Tackling Men’s Trousers

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here! I got the idea last year to undertake making my husband a pair of trousers; one of the few proper trouser patterns available was Vogue 8890, which had the additional bonus of including a jacket pattern (for future consideration).


The pattern has 20 unique pieces. I used 3 of them to make a muslin for fitting– the pant front, back, and side front (which is the inside of the front slant pocket). It fit great through the waist and hips, which is where most of my husband’s fitting issues occur (I didn’t include the waistband in the muslin. If I knew then what I know now, I would have.) The inseam, on the other hand, was a mess. It started only 2″ from the end of the fly closing, which meant the inseam was almost at the front of the leg. I measured my husband’s RTW pants and found that the inseam started generally 4-5″ from the end of the fly closing, so I opened the outer leg seam, and drew an inseam line 2″ away from and parallel to the original, made new pattern pieces and added seam allowance, and was off. Except that most pants have a region marked “stretch here” along the back leg’s inseam line, and I didn’t know how to recreate this along the new seam line, so I didn’t.

I used a wool suiting fabric from Winmil in Boston. I cut all the pieces (a multi-afternoon task), and thread basted all markings. I’ve discovered that thread-basting saves lots of trouble going forwards, and I’ll now do it for everything, rather than trying to get by with chalk. Ink that disappears with heat works well too (I like my Frixion pen), but I’m absent-minded when pressing during construction, and prone to erasing important markings.

Here’s the position of the new inseam. The original was located midway between the current position, and the bottom of the fly closing… you can imagine the consequences:


The back leg at the inseam is baggy because I didn’t cut the seam line a bit short and then stretch it to match the front seam line.

The pattern starts off with possibly the hardest construction step, the back welt pockets. I practiced on a muslin first. It went mostly ok. The inner pocket was a bizarre construction I still haven’t wrapped my mind around, but by following the instructions step-by-step, I did generate a pocket bag.

When I made the pocket on the actual pant, using the prescribed hair canvas for interfacing the welt, it became painfully clear that there was excess length in the welt, which was an error and a problem. I’m not referring to the welt “tabs” or “ends” that get tucked in, but rather that the marked stitch line on the welt was longer than the corresponding stitch line of the pocket marked on the pant piece. I ended up easing the welt to the pocket line, which was a big mistake. It causes the pocket to bulge out, as seen here:


I should have, instead, put the welt flat along the stitch line marked on the pant piece, and stitched along that line, ignoring the stitch line endpoints marked on the welt.

On the inside, the pocket bag is a bit wider than the distance from the pocket to the side seam. I think the pockets are the same dimensions for all pant sizes, and they didn’t account for this difference for the smaller sizes. Or didn’t account for it sufficiently. Here’s my attempt at dealing with that issue:


I’ve eased the pocket stay (I think that’s the name for the top portion that gets tucked into the waistband) along the waist line, in an effort to incorporate the excess fabric.

Sewing the front pockets mostly worked fine according the pattern, although the notches on the outer leg seams didn’t quite align. The zipper was mostly ok as well. Then I moved on to the waistband. First of all, I discovered that men’s trousers have a “facing” for the waistband facing, instead of finishing the raw edge of the facing with bias tape (as most women’s pants are done). I have no idea why, but all the RTW pants have this construction. I also learned that the belt loops (“carriers,” to use the technical term) are top-stitched to the top of the waistband after the fact, rather than being sandwiched between the waistband and facing. That was all well and good, and it was my opportunity to learn something new….

Except…. that most of the notches on the waistband and facing pieces didn’t align. Not facing-to-facing, and not facing-to-waistband. Something was always off at each step. I had to guess what the intention was (the illustrations in the directions were no help), and try to make it look as intended, not as written. While the fly facing on one side seals in the raw edge of the waistband facing, on the other side a bit of it remains raw no matter how I overlap things:

raw_edge_smIf I fold down the waistband first, then overlap the fly-facing-thing (the part that’s finished in the photo with a zig-zag edge), then the lower facing’s raw edge is sealed, but not the upper.

I’ve finished most of the heavy-duty construction. I need to fix up the center back seam. It looks like this, and though it’ll be covered by a belt, I have higher standards than letting it go:


I’ll have to do this by not sewing across the intersecting seam (which causes the jog), but stopping and restarting on the other side of the intersection.

I also have a belt loop to correct, and a crotch shield to install, though I may omit the latter since I’m overall not happy with the pants. Despite all these issues, though, they do fit nicely, and they’ll get some wear.

I was hoping this trouser pattern would be the go-to for making multiple pairs of pants in different colors/ fabrics (men don’t have the problem of needing drastically different styles). Unfortunately, with all the issues still remaining to be fixed, I might be better off with a different pattern, if I can find one.


