Saturday, October 24, 2020

Random Threads #39: podcasts, jeans, and patterns that use a lot of fabric

To underscore what a strange year this is, I just checked and my last Random Threads post was way back in April. I like to do them every few months as I always have things jotted in my notebook to share here. So here are a few of the things that have caught my attention.

Let's start with things that are getting me through the "inside times" as I have seen it called. 

Do you listen to podcasts? Probably so and I listen to a LOT of them, they are such a good accompaniment to sewing, exercise, even gardening.   My new favorite is Fiber Nation, the topics are super interesting and the speaker's voice is extremely calming (something I prize in podcasts these days.) The tagline is Textiles, Craft and Culture so it will likely appeal if you love fabric and fibers.  A couple of other podcasts I like are History Extra from the BBC, and Shedunnit (topic is golden age mystery writers and books with a nice amount of 20th century society/culture included). I will give just about any podcast a try if it's about science, nature, history or sewing. (but my real favorite is How Did This Get Made, which discusses terribly movies in a raunch and hilarious way)


Are jeans over? I certainly hope not, however I've read that people are wearing jeans less and something stretchy much more. It will definitely be the winter of the sweatpant, or leggings or whatever is cozy and comfortable. With our weather here I almost never even put on jeans from June to September, and this year we are still in shorts weather as of Oct 20! And I rarely wear leggings except for exercise. So I'm actually looking forward to wearing some jeans again as our weather cools.  I like wearing them even if I'm spending the day at home, all those pockets are handy and I find them warmer than other pants. Plus I just made a new pair of Ash jeans in corduroy from my stash. For this version I tried the boot cut but I haven't hemmed them yet - I'll have to see how they look with boots or flat shoes before I commit. I bought this wide-wale stretch corduroy many months ago at Joann on a whim, and I like it so much I just bought the same fabric in black for another pair. 


Size charts - who do they fit? That is an ongoing area of discussion in sewing internet-land. I think there are two issues in that question. The first issue is the size range - whether for a particular pattern it covers all ends of the size range. In particular for sizes above size 16 or 18. Certainly an overlooked portion of the fashion industry in both ready to wear and sewing. I think it's so smart to make patterns for as many sizes as possible.  But to my mind the second issue is the pattern fit. Even if based on the pattern details you are exactly the same as the measurements listed, the pattern may fit poorly and that is due to variations in body shape. I think a lot of people start sewing, and then get a few simple (both to fit and sew) items completed and them move on to items that have a more specific fit and get very discouraged when the aren't happy with the fit. I can only say that it's something that everyone has to deal with - rarely does something fit exactly in a particular size. I think it compares to going to the store and trying on clothes, you can try on 100 items in the same size but they won't all fit. Having taught sewing classes these last 3 years has made me very thoughtful about the process of learning to sew. It actually has so many facets, from choosing the right fabric, learning techniques, fit, using sewing tools and machines and working with a variety of fabric types. Learning to sew starts to add up financially as well, with machines, classes, tools, fabric and patterns as up front costs and then the possibility of sewing something that is not what you want to wear. On the good side, there are so many more possibilities to get help than there ever have been. If fit is giving you trouble I suggest reading all the posts by Gabby on the Sewcialists blog. She is a technical fashion designer and writes so well on all these issues. 

Are you making Zoom shirts?  I think I did on that last top I made.  Basically a shirt that looks good on your computer or phone video camera - that allows you to look put together while in a meeting but you know that under the desk you are wearing pajama shorts and fuzzy slippers :)  Last week I was speaking to my neighbor in the driveway, she had on makeup, a cute top and very pretty earrings, then some very casual shorts and house shoes. Suddenly she said "oh I have to go I have a video call in 2 minutes!" I suspect this scenario is playing out all over the country. Which has me looking through my stash for fabrics suitable for interesting tops. For my December video chat with the tax accountant do you think sequins might add a festive touch or be a bit much?

Do you read Threads magazine? I think if you are looking to level up in your sewing it's really helpful. I can say that I learn something from just about every issue. Even if it's some small little tool that I didn't know about, or a new method for something I am already familiar with, I think it packs a lot in each issue. I'm sure that sewing magazines (like a lot of specialty magazines) are an endangered species but I find they way they explain and use diagrams to illustrate concepts is really outstanding. My feeling on any time spent reading, watching video etc is if I have learned something new then it is totally worthwhile. I far prefer reading to watching videos  - we can all read an article in a few minutes in the time someone on YouTube tells you all about their channel and other extraneous (time wasting) chat. 
Anyway - if your family is asking what you want for Christmas this might be a good thing to put on the list. Like any magazine, in a single issue there are things that are not of interest at all to me but there is always something useful. Look at some of the articles on these covers, better fitting pants, better lining patterns, sleeve heads, invisible zippers, oh yeah baby talk to me 😉

