Friday, July 8, 2016

The Zipper Virgin

In recent years, I've gone back to garment sewing thanks to my sister encouraging me to tackle knit fabrics with my serger.  The online garment designing community is amazing.  I don't know how anyone sewed anything back in the days when you just bought a paper pattern, cut out that terrible tissue and tried to translate the directions into something reasonable, without being able to contact the designer in the middle of the night with burning questions!

Maybe if you had actual sewing lessons, this method worked.  I learned by feel and intuition, so I struggled a lot with those old patterns and had no idea how to resize or tailor anything to me.  And didn't have the patience to go research it.

Back in those days, I had never heard of making muslins.  Muslins are your test attempt at making the pattern.  Usually, people use less expensive fabric since it will be possibly torn out a bunch of times if you have to redo or resize.

I always hope to have a wearable muslin.  I figure if I don't actually wear it, I'll give it to Good Will, so I don't do crazy things like using different fabrics for different pieces.  And I actually do all of the finish details too, so I'll know what I'm getting into when I make the real deal.

Knits are a breeze to make because they flex and shift and don't have to be all that precise.  It had been years since I had attempted to make anything out of another fabric but I gave it a whirl with the Cheyenne Tunic and had decent results.

On instagram, I saw people showing pictures of themselves testing a pattern for chino shorts.  Immediately, I knew I HAD to make these Chi Town Chinos from Alina Design Co.  In all of the pictures, the waist was exactly where I like mine and I knew if I could figure them out, I'd make a bunch.

In case you're wondering, the waist sits below my belly button.  Being very short waisted, this is the only place I like my shorts, pants and skirts to hit.  Otherwise, I could tuck them under my bra.

The day the pattern was released, I printed it and put it together and got to work with an old linen I had bought a hundred years ago.  I think I wanted to make a dress out of it, back when we liked to wear dresses that looked like couches.  I think that style is coming back, so I should hang onto the rest.  It's a fairly heavy linen so I figure it had enough body to work for the shorts.

I had never done a zip fly in anything before, so that was my biggest worry.  The pattern made it seem like the easiest thing to do and it was!  Sadly, I used a recycled zipper, since this was just a muslin, and didn't think about making a stop at the top.  In my thrilled state of actually having a functioning zipper, I put them on, pulled it right up and off came the pull right in my hand.

Not to be deterred, I tried to put it back on.  I recently repaired a dress for a friend whose zipper had come apart.  For her, it was the other end that was the problem and from the bottom, I was able to get the pull back on with total success.  I spent a lot of time trying to get this one back on but I failed.

Eventually, I cut out the teeth of the zipper and put in velcro.  You'd never know.  I got the velcro idea from a pair of pants that I bought at a discount store once that had velcro behind what looked like a real zipper flap.  I never knew if that was intentional or a replacement for a defective zipper.  I have since bought 2 pairs of shorts over time with the same velcro type closure.

I thought I'd make the pockets out of a lighter material since that's what I'd do on a real pair.  I'm glad I did because this fabric is much thinner and doesn't make the pocket bulky.  When I sewed the waist facing down, I somehow caught one of the pocket bags in it, completely bunched and twisted up in there and had to remove the stitching to get it out of there.  Be careful of that!

I worried about these slash pockets because they have facings.  This was one of those times in a pattern where I spent a ridiculous amount of time reading and rereading and turning the fabric and trying to imagine what it would look like.  I was sure I had it inside out.  This was the only point in the pattern when I thought I might be in over my head.

Once I trusted the pattern and did exactly what it said, I realized I had done it correctly and I didn't have to tear anything out.  That's how all of this pattern is.  It's very clear and when it tells you to do something, just as you're wondering if it means xyz, the next sentence clarifies!

I like back pockets in my shorts.  I don't care if they are welt pockets or with flaps.  I need something there as distraction!  I had a really hard time getting equal angles on the bottoms of the pockets, so might just do good old square corners on the next pair.  I won't bother with buttons on these even though they have button holes.  I usually end up leaving pockets flapping anyway.

The biggest issue I had was entirely my blindness.  The are two darts in the back.  I've done darts before, but I always winged it.  I did these as the directions said but somehow, I missed that little circle there with the 10.  I was supposed to make them that long.  I won't show you what I actually did because they look ridiculous and I was way too far in to fix it when I realized they were not right.

I never tuck in shirts in shorts, so no one will see unless I'm waiving my hands in the air like I just don't care.

And if I'm doing that, I won't care about how the darts look.

In case you're wondering, the dart is meant to go down into the pocket area.  I did about 2 inches of a dart so it does nothing that it's supposed to.  It's pretty half assed.