Interview with Tanja Luescher

It’s Indie Design Gift-A-Long season again, where we gather as a community of knitters/ crocheters to create gifts for family and friends (or ourselves!) from Indie patterns, and chat about the experience, and win prizes along the way! It’s a great opportunity to get to know people we’ve perhaps only had passing interactions with, and in line with that spirit, I’ve had the chance to interview Tanja Luescher, a designer in Switzerland who has created some amazingly intricate shawl patterns. In fact, she is the designer of the first shawl I ever made, Margrit’s Pi Shawl. What an introduction to shawl knitting!Margrit_AJ

Image (c) Ashwini J

I’ve since gone on to make a few other pieces designed by Tanja, including the Thunder and Lightning Shawl


Image (c) Ashwini J

and Gemma’s Cowl


Image (c) Ashwini J

I had the chance to learn more about Tanja’s design process this month.

When/ how did you learn to knit?

My mother taught me how to knit and purl when I was young, but I really learned when I met my husband. We were living 600 km away from each other and every weekend at the train station, he was so cold. So I bought a book on knitting and wanted to make him mittens. Unfortunately, he doesn’t wear anything knitted unless it’s socks.🙂

What was your first knitting project?

The usual garter stitch scarf.🙂 My mother thought mittens were too difficult for me and urged me to make socks first. I was quite confused – the instructions for mittens in my knitting book made sense to me, while I didn’t understand the instructions for the socks at all. But I made a terrible sock that looked fitting for a monster and then finally took on the mittens.


(Tanja has certainly come a long way from that first garter stitch scarf!)

How did you start designing, and what was your first design?

I’m very small, so I soon began to modify sweater patterns to fit me, or I created my own using recipes. My first published design was Eri’s Shawl, made for my best friend who’s living in Canada.

Here’s Eri’s Shawl:


What are your favorite sources of stitch patterns?

You can never go wrong with the Barbara Walker Treasuries🙂 But I also love my collection of Japanese and Estonian stitch dictionaries, and a German book called Oma’s Strickgeheimnisse (Grandma’s Knitting Secrets) with really old patterns in it.

You’ve designed some large, intricate shawls. Do you have any tricks for ensuring that your stitch pattern combinations will work well together over the large scale of the shawl (short of making an enormous swatch)?

Actually, I’ve only once created a stitch combination that I didn’t like. The roses in Margrit’s Pi Shawl were surrounded by lots of stockinette stitch in the stitch dictionary, and all the lacy patterns together with all that stockinette looked terrible in the first prototype. So, if you combine either very lacy patterns together or less lacy patterns together, I’m sure it will work out. When I’m still unsure, there’s always the possibility to separate them by “neutral” stripes, like garter stitch.

(It was Tanja’s witnessing heroic efforts with this shawl design over in the Designer’s forum on Ravelry that inspired me to give it a try!).

Is there any type of project/ technique you haven’t tackled, but want to?

Double knitting, I definitely want to try that🙂

What are your design plans for the GAL/ upcoming year?

In December I’ll publish Snövit Scarf, it uses a really cute stitch pattern with picot welts. My testers love it, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. I’ve been wanting to use the stitch for a long time and now I finally had the right idea for it.🙂


I’m in love with Caterpillargreen Yarns Shawl Stripes yarn, and I’m doing some experiments at the moment to find out what happens when you put it into different shapes then the top down shawls it is dyed for. It looks very promising so far🙂

Other plans are to have a wider portfolio. I have a sock design on the needles at the moment, and I even have plans for a sweater.🙂

I’m certainly looking forward to seeing more from Tanja next year, and, being primarily a garment knitter, super-excited to see her upcoming sweater design.

If you would like to join in the Gift-A-Long fun, it’s not too late to participate over in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long forum. Hope to see you there!

All images (c) Tanja Luescher, unless otherwise noted.


Random Drawing Winner, and a flouncy dress.

The winner of the random drawing for a free copy of the Polonaise pattern is craftyone! She has been contacted.

I talked a little bit last time about how much I love lacy, flouncy clothes. Polonaise filled that need, while still being practical. But I also threw aside all practical considerations a while ago, and embarked on making F2601 from Marfy. It was quite a challenge, because the pattern provides no written instructions, and the smallest size it came in was a bit too large. But with the help of Ashley from Grey’s Fabric and Notions, I figured out how to construct the dress and adjust the fit. I made it in a kaleidoscoping green/ brown cotton-backed silk I picked up in at Banjaras during my trip to India last year. The dress is nearly finished, over a year later. I just have a lot of hemming to go at the skirt edges and sleeves. I finished the neckline with lace hem tape this afternoon, which worked well. Here’s a 90% complete picture (aiming to have a 100% complete photo next time!):


Polonaise, a new winter pullover designed for Holla Knits!


In my fantasy life, I’m a woman of leisure living in the Victorian/ Romantic era, attending balls in dresses made of yards of silk and lace, with flounces and ruffles galore. In real life I’m a scientist, trying to keep my hair and garments out of solutions ranging from icky to toxic. My Polonaise sweater design, published in the Winter 2015 issue of Holla Knits, is my attempt to reconcile my real life with my fantasy world.

The design started with the idea of Gigot (or leg-of-mutton) sleeves. I love interesting sleeve treatments, but as most of my favorite variations (e.g. bells, flounces, ruffles) are incompatible with handling the above-mentioned solutions, there aren’t a whole lot of options left. Gigot sleeves, however, fit the bill, as all the interesting detail is in the upper half of the sleeve rather than at the wrist.

