Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tommy's new suit: Before and After

Back in November I decided that I'd tailor my great-uncle Wally's old suit and give it to my twin brother for Christmas. I went into this with basically no experience, a used $25 Dressmaker 101, and lots of stubborn resolve. The chronicles are recorded here: Concept, initial shaping, some revisions to the plan, finished the jacket shaping, and a brief bit about the trousers.

There was a bit of a delay getting photos of Tom in the suit, so I borrowed it back and took some of my own. Enough stalling, here are the before and after shots.

I started out with this:
And turned it into this:
and to address a few confused viewers, it is the same suit. I didn't dye it, that's just ambient lighting variation. No I didn't move the pocket, the before pics were taken in a mirror, the after shots were taken by my wife. :)

All in all, the work was fairly simple and was actually a bit of fun. The hardest part was picking a lapel shape that I liked. I struggled a little with the trousers, but that was mostly because I had never played with a pant pattern before and I had no idea how they went together. Total project cost, excluding my time (which is always free) is roughly this:

Sewing machine:        $25
Thread:                      $3
Fair value for the suit:  $10

Not bad really. I wish my suits from the store fit this well (I guess they will soon enough). So if you are a young professional looking for a first interview/work suit, or if you want to make an awesome gift for a man in your life, hit up a thrift store and dive in! I'll gladly answer any questions you have along the way.

What do you think? Is it worthwhile to recycle old suits? What are some pitfalls I may have missed or over looked? Leave me some love in the comments below.

I'll sign off tonight with a final side-by-side before/after:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

PM7 pant pattern: Round 2

In my last post I was trying to decide if Pattern Maker 7 was a worthwhile investment of my time. On one hand it offered the possibility of custom tailored patterns. On the other hand it contained incomplete pattern collections, absolutely no sewing instructions, and a high learning curve. In the end I wound up with skinny pants. But a quick redrafting (based upon the same measurements) yielded a totally different pattern, and some much more promising results. Check these out:
I can even sit down in these!
Not particularly form-fitting, but most men's pants aren't (or shouldn't be). I do wish they were a bit narrower below the knee, but that should be fairly easy to do.
And an ass shot, because I wanted to show off that the program actually makes a pretty well fitting seat. I didn't add rear pockets because this was a test muslin and I didn't see the need to mess with such details.

So what are my final impressions? If you are looking for a way to bang out some men's basics (lets face it, that's all men have) and you want to draft the pieces quickly and easily, than Pattern Maker 7 is probably not for you. I found many places where the pattern drafted incorrectly (like the way that the pocket assemblies draft without a seam allowance, even though it shows one) or simply cut corners (like the lack of rear waist darts and the single piece fold-over waist band).

But if you are looking for a program that will design a pattern for those basics, and you are willing to then tune that pattern to get it where you want it (basically, just use it at a starting point for a self-draft) than the $400 + $30 (for the men's pattern pack) may be the perfect thing for you. However, I feel it worthwhile to mention that there are many other drafting programs out there for under $300... and they may offer complete mens collections.

That's about all I have for tonight. It's been a long week here, but I've got some cool stuff for yall on the horizon, including photos of the finished Christmas suit (I borrowed it from Tom and had my wife snap a few shots) and a review of TheSewingGuru.com's tutorial series. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Well that didn't work...

When we last left off, I had decided to try and create a pair of pants using a CAD made pattern. The results were, well, less than spectacular:
Where, oh where did I leave my Desert boots and fixed gear bicycle? As you can see, the pants were mostly a failure. PM7 asks for your exact measurements and says it will add ease for you. I generally like more ease than this:
That is seriously the full range of motion I have for each leg. I will say that the calf-fit wasn't bad, but at the same time, the thighs fit like tights. The heavy taper accentuates the oddness of my leg build and makes me look like a weird androgynous hipster.
But surely the program was only doing what I told it to do right? Perhaps it arises from some metric/imperial conversion error. It has been known to happen, even to the best of us. So I reentered everything (in centimeters this time) and got a very different pattern. Was the difference because I used a measurement file this time versus manual entry? Was it metric/imperial madness? Who cares. Check the difference:
I think my thighs will fit in these pants! I also attached the infamous unknown part to the pant-front to create a zipper shield. The women's pattern did not generate the weirdo, but did create a flap (attached). Also the instructions (which are still pretty vague) have this picture:
Perhaps the men's pattern is not fully debugged? After a long day here are my impressions of PM7 thus far:

The men's patterns seem a bit rough. The women's patterns (aside from being much more plentiful) seem like they would produce solid garments. The men's patterns seem like they will need work. The zipper shield is either missing or oddly detached, there are no darts for the rear waist (I expected that there would be; the women's pants include them-- so have every pair of pants I've ever owned), and the fit this time around was not very good.