Threads mag image

My current peeve - style have turned to looks that use A LOT of fabric. Like 4, 5, 6, and even 7 yards of fabric. That is a LOT of fabric to haul around on your body. Not to mention cutting out. The current winner might be this Vogue pattern V1723 that takes between 5 to 7 yards of 60" wide fabric. Granted it is described as "special occasion dress" but I think that special occasion looks like you are a member of the church choir. But there are so many patterns out now with full sleeves, ruffles, tiers etc and all these features take a lot of fabric. I guess my taste tends to a more streamlined or tailored style and I can only take so much of ruffles or tiers. Also dress and skirt lengths have really changed in the last while with hem lengths getting longer recently. Let's hope this is not an economic indicator as it has been claimed in the past - here's a good explanation of that theory and why it likely doesn't really apply now-or ever. 
The other thing that always comes to mind when women's clothing has a lot of fabric is that it's actually restrictive - or maybe even unsafe. Can you move fast when wearing 4 yards in a skirt? I have read too many articles about Victorian ladies whose skirts caught on fire or were caught in machinery. Not to mention the requirement in some societies to cover women's bodies. For me, I like to buy between 1 or 2 yards of most fabrics and being short I can make most things with that amount so it's also a question of cost - extra fabric required means extra cost no matter what size you are making. 

How do you feel about message or admonitions on sewing pattern instructions? I fall into the category of "just the facts, please".  Sewing along and following the instructions, and then you come across a line saying something like "Yay, you just completed a welt pocket, now relax with a cup of tea" or "you are a sewing superstar".  Are you kidding me? They seem a bit patronizing and perhaps more in place in a children's book although I think a lot of kids can identify the same type of condescension. Have you seen a cookbook with similar line - "oh you now finished chopping and sautéing those onions, have a glass of wine". Wait a minute - perhaps that's a given in cooking :)  Anyway - I just want very specific and detailed instructions with no extras. Spend the time and space in the instruction pages for better diagrams! So what do you think, these lines in sewing pattern instructions are encouraging or annoying? 

That's enough of my editorial comments for the day - the weather has turned chilly here (meaning temps in the 60's ℉. Yeah I know this is mild for my friends in places like Minnesota or Washington where snow is already falling. For us it means I can go outside and work in the garden without boiling since it was 92℉ just a couple of days ago. Now if only it would rain!!!! Please!!!

And I didn't even get to all the topics on my list, such as pattern companies that are better at marketing than pattern making, annoying ads on Wordpress blogs - why are the ads so gross? Speaking of weird, how about the random male IG followers, so often "military officers" or "doctors" who are surely bots. Why do they choose those identities? Not that I really want to know. And how about the ripoff of the Zadie jumpsuit pattern, which is a great pattern and was copied line for line as a RTW garment by an Australian mfg. Shameless! 

What I'm sewing now:  I am completely hooked on the Patrones app - it's like a mobile game for me in that in a spare minute I scroll through the issues I've purchased (basically all issues released since I downloaded the app). Each time I find more things I want to try. I've heard their coats and jackets are good and their recent fall issues are filled with highly desirable styles. I wrote a post earlier this summer about Patrones patterns (Spanish sewing pattern magazine and app) I'm starting with this one to further test and refine my size in these patterns, and to see how I like their styles.  The fabric is a wool from with an ultra suede under collar as I was down to shreds when I cut it out. Good news is that I have 2 yards of this teal ultra suede I found at a thrift store for $ 3 so I think a cute winter dress might be upcoming. I always wanted to make this dress again although there are other patterns I want to try, but it needs to be something suitable for the ultra suede. Will have to give that some thought. 

Patrones coat plus fabric

After that - I might start on my muslin for that vintage Vogue YSL jacket pattern.
This month I've been teaching a button front shirt class for Hello Stitch via Zoom in the evenings and it's been really fun, a good group so Tuesdays are for instruction and Thursdays are a sewing social hour. Next month is a more beginner-friendly class, elastic waist pants, and then in December we will sew the Toaster sweater (knits).  Classes can be found on the Hello Stitch website. 

So that's all for today's Random Threads - I'm interested to hear your thoughts on any of the topics I mentioned.  

Take care and stay well everybody,
Happy Sewing,

Today's garden photo - while my hydrangeas are looking kind of sad now, the long hot August and September doesn't do them any favors, the leaves look terrible plus the ash from fires blown over us these last two months has left them with a dusty coating that needs a good rainstorm to clean off. But this one has put out a couple of fresh blooms and I will take my garden joy where I can find it. 



  1. Regarding Threads Magazine--Perhaps it's my age, or that I've been sewing for around 50 years now, but I find the more recent years issues of the magazine is not so informative for me. Don't get me wrong--I'm not an expert sewer, but many of the things in the last couple of years issues are redundant or not of interest to me. I LOVED the earlier issues of Threads and still refer back to them time and time again. I stopped my sub at least 5 years ago and will occasionally buy a single issue after I thumb through it. Sad, but I expect it to go my the wayside in the near future (as so many other magazines have gone).

