Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Suit Rescue

Small, gray, wool and impeccably styled, it was a suit from the 80's approximately the size of my niece.  The price was too good to ignore. I bought it and later made the niece try it on. She was in raptures. Her main concern was the length of the sleeves. Mine was that the skirt was too tight around her middle. Both of us thought that there were only one or two stains, and that they would come out when I soaked the suit in cold water.

The first soaking produced grimy gray water. The second produced water the color of weak coffee.

I used the waistband of the skirt to lengthen the jacket sleeves, and noticed yellowish stains on one sleeve. I released the darts in the skirt front and added another inch to the waist and hips by letting out the side seams. Because Petersham ribbon (stretchable grosgrain) is so hard to find, I used a woven braid to face the waist, and added a button tab at the back, made from the last bit of the former waistband.

It was all done except for the final pressing with steam and pressing cloth. I do this in front of a window, There is an abundance of natural light, and this showed more yellowish stains. All the stains I noticed, I scrubbed with plain cold water. So far, all have come out.
Granted, the stains were faint and could only be noticed in strong light, but having seen them, I couldn't ignore them.

And this makes me wonder what in the world the cleaners of that suit did. If anyone had soaked the stained area in water before sending it through the dry cleaner, none of these stains would  have hung around.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Unconventional Alterations I've Never Read About (But Tried Anyway)

Like most  people, I tolerate a certain amount of annoyance from my clothing because the color is right, the price was right, or  the thing looked mostly good. One day  ALL of my clothing was annoying, and I had no choice but to deal with it.

A couple of years ago I bought  pair of pants a size too big because I knew I could take in the seat. The color was perfect, a gray-lavender. Two years passed. The fabric shrank and faded and I got a little larger. The too-high-in-front waist became annoying enough for me to want to do something about it. After removing the belt loops and the button,  I started my cut where the button sat, and tapered it toward the side seams. The waistband lining was shredded by removing so many threads, so I replaced it with bias tape.

Finally, I sewed the belt loops together with a slit for a buttonhole, and put a button tab on the front. The pants are much more comfortable, but they are still faded. See the dark spots where the belt loops were? If the pants had been brand new I don't think I would have been quite so cavalier about chopping here and sewing there, but the change worked, and I have a new sewing trick.
Recently I  got angry with a pair of pajama pants. If I bent over and straightened up, there was the sensation that I was losing my drawers. Adding a diamond  gusset at the crotch, the most suggested alteration for pants, only added fabric where no extra was needed. Another way to increase the back rise is for paper patterns only. I was not about to  remove all the elastic, increase the scoop in back and add to the sides -- in essence, remaking the pajama pants. I wanted a fix and I wanted it fast.
I cut horizontally from side seam to side seam about an inch below the elastic. At that point, the worst that could happen was that I'd lose a pair of pj pants that I didn't like anyway.  I sewed a rectangle of flannel  to the upper edge, then  tried on the pants and pinned  loose edges together. At the side seams, I needed no extra fabric, but the center back seam required 2 inches. I ended up with  a back addition that looks a bit like a grin, or a semi circle. My pajama pants are now comfortable.

This works for any elastic backed pants where the waistband is not a separate piece. I've done it on pull on jeans, and a dressier pair of pants,  mulberry corduroys with a velveteen insert. As long as I match colors, the addition looks like a pattern detail and not like the salvage effort it is. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pattern Quest: wearable pants

You'd think that with 30 years of pants patterns, I would have one that actually fit. I can find pants in stores. I just can't make them from patterns. It's given me a warped view of myself. The reason is that patterns are made for banana shaped people, and I am a pear. Or so I'm told.

My quest for a decent pants pattern is strewn with many disappointing results. Some are garbage, some are cut up for other projects and one or two get worn no matter how bad they look. My size changes before I get around to altering the pattern, or to making something new from an altered pattern. The whole process is exhausting and discouraging. I think I've gotten fussier over the years. It never used to bother me that I was taking in 2 inches on each side seam even though I used the sizing the package  recommended. I'm not sure why they want us to measure, when they don't pay attention.

The problem with most patterns is that nothing fits well. I alter one thing and discover that another problem was hidden by the major annoyance. Years ago I made a pair of pants from a wornout pair and they were too small. Why? Because the worn out pair was relaxed fabric and the new ones were new fabric. I guess.

From time to time I decide to take my measurements and draw a pants pattern. Several times I've done 9/10 of the work to draft a pair of pants from scratch but I never have the nerve to cut out the pattern.  I have one from the 70s made to Ruth Amiel's instructions in
Finally It Fits. I've got a larger one made to  Donald McCunn's instructions. Making the pattern takes so much time I'm exhausted for the next week. The resulting pattern looks so strange I never make it up. But I save it.  I'm always a different size. Smaller, larger, smaller…

Right now I am larger, and can use a pattern I made from a pair of jeans that almost look decent. They feel fine, so it doesn't really matter how they look. The day before I wanted to use the pattern, I folded all the pieces together and rolled them up. The next day they were nowhere to be found. Today the pieces popped up as if they've never been AWOL. Before cutting them out, I tried the pattern up against the pants again, added a little here, subtracted a lot there, and cut them out.

I'm afraid to sew them up. A friend pointed out I had nothing to lose, that the worst that can happen is that they don't fit.