Friday, January 11, 2019

Waterproof Ski and Alpine Pants: Controlled Exposure Mountain Pants in 3-Layer Goretex

I dug my custom ski bibs out of storage this weekend and took my 6-year old and 3-year old for their first ski of the year. For the 3-year old-- his first ski ever! The smile on his face as he bombed down the micro-bunny hill was priceless.

As a mom, gear matters more than ever... hanging out on the bunny hill is hard, cold work! Lots of time on my knees adjusting bindings, fixing gloves, hauling little layered bodies up to their feet... ;) Through it all I was super glad I put in the time making these bomber snow bibs, mom is a lot less grumpy when cozy and dry. 

Then I realized I never posted this! So here it is, better late than never, in case you were thinking of making your own!

January 2016

Out of the blue, my husband asked if maybe he should ask a friend to take our 5-year old skiing. 

Wait a minute, I thought. I want to take my daughter skiing! 

There was a time when skiing was a winter obsession for me, but since being pregnant and having babies, it hasn't been practical. Now that she's five... well, why not? It could be a really fun thing to do with my kids. 

Of course, gearing up to go skiing is no small task. My feet are now nearly 2 sizes larger than they were before pregnancy, so there was no way my old ski boots were going to fit.  I ski telemark, which is a small market, so renting is out of the question. I solved this problem by finding a pair of my old fave Garmont boots, used, on Ebay, 2 sizes larger than the ones I used to wear. They were about $70. I did have to eat the cost of $20 shipping from the UK. New models of comparable boots cost about $600. Crazy. 

I snuck away for a morning of skiing shortly after the boots arrived. Apparently I still remember how to ski (although I was REALLY sore the next day). 

The other revelation-- skiing in sweat pants is pretty darn miserable. 

So I was searching again for a decent pair of waterproof pants. I bought a pair of old gore-tex pants on Ebay, supposedly in my size... big mistake, they didn't even sort of fit. It became clear to me it was going to take a lot of tries to find a pair that would fit my mama physique. It also reminded me how much I HATE shopping for pants. 

When I came across the Controlled Exposure Mountain Pants pattern, I knew I would have to make my dream pants!

My skiing days have left me with very specific ideas on what makes a good ski pant. Telemark skiiers are also notoriously hard on their gear-- we spend a lot of time in a deep crouch. That means knees and insteps are always in close proximity to the edges of the skis. Telemark is also amazing in powder snow, but that light, fluffy stuff tends to work its way into every crevice, so having a high-waisted bib-style pant is a huge plus. 

My ideal pant is the Arcteryx Theta SV bib. I used to have a pair-- they were an old model when I got them, and they were always on the tight side. No way they are going to fit this mama body! I also sort of regretted the fact that they didn't have full size zips... that was probably why I got them on clearance back in the day. There is also no way I was going to buy these... they cost $549! Not to mention the fact that I'd be a M inseam, and L hip, and a XXL waist (which they don't make). 

So I dug in and committed to making my own dream pants. I purchased my fabric, the pattern, and most of the hardware and notions from Rockywoods. They sell genuine 3-layer Goretex (I used Navy) and Melco seam sealing tape. I ordered some samples of other brands of waterproof breathable laminates, but I know for a fact that 3-layer Goretex will last decades, and I'm just not sure about the durability of other brands. At $25 a yard it isn't cheap, but I will spend more on a quality coating fabric, so it isn't outrageous. The Melco seam tape is $2 a yard, which really adds up... I bought 12 yards, which was barely enough, I used every last bit. I also bought waterproof zipper tape and zipper pulls from Rockywoods for making pockets, as well as sturdy elastic (polyester webbing elastic) and low-profile adjustable buckles for the suspenders. 

I found waterproof 2-way zippers at Zpacks. A 32 inch 2-way separating waterproof zip for $9.95. I ordered two. They came promptly.

When the pattern arrived, I immediately made a muslin. I started with the Large based on my measurements, but it is a unisex pattern and I'm a comparatively short, curvy woman. I added width to the hip and narrowed and shortened the legs considerably. I reshaped the front "bib" panel to guide the straps wide around my chest. 

I didn't see why the back panel had that unsupported rise in the middle, so I just flattened it out. 

After I was satisfied with the muslin, I cut my real fabric. As this was a waterproof fabric and I didn't want to add holes, I didn't use pins. In some cases I used binder clips to hold things in place, but mostly I ended up just lining things up as I sewed. 

