Pants: A Pain in My Ass

After making some very cute mid-to-high waisted shorts from a vintage Simplicity pattern a spring or two ago, my interest in making pants sky-rocketed. I have always hated shorts on myself; I felt like my legs were too short and curvy for them to be flattering, which looks even dumber written out on my computer screen than it sounds in my head (there is no such thing as “too” anything when it comes to bodies, but whatever, body dismorphia strikes again, etc., blah blah blah). But the simple, non-pocketed silhouette and high rise of the shorts made me feel like my body was proportionate in them and I became pretty infatuated with the look, leading me to believe that I might be able to make the perfect fitting pants for myself that I never seemed able to find in stores. I generally don’t like pants. Skirts and dresses are my go-to, and now that I live in Los Angeles I can almost get away with hardly ever having to wear pants except on the chilliest of winter days (think 50 degree-age, which is about as low as it gets in the day time). That said, I have come to appreciate the ease and functionality of wearing pants more often now that I have a dog that needs walking three times a day. It took me years to finally cave in and invest in some skinny jeans, and even then I wouldn’t consider a pair unless they had a good stretch content and a high waist (the low rise, butt-crack threatening, boot-cut fit of the late 90’s and early 2000’s was a real travesty). But sometimes I don’t want to wear jeans! Sometimes I want to wear bottoms that are a little more classic, that don’t leave seam lines up and down the sides of my legs after several hours of wear, that feel comfortable AND slimming, but don’t leave a 3 inch gap in the waist area from the difference in size between my waist (small) and my booty (not as small). Perfecting the Simplicity shorts pattern was the first inkling I had that I could make an awesome pair of pants for myself that would fit well and make me feel like I looked great, but I didn’t actually take action til Gertie’s second book came out. In it was a pattern for a pair of slim fitting cigarette pants, which I think is pretty similar to a pattern she released through Simplicity before her second book was available. I adore Gertie’s patterns, and have been hooked on her work ever since I got her first book of vintage patterns a few years ago. Hers was the first set of patterns I used that seemed to fit my body right out the gate- they required little to no adjusting, unlike the patterns from the big companies which always seemed to run at least a size too large and never fit my proportions very well. Gertie’s waist-to-booty ratio was a dream come true for me (her pencil skirt pattern fit me so beautifully I think I teared up when I first tried on my wearable muslin), so I had high hopes for her pants pattern to work well for me, too. Fortunately, it did not disappoint. The fit was incredible, and I didn’t have to grade between sizes or anything. That, however, was only the beginning of my pants learning curve.

Cue dramatic music.

The first muslin I made was out of some leftover wool herringbone with a slight stretch, and I was secretly

these don't look nearly as bad as they feel

these don’t look nearly as bad as they feel

hoping they would be wearable, cause the material was great, and who doesn’t love a wearable muslin?! I finished the pants, held my breath while I tried them on, and squealed cause they fit so beautifully- no gap at the waistband! comfortable! slimming! go, team! But holy shit, they were itchy as all get-out. Which is no surprise since they were made out of WOOL. ‘Okay,’ I thought, ‘no big deal, I will just line the pants with a silky type fabric and I will be good to go!’ I bought some inexpensive lining material and looked up some tutorials on how to line a pair of pants. But umm…lining slim fitting cigarette pants isn’t actually a “thing”. photo 5

Like, maybe people have done it with success, and kudos to them, but for me, it just wasn’t happening. Nevermind the fact that my lining wasn’t the right kind of material and didn’t have enough give in the right directions to fit comfortably over my legs, but they also just kind of bunched up inside the wool and twisted around and got caught in all the wrong places, even when tacked down to the wool pants’ seams. It was kind of like trying to wear a slip under a pair of tights; the pants were too slim fitting to allow room for what was essentially an entirely new pair of pants.So the wearable muslin was obviously not gonna work (and no, I was not the least bit interested in wearing pantyhose underneath my pants to reduce the itch factor- what am I, my mother??) but at least I knew that the pattern fit perfectly.

