September 9, 2015

Man Sized Cider Pants, with matching Cap

Riding high on the success from making Buster a pair of cider pants from well used cider pressing cloth, I decided to make a pair for myself. I've been feeling like it would be great to have more than one pair of pants suitable to wear out of the house. The last pair of pants I made myself took about 2 years, but I am getting better and faster when it comes to making clothes. Buster's pants only took me like a month, and the process of making pants was fresh in my mind.

Becky convinced me to throw out the last pair of commercially made pants I was milking along for occasional dirty work. They were heavily patched, but when the patches started pulling out the tissue thin base fabric at their edges, I moved to duct tape. By mass I bet they had more duct tape than fabric. Problem with duct tape is that is doesn't come through the wash too well. Anyway, these went in the trash finally.

I started with a new pattern, which might have been a mistake. I felt my other pair of pants ended up being rather loose fitting, which was ok for the material and style, but I thought it would be nice to have a closer fitting option. And while using my other pants year round has awakened me to the surprising benefits of wearing wool in the heat of summer, a complementary set of trousers in flat cotton cloth was appealing. Plus, in my dream world my whole family would show up at Cider 11 (or 12?) in matching clothes made from old press cloth.

Rather than using a draft this time, I just sketched a pattern from some body measurements and first principles. Like: 95cm waist, so 2x front plus 2x back pattern must = ~97cm, and so on.

 I took this approach on Buster's pants and the last few things I've made and it has been working out well. This time I must have been temporarily insane and somehow reached a decision not to make a muslin, even with a new pattern. Madness! Looking back at the pattern in my pictures now, it seems obvious that it is too small in the above crotch point area and thighs areas for my figure, just given the proportions of the leg vs. hip width on the paper. Note to self: make muslin for new pattern!

So I just thought I would breeze through to cutting the pieces for the real garment and leave some extra at the outseams and seat for fitting. Patched holes in the press cloths made it tricky to lay out the pieces in a fabric efficient arrangement while keeping them both with grain line parallel to the selvage.

 After cutting, I lined the outseam edges with black hug snug binding, intending to flat fell the inseams. Flat fell is overall probably less work than binding both sides of a seam. For a double sided bound and sewn seam the way I do it, I need to do 5 separate stitch and press operations. Flat fell cuts this down to 2, with some extra work of trimming and folding. One downside, which I could appreciate keenly later on in this project, is that it is a lot more annoying to rip down and resew a flat felled seam to fix mistakes or improve fit, and part of flat felling is trimming the seam allowances in a way that limits future adjustments severely.

I made up the pieces for front pockets and a button fly and attached them. Last pair of pants taught me to use outside cloth for the outside facing piece of the button fly, even though it should ostensibly be covered after final assembly. Also used cider cloth for the entire inner side of the pocket bags, to simplify pocket construction. The bags run all the way from side seam to the fly, and finally I feel like the pocket bags are big enough. For the lining pieces of the fly, pockets, and waist band, I used silk Fuji Broadcloth. I folded down and topstitched the outer edge of the pockets, to keep the lining from showing.

While I'm not opposed in principle to back pockets, I simply don't use them much in practice so I tend to leave them out when sewing pants. My experience is that either I smoosh whatever is in there, or it uncomfortably jabs me in the bum when I sit down.

Buttonholes were made on the Singer 99, and most everything was done with Mettler 623 Silk-Finish cotton thread. I've given up on Tire brand silk thread. It is very nice stuff in some ways, but it's shortcomings have become too much for me:
  • only available in tiny spools
  • #50 just a bit small for my taste. They have #30, but it's cost/meter and short length on a spool are discouraging.
  • It is not color fast in regular laundry. I've had two garments get horribly stained by color coming out of the thread in the wash. So annoying! Maybe it is color fast with dry cleaning, but I don't believe in dry cleaning barring exceptional circumstances.
The lower fly buttons are from the second hand bin at Sew Low in Cambridge, while the waist and suspender buttons are from an ebay vendor.

Lately I have moved to sewing on buttons exclusively with Kevlar thread.

A 600 meter spool of Tex 160 size PVA bonded thread from the discount section of Thread Exchange should last me the rest of my life. I had tried silk thread, silk buttonhole twist, and regular weight polyester and cotton thread. Nothing seemed up to the rigors of high strain locations, especially suspender buttons with non-elasticated suspenders. The Kevlar is ridiculously strong, so provided I get it tied off well at beginning and end, 3 or 4 loops around a button will hold it successfully. If I ever bought another spool, I'd go for a little lighter thread since this one can be hard to get through the eye of a needle.

After sewing up the inseam and outseam on each leg, I lined the two seat seam edges individually with hug snug. This is worthwhile to do because it is guaranteed that I will be adjusting this seam for fit.