I sealed seams with the seam tape as I went. After sewing a seam, I trimmed the seam allowances and stitched them down, then applied tape on the inside to cover then seam allowances (Heather from Closet Case patterns demonstrates this in her tute for sewing a waterproof Kelly Anorak). I set my iron at the lowest setting that would melt the tape (which was pretty hot, it was the bottom of the steam settings), with no steam. I used the edge or tip of the iron, so that the iron wouldn't be resting on the fabric I wasn't sealing. I'd typically seal one edge of the tape first, then go back and flatten it over the seam. Around curves the tape seemed to stretch, so I didn't end up clipping curves. The 3-layer melco tape that I was using didn't appear to stick to the iron, so it was not nearly as messy as I thought it was going to be, and I didn't use any kind of press cloth or silicone sleeve-- the iron was in direct contact with the tape. Adhesion was not always perfect, I often had to go back and give it more heat, and there are places where I'm not sure that I obtained an entirely watertight seal...if they become problematic, I'll have to go back later and try to reheat the adhesive or add new pieces of tape. 
My fabric didn't show signs of distress when heat was applied, but I still tried to minimize contact with the iron in case the heat did damage the membrane in ways that were not immediately. Mostly I finger pressed seams until sealing them, and if I did have to press, I used a press-cloth. 

I added LOTS of pockets. One can never have too many pockets when skiing. Having a place for all of your small items is useful, it prevents rummaging through big pockets with bulky gloves, which leads to dropped things. The pockets are basic exposed zipper welt pockets, using watertight zippers. For some zippers I got fancy and made little zipper-sheds with a piece of folded waterproof fabric sewed into the zipper-pull end of the closed zipper. On the inside, I seam sealed the pocket opening with tape. The pocket bags are made from lightweight rip-cord nylon that I had from another project. 

I love the articulated and reinforced knees on this pattern, and the reinforced patches on the inside of the calves (to protect from ski edges). I used a gray-green waterproof breathable Cordora fabric (no longer available).

I added an internal snow gaiter... I'm pretty sure this was not part of the pattern, but it was pretty easy to improvise based on other ski pants I've owned. The side of the gaiter closes with velcro, and there is elastic and snaps at the bottom to form a tight seal around my boots. I used a non-breathable coated ripstop nylon to make the gaiters... the camo print was on super sale at Rockywoods!

The antique brass snaps came from Ebay... I just bought a big bag of them so that I could go to town. 

The best feature of these pants is the drop seat... it is so awesome not to have to take off all layers to 

Having taken these out skiing numerous times, I can report they are warm and dry. There was one ski day when I was raining and I did get a bit of leakage through one seam in particular that I thought might be problematic, so I have to reseal that one. But overall I'm really happy with them, by far the best ski pants I have ever owned. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Favorite and Fails: 2018 Sewing Year in Review at Unlikelynest

2018 Sewing Year in Review at Unlikely

A week into 2019... hopefully not so far in that we can't take a look back at the best and the worst of 2018! Mostly the best ;). 

Most popular makes (based on blog hits and Instagram likes)

Sequin Amy Jumpsuit, Frida Jenny Overalls, Wiksten Kimono in doublecloth linen, Italian Print Amy Jumpsuit

I'm so proud of all of these, and I love wearing them! I haven't made so many show-y pieces since before my kids were born, lately I've been more focused on basics. A special thanks to Heather of Closet Case and Kelli of True Bias for the encouragement with the #sewfrosting challenge. 

I am very honored to have been featured in Closet Case's Sew Frosting Highlights (in the Oonabaloona category!) and in their 2018 Favorite Makes of the Year, Patternreview's Member of the Month (December), and Helen's Closet's Wednesday Weekly.

Most worn

Liesl/Kalle Shirt dress, Black linen Amy Jumpsuit with Wiksten Kimono, Liesl Shirt with Ginger Jeans, Kalle Shirt with Ginger/Sasha Pants.

While I love pulling out the fancy stuff for an occasional pop in my daily wardrobe or a special occasion, most of the time I prefer to allow my style choices to play a quiet background to my busy life. When I was in Rome for 4 months, I wore had about 5 Liesl and Kalle shirts and 3 pairs of Ginger/Sasha pants, and I wore these non-stop. This summer and fall my Kalle shirt dresses have been central. Lately I've been living in my Black Linen Amy Jumpsuit and Jenny Overalls.

Speaking of basics, I've been fairly successful in my RTW fast this year. Bras and socks are allowed in the "fast" rules, and I definitely did buy these. I felt a little bad about purchasing a Patagonia down liner jacket this year, but I decided that it just would not be time and cost-effective to make this item. I'm really glad I purchased it thought... it works great with my trench coats and my wool coats, singificantly increasing the range of temperatures I can wear them in, and it is incredibly warm and light.