I decided to try the pants in a better fabric, this time a high quality stretch denim, which worked much better, except that now, with a thinner material than the wool, I started to obsessively over-fit the legs of the pants, taking them in more and more, over and over again, so that when I finally finished them, they were so tight that not only could I BARELY stuff a foot through the leg opening, I could also barely bend over. The calves of these pants looked like they were painted on. Which perhaps is fine for a photoshoot or something, but not very realistic or functional for every day life.

admittedly weird choice in zipper color.

admittedly weird choice in zipper color.

I’m not sure if these jeans are wearable cause I haven’t worked up the energy to spend the 5 minutes it takes to put them on, I am guessing no. I am considering cutting them off below the knee to turn them into a 50’s style capri, and maybe the fit will be better then, but so far they are still folded on a hanger, mocking me in the corner of my craft room.

Okay, so THIRD pair of cigarette pants! Moved onto to a green stretch cotton twill, kept the pockets (although I hate pockets on trousers) and this was my very first success, except for one weird adjustment that needs to be made: the front seam

no idea why the color looks messed up in the photos- in person you can't see it, i swear!

no idea why the color looks messed up in the photos- in person you can’t see it, i swear!

dips down a bit, and rides on my waist slightly below the sides and back, so I am going to add just a touch more material to the front seam allowance to see if that helps at all- it’s not the rise or crotch cause everything fits perfectly everywhere else, and if the crotch were any higher I would feel like I was wearing a front thong. Otherwise, the pants are perfect!photo 7

With the success of this pair, I decided to try another in a fabric with the same amount of stretch made with a beautiful paisley pattern. I fall in love with pants like this all the time at JCrew, but their bottoms consistently fit me so terribly that I stopped even trying them on years ago. Anyways, by this point I was an old pro at making this pattern, and I was super excited to add these perfected pants to my wardrobe, so in only a few hours over a couple of days during the Christmas holidays I was able to sew them up and give them a try. I waited to attach the waistband to make sure there were no fit issues and…I…couldn’t…even…pull them up…over my KNEES! In horror, I stretched and ripped the pants to try and pull them at least up to my waist, but I couldn’t even get them past this here booty, despite the fact that I had made this pattern several times by this point and I knew that the sizing was perfect. And then I realized my (HUGE) mistake…in my haste to get this pattern started, I didn’t pay attention to the direction of stretch in the fabric, which just happened to run perpendicular to the selvage as opposed to parallel to it, the way most knit fabrics I have worked with run. So my pants could stretch real long from top to bottom, but there was practically no give whatsoever to go around my legs, meaning it was nearly impossible to pull them up over the widest parts of my body.

see?

see?

Oh, was I mortified! But also kinda sorta happy to have learned a valuable lesson in all of it- ALWAYS CHECK TO SEE WHICH DIRECTION YOUR STRETCH GOES WHEN SEWING WITH KNITS. Perhaps, dear reader, this can be a lesson to you (if you haven’t learned it already, which you probably have, because NO, DUH) so you wont have to waste some beautiful fabric on a really silly oversight like I did. I should have KNOWN something big and terrible was about to happen with this garment. In hindsight, I realize that I have a tendency to make lots of little mistakes before I make big ones. Case in point: with this one pair of pants which, as I mentioned, I had already made SEVERAL times, I managed to sew the back of the pants to the front of the pants with the wrong sides together, AND THEN, once I took out all my stitching, I managed to sew the two front legs together at the inseam, effectively created a long, very ugly denim skirt. Quick and fast sewing is just not really my forte, and the bigger of a hurry I am in, the more mistakes I am apt to make. Coincidentally, the more mistakes I make, the less likely it is that the garment will actually be wearable. It’s all in the math, I guess.

