found this video on YouTube. When I watched this video for the first time I was struck by the skill of the person making the knot buttons; I really felt that I was watching a master craftsperson at work here! However, watching someone so competent can also feel intimidating. Would I really be able to emulate their skill?

At first, I tried to use the jacket fabric to make the Chinese buttons. The original jacket that I am copying uses the same fabric for the frog fastenings as the jacket. However my fabric is more substantial and I couldn’t turn the fabric to make a long rouleau loop. I then purchased some bias binding. I was somewhat sceptical about the shiny nature of the bias binding, but at least I could turn the fabric to make the loops successfully.

Chinese buttons using bias binding

I followed the instructions on the video and produced two beautiful, but not identical buttons. I’m quite pleased with the result. I did also buy some silver bias binding, and wondered whether to make contrast buttons instead. Either way, the two buttons I have made are a proof of concept, and I will need to make six in total.

Silver and blue bias binding

Front and sleeve facings

The original jacket uses a contrasting white fabric for the front and sleeve facings. The sleeves are constructed with facings so you can turn up the sleeves when you wear it and reveal the contrast facings. I bought some white cotton lawn for these facings on my copy. I drafted my own facing pieces. The front facing was somewhat different from the original jacket as I wanted the facing to extend to the shoulder seam so it could be secured tidily.

Adding the front and sleeve facings

I haven’t really been keeping track of the steps I have been doing as I go along. It has all become a lot more haphazard. The reason for this is I just wanted to plough on with trying lots of different things. So far I have done the bottom hem and side slits on the front left side only, half-finished the sleeve facings and half-added the collar. At least this way I have practiced the techniques and just need to duplicate them on the right side of the jacket.


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An examination of rise (also known as where is my waist?)

I’m periodically bemused by all those Sunday Supplement views on fashion. I’m showing my age here, because I don’t think that many people actually buy printed copies of newspapers. However, I couldn’t think of another generic term to describe those articles where the author tells you about the latest “must have” trend and seems to imply that your life isn’t work living unless you have this blazer or that midi skirt. So, one of these trends that is commonly spoken about is for high-waisted trousers. In fact, I would say that the high-waisted trouser is something much talked about in the sewing world too. The trouble is I don’t really know what is meant by “high-waisted”. Sounds odd I know, but bear with me as I try to explain.

Where is my waist?

First of all, I suppose let’s define where the waist is, because I’ve found there isn’t just one answer for this.

According to this site (medical) this is how we should measure our waist:

  1. Remove or wear thin clothing around the abdomen and hips.
  2. Hold the tape measure between the top of the hipbone and the bottom of the ribs. 
  3. Breathe out normally.
  4. Bring the tape around the waist. 
  5. Do not hold the tape too tight and ensure the tape measure is straight around the back. 
  6. Record the measurement.

The above instructions sound logical, but how about “between the top of the hipbone and the bottom of the ribs”? Depending on your body there could be quite a bit of difference between the hipbone and the ribs.

This site (scientific) maintains that the waist circumference should be measured 2.5cm above the umbilicus. However, the authors were interested in the measurement that the best explains abdominal fat mass.

When I am taking measurements for sewing though, my primary aim is to make comfortable garments, so what do the sewing websites say? I found Jenny at Cashmerette advice probably the best. She asks you to consider the following question – “where do I want the intended waist on my garment to hit me?” She also provides the following advice for people who are pretty straight and up and down (which best describes my shape) – “You can pick wherever you want, and it becomes more about the proportion of upper: lower body in a garment that you prefer”. This explains a lot about my ambivalence when it comes to rise.

What is rise?

Rise is the distance from the middle of the crotch seam (right between your legs) to the top of the waistband. According to my online research, rise can vary from 7 inches to 12 inches (both these websites mention this range – I find it odd that the range is quoted as the same for men and women).

I found this handy picture on this website, describing the fit of jeans:

Diagram showing the fit of jeans

How to choose the rise I prefer for my trousers?

I have just been measuring the rise of the jeans I am currently wearing. It is 6 inches. The measurement is so low it fits below the range I quoted above. These jeans are very old and were bought in the noughties when rise so low you can see most of the person’s bottom was the prevailing trend. But on me they sit exactly at the top of my hip bone and across my belly button. What I can conclude from this is that my anatomy is quite different from the average in this respect and I have a very short body.

Using this website as a guide, low-rise is described as 3 inches below the navel (even lower than the diagram above), mid-rise is described as 9 – 11 inches , and high-rise as over 10 inches. This means that for my body wearing a low-rise pair of trousers at two to three inches below the navel would be very indecent on me! Given that my preferred rise is about 6 – 7 inches, this means that all those trendy high-waisted trousers with rises of over 10 inches wouldn’t be high-waisted at all, but would come up over my ribs and be competing with the bottom of my bra! Or most likely they just wouldn’t stay at this height and just ride down the whole time.

Below I’ve inserted a picture of me wearing my Palisade shorts. These shorts are a toile and the rise is really too high. It isn’t that evident from the picture, but the shorts tend to slide down resulting in a drop crotch look, which isn’t the look I’m after.

Shorts – t-shirt tucked in

I have learned that rise is a measurement unique to the individual and where they wish to wear the waist of their trousers. It seems rather neglected by the pattern companies though. Why don’t we get jeans patterns, for example with different rises, just like there are many pattern companies now doing different cup sizes? I had a look at a few jeans patterns and quite a few describe the pattern according to rise. Of course, that rise will look quite different on different people:

Ginger jeans (Closet Core Patterns) are described as low-rise

Jamie Jeans (Named Clothing) are described as regular-rise

Birkin flares (Paper Dahl), Ames jeans (Cashmerette)and Dawn jeans (Megan Nielsen) are all described as high-rise

Admittedly it isn’t a particularly difficult adjustment to make, provided that the pattern has lengthen/ shorten lines. For me, it is one of the most common changes I make to trouser patterns. It is also worth bearing in mind that you may need a different size of zip if you alter the rise by a substantial amount. (This is one of the reasons why I buy haberdashery as I go along and not at the beginning of a project, tempting as it may be to have everything to hand at the start). The explanation for short rise given here makes me wonder about how this rise is drafted trousers in menswear. Short rise is not the same as low rise. Sadly, I couldn’t find more information on this. I wonder whether there should in fact by two lengthen / shorten lines on trouser sewing patterns; one above the zip and one below?

So, am I any the wiser about what high-waisted trousers are? Yes, I suppose I am. But at the same time, I realise that I am never going to wear them “off-the-shelf”, either from a shop or directly as drafted by the pattern company. They simply wouldn’t fit or be comfortable. I think I’ll continue to do those rise adjustments.