Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I was amazed to find such a cool pattern, and once I found it, quite a few months ago, making these men's zipzop trews became a bit of a goal. This is Kwik sew 2820 and is a really excellent pattern for the lightweight convertible trousers very popular with mountain climbers and other travellers. I am a girl and I have a pair of RTW convertible trousers in a more female cut. However, I haven't found a pattern for them so if you want to make convertible trousers and are not a man you still might want to get this pattern in order to transfer the details of the convertible parts.

I made these for James since his RTW convertible trousers, while still OK for wearing in the mountains, have suffered a lot of pilling on the thighs and now he says they are not nice enough for normal travel, which is the other thing we use them for.

Here is James being very silly, wearing the zipped-off legs on his arms! Having said that, I did once avoid getting sunburnt by wearing the zipped off legs from his RTW version on my arms. James is now wondering about he possibility of a top with removable arms!

I made the view with the pleated pockets (A I think) and cut small in some places, medium in others, made them extra long and also narrowed the legs considerably.

The only problem I had with construction was that because I went from slightly under medium at the hips to small at the thigh zips, I think I had a bit too much fabric to ease into the thigh hem, and once you have stitched in all the layers of zipper and zipper-guard you can't stretch it to fit. I should have gone down to small 2.5 inches above the bottom of the pattern rather than only 1.25.

The fabulous zip-zopping technology is explained very well in the pattern instructions. It is not difficult, but is has quite a few steps in it. I employed patience and lots of basting. This isn't a thing to tackle in a rush last thing at night. Several bits have to be put the right way up and the right way round so that the zippers un zip the same way on each leg. The pattern tells you to mark all the pieces which is very good advice. Because of the basting I was able to attach pieces and then check that it was going to work. For example, I don't see how I could have checked that the outside leg seams were going to join up nicely at the zipper if I had only pinned it. There is a step missing, which is top stitching the part of the zippers attached to the long legs part. This missing feature was pointed out by James during one of the try-ons, and was easy to add after the rest of the stitching was done, so not really a problem. NB. This pattern puts the zipper pull on the shorts part of the trousers. James says he would prefer it on the legs part, so that is something to try and swap over for next time.

I was disappointed by the design of the back. I should have read the previous review properly as it goes into some detail about this. Anyway, the RTW design only has elastic at the sides, but this version have elastic all the way round the back, which makes the arse look not as sexy as it might. I did not realise this until quite late on so decided to leave it and maybe improve it is I make another pair. (Picture of James' arse included here especially for WMC to giggle at.)

The other review said the fly was very poor. James agrees it is a little too high, but it did not give me any problems in construction and seems to function OK. Probably something to adjust next time though. James also says I have to buy a higher quality zipper next time!

I used a cotton print from local fabric shop. It was on sale - the zippers and other notions together cost rather more than the fabric. I did not, however, buy it because it was on sale, but because we liked it. As it turned out, the small busy pattern is good because it hides the fact that these are convertible trousers. James says the fabric seems quite thin, so perhaps it isn't particularly hard wearing.

I was lucky in having a RTW pair of these which fit James quite well to work from. Changes made: 1 inch off medium size waist-hips, tapering to small size at the thigh zip. Just as well I did that since the small size of zipper (60cm) was the longest I could find. Small size lower legs with extra 3 inches in length, tapering to the bottom width of the RTW version. I didn't use either view A or view B methods of finishing the bottoms (cord gathering/ velcro tab). My version of the legs were narrower so I just did a normal 1.25" hem. If I make a pair for technical use, I may insert a side zipper so the legs can be removed over walking boots.

You can practise your top-stitching with this pattern. I used some thread I had left over from the trench coat. While making that garment I discovered that it is unwise to edge stitch and top stitch if you can't sew dead-straight, so again with this pattern I went with top-stitching only.

One other possible tip. Both James and I have RTW pairs of convertible trousers. The thing that is a real pain when you are putting on the legs is that it is really hard to tell which leg is which. for that reason I used a blue zipper on one leg and a black one on the other in order to try and remove this irritation. The zippers do not show while the garment is being worn, so hopefully it will be a useful feature.

These are partly a muslin for a pair in more technical mountaineering fabric. However I probably don't need to make them for a while since the RTW version are still functional.

Funny that Kwik Sew don't seem to make the more sporty clothes for women. I'd like versions of all the things I've made for my husband but reducing down to my size is going to be quite hard work I think!


Friday, May 19, 2006

Bias Top

I made a skirt but then realised there wasn't anything in my wardrobe that went with a four colour iridescent (ie 8 colours really) bias cut silk skirt of interesting shape. I realised quite quickly that making a on-grain top in the same silk wasn't going to work simply by trying this on with it. The colours don't match even though the fabric is the same as the top piece of the skirt! I thought something kind of v-necky - ie wide looking shoulders would work because it should balance the sticky-out bits of the skirt. I looked through quite a few patterns but didn't really find a perfect one. However, I thought would give this bias top a whirl.

Vogue 9771 - Bias cut top with a strange floppy top, which is called a "cowl". Sounds scary doesn't it? I made the sleeveless top which has only 5 pieces. Should have been a breeze but actually took several evenings trying to get it to fit!