So. In total, we have one pair of jacquard pants ruined, one (possible capri) denim that I most likely wont be able to sit down in without getting a yeast infection, one perfect, pocketed pant in green khaki, and an itchy herringbone wool w lining that, having tried on again so many months later with new eyes, I’m thinking might actually be salvageable. The lining inside is too tight around the calves, making the fabric pull when I walk, but I think I might have enough seam allowance left in them to take them out just a bit more. If I can get them to *comfortable* status, I will definitely wear them, because the fit is great and not as funky looking as I remember them being (although this last try-on has further convinced me that I need to take the zipper in just a touch). WOW! Another lesson learned! All garments thrown into the BUTTHOLE BIN should be tried on no less than seven weeks later to reassess fit, functionality and likability. This wont be the first time I reacquainted myself with a discarded unfinished garment, only to find out that it was indeed worth rescuing. I like doing that. Cause I HAAAATE throwing disasters into the BUTTHOLE BIN.

Oooh, that’s a really great idea for a future post, eh? Taking a walk down BUTTHOLE BIN lane?

New year, new rack.

COAT rack, that is! (ba dum ching)

When we first moved to LA, my wife and I rented a really cute house across from a beautiful, hilly cemetery and started to try and build up our pitiful collection of furniture. We had lived in furnished spaces for our previous four years in Vancouver, and everything we had kept in storage in NYC was cheap and ugly and falling apart. It was the need for a nice, big, solid dining room table and my disgust at how expensive furniture can be that inspired me to try and learn how to build it in the first place. Anyways, as you can imagine, in our first few weeks in Los Angeles making our new home, there were tons of trips to Home Depot, and just as many to the Rose Bowl flea and Ikea and World Market and Target and vintage home goods stores, where we could fill in all the holes of what we needed but could not make for ourselves. Our unfurnished rental had a large living room with a fireplace and a tall, arched ceiling, but no foyer or entryway space, so on a whim, I purchased a ridiculously (and unsurprisingly) overpriced iron coat rack from World Market. expensive ass coat rack

Full disclosure, I love/hate World Market. Their aesthetic is awesome, but their quality is shitty. Sometimes I just go in there for a little inspiration and a root beer, but I complain the whole time about how we shouldn’t buy anything cause it’s just gonna break unexpectedly.
So anyways, a few months after moving to LA, we bought a house and had to move again, with all the furniture we had made work for our rental space. Most everything translated well in our new home, including the the cute antiqued coat rack, which has provided an excellent space for us to put all our leaving-the-house shit for the past couple of years. However, this year when we got our Christmas tree, we had to move the coat rack out of the way and into the office to make room for it. And holy shit, what a difference the absence of a coat rack made! Our house is bigger in square feet than our old rental, but the living room/dining room is much smaller, and the ceilings are normal height. It was only through living a few weeks without the coat rack that we realized how awkward it had been in the room and how much space it took up.

photo 1The above photo doesn’t really do it justice, so you will just have to take my word for it- it crowded the area and ruined sight lines to the big window we have in front. So we got rid of the thing, kept it in the office for the holidays, where it continued to be in the way and take up too much space, but was less obvious. I needed a solution, something to house our bags and scarves and jackets, but something that didn’t involve having to use that bulky (expensive) coat rack. You see behind the rack to the wall next to the chalkboard? All the empty space on the left side? I hated that about as much as our huge rack (!). It was only apparent when you closed the door, but that space was usable and felt weirdly empty with nothing there. So, problem solved: get rid of the coat rack in the house and make a wooden something-or-other to hang on the wall in that empty space.

The next part was pretty easy; assembling some hooks and proper screws and finding a nice old piece of wood to reuse (this was from a shelf that had mostly fallen apart in the backyard when it flooded/ rained for the first time in a year). photo 2Claire sanded the board down but kept most of it as is cause the color and distress in it looked nice, and I screwed in some hooks on the front, and a few smaller ones on the bottom side of the board). photo 3

Positioned her on the wall, screwed her into the stud (!!)) and voila! Bye, bye, iron coat rack. The hooks used don’t all match each other, cause I couldn’t find four of the same ones, but I kind of like the mishmash look of them all together- plus, you can’t really see the hooks when they are covered in chilly weather accoutrement.