Just trying on the legs before sewing the seat seam, I could see there was going to be a big problem; these were way too tight in the thigh, hips, and to a lesser extent the waist. So I ripped down the outseams and re-did them while reducing the seam allowance as much as possible in the tight areas. Drat! Still not enough. As a more involved solution, I made a strip of cloth to put into the outseam to expand it by a further 3cm. I applied it in the seam so that the strip maintained a constant visible width showing on the outside. This way it (almost) could pass as a design feature, rather than a clumsy remedy to my hubris at the pattern stage. 

Putting one leg inside the other, I sewed the seat seam. Things were looking pretty good, but the seat seam needed some refinement, especially at the back waist. As Becky says, it looks like someone could come up and dump a pot of soup down my pants. Now I think of the word "soupcatchers" as a synonym for home made trousers.

I put on the waist band, then decided the waist needed to come in some more, so I ripped it out and redid it at the center back. 

Nonwoven medium weight sew in interfacing was used in the fly layers and the waistband. I am happy with the level of stiffness in these pieces. Mostly I stitched it to the seam allowances. 

The waist band was first stitched at the top edge right sides together, then pressed and aligned before getting stitched down by ditch stitching from the outside of the garment. I wanted to try a split waistband at the back with a whale tale design. This allows me to easily show off my tramp stamp when I'm wearing these shirtless. Ha ha, kidding. I just think that back detail looks cool.

The curtain attached to the lower edge of the inner waistband is also Fuji Broadcloth silk. Should have made the inner waistband cidercloth a little longer so the ditch stitching would land all on cidercloth.

Some hand work finished things up at the top of the pants.

I put in some bar tack type reinforcements at points like the bottom of the fly, bottom of pockets, the crack of the whale tale, and around the silk waistband curtain at seam allowances to hold it down.

After making up the suspenders, I marked and hemmed the legs by stitching them down in the machine. Not very sophisticated, but ok for the style of these trousers.

For Buster's pants, I made the suspenders from 38mm wide black elastic with sewn on leather ends. This worked out pretty well, so I thought I would try it for myself using 50mm material. My W&W D9 can stitch fine through this weight of leather, but it usually comes out looking bad. I think the material feed doesn't work that well on leather, which results in the stitch width being uneven. Also, the stitches tend to come out at edges unless specifically reinforced by hand work through the same holes. So on these suspenders I tried the idea of straps being terminated at stainless steel loops from Strapworks, then using separate and detachable leather straps to go from loops to waistband buttons.

This has the additional benefit of being easier to adjust (by making new leather straps longer or shorter).

On the whole, these were quicker and easier to make, and are holding up better than the non-elastic ones I made from ribbon for my wool pants. The elastic does improve comfort and reduces stress considerably on waistband buttons and other elements of the trouser retention system. I sew together the straps at the X where they cross in back, which helps massively with straps falling off shoulders.

The leather pieces were cut out with scissors and razor knife from 1.4mm (3/4oz) veg tanned strip. The button holes were cut with a 3mm tissue punch and slit with a razor. They got slathered with kitty bar and rotated through an oven still warm from bread baking. It is amazing how much grease new veg tanned leather can soak up.

I'm much happier with this suspender construction method than any I've used previously.

I thought it would look cute to have a matching cider cloth cap to go with these pants, with the thought of perhaps making up caps for the whole family in future.

Using the pattern I made for my last hat, I cut out some pieces. The inner cap is made from scraps of washed canvas I had around, stiffened with a layer of medium weight nonwoven sew in interfacing.

The outer layer is cidercloth, with both top and bottom of the brim in the same. After finishing the last hat, I felt the brim could have been stiffer, so this time I used a piece of paperboard inserted between the two brim fabric layers (cut from a Cheerios box). I topstitched around the edge of the brim; probably catching some of the paperboard. 

The felt I used to make the previous version of this hat was very forgiving; it could be convinced to stretch or contract, or mold differently, with the iron and some steam. The woven cidercloth fabric was tougher to work with in this regard. Seam allowances also created some extra difficulty in this version. On the plus side, I could use the machine to do much of the sewing. 

To join the inner and outer cap layers at the edge, I made a band from cidercloth. This was sewn at one edge to the outer cap, then folded in and pressed over the edge of the inner cap. Topstitching around the perimeter from the outside held down the band and secured all the layers. I should have cut this band on the bias because when I folded it in, it of course developed a ton of wrinkles from extra material.

 A little handwork wrapped things up. 

The kids approved and asked me to make them their own cidercloth caps.

It's not perfect and is a little on the snug side since I hadn't counted on the extra inner band at the bottom edge. But I think it looks pretty sharp when paired with cider pants.

Despite being almost exactly the same as the last hat, Becky thinks it looks weird. When I finished it around 10pm one night last week, I wore it while eating a bowl of spicy ramen noodles in my underwear at our kitchen counter. For some reason, she couldn't stop laughing! Maybe she was remembering a joke someone had told her earlier in the day.... certainly couldn't be me! Possible explanations for the different look include the fact that it is closer to skin color and that it tapers at the top slightly more than the wool one.