The program its self is a little raw too. The documentation is sparse and very technical. The interfaces are not very intuitive. I feel like I could love it (and I really want to) one day. But first I'm going to have to commit a lot of time that I just don't have. Have any of you ever used PM7? Did you just make stuff from the women's collection or did the menswear work out fine for you too?

Next time I'll post up the new pair, and maybe a little love for the garden too. I found a patch of bamboo growing wild, and there are 6 trellises that need building. Stay tuned:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Time to try something new

Why can't Lynette find a roll of tape anywhere in this damn apartment? Because I've used it all on this monstrosity:
That's right, I've decided to make a garment from scratch. It was inevitable really, I couldn't buy stuff at thrift stores and then tailor it forever. Eventually I was bound to grow tired of the same corrections over and over again. Also, Boerne Texas can only have so many size 30-34 trousers and 40r jackets on its thrifty shelves.

But here's the thing: menswear patterns are few and far between. In fact, there is not a single store within 30 mins of my apartment that carries a mens pattern (Walmart has a unisex vest, but I don't feel like that should count). Isn't that sad?

Sure, there are not many men who are into sewing these days (certainly not in south Texas) but come on, don't women sew for the men in their lives too? I know that the internet has tons of shops that I can peruse, and that Crissy has a huge selection too, but that does me a fat-bit-of-good at 11:30pm (when I tend to do all my sewing).

So, in a moment of weakness, I turned to the world of pattern making software. Google had many a great review that talked up the pros and cons of various programs, but in the end I settled on Pattern Maker 7.
I chose it because it has a cool 30-day trial and lots of premade patterns for me to play with. Leena, who seems to have been the chief pattern designer for the program, has lots of tutorials and information about PM7 on her website. Granted, a bunch of it is currently over my head.

I plan to make a pair of trousers and a shirt to test how the program's tailored patterns fit, and if they are good, print out a huge stack of patterns for myself before the trial period expires.

This project also gives me an excuse to use the $2 set of red bedsheets I scored at the thrift store the other day, and this super awesome Christmas present from the greatest wife in the world, Lynette:
Yep, she never does anything half-assed (unlike me). Before I get to that, I need to cut out my pattern pieces. It was kind of a pain cutting around all the taped seams and edges, but much easier than tracing things first. +1 points for CAD sewing.
Seems pretty straight forward, except that I've never made any pants before. There is a brief set of instructions on Leena's site, but not enough to make me feel like I can assemble these in any sort of successful way. Fortunately, I have a plan.
I picked this Kwik sew #323 up at an estate sale a while ago. It's the wrong size (36-40) but but I intend to use it as an assembly reference tool. I can't imagine that there are many different ways to assemble a pair of trousers, but then again, I have no real idea what I'm doing here. What do you think? Is this a bad idea or should I be fine winging it?

Also what the hell is this?
This is part of the pattern, but I have no idea what it's supposed to be. Maybe a flap for the rear pocket? If you have any ideas, I'm all ears. Stay tuned to watch a slow motion train-wreck me slowly figure this out. Also a verdict on PM7's pattern library.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


My wife and I learned that were were pregnant about 9 weeks ago. It's our first pregnancy and my parents' first grand child. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of excitement. Crissy, or should I say Aunt Crissy, had already set her sights (and sewing prowess) on baby clothes. And then came the sonogram:

I'm super excited and super terrified. I have no idea how I'm going to pay for two kids at once. One was going to be a challenge by its self. Wow.

Shock and awe aside, it's time to get busy. My wife is going to need maternity clothes and then we are going to need baby clothes and accessories. It's also possible, maybe even currently happening, that I could gain some 'sympathy weight' so that Lynette doesn't feel all alone in the I-need-new-pants party. Google has returned some pretty good looking tutorials on converting regular pants to maternity ones; can anyone recommend one method over another?