I didn't like the fit (see below under alterations) and I also did not like that the facings were left hanging. I - erm - "catch stitched" them in? I don't know for sure that this is the name of the stitch I used, but it sounds right because you just "catch" a couple of threads of the fabric so that the stitches are invisible from the outside. For the hem at the bottom the pattern said something like "stitch, easing in fullness as required". Made no sense to me so I did the invisible catchy stitchy again because when I tried machine stitching it - it just didn't work.

Going by the sizings, I should be a 14 top and then a 12 at the waist and below. With this pattern I cut a 14 knowing I would have to take in the waist and hips a bit. When it came to fitting I ended leaving the shoulders the same, taking in the bust by 3 7/8", waist by 5" and hips by 6". That was how much it took before the husband's opinion changed from "s'ok spoze. Bit funny.." to "Oh! It's quite nice axtually." !!

The reason for all the strife might be that dupioni silk doesn't sag much when cut on the bias. Having said that. I had no trouble getting the bias cut skirt in the same fabric to fit.

Perhaps some sort of knit top with a v-shaped neck might work better, but this pattern did make economical use of the on-bias rectangles left over from cutting out skirt pieces, and it looks OK, so all in all not a complete waste of time!


Monday, May 08, 2006


Kwik Sew 3270 dungarees.

I cut size S with a half inch shortening at the upper "shorten here" line (because I am 5'4.5" rather than 5'6"), and I cut the legs short too, for reasons of style!? I cut them quite roughly to about knee length but then worked out the final length by trying them on before doing the hems (which is the last step).

I think dungarees often have buttons at the side to enable a closer fit in the waist to bum area. Not so with these, so, unless you use a fabric with stretch, you have to make them wide enough at the waist for you to get your arse through. This potential drawback is saved by there being a belt at the back, which you can use to make a nice fit round the waist. Since you end up taking in quite a bit of fabric round the waist this way, I wouldn't recommend using a bulky fabric like denim for these dungarees. In a lightweight fabric the resulting loose fit gives a pleasant summery "airy" feeling. Those of you who also have to suffer 35 Centigrade 100% humidity summers will understand why this is a good thing!

I used Irish Linen purchased from one of those fabric stores in Soho (can't remember which one) in London. The linen was moderately expensive and is the most on-grain fabric I have met. I pre-washed it and when I laid it out to cut it out it lay beautifully on grain. I don't know if this is a feature of linen in general or if I was lucky and got a particularly good piece.

Linen creases up a lot, but then I think that is fine for dungarees, which are perhaps enhanced by having a utilitarian look about them. The photo is taken deliberately unsmoothed just after cycling into town and back for lunch, so you can see how scrunchy they go in action.

I also made the legs more narrow than the pattern, by about 3.5 inches at the base, leaving the crotch/hips position unaltered and interpolating in between. They would have been pretty baggy at full width! Since I knew I was going to be taking them in rather than letting them out, I worked out the change in shape of the legs by pinning the garment together, and then marking the new seams with a fabric marker after cutting out the pattern small size. I then sewed along my new drawn on seamlines and trimmed away the excess seam allowance.

James couldn't understand why I could possibly want to make these but now he thinks they are fun. I had always wanted some dungarees so I got this pattern and then wondered for a long time what to make them out of. Suddenly realised that old-fashioned linen was ideal for old-fashioned dungarees. It was lucky since I didn't have the pattern in mind when I bought the fabric on a recent trip.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A pretty shirt for James

At this time of year James always wears the same long sleeve t-shirt, which, 10 years on, is faded, stained, mishapen and has several rat-holes in.

So last Saturday an excited James came with me one of our local fabric stores to choose the fabric for his new longsleeve t-shirt. The result was that source of argument between husbands and wives everywhere - a shirt that he thinks is blue and I think is green (AND it was being sold in the green aisle of the shop!). Anyway, the fabric seemed to be quite nice quality interlock, although I was less sure after washing it, when it wouldn't lie flat to be cut out! It is quite stretchy but does not have great recovery. I stitched it very carefully, making sure not to stretch it. The result seems OK at present. Time will tell how well it wears.

I made this shirt from KS 2561 and I cut a medium size, which, the pattern stated would have a chest width 2 inches less than the jumpers I stitched recently for James. This would be OK I thought. I also checked against his old longsleeve tshirt and it seemed close enough.

I added 2 inches to the sleeves but then took a bit off the cuffs because James didn't want so much cuff. I also tried to correct for the fact that James' shirts always appear higher at the back than front by adding an inch to the back. Seemed to work OK. I didn't change the pattern any other way (except to mak ethe base 1 inch narrower than the chest), so I guess this shirt would be rather long on more average sized people. The collar is perhaps slightly wide on the finished article but everything else is OK. I was impressed that I managed to get the collar and cuffs to work - this was my first time with the quarter and stretch routine and I was a bit nervous, especially since I used self fabric rather than ribbing for the cuffs/collar.

I used a size 11 stretch needle and thestraight(ish) stretch stitch.
Didn't finish the edges because this sort of fabric isn't supposed to need finishing.