Of course I'm going to wear it anyway. I consider myself lucky that my wife is willing to appear in public with me.

These pants are actually very comfortable to wear, and fit nicely. I was expecting much worse when I was in the midst of desperate measures to expand the seams. So a great addition to my wardrobe. I've doubled the number of pants in my closet. Boo-yah!

Here I am just after finishing the pants (before the hat was done), heading to our neighbors' house for dinner, bottle of cider in hand. The pants are complemented with a simple white shirt I made a while ago, and my multiply re-soled summer size wood shoes.

Dang, these pants make my bum look cute, right?

September 3, 2015

Foraging the Minuteman Bike Path - Summer

Continuing the series started with Spring, here are the edibles I've turned up in summer.

July 20, 2015

Cider Pants for the Boy

At last fall's annual Cider extravaganza with the aid of an old electric sewing machine and some volunteers, I reformatted some of the press cloths to be of more uniform size. Over the ten years we have been doing Cider, a motley assortment of different size and thickness cotton cloths has accumulated, with some of them looking worn and herniated in spots. I proposed for fall 2015 we should introduce a new set of press cloths of uniform size and fabric, which would have the happy side effect of freeing up the current cloth set for a second life.

June 13, 2015

Foraging the Minuteman Bike Path - Spring

Most days I commute by bike to work, year round. Lucky for me, most of the distance from Somerville to Bedford (through Cambridge, Arlington, and Lexington) is on the Minuteman Bike Trail. This is great because there are few road crossings, which increases both speed and safety, and I get to see some greenery and wildlife along the way. Flowering wild apple trees are more scenic and multiflora rose more fragrant than the ass end of an MBTA bus. Downside is that plowing of the path by the different municipalities along the route in wintertime can sometimes be spotty.

Given that for 7+ hours a week I am travelling along the path, I spend a lot of time looking at plants. In the winter of 2013/2014 I checked out a slew of foraging books from the library, which were neat to read. I find nature much more interesting if I can eat it!

June 4, 2015

Herb Basket from scrap Red Cedar and Canvas

We were going to a saturday afternoon party at my work friend Branden's house, and I planned on bringing along some spring garden stuff as a little gift. But what to bring it in? An old plastic bag? Hmm... I've got all those scraps of clear red cedar in the basement which I'm generating by building our fence...

May 27, 2015

Birthday Party for Mice

We typically do a big combined party for the two older girls, but so far just small affairs for the youngest child. He had a lot of fun at the girls' party last fall, and this year for his fourth birthday he asked for pinatas and many friends. So we decided to switch the big party to the spring and make the fall events smaller.

Buster is insanely into mice. His favorite game is pretending he is a mouse, and his favorite video entertainment is classic Tom & Jerry. It's amazing how dated those seem now, but our kids think they are absolutely hilarious. He was delighted when I found a family of mice nesting in our compost bin this spring, and would often open the hatch to catch a glimpse of them.

April 27, 2015

Backyard Grain Maze

Our backyard, while big for a built up urban area, at about 240 square meters it is not very large in absolute terms. After renovating the back yard in late fall 2013, we were left with about a 9x12 meter space that wasn't already spoken for; this was frost seeded with ecolawn mix and covered with a thin layer of salt marsh hay at the end of the renovation.

Over the winter I read several books about small scale grain growing. As I am wont to do, I got unreasonably excited to make some efforts on this new project.

April 16, 2015

Cutter Family Clothing Archive: 18th Century Red Silk Brocade Frock

Becky's friend Becca comes from a family which has been in the Boston area for many generations. Last year her mom was downsizing out of her house in Cambridge and Becca was helping her clear out the attic. She asked us if we would like to take on the duty of storing and caring for some articles of antique clothing she came across. Even though they are not actually useful for anything practical, we agreed with enthusiasm to assume stewardship of these beautiful pieces of history. I'll be posting pictures and thoughts on the items over the next few months.

The most interesting piece is a dress in red silk brocade. Partly because it is a fantastic garment, and partly because it has a little documentation with it and some latter day alterations to puzzle out. The photo card at the top of the post was in the box with the dress, with notes indicating it was worn by Miss Thankful Hubbard of Boston, 1759 (1748 crossed out).

March 24, 2015

Best garden tool for 2014: Austrian Scythe

My favorite new garden tool from 2014 is an Austrian style scythe from Scythe Supply. Over the winter I read The Scythe Book and watched some internet scythe videos, of scythe wielders beating men with gas powered trimmers in competition, barefoot young ladies elegantly and speedily mowing meadows, and the like. So I ordered myself a scythe outfit, mostly for cutting the grass in the front of my house which is unpleasant to do with a normal lawn mower. The kids thought this was awesome and were really excited to try it out.

March 10, 2015

Making LED Grow Lights

I want to grow leeks and alpine strawberries this year, and would like to try tomatoes and a few other things from seeds rather than seedlings. The only convenient place to start seeds at my house would be the basement. It is dank and dim, so some grow lights were in order.