Going with the Flo!

I'm so excited!
Rhonda (Rhonda's Creative Life) and I decided to do another "sew together."  If you remember the last one got interrupted by Rhonda's icy tumble in February, which resulted in a broken wrist!  Ouch!  She is all healed up and ready for a month of sewing.

Rhonda suggested that this August we get to the bottom line and do four weeks of pants.  That's right...pants.  I have been sewing for, well, a really long time and pants are still the toughest garment for me to fit.  Just thinking about crotch curves fills me with anxiety...cue the horror movie music!  But we have some fun things planned so maybe it won't be too scary.

Here we go...week one:  "Getting to the Bottom Line"

This week is about our favorite pants pattern.  The one that we have been tweaking and fussing with forever!  I would like to say that my particular fitting opportunity with pants is something that has happened as I've gotten older, but if I am honest, I have always had a pretty flat butt.  Yep, I have never really filled out the rear view.

The problem usually shows up as a whole lot of extra fabric at the top of my leg...where a butt is supposed to be...figuring out how to remove the extra folds of fabric has been an ongoing challenge.  But, last year I read a blog post and the writer was raving about a Style Arc pants pattern, The Barb Pant.  I decided to check it out.  I was just about to pop it into my shopping cart when another pattern caught my eye.  It was the pattern that I have been searching for...cue the heavenly music!  Honest to goodness it is called, "Flat Bottom Flo."  Into the cart it went.

The Barb Pant

I haven't tried it...I got distracted by Flo...but the reviews I have seen really seem to be positive for this one.  If you have a butt, which I don't, this might be worth a gander.

I have tried several other Style Arc patterns and have found them to be consistently good.  The instructions are straight forward and they use some clever construction techniques that turn out a very professional looking garment.

Here's another one I should probably try...The Becky Yoga Pant! 😉

(It is so easy to get distracted on the Style Arc website.)

Now meet Flat Bottom Flo. 😇

From the illustration she might not seem all that different from other pants patterns out there.  I have to admit my skepticism when I ordered it.  How many pants pattern rabbit holes have I been down! Here I go again!  But, oh, did Flo deliver!

I decided to try it straight out of the package, no changing, no monkeying around, straight up Flat Bottom Flo.  She rocked my world!  I have never had a pair of pants fit so well on the first round.  I had to sit down for awhile and let it sink in... could it be that I had finally found THE ONE?

While the first go was rather breath taking, there were a few of the usual suspects that needed to be dealt with.

One of the things that I figured out after many many miserable pairs of pants, was an alteration that changes the grain line of the legs.  If your knees bow out or knock together you may have experienced this issue.  It shows up as diagonal folds running across the front of the pants making them appear to twist around the knees and shins.  I tried all kinds of things to correct this and finally found this simple change in my Singer Sewing Book: Pants That Fit.

In my case, I needed to adjust for knocking knees.   Essentially the idea is to move the center of the pant leg to align with the center of my leg, which means I need to move it about 1/2 inch toward the inseam.  Once the lower leg of the pant lines up with the center of the ankle, a new grain line is drawn that corrects the hang of the pants and, voila! no irritating folds across the legs.  

This little 'personal problem' was not something that Flo dealt with, but having done it a million times, it was a quick fix.

So what, you may ask, is the secret that makes Flat Bottom Flo my new favorite pattern?  WELL...
I'm not sure I completely understand what is different, but here's my best guess.
(Warning:  you may want to skip to the end if you have a low tolerance for lyrical waxing about crotch curves!)

1.  The shape of the dreaded crotch curve!!!

Most pants patterns angle up from the crotch seam to the center back.  This is a great idea because it puts a bit of bias stretch across the fullest part of the bum and makes a nice comfy, sittable pair of pants.  But as I mentioned (did I mention?) that I have no bum to accommodate!  So, for me this arrangement ends up with droopy extra fabric across my backside.  Unattractive and vexing!  Flo has figured this out.  Basically there is no 'curve' involved, just straight up the back.  I had actually figured this out, but altering pants that already have an angled crotch curve usually requires not only changing the angle but then dealing with the extra inches that end up around the waist.  It sort of just moves the issue to another location!  Excellent work Flo!

(I know, I used black!  Hope you can get the idea anyway.)

The back crotch seam is basically a straight line.  Or as I like to refer to it, my "L" shaped crotch curve.

You might also notice that the seam angles down from the front to the back.  I don't know that this is particular to 'flat bottoms' or done to recognize the effects of gravity on our lovely tushies!  Anyway, Flo figured that one out, too.

