Formal Outfit, Part 3: Never Again

I’m starting this by saying – seriously, never sew for an event. It’s stressful. You never have as much time as you think you do, it always takes longer than you think, and you never have to hand what you thought you did. Don’t even talk to me about the stress of waiting for much-needed fabric or notions to ship. Just don’t.

And, the pants did not end up making it. After fighting with the reworked Lazo toile and tape-tracing a pair of Target business slacks that more or less fitted, I had just over a week to go – not even close to enough time to make yet another toile, test it, rework it to the Lazo ‘look’ and make it in final fabric. (Not even enough time for the final fabric to arrive – it turns out that The Fabric Store in my city was clean out of black heavyweight linen and unsure when they’d get more, and I didn’t discover that The Drapery had a black wool twill in stock until the week of, which isn’t enough time for shipping.)

The shirt and vest did get through to the final though, and here they are.


One of the biggest lessons from this is that I desperately need to create a pants sloper for myself. Being the height that I am, I just cannot rely on commercial pattern companies to fit me for pants – because the problem with the Lazo was the proportions. The distances from waist to high hip to full hip to crotch were all wrong, and adjusting them was a small nightmare. At least with a sloper, I have a starting point to which I can add design elements like the waistband or the pleats if I want the same look. Trust me when I say that’s easier than trying to fix proportions that don’t match you.

Another is that I seriously need to work on my hand-sewing skills, and I need to get better at precision with my machine. My first run of the Fairfield shirt had some pretty serious stitching issues in several spots; on the second shirt, the one in the photo above, I ended up hand-sewing several sections because my machine just didn’t seem to be able to do it with enough precision.

I also really need to get some more resources on tailoring things like vest and jacket fronts – working with horsehair canvas, essentially. It turns out I ordered way too much, and well, I’m going to need to use it somehow. I also struggled with construction of the front – the hair canvas kept fraying so I tried edging it with bias tape, but then it was so thick it was difficult to turn the neckline on that side. The pad stitching was damaged by trimming for the welt pockets (which really didn’t turn out as crisply as I’d hoped for) as well, and I’m still not sure if I did it right. I’ve had a few more ideas on getting that nice tailored front – I’m thinking Fray Stopper treatment on the hair canvas pieces, or possibly using bias tape ironed flat to hold it onto the sew-in interfacing, so I can then pad-stitch the entire assembly as one piece to the front fabric. Not sure how it’ll go though.

But despite all my criticisms, I got plenty of compliments at the event, and quite a few people beforehand who saw the above photos on social media seemed to like it. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that one is usually one’s worst critic.

And a hiatus…

On the very last night of making the vest as well, I got an email from my landlord that my lease won’t be renewed this year.

Which has led to a lot of emotions and a lot of scrambling to find a new place.

It’s been hard to stay motivated to sew with the looming prospect of needing to pack it all away again shortly, so for now I’m going on a hiatus. I’ll be back when I have another home.

And, unfortunately, this is also where I need to link my Paypal and Ko-Fi, because it’s a very unexpected expense at a very difficult time, and I’ve yet to find a replacement for that day job. So, if anyone feels generous – now would be the time.

Formal Outfit, Part 2: Toile time!

So, I’m forging ahead with this, despite the obvious timing issues.

The good news is, the Belvedere Waistcoat and Fairfield shirt fit almost perfectly as they are in size XS! This was surprising given that in my binder, I’m almost 10cm smaller overall than the body measurements called for, and much shorter in height too. I also decided not to do the half-placket version of the Fairfield that I had envisioned, as it’s quite a lot of adjustment and I just couldn’t wrap my brain around it. (And, it turns out, the Fairfield does only have 8 buttons down the front – so I have enough in my tin of Merchant & Mills shirt buttons for it.)

(As a side note as well, it turns out I was incorrect in my assumption about the difference between a waistcoat and vest. There is none – waistcoat is the UK English term, while vest is the American term. However, with that being said, a waistcoat with a contrasting back should always be with with a jacket. A waistcoat with a self fabric back (that is, the same fabric front and back) can be worn without a jacket.)

But, there’s always a snag…

The Problem with Pants

This is the second toile.

Front and back views of my second toile of the Thread Theory 'Lazo' pants, in calico. On the left, one leg of the front is shown. There are several pen marks in green and purple, and many black safety pins. I have had to overlap and adjust the four-way seam, pin a large wedge out of the top of the leg, pin another wedge out of the size seam, and I still made more adjustments. 
On the right, the back is shown. There are again lots of pen marks, plus a wedge pinned out of the top (near the waistband) and a second wedge pinned out from the side seam to about halfway down the centre back seam.
That’s going to be fun to transfer to the pattern.

As you can see from the pen marks and general state, the Lazo pants toile didn’t go nearly as well. It’s the same pain point as on many pants patterns for me, and RTW pants too – the seat, or crotch seam.