  2. Regarding patronising comments in instructions, I would like them to acknowledge that not everyone is a beginner. If I use the instructions at all, I only use them for construction order. They could number the construction order the same as the detailed instructions, then if you wanted detailed for one procedure it would be easy to find.

  3. I so enjoy reading your blog. Keep on keeping on!

  4. Hmmm, I wish I liked listening to podcasts, but most voices distract or annoy me, some sooner, some later. I prefer to read, which unfortunately cannot be done while sewing.p. I think it has to do with the packaging. There’s the music intro, the greeting, content (finally!) and then the wrap up, music, etc. And some voices are so “practiced” they are fake, annoying, or both. I know, I am a minority with these issues.

    I prefer what I call jeans-lite, that is without the rivets and other doodads that make jeans jeans. And made out of something other than blue denim. I might use some features of jeans, or not, depending on my mood or what I want out of the pant. But to make jeans to be able to say I made them? Meh. A few years ago making a pair to spec was all the rage. Now it’s not. I road that one out. Same with the Lotta Fabric Look. Gotta have trends though, I guess. Like you have done with the widewale cord, I look for more practical or interesting fabrics for my jeans-lite than what is being pushed at me.

    Those side comments are why I stick with McVogueRick, Burda Style, Simplicity, etc. I don’t need the pep/small talk. It’s a craft, not a social club. I would take a class if I wanted the camaraderie. Sorry if that sounds harsh. Not trying to be a curmudgeon here, it’s just a sore spot. Magazines, unfortunately, same thing. Again, I think it is the packaging, and also over branding. Copycat copy and copycat style. If I have to wade through that stuff to get to the meat, but if it’s present to the point of distracting, then I invest in some other means of getting the information I need. It goes back to those podcasts - just the facts please!

  5. Such an interesting post! I'm with you on everything here. I find those instructions cheesy, I also prefer to the point & succinct, which is probably why I also vastly prefer reading to watching video as well. Nice to hear that you are busy teaching! Sounds like fun.

  6. Just the facts please! I'd rather have more instructions and diagrams than 'cutesy' asides.
    Although, if I use a tutorial I don't mind as much, maybe since it's coaching me through a difficulty and I could use an 'atta girl' when I'm done, lol.

  7. LOL I hate that Vogue pattern and your description as a choir robe is perfect. I never buy that much fabric. I am taller and heavier than you and I have to buy fabric online unlike you, you lucky person, but the most I buy is 5 yards if I plan on a matching top and bottom, But usually it's about 2.5 to 3 yards depending on width.
    Size charts are only circumference measurements and rarely can any of us fit by just the circumference. Peggy Sagers does a couple of fitting videos where she talks about this. You really have to take into consideration depth and I do forget the third one. I think that the pattern companies do a disservice to new sewers especially by never mentioning this. The other part of patterns not fitting is that we often don't understand design ease and that while the pattern is based on body measurements, not all of us like the same amount of ease in clothing. Yes, I do think that telling us oh what a good job you've done now have a glass of wine, etc is patronizing. I have Threads magazine almost back to the beginning. I agree, I learn something in every issue. I use methods from years old magazines. I recently bought a new tool they mentioned in their new things section. It's great magazine and a great resource for all levels of expertise. I will have to buy one of the Patrones issues on the app. They do have great coats.

  8. I always look forward to your blog posts, and thanks for this nice, long one. I agree with everything you said but one thing I had to comment on was the cheesy comments in pattern instructions. Which is why I stick to my favorites, Stylearc, Burda and Vogue. I’ve been sewing for all my adult life and I don’t need those silly blurbs, it’s a waste of space and time.

  9. I hope jeans aren’t over! It seems to me clothing with details is disappearing from the RTW market and jeans might be the next casualty. Stretch pants, t-shirts and cardigans without buttons are cheaper to produce. I’m glad I sew, but I wonder about the future availability of specific notions (Like buttons and zippers) if fashion rules them obsolete?

  10. I haaaaaaate those types of instructions. ugh. Instructions should be technical! I will die on that hill!!

    I have never been a huge fan of jeans but they definitely have a place! I have 3 main pairs: a skinny pair, straight leg, and boyfriend cut. I keep meaning to make another pair of Birkin flares. I loved those!

    I am not a huge fan of podcasts but would listen to some while I did my "grunt work" in the office like filing :)

    I bought that Threads database with 30+ years worth of issues...such a bargain at $80!!

  11. I wish I could listen to podcasts. I find that some voices are irritating and others nice. Yet, I cannot keep my mind focused while listening. Now if it is music playing, I don't get distracted. I am very much a visual learner. I have been a subscriber of Threads for years, yet lately I only find one or two articles, plus the pattern reviews that I am drawn to. The new one with blue coat on cover has captured my attention. I think I may just buy the database in the future, I have used that a lot as it is easy to search for what information I need.