Final look: photo 5

Cleaner, opens the space and makes it much brighter, and provides a better spot for our armchair (not seen in the pic) which used to be shoved up next to the coat rack. The room looks so much bigger and less cramped, and I love being reminded of how important it is to rearrange furniture every once in while. Sometimes it just takes new eyes to recognize old problems. And speaking of old problems, I have a bulky expensive coat rack to give away if anyone wants it.

Popover Poncho

Being a better blogger (BBB) has been on my list of priorities for months now, and it’s probably not a coincidence that I am trying to do it right after the new year. I’m not that big into resolutions (or maybe I am? but I just think of them as goals? and I do them throughout the year?). But I do know that I appreciate the energy and motivation that a new year brings- my favorite part about the holidays is taking all the decorations down and cleaning up and having a clean slate. I’m the (relatively annoying) kind of person who refuses to start a new project til the last one is cleaned up and everything is neatly put away- I don’t like starting new ideas with old mess in the way. Anyways,  I can’t complain about my 2014, but there is *always* room for improvement, right? So I am jumping on the LET’S DO THINGS BETTER IN 2015 bandwagon and hoping that I get better pictures of my projects so that I can post them here and talk about them and…you know…do whatever else one is supposed to do on their blog.

So here goes.

Today, Claire and myself, accompanied by my in-laws, finally made it to the Arboretum. I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to wear the Popover Poncho by April Rhodes that I made over Christmas break, so I layered it over my Snowbunny Sweater (which you can’t see) for extra warmth, due to the recent *cold snap* that we got here in Los Angeles a few days ago (east coasters, hush that laughing).

poncho pullover_yellowleaves

This is the first pattern I have made from this indie brand, and it was really great- straightforward directions, and a quick sew. The photos with the instructions sometimes didn’t translate well to the written directions, but it wasn’t hard to figure out. It would be a little tricky for a super beginning sewer, but certainly not impossible. The only unfortunate thing (for me) is that the pattern is only available as an at-home print-out, as opposed to having files for at-home printing AND print-shop printing. I hate printing patterns out at home. I always re-use paper from the backs of old scripts/sides to print the patterns on, and my printer is great and efficient, but inevitably there is always some sort of mismatching with lining up all the lines from the patterns and I end up having to fudge the edges to ensure a smooth fit, either clipping off or adding to the pattern allowance (and before you ask, no it’s not my printer or the fact that I re-use paper- this mismatch has happened on every printer I have used, regardless of whether I use brand new or old paper). Printing patterns out at a shop costs more money, but it saves times and ensures that the pattern is perfectly adjusted, and it doesn’t waste any of my precious (and expensive) printer ink. Anyways, at-home vs printer shop is a personal preference, but I like when both options are available (thank you Heather @ closetcasefiles for showing me the light)!

I made this cape out of a medium to heavy weight herringbone wool and lined it with a soft grey knit from my favorite fabric store in Los Angeles called- what else? The Fabric Store! They have the tidiest, most perfectly curated fabric shop I have ever been to, and their selection hits all price points, but the quality of even their lowest priced fabric is excellent. I am so thrilled to have discovered this gem of a store since I refuse to shop at Mood and Michael Levine’s, though a great source, can be a little overwhelming and time consuming. photo 5

So, since this is the first time I have tried to purposefully blog about a handmade garment, as opposed to just posting a picture of it on instagram accompanied by a few emojis and linking it to tumblr (the plural of emoji is emoji, right? Like fish? Anyone know? Or care? Besides me?), I realize that my blogging skills are WAY lacking in the photo department. I should have gotten pictures from different angles and sides instead of posing for the same series of head-on shots in different locations. SORRY, I’M NEW AT THIS. STOP YELLING! I kind of hate taking picture in public spaces. I feel so embarrassed, cause it makes me feel vain, which is silly, because I don’t think there is much wrong with being vain when you can still acknowledge and appreciate the beauty in others, but we live in a culture that doesn’t have a lot of experience allowing women to relish in beauty that isn’t meant explicitly for the male gaze, and also, documenting oneself in photo form has a bad rap which is a shame, and also, WHO CARES what anyone else at the Arboretum has to say about me posing with my cape?? (queue Big Sean’s “I Don’t Fuck With You”, my official 2015 anthem).