This is the roughly U-shaped seam that runs under the body, joining the left and right legs. It’s a difficult area, owing to being affected by a huge number of factors – relative size and shape not only of each leg, but also of buttocks, lower abdomen, the angle of lower back and pelvis, the hip joints… And it’s not an area that moves in just one axis either – legs can move from side to side as well as back and forth, they rotate, they bend at the middle, and all of these movements shift the entire area. So, as simple as pants can be, they get complicated fast if this area didn’t fit perfectly the first time.

And, predictably, that’s what happened here. The first toile included my poorly-considered adjustment to the seat seam length, which then messed with the whole area. I made a second toile, this time without adjusting the seat seam length (despite my seat rise being much greater than the pattern size called for) and, well…

… it’s still got issues. I haven’t even tried to adjust the taper of the leg yet, since I’m still trying to get the rest of it right. I ended up pinning the toile with the inseam and seat seam open, and still had to faff around with pinching out bits here and there. Almost all of the proportions need major adjustments. I’m severely regretting not making the effort to make myself a pants sloper when I still had enough time – it would have been much easier to replicate this style from a sloper, I think. The best I can do is going to be copying a pair of black Target business slacks that I have (which are a tad too tight in the waist these days, especially with multiple layers under the shirt) and hoping for the best.

Better news

In happier news, the fabrics for the vest have arrived! Despite taking samples from Tessuti, I couldn’t choose – and the fabric I really wanted promptly went out of stock. But, I was then reminded that The Remnant Warehouse exists, and went looking. I snagged 2m each of this Ruby Star Society print, and this tone-on-tone print.

And so, the big decision – I’m making the vest reversible. This isn’t too hard – I just need to cut the facing from my ‘lining’ rather than ‘main’. (I don’t think I’ll be able to make the welt pockets accessible from the reverse though. But it’s not a huge issue.)

As to fabrics for the shirt, sadly, I don’t have enough silk noil to make it, so silk-linen blend it is. Owing to the ever-cooling weather as well, I have plans to made a warm undershirt in cotton loopback (think sweatshirt-type fabric), and another under-binder shirt with a gusseted underarm so it’ll conform a bit better there as an underlayer needs to. (I promise I’ll make a post about how to hack a gusseted underarm onto set-in sleeve patterns sometime. Promise.)

I had a job interview come up this week and wanted a nice button-down to wear with it – but I was worried about cutting into the silk-linen blend, so I went with some midweight linen from The Fabric Store (colourway ‘Bone’) that I bought years ago for… something, and never used. I did end up carving a little out of the waist, and I’ll need to deepen the back darts (or possibly take some width out of the entire back) but otherwise it’s damn near perfect. (I do need to be a bit more watchful in what I’m doing on the cuff and collar corners though, and on the sleeve plackets – one is twisted because I didn’t stop to ensure I had everything oriented correctly for the sleeve on that side. Oops.)

So, with just under 3 weeks to go… it’s full steam ahead.

Formal Outfit, Part 1

Do not do as I do

So, I’ve known for a while that two friends of mine are planning to get married. The dates were shifted many times – first due to some health scares, then COVID, then something else… anyway, the date was set for June 2022 early last year, and the invitation arrived about two days ago (which is the signal that we’re 3 months out).

So, because I have a terrible memory for how difficult things can be, I decided I’d try to make a completely self-made outfit for the event. A button-down shirt, slacks, and a vest.

Did I mention that I’ve had zero success making button-down shirts? Did I mention that I once cried my eyes out in frustration over the very pattern I plan to use? Did I mention that I’ve never made a vest before and that my only success with woven pants so far has been for someone who didn’t require any refits anyway?

Did I mention that I’ve never made any clothing to fit over my chest binder before as well?

The decision to make it to fit over my binder was easy enough – the patterns I have are men’s patterns. While it’s absolutely possible to reshape men’s patterns to fit a less masculine figure, it’s difficult and time-consuming, and sometimes requires going back to a body block and re-creating it. I don’t have time for that – it’s quicker to shrink a pattern that’s too big overall.

And it’s especially a question of time since it all needs to be toiled first.

The patterns I plan to use so far are:

Shirt: A combination of the Thread Theory Fairfield shirt, and the Buckaroo Bobbins Buckaroo shirt. The Buckaroo Bobbins shirt’s instructions are… extremely lacking, and several of the features are very dated and considered signs of poor fit these days. But, I like the half-placket idea, so I’m going to steal that from the Buckaroo shirt, and transplant it over to the Fairfield along with the band collar. (I’m not confident in making a proper shirt collar, plus I don’t know how to make it look good on me.)

Vest: The Buckaroo Bobbins Tombstone vest. As much as it’s going to be a pain to get the buckles and the hair canvas in time, it’s the only one I have right now.