Black Linen Jenny Overalls

Most popular sewing posts from the past

Tilton Asymettric Wool Blazer, Hey June Lane Raglan, Ginger Jeans Pocket Inspiration, Personalizing the Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan

Burberry inspired trench

It's interesting looking back to see which posts have become most popular, they often aren't the ones I would have expected. The trench post is very expected-- I imagine many sewists attempt a classic trench at some time in their sewing. It also makes some sense that the Ginger jeans pocket inspiration post is popular... whenever I make a pair of jeans those back pockets are like a black page staring at me. The possibilities are endless! I should make a new post about tees... the Union Street tee by Hey June is actually my current go to. 

Favorite makes from past years

Kalle Shirt Dress, Missoni Cardigan, Wool Coat, Anthracite Cotton Trench

I haven't made any coats this year, but I so very much appreciate the ones I've made in past years. The Anthracite trench was amazing in Rome this year, and lately I've been wearing the long wool coat all the time with my jumpsuits and Kalle dresses. This summer I lived in my original green Kalle dress. For some reason I've loved wearing my zigzag cardigans this year- the earth-tones Missoni cardigan was made way back in 2013.

Sewing fails

I am terrible at blogging my sewing failures! I know I should... it is very helpful for me to read about patterns that didn't work out for other bloggers. But taking photos of failures is just so depressing. So, for now, a list. Also, just to note--just because these patterns didn't work for me, it doesn't mean that they won't work for you!

--Tessuti Robbie Pant-- The Robbie looked great on Karen Templer and so many others. Technically the fit is fine... but that wide waistband hits me at an awkward point, and ends up rolling down under my mom-belly, which means the crotch lands at my knees... not a good look for me. 
--Tessuti Demi Pant--I think that there is a reason that I don't own any elastic waist pants. The crotch-waist area on this pattern was a total disaster for me... I ended up just chopping the whole top part off and adding an elastic waist that sits on the hips. I love the way the fabric is folded at the hem, but I also was testing this in a linen that didn't have sufficient body to really show off the cool architectural design of these pants. So, a fail for me, but you might have better luck!
--Deer and Doe Myosotis--This is such a spectacular fail for me that I'll probably blog it later this year once I get over my disappointment. Such a lovely pattern, made in a lovely fabric... but the style just looks dreadful on me. I thought perhaps I was going to put aside my dislike of gathered skirts on me... but no, not happening.

Sewing for family

Princess and Pilot, Concert outfits, Christmas PJs, Annual Swimwear

The only family sewing I've managed to blog is their Halloween costumes, the Princess and the Pilot. I also made the Cosi Swimsuit, which was very easy and a great fit for my daughter. Unfortunately the Pattern for Pirates swim trunks didn't work out for my son, I don't know what happened there, but the fit was so off that they were unrecoverable, good thing his ones from last year still fit!

The kids got new outfits for their piano concert, including an Oliver and S. Buttoned up Buttoned down shirt for my son and version of the Girl Inspired Princess Dress for my daughter. Everyone (except me!) got home made PJs this year. My daughter requested a nightgown, so I made her the Ellie Inspired Beautiful Dreamer, with significant fit modifications, in a gorgeous flannel by Dear Stella called Foxtail Forest Treetop Party. For the boys I used the free Pattern for Pirates PJ pants, which was spot on for my son but could use some work on fit for my husband.


Bunny Lovey

Velveteen Rabbit

It's incredible to see all of your Bunny Loveys and Velveteen Rabbits! I should do another roundup post on these, there are so many beautiful ones out there.

So, I could keep on, but I think I'll leave it at that! It's been a great sewing year.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Midnight Blue Sequin Amy Jumpsuit for #sewfrosting

When Heather and Kelli announced their #sewfrosting challenge, the first thing that jumped into my head was a holiday-worthy Amy Jumpsuit. 

The Closet Case Amy Jumpsuit is sort of the perfect simple silhouette to sew try out a wild fabric. In this case... midnight blue sequins. I've never sewn sequins before-- in fact, I've never owned an all-over sequin garment.

I bought this fabric when I was in NYC for other reasons and just happened to find 30 minutes to swing by the Garment District. I can't remember the name of the shop I bought this in, but it was filled with sequin fabrics and very close to Mood.

I did make one tiny modification to the pattern this time around. The straps on my previous versions sit a bit wide on my shoulders and tend to slide down, so I moved the shoulder straps in by 1/4 of an inch in both the front and the back. You can see my previous Amy here, btw.

Apparently, under all those sequins, most sequin fabrics are mesh. Who knew? So instead of sewing the facings, I made a full lining by cutting a second copy of the pattern pieces in navy rayon bemberg.