2.  "Can I please just put a fisheye dart under my butt?"

Before I met Flo, I would finish a pair of pants and grab an inch, sometimes more, of fabric under my butt and say lots of bad words.  If I had been willing to live with a silly looking dart going horizontally across the top of my pant leg, I would have solved this problem years ago!   Well, leave it to Flo to think of it!  The back of the pattern is in two pieces, the main leg and a yoke.  This cleverly conceals the 'dart' so no one is the wiser, effectively pulling the #!%^*** folds of fabric up and out of the picture.  Well done Flo!

3.  "Does this pattern make my butt look big?"

One of the first things I noticed about the Flo pattern pieces was how different they were in the proportions of the front to the back from other patterns I have worked with.  There is WAY more back than front, which seems a bit odd if the problem we're dealing with is 'no butt.'  I have to admit that this detail is one that I have not quite figured out.  My best guess to date is that by pulling the side seam toward the front the hip curve that is usually built into the side seam, is eliminated, along with some of the extra fabric.  (If anyone else has a theory about this, and is willing to wander around in the weeds of pants fitting with me, I'm all ears!)  For whatever reason, it works.  Thanks Flo!

Check out the difference between the front of the pants and the back!!!  Whoa, can that be right?

...and finally...4.  Flo is designed to work with fabrics that have a bit of stretch.  She doesn't go all the way to 'negative ease' territory, but the close fit does allow some 'smoothing' to happen.

So there you have it...my way-too-much-detail analysis of my favorite pant pattern.

For this iteration I chose a woven stretch with good body and a fun houndstooth pattern.


If you have ever worked with stretch woven fabric before, you might have noticed that the stretchiest direction is often with the grain.  In this case there was quite a bit of give along the grain of the piece and very little in the cross grain.  This meant that I needed to put the pattern pieces on the cross grain to get the stretch going around my body.  (this always feels a bit odd)

I'd like to say that I cut these out and serged 'em up and walked out the door with not a single glitch, but Flo and I haven't gotten to that point in our relationship yet.  (or maybe I just can't imagine making a pair of pants without trimming and restitching the crotch curve 7 times!)  These are as close to 'one and done' as I have ever accomplished.  I timed myself and it was an hour and a half from flat folded fabric to pants (sans hems).  And that included just one small crotch curve tweak.  It is very difficult to adjust for the give in any particular fabric, so I chalk it up to that! 

It turns out that making a pair of black pants is much easier than photographing a pair of black pants.  The black and white versions are marginally better...
They are still sans hem.  I haven't decided what length to make them.  Having grown up in the era of being teased for having 'highwater' pants (given my height and leg length, I really had no choice!) it is still really hard to make pants too short on purpose.  I know it is fashionable, but....still thinking on it.


My pick for favorite pants pattern ever...I'm going with the Flo...Style Arc's Flat Bottom Flo.

Check out Rhonda's pick HERE
We'll be back next week with the next installment of "Getting to the Bottom Line!"


News from Memory Lane

A Bit of News....

People who have known me for awhile know that I have been a fan of Threads Magazine for, like, FOREVER!  I finally after years of carting them around, let my collection of actual paper copies of the magazine go.  I had every issue from No.1.  (I now have them digitally which isn't quite as tactile, but much easier to cart around!)

One of my favorite Threads events was the "Inspired By Threads" competition and fashion show that was held annually for eight years (I think I have that right?).  The challenge was to create a garment or ensemble that was inspired by an article in the magazine in the previous 12 months.  Right up my alley!  I entered every year, and was the only person to be accepted all eight times!  (Point of pride.)  I won the top price one year and a rummer up prize in another year, which was lovely, but my main objective was not to win anything.  My objective was just to get into the fashion show.  Because....if you were in the fashion show you had the opportunity to be backstage with all the incredible outfits and sewists that had created them.  It was AMAZING!  When the event was retired I think I may have gone through a bit of withdrawal.😢

I don't have any pictures from the show...you might find some in a Threads Magazine somewhere ;)
But I do have some pictures that a photographer friend helped me take of some of the outfits that I entered in the competition.  Another lovely friend did the modeling which makes them really look professional!

I know the grey and mauvey ensemble won the "Best in Show" and one of the others won "Best Embellishment" (I can't actually remember which one 😳)....very fond memories...