Also, I'd like to thank Thread OvMetal for bringing these disgustingly cute cowboy booties onto my radar:
There are some great pictures of her finished products on her blog. This may be the sort of thing that my mom falls in love with and turns out by the dozens. (I can only hope). Well, that's all for now. I need to get some measurements taken for new sewing projects, give my wife a massage, and order seeds for this summer's garden. Looks like it's going to be a busy growing season all around.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Lets talk (about my ass)

Well, that took longer than expected. Two weeks ago, I promised a plethora of ass shots and a discussion on trouser seats. Blogoshpere, I fully intend to deliver:
Just look at those beauties. Actually, do look at them-- it's two examples of well fitting trouser seats. Notice that there's no bunching or pulling nor is there any excess material. This is what I wanted from Wally's old trousers, and here is what I started with:
Hey! Not bad at all. I guess this project was a breeze and there is absolutely no reason for the lack of progress updates. Well, that would be true, except that this photo is rigged; I am, in fact, cheating.
Awkward posture aside, that's a whole lot of material that needs to come out from the waist band. A whole lot of material:
Taking a pair of trousers in 2 inches is pretty simple. 4 inches means that a fair amount of reworking will be necessary. Plus, I have a confession to make: The last pair of trousers I attempted to "fix" are currently occupying space under my bed, in many pieces, and assembled in a way that my wife would call "Ruined". I really hope that I learned something last time...

Here's what I planned to do: First, take the pants in exactly as I would under normal circumstances. Second, re-work the seat seam to fix the inevitable mess that will be created. Third, narrow the legs down to be less blousey. Finally, hem the length for (hopefully) close to a half brake, and also conceal the damaged section at the bottom of the trouser leg. Alright, enough gum flapping, lets get to work!

The first step is to remove everything that is holding the rear seam together:
The more material needs to come out from the waist, the further down the rear seam things have to open. Since I'm are approaching madness here, I went ahead and opened the seam all the way to the crotch joint:
Flip the waist band up and find the old stitch line. Mark the new width on both sides, mark a line (following the shape of the old line) that runs from your new waist band, down to the seam. Pin that bad-boy and give it a quick stitch:
Sweet. Pull your pins out and give things a test fit. Be sure you find all your pins you do not want to forget one and find it later during the test fit.
Well, that looks like crap. I could fit two more of my ass into the seat of these pants. This is a great example of what it looks like if you take too much out of the waist and not nearly enough out of the rear-crotch assembly. It looks fine from the side however:
I'm telling you, I have curves. Kiki calls it my "Christmas Ham". Too bad you can't really get a clear look at it because it's getting lost in these baggy pant legs. But one problem at a time here folks, lets fix that seat.
To be completely fair, I'd have to post up literally two days worth of photos similar to the one above, as I slowly moved more and more material into the seat-seam. In the end (pardon the pun) I was shocked at how much that seat came in. Just remember to use a strong stitch for that seat once you get it right. I unfortunately do not have a picture of the new crotch assembly (Tommy is supposed to send me one). I do, however, have a few cool shots of how to finish the waist/seat alteration:
When you put the seam back together, make sure that the fabric grain and belt loops are vertical. Otherwise you have to reopen the seam (as I had to) and straighten things out. If things are not squared out, the waist band will start to 'V' out and no longer be flat.
Run a quick stitch-in-the-ditch line down the joint between the trousers and the waist band. This will attach the waistband to the trousers. Flip the inner band down and tack it in place (by hand or by machine), then reattach your belt loops. It should wind up something similar to this:
I was able to press out all of the creases that are evident here at the top. I'd love to show off the final project (then entire suit) but Tommy has yet to send me pictures of it. You'd think that a guy with a fancy dSLR would be more than happy to send his poor old tailor brother a few jpgs, but as of now we'll all have to wait.

What do you think, readers? How'd the pants come out? Any thoughts on how to motivate Tom to send me the pictures? Drop me some love in the comments.

(I want to apologize for the slightly lower quality images this go-around. I'm working from my laptop and GIMP =/= Photoshop.)