I cut out the sequin fabric with my rotary cutter. I didn't bother engaging in any sequin heroics like removing them all from the seam allowances-- I just sewed right over them. Neither the sequins nor my machine seemed bothered by this, no broken needles or skipped stitches. Other than their being sequin bits all over my sewing area, no harm done.

Otherwise, I kept things super simple. I skipped the zipper and pockets. I hemmed the lining by machine, and the sequins with hem tape, by hand.

For the straps, I made double rouleau straps from my lining fabric, spaced the width of the wide straps that come with the pattern.

With all of those sequins and the full lining, the jumpsuit feels delightfully swishy. It is a lot of fun to move around in.

However, despite the full lining, the sequins are still sort of scratchy under the arms and even where they press on the lining. I guess one does not wear sequins for the comfort factor!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Frida-alls: Frida Kahlo Overalls with Removable Bib

Frida Kahlo was never known to wear overalls.

However, I think she'd probably consider it, if she were here today. She was known for mixing cultures and time periods in her dress... traditional huipil blouses with contemporary flowing skirts, colonial earrings and revolutionary rebozos. These overalls combine traditional workwear with contemporary fabric designs, and mixes utilitarian with the trendy in the form of a bare-shoulder top. 

The fabric is a Frida Kahlo tribute print by Alexander Henry called Frida's Garden, in cotton canvas. I was a little worried that it would be stiff for a garment, but it washed up soft and supple. My original idea was to make overalls in a dark floral, which I thought would be help make overalls evening-out appropriate and be an excellent entry for #sewfrosting. However, when I came across this Frida print I flat out fell in love. I came across it on, and the picture and description was for the black Frida's Garden in cotton canvas... but when it arrived, it was the cream background. Since the print was even more lovely in person, I uncharacteristically ignored this blatant breach of fabric ordering etiquette and just went with it. 

Oops, my backstrap is twisted! Didn't notice this until I uploaded my photos!

Do I think Frida would approve of this melange of her painting symbolism? Well, that's hard to say. But having painted herself into much of her oeuvre, we know she isn't shy about her imagery. The designer has filled her garden with the monkeys and parrots she famously painted portraits with, in addition to lush vegetation, ripe fruit, snakes, and eyes and arms on canvases. As well as a few of her most famous quotes:

Pies para qué las quiero, si tengo alas pa' volar.
Feet, what do I have need of you for when I have wings to fly?

Tengo ganas a vivir. Ya comencé a pintar.
I desire to live. I already have begun to paint.

I wasn't quite sure what to do with the pattern on the legs, so I mostly let chance decide. I'm not quite in love with the off-set twinning happening in the front, but oh well. I did carefully choose what would be on the pockets though. Frida with monkey on the front left with the "" quote, and Friday with parrot on the right back pocket. 

The pattern is, of course, the Jenny Overalls by Closet Case Patterns. I seem to have difficulty making a pattern just once- you can see my black linen overalls here. The fit of the size 16 was nearly perfect last time, so I mostly stuck with that. The only change I made was to grade the bib from a size 16 at the waist to a size 14 at the top, since the bib on my linen overalls seems to provide a bit more coverage than the pattern pics call for. 

But the biggest change is... the bib is removable. Ta-da....!

I thought these would look cute as pants. Mia (@sewnorth) has a tutorial on Instagram. I didn't follow this to the letter. She added an extra layer to her waistband for the buttonholes... but my canvas was quite thick, so I just made the buttonholes on the inner waistband without alteration. 

Thinking about it now... wouldn't these buttonholes be better horizontal? I didn't really think about it... Mia made hers vertical, and I just followed along. However, with a horizontal buttonhole there would be less worry about the size of the buttonhole fitting on the waistband, and possibly more security against the vertical stress on the bib. Next time! 

The buttons on the front bib are about 1/2 inch, four of them, mostly because that's what I had on hand in my recycled button stash.

I also totally freak'in forgot to add extra to the bottom of the bib when cutting it out. So I added a button band at the bottom.

I did the button sides again (Closet Case Patterns has a tutorial) and realized that I could use the top button as an anchor for the sides of the bib. It is just a little tight to fit the extra thickness on the button, but very doable since jeans buttons have a good shank (is that the right word?). 

The double buttonhole on the inside of the waistband is from me not realizing I could reuse the waistband button. The horizontal buttonhole is the one that I use. 

These jeans buttons came from Wawak. They are really nice quality, and very reasonably priced, as long as you are ordering enough to get free shipping. 

The straps each have one big button in the back (1 inch?)