The article that inspired me was about making a bustier.  It was such fun and nothing like I would ever wear, except at the fashion show.  The fabric is actually quilting cotton that has been washed and then free-motion quilted to unwashed muslin.  When the piece is washed again the muslin shrinks up giving all kinds of great texture.  I made the bustier and then embellished it with beads and silk ribbon embroidery.  The "feather" trim is really several different textured yarns.

Here are a few other ensembles that were part of the competition in other years....


This top started with a piece of Italian beaded lace for the center of the "log cabin" and then each additional layer of the square was a different ribbon.  The skirt is three layers of sheer fabrics to continue the theme of sheer ribbons in the top.


One side of this kimono style top is actually antique kimono fabric.  The collar band is quilted in a sashiko pattern and the pieces are held together with beaded faggoted seams.  


I must have been channeling Madame Butterfly for this one!  All pink and girly!  Layers of silk with silk ribbon embroidery.


I loved making this boiled wool jacket with reverse appliques and slotted seams.  The shapes echo the paisley from the shirt fabric.

The forties kind of colors of the rayon print reminded me of yo-yos (which is the article that inspired this outfit).  I made a design of yo-yos trailing the seam of the jeans.  The top is a tunic with a vest over it.  The vest fabric started out as a stripe of black on black, shiny/matte hammered satin.  I cut it into strips and left the serged seams exposed to add even more texture.

So you might be wondering what the heck inspired this stroll down memory lane?

Well, that's the bit news....A few months ago Threads contacted me and asked if I would be interested in writing some blog posts for Threads Insider, their online content.   ðŸ˜®Duh!  Heck yeah!  What a wonderful way to connect back with a magazine and organization that has inspired me for decades.  It has been fun to work with some of the same folks who were part of the competition and I am learning all kinds of new 'digital' stuff!   

Check out the nifty button they sent me...

...So, if you haven't had enough of me already, you can pop on over to Threads and get some more!


Coloring Outside the Lines

OK!  Don't worry...it's really me...

I am not sure how I ended up with green and red tye-dye and pink yarn and whoa! is that a Hawaiian print in there?  Yikes!  

I am blaming it on the weather!  Everything has been goofy this summer and my last trip to the fabric store confirmed it! I just needed some #*&! sunny colors! OK?????

...and it worked!  I feel much sunnier after making them up.

I made a camp shirt out of a piece of very soft Hawaiian cotton and it is perfect for summer....AND it's RED!!!!


...and this little dress is way out of my color box...but sooooo much fun and soooo summery!
(all these colors are making me talk in "oooo's" and "!!!!!'s" 😆)

The denim front is really a very soft chambray-like fabric so it is really comfy and cool.  And how much fun is that back!!?!?  


Phew!  That was weird!


Some Free-style Summer Knitting

If you live in the midwest part of the country, you are well aware of our unusually sloooooow start to summer.  By this time in June we are normally trying to figure out if our air conditioners will 'go to eleven.'  I finally put sandals on today just because I refuse to wash socks again until sometime in mid October. (I really would like to have them on :/ )  Given the situation, my internal, seasonal clock is quite confused...and that means my sewing rhythm is discombobulated as well.  I can't decide if I want to be making lovely light linen-y things, or cozy wooly stuff.  So mostly I don't make anything!!! 

What I have done is finish up some of my knitting projects.  I like to knit when I travel, but at a certain point the projects either get too big or too fussy to do in the car or crammed into an airplane seat.  At that point I usually pile them up and forget about them for, well, too long.  I had two projects that I thought, if it ever decides to be summer, I would like to have them finished so I can wear them. 

The first one is a really pretty linen/cotton blend with gorgeous colors. (IMHO, you know, mud colors!)  I started out thinking I would do my normal knit two squares and make a tankish top.  But when I got to the end of the first ball of yarn I realized that the variegation would get really funky if I just stared another ball of yarn.  Hmmmmm???  The square was too short even for a cropped top so I had to think of another plan.  I ended up working the second square so that it continued up over the shoulders with a 'v' opening in the center.  What happens is I get a V-neck sweater one way and a square neck sweater if I turn it around.  I like both.

I added a garter stitched panel at the hem to get a bit more length and garter stitched sleeves.  You can see in the first picture below that I used a triple needle bind off to connect the "shoulders" which are either dropped to the front or the back depending on which way round I wear it! 