At this point, I'd like to point out that one of the things I've started doing when I sew is look at ready made clothes that I own.  I have several pairs of shorts in this style that I really like, so I got them out to see what the darts looked like on those.  This was when I realized I must have done something wrong because the darts in those shorts went much farther down than mine did.  If you have good quality clothes, you'll notice the details they used once you start doing them yourself and then you can do little cheers when you realize you're up to snuff with the likes of Ralph Lauren :)

This was also how I decided on the length of the shorts.  I looked at where my favorite shorts hit and then measured the inseam.

After I hemmed them, I realized that the shorts I used as my hem model actually go a little lower than I usually like, but I love the shorts so much I hadn't noticed.  My next pair will be slightly shorter.

I emailed Alina, because she said to ask any questions, about the the dart issue and she got right back to me.  I also asked her about the width of the legs.  These seem slightly big around the leg, which is usually the opposite for me!  I have a booty and big thighs for my size, so chino shorts can sometimes be almost snug.  She suggested maybe I should taper them on the next pair.  They are fine, but I think I would like them to be slightly narrower.

I don't know what to do with myself when I'm not constantly rearranging my shorts :)

So, I have to confess a little something.  Even though I've been around for 4 decades and I know all about the mean tricks that companies play on us with sizes, I am still very  much stuck on certain sizes for clothes.  I seriously will not even try on a size bigger than 4 in a store and if that doesn't fit, I decide it's not meant for me.  When I can wear a 0, 2 or 4 depending on the store, I just won't allow myself to go any higher.

I'm well aware at how stupid that thought is, but it's my thought, I own it and I'm ok with it.

So, when I measured myself for this pattern, I literally keeled over when it registered at a 10!  A 10?????  DOUBLE DIGITS?  The measurements for a 2 and even a 4 were way below what I probably could have worn even at my skinniest in high school.  This isn't a cut against Alina, it's just an illustration of the way sizes vary.

When sewing with knits, my sizes have always been around a 4 or small or whatever the smaller end of the scale is.  To suddenly jump up to the middle of the sizing on this pattern was so strange for me.  But, I knew there wasn't going to be any kind of give like with knits, so it was either go with the 10 or not do it at all.

I also had to take into account that I haven't ever made something just for the bottom.  My top is smaller than my bottom, and I've been making knit dresses and tops, so it would make sense that a size for my bottom half wouldn't match.

I'm not kidding when I say I debated this for a while.

After deciding that this did not mean I had suddenly gained enough weight to go up 3 sizes overnight, I went with it, kind of hoping they would be so big, I could laugh about that time I mismeasured and thought I was a 10.

Not laughing.  They actually fit.  There is the slightest possibility I could go down one size.  They are so comfortable as to make me think that wearing them all day might stretch them enough that the waist would be floating around.

And if my hands are in the air....  I probably wouldn't care about my open waist either.
And maybe the leg would be slightly.

And when I fold them next to my ready made shorts, they are the same size.  They are just a 2 digit size instead of the lesser end of the number line.  And since I don't put size tags in my clothes, I won't be constantly reminded of the size whenever I put them on!

I guess we could call these my big girl pants.

Overall, I love these shorts.  The details made it so much fun.  I'll never wear a belt but the belt loops are another one of those essentials for distraction that I want on my shorts.  I don't actually need a lot of shorts because I currently have some that I love, but I want to make sure I have some backups, so I am off to find some material.

I definitely don't want to use something too light.  When I first thought about them, I thought a light seersucker would be great but that would be ridiculous.  These shorts need structure.  I keep touching a pair I got at J.Jill that are the most amazing twill and I  know I will not find the likes of that at Joann fabrics.  But, I don't have the patience to search online and wait, so I will make another pair, possibly in an 8, out of something I find and then see what happens.

There's also a skirt option which I will make for sure.  I used to really dislike this style of skirt but I found one in my closet this spring that I wore a lot and like the way the waist sat, so I am pretty sure I need to make a few.  I'm already envisioning colors that I know don't exist so this will be an exhausting search for the rest of my summer.

If you've never put a zipper in pants, I suggest trying it.  It seriously want to make a bunch just so I can clap when I see the zipper placement!  It's far easier than any dresses I ever put zippers in.

Linking here: 


  1. hands off to you making those shorts they are great! I gave up the sewing machine a long time ago. I did make a blazer once and it was wearable, sort of, lol.Thanks for linking up to Merry Monday! Pinned to the MM Board! Have a great week!

  2. You may have seriously just sold me on this pattern. I held off on it because I have several other shorts patterns that I need to get to, but I love how these fit you! I loved your post, you crack me up, lol!

  3. Great tips here!

    I would love for you to share this with my Facebook Group for recipes, crafts, and tips:

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!


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