The overall hardware is from Amazon. I'm not sure what really nice overall hardware feels like, but this feels a little less than workforce quality, but it does the job.

This version came out a little bit tighter than my linen overalls. This is actually a good thing, since the pants need to be a bit tighter to stay up. This is probably in part because the cotton canvas has much less give than a linen fabric... but I think it is also because I was a bit more precise sewing these, for whatever reason. I'm pretty firmly in the stretch pants camp... so we'll have to see whether I find these comfortable for daily wear. 

The top I'm wearing with the pants is a Liesl Classic Shirt in tencel twill, made about a year ago

The top I'm wearing with the overalls is brand new, made to wear with my growing overall collection- the Closet Case Nettie. The original pattern is for a bodysuit and a dress, but I just cut it off at a hip length and then did Heather's tutorial to make it off the shoulder. The fabric is a rayon jersey from the stash. It was a super quick sew!

So what do you think, should I take these overalls dancing?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Princess and the Pilot-- Girl Inspired Princess Dress Pattern, Self-drafted wings pattern

So we finally had a sunny afternoon to get some good pics of this year's Halloween costumes!

It is probably no surprise that my little princess wanted to be a princess. Actually, she wanted to be a queen... probably inspired by the Olivia book about how everyone wants to be a princess, and Olivia wants to be herself and not like all the rest of the princesses, so in the end she decides she'll just be a queen.

Apparently, queens need to be dressed in pink, glittery gowns that go down to your toes. Those were my instructions. 

I was feeling a bit pressed and wanted a pattern that would just tell me what to do without any fuss. The Big 4 pattern companies are full of princess-y dresses, but my experience with their sizing for children's patterns has been dismal and the thought of toile-ing and altering them made my head hurt. 

I decided to take a risk on an independent designer, and I bought the Girl Inspired Princess Dress pattern. I couldn't find a single review, so I was just praying that the pattern was a good one. The photos were lovely, and the style of the dress is the perfect fairy-tale princess dress with just enough decoration to be sweet and classy.  The lifted overskirt that shows the tulle underneath is just adorable!

I had a moment of panic when I downloaded the pattern and the grading looked a bit-- let's just say-- unconventional. However... when I sewed up the lining in my daughter's size by measurements (8), the fit was perfect. I did change the shape of the bodice so that the waist didn't curve inward... my daughter has a nice little round body that does better with a more barrel shaped bodice. And I did increase the side seam allowances (the pattern has 3/8 inch seam allowances, which seemed skimpy to me). 

The directions were also excellent, and they lead you through the process of making a fully lined dress with all seams enclosed and no hand sewing. Yay! 

For the skirt, the pattern just gives the dimensions of the rectangles, in many cases using the entire width of the fabric and gathering to fit. Unfortunately my ruffle attachment would not work with the tulle! But it turned out to be not so bad just gathering the traditional way with two rows of basting. 

The back is closed with buttons, which is a lovely detail. 

I purchased the crown and the earrings on Amazon. I almost bought another of those plastic birthday crowns, but at the last minute I thought perhaps I would see if I could find something a bit nicer. The crown is actually quite sturdy, it feels like it is made of metal and the fake gems are very glittery. 

The queen was head over heels over the earrings. They are a bit flimsy, and the white rubber pads are always falling out, but with a bit of care they seem to work very well for her, and she is able to wear them for hours without pain (or so she claims). 

The queen declared that she needed special shoes and a wand. The shoes were purchased at Target, and we made the wand together from fabric scraps and ribbon and a piece of a dowel.

Leo is very into planes right now, so I had the idea of making a plane or some wings. Cardboard would of course be classic, but seemed like it would be cumbersome, so I thought that perhaps I'd make some in fabric. 

I put the idea into google and lo and behold, these wings by Hanna Anderson popped up. They were almost exactly what I had in mind, and I almost bought them on the spot, until I took a closer look and realized they were actually sort of plastic-y and not nearly as cool as the idea in my head. For instance, what little wimpy jets those wings have!

So I sat down and came up with my own pattern. I used a super-shiny knit fabric from Joannes, and a bit of stretchy orange knit for detailing and the straps. Inside of the wings I used 1/2 inch foam. The jets are two sizes of seltzer bottles (since we don't drink soda!) stuffed with colored cellophane and held on with stretchy straps.

The wings strap on with backpack style straps with quick release buckles, and there are elastic straps for his hands or wrists to go in. 

It is a great costume for a 3-year old with lots of energy-- he was just flying from house to house when we were trick-or-treating. 

The hat and goggles were from Amazon, cheap but effective.

Another successful Halloween! The kids love their costumes, so I expect they'll be favorites for dress-up for the rest of the year.