The second sweater was knit with a two stranded yarn, one strand of matte grey cotton and the other of a shiny grey rayon.  The affect was a bit of a tweedy pattern.  The yarn was a bit heavier so I wanted to make more of an open airy stitch.  I liked the openness of the fabric that I got knitting on size 10 needles.  Again, the plan was to make my two squares and hook them together, but the size 10 needles meant that the bottom of the sweater would be very loose and stretchy and probably catch on every corner and knob I walked past.  It also ended up giving about 18" of ease at the waist!  Not ideal!  Hmmmmm??  What I needed was a way to have a tighter knit at the hem/waist and a more open knit at the top/shoulders.  Here's what I did...


I started on size 6 interchangeable knitting needles.  I knit for a few inches and changed one of the needles to a size 8.  I knit a few more inches on a 6/8 combination.  I then went to both 8's, then 8/10 and finally completed the square with 10's on both ends of my cable.  (it's hard to see but in the picture one needle is a 6 and the other is a 10.  Not a combination I used, but easier to see the difference, kind of!)  The result was a 'trapezoid' that started out about 20" wide at the hem and ended up to be about 28" at the shoulders!  Bingo!  Just what I wanted, and I didn't add a stitch!


The hem snugs in a bit at hip level and the top is open and airy.  I did the same sequence of needle swaps on the sleeves.  I picked up along the shoulder with size 10's, did one pass with 10/10, and one each of 8/10, 8/8, 8/6 and finished and bound off with 6/6.   Again, the top of the sleeve is airy and the hem snugs in around my arm.  I have no idea if this is something that is actually 'done' by people who really know how to knit, but it worked out well for what I was trying to do.  

I was getting on so well with my knitting that I pulled out another UFO that got it's start on the beach this January in Key West.  I might just have it ready for NEXT January!

P.S.  I think I'm getting a little better at the selfie thing!👍


In the Merry Month of "MeMadeMay"

For several years now I have been curious about the May tradition among sewist called "MeMadeMay."   I haven't participated, (it requires advanced skills, like taking selfies!), but I do like the idea of encouraging more garment making.  And it's fun to see how other people are creating and wearing their own wardrobes.

I figured it wouldn't be such a big deal since I make and wear most of my clothing.  I decided I would try it.  Now, I didn't actually post anything anywhere...by 'try it,' I mean that I wore something everyday in May that I had created, and took a selfie to document my progress.   I really didn't think it would be difficult, but it surprised me in several ways.

Here's what I learned in the Merry Month of May!

1.  I am not very good at 'selfie!'
This was not a new discovery.  One of my thoughts about participating in MeMadeMay was that maybe it would help me practice taking selfies and I'd get better at it.  Not so much, as demonstrated by my 31 tries. (and these are the BEST tries!!!! 😝)

2.  Can you say "mud colors?"
After seeing these pictures all together there is no doubt that I have a mud colored palette.  Again, this is not new information, but it was so striking to see it all in one go.  Even looking in my closet really didn't have the same impact.  Not sure how these guys got in there?

3.  May was way too wet and cold!!!!!
Each day I kept thinking that I would be able to get into some of my summery pieces, but then the mercury would plummet and I'd reach for the sweaters and long pants!  By the last few days I did get to wear a few of my lighter weight things, but even then, I was taking off my sweaters to take the pictures and then putting them right back on again!

4.  Pants!  Who knew?
I have made way more of my pants than I realized.  I was quite surprised by how many times the MeMade part of my outfit was the bottoms.  

5.  Not just sewing needles...
I have some favorite knitted pieces.  I have been knitting more in the last several years and have gotten to the point that I will actually wear some of my hand knit pieces out of the house!  One sweater in particular was just the right weight for this blustery May.

6.  I do love me some linen!
Yes I do!  Any weight, bottoms and tops, plain and fancy....if it's linen I'm all in.

7.  ✌
"V" necks seem to be my neckline of choice.  

8.  Accessorize!
There were a few days that the only thing I had made were my accessories.  

Finally....it was tougher than I expected.  So much of what I have in my closet I have made, I was really surprised that I had to think about what to wear each day.  There was one day that I realized that I hadn't worn anything that I created until I got ready for bed...yes, I had made my PJ pants! Whew!

I'm really glad that I tried it.  I do think it has helped me hone in a bit on what I really wear and what types of garments are practical for my life.  There are lots of things that I like to make...but not all of them find their way into my wearing rotation.  I think I might try this again in the fall to see what my wintery preferences are.  It's not necessarily what I thought it would be.

So...what did I wear on the first of June????  My niece got married that day, so party clothes of course! (and that's my handsome son in his party duds!  what fun!) ....and, yes, I did make both my skirt and my top!  Score!