Pants: This is the hard part. The pattern I have at least some experience with is the Buckaroo Bobbins Britches. Their smallest size is far too big, and the crotch curve shaping is completely off. Adapting it to a gusseted crotch from some pants I already have is going to be very difficult too. The other option is the Thread Theory Lazo Trousers, which I have never made before, but Thread Theory has a whole sew-along on their website along with tips and hacks. And while I’ve only consistently made 3 of their patterns, I’ve never had much trouble with Thread Theory, so…

And have I fabrics for this? Maybe. I haven’t actually checked, so again, this could be a disaster.

I’d ideally like to do the shirt in some silk noil I bought over a year ago for a blouse pattern that I got so frustrated with that I almost threw it out. I’ve given up on ever getting that thing to fit me nicely, but the noil will be nice to use for a shirt. I have some matching plain-weave tussah silk I want to use for the collar and cuffs. If I don’t have enough from that, the silk-linen blend I bought to make a refitted Cashmerette Harrison shirt with years ago should surely have enough in it.

The pants are probably going to be plain black linen. I have plenty, and it’s a classic that I can re-wear for years.

The vest? …I genuinely don’t know. I missed my chance to pick up some gorgeous shot linen from Tessuti last year (the colour I want sold out fast) and I haven’t seen much that catches my eye at any of my usual places at the moment. It might end up being in black linen again.

It goes without saying though that this is a terrible idea and you shouldn’t sew an outfit for an event only 3 months away. But I don’t follow my own advice.

Well, it’s been a while…

Unfortunately, that day job got in the way of that posting schedule. (Said day job is now… no longer a problem. Let’s leave it at that.)

I haven’t branched out very much in patterns – in fact, I’ve barely set foot in my sewing room for a while now. But I’m definitely going to return there.

My next post, if all goes to plan, will be about storage – and squaring project and craft storage with your own needs and idiosyncracies, as well as how to square it with living in a house that you can’t modify.

But, I also have an upcoming event to plan and hopefully create an outfit for – and I want to talk about how to handle a pattern that isn’t available in your size range (or only fits in one spot), as well as how to handle patterns where a specific area just does not fit you properly but you have a garment that does fit that area.

So that’s two planned posts. Onward and upward.

Monthly Makes – Nov-Dec 2021

Forget Christmas, or winter – summer is coming. For how hot Australia gets, I’m always disappointed by what’s on offer in clothing retailers for this season – it’s a big part of why I gave up on them and started making my own. (That and the lack of sun-smart styles – the refrain in so many skin cancer awareness ads from my teen years is that Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer diagnoses in the world, and while I have no idea if that’s true or not I certainly don’t want to find out.)

I’ve felt especially vindicated too in finding out that the Cancer Council’s own advice is that while avoiding the sun is best, opaque clothing is better than sunscreen for safety. While I don’t have especially sensitive skin, I’ve struggled to find sunscreens that play nicely with it – if they’re not greasy, they sting my eyes or cause itching when I sweat, or they leave white marks on everything and make me look like a bad zombie cosplayer.

But, the struggle to keep sewing with a day job is very real.

Thread Theory Eastwood pants/shorts

This is an old staple pattern – I’ve made three pairs before this one, in a few different fabrics. One thing I will note is that if you’re going to use a twill for this pattern, sew your seams at 1cm but don’t change the pattern allowance (effectively, adding an extra 0.5cm of ease all over) – the pattern ease doesn’t seem to be quite enough for twills, especially in the crotch and inner thigh.

I made this pair in The Fabric Store’s heavyweight black linen, and I have enough left over (thanks to a slight miscalculation) that I’m going to try a pair of shorts in it next by reducing the inseam to 30cm. (The shorts I’m basing the measurement on are actually a 28cm inseam, but I like a nice round number.) Unfortunately, I neglected to buy any form of drawstring, so they’re not wearable quite yet.

Sew Liberated Lichen coat

I’ve made… Five of these so far? Not counting toiles? This will be my third sleeveless and second hooded Lichen coats, in linen. My previous hooded Lichen was reasonable, but I tried to make the front square and ran into a struggle with fasteners.

The sleeveless one also features some hacks I added, old and new – back slots for the belt, an extra-wide belt, and extra wide gores fit a swishy hem.

This grey hooded version, on the other hand, is intended to pull double duty as a summer dressing gown. Instead of squaring off the front neckline, I’ve blended it in as much as possible after trimming away the collar.

Cashmerette Harrison shirt

You might be wondering why I’d ever bother with plus size patterns. Truth is? I have curves and they’re a pain to fit around, even if they’re quite small.

This is really more of an ‘inspired by’ than a direct creation – I really only need the level of curvature accounted for in the original in one area, the rest can safely shrink down to almost nothing. Hence the toile – determining whether I keep the six-panel front (using a double princess seam to prevent gaping) or meld some panels (probably the side-most, since I just don’t like armhole princess seams). I could try to create a pattern like this using my body block, and I did try to last year – and then immediately got lost trying to work out the collar.