Okay, so, I guess that’s it! First DIY blog post of the year? DONE! And I have so many on the back burner just WAITING to be photo documented so I can bore anyone who stumbles across this site with details about my adventures in DIY-ness. I am so excited! Let’s see how long this blogging enthusiasm lasts! Anyone care to place a wager?

 

DIYing It Up

Thanks to a blog post I read in November of 2012, I was introduced to a new book that had just come out, called The Handbuilt Home, by Ana White. It was purported to  be a book that gave easy, comprehensive instructions to make furniture, no matter your experience level. On a whim I put the book on my Christmas list, and on the plane ride from Florida, where we spent the holidays with my family, back to Los Angeles where me and my partner had just moved, I read the book cover to cover and was penning a list of all the things we needed to buy at Home Depot on a drink napkin. Since putting all our stuff in storage in New York and spending 4 years in furnished rentals in Vancouver, we had no furniture to speak of, and more than anything, we needed a table and some places to sit; our first days in our LA rental found us in one primary spot in the house: a mattress in the middle of the living room floor, where we slept, ate, watched tv, read and cuddled. It took hardly any time at all for the coziness factor to wear off.

Anyways, my logic was this: we could either spend over a thousand dollars on a finished beautiful dining room table, or we could spend half that money on tools and materials and build one ourselves. Then, if we found the process to be fun and worthwhile, we could KEEP building furniture, making the investment of tools more cost effective with each project. Unfortunately, after our first two projects (a Farmhouse style dining room table and a matching bench), Claire’s interest had waned, but mine grew, and over the past year and some change I have continued to build furniture by myself, becoming more competent and taking on more challenging tasks. So far we have built the aforementioned dining room table and bench together, and I have worked solo on a coffee table, bookcase, printer console, upholstered vanity stool, and a rolling kitchen island, along with a slew of other smaller woodworking projects.

I wanted to share my latest furniture DIY creation here on my blog, because it is my most ambitious project to date. We recently got a master bathroom renovation to turn our tiny, barely functional hallway bath into an en suite with much more space and efficiency. In trying to make the most of our budget, I decided to take on the task of building our vanity, which, if purchased in the style and materials we wanted, would run us no less than $1500. With some free plans from Ana White’s website and a bit of advice from our contractor, I built the tile topped vanity from scratch and tiled the surrounding backsplash for $490, and it was custom built to fit the exact measurements inside our new bathroom. The project took about 11 days from start to finish, and the most difficult part of the whole project was the tiling. I had never tiled before and it was WAY more intense than I anticipated- I sprouted stress-induced fever blisters within hours after all the grouting was complete. I don’t think you can put a price on fever blisters, but all in all, the project came out beautifully and I am very very proud of it!

vanity1

I built the wood part of the vanity in my garage and when it was ready for the next steps, our reno crew moved it to the inside of the bathroom.

IMG_0379

I had to space out the tiles to get an idea of placement and figure out which ones I needed to cut.

vanity6

I had no idea that tiling was such an intricate process and that there were so many PIECES involved! Edge tiles, corner tiles, border tiles…the list went on and on! Thankfully we used a simple subway style tile for our vanity so our local hardware stores always had what I needed.

vanity5

After adhering the tiles to the surface and edge of the vanity, they need to be taped so that gravity doesn’t pull them down and the edge pieces fall off.

vanity4

It took a while to find the perfect knobs and hinge hardware for these cabinet doors, but we eventually found some pretty crystal knobs that elevated the Tiffany blue color of the vanity (which was spray painted for a smoother finish).

vanity2

Tiling is complete here and the sink was installed by the reno crew. The sink was purchased at the Habitat Rehab store for only $20, and it was like brand new!

vanity3

Finished vanity with tiling, and you can spy the gorgeous black and white penny tile underneath (a tiling project that I did NOT undertake- I left that to the professionals!)