A bit of fashion research revealed that Gigot sleeves were often paired with deep V-neck bodices, which I was excited to incorporate in this design, as that’s my favorite neckline. I made the neckline a bit more modest, to prevent it from slipping off the shoulders. Recalling (probably inaccurately) a historically-inaccurate costume I’d worn for performing a solo from the ballet Les Sylphides 20 years ago (we had limited costumes, and used anything that looked plausible enough), I decided on a lace pattern for the bodice that would echo the lines of the V-neck.

Picking a lace pattern turned out to be tricky. I love laces. I also love worsted weight yarn, as the primary season here is winter. Unfortunately, most lace patterns in worsted weight yarn end up looking like a bunch of holes. After swatching several lace patterns, I knew I’d found a winner with the Spider Stitch pattern from Barbara Walker’s 2nd treasury. It’s crisp and clear in worsted-weight yarn, and has a small stitch and row repeat, making it easily scalable vertically and horizontally. I decided to put a single vertical pattern repeat at the body and sleeve hems, and was surprised to find that one repeat as written looked to me more like lollipops, rather than the diamonds that appear after working multiple repeats. I kept the lollipops!

The final result combines my fantasy of listening to Chopin’s polonaises in a French salon, with the reality doing practical work while temperatures are freezing.


The Polonaise pattern is available on Ravelry or through the Holla Knits! website.
For a chance to win a free copy of the pattern, post a comment below by Saturday, Nov. 14. One poster will be randomly selected on Nov. 15 to win a free copy.

Spring/ Summer recap

Well, it’s been a while since my last post, but I’ve been busy at my sewing machine and knitting needles! I don’t have much to say this time, but will instead give you a photo recap of what I’ve been up to.

Sewing Exploits:

I started off in the early spring with this cowl-necked top in a shiny poly satin, using Simplicity 3568. I made it in about 4 hours, in time to wear to an evening event! Unfortunately the shininess of the fabric just didn’t make for good photos, but here’s an ok shot (except for the goofy expression on my face):


I made another version of this top more recently in linen, and decided that what it really needed was a peacock on the right hip, so I embroidered one! Here’s the top, and close-up of the embroidery:

cowl_top_linen copy_sm_adj cowl_top_linen_peacock_sm

I took a class later in the spring at Grey’s Fabric and Notions with Ashley, where I sewed my first knit garment, the Mabel Skirt from Colette Patterns. Here’s a poorly-lit photo, but don’t worry, the skirt will make a reappearance further down in the post!


We had 2 weddings to attend in the summer, so I made the Kat dress by Grainline Studios (pattern no longer available). I lengthened the skirt by 2″, and added width to the center back pieces. The PDF pattern pages didn’t quite align at the arrows, so I did my best, but found that my solution resulted in the panels of the skirt hem not quite lining up. I was glad that I walked the tissue pieces before cutting the fabric! (I suspect this may be part of the reason the pattern was pulled from the Grainline Studios store). The fabrics are cotton sateens from Jo-Ann’s. Here’s the dress being worn at the second wedding, which took place at a horse farm (complete with horse-and-buggy rides for the guests)!


I had bought a second pattern from Colette, the Oolong dress. This one caused me lots of trouble, mostly due to my fabric choice. The pattern calls for very lightweight fabrics like voile. I went up a notch in weight, using something more like broadcloth (the dotted fabric was one of my alternative options for the skirt hem for the Kat dress). The bias-cut dress is supposed to slip on, but I could barely get it on and off. The pink broadcloth of the skirt turned out to be far more transparent than I was comfortable with, so I decide to make only a half-lining (instead of a full one), and to stitch the skirt lining to the waist seam allowance. That basically killed the dress, as the extra stitching in the seam allowance destroyed any remaining elasticity at the waist. So I opened the side seam and inserted a zipper, which meant I couldn’t add the sleeves. Oh well, I got something wearable, and learned not to mess with Colette’s fabric recommendations, since they rely on the fabric properties rather than construction to make the patterns work with “beginner” level sewing. Here’s another badly-lit photo (but this dress will also make a reappearance further on):


And this outfit is one that I barely recall making. The skirt was made about a year ago, converting the pencil skirt of my favorite Vogue 8766 pattern to an A-line shape. The top is Colette’s Sorbetto tank, to which I appliqued a flower cut from a piece of the skirt lace fabric.


And here’s my current sewing WIP, which needs only the buttons (marked by pins in the photo). I haven’t quite mastered the one-step buttonhole feature on the sewing machine, and may end up making the buttonholes by hand. The pattern is 8619 from Burda, which worked off the bat. I made the body hem much narrower than called for, because I liked the extra length. Consequently, I had to let out the side seams to allow room over the hips. I also spliced the sleeve extension of “view B” to the 3/4 sleeve of “view A” (and added 1″) in hopes of getting a proper long sleeve. I ended up with something just shy of wrist-length. Next time I’ll add another 1″. Otherwise, everything else worked perfectly! I only wish they had warned you to finish the facings’ inner raw edges before attaching the facings to the jacket. I used bias tape to bind the raw edges, because I had few options by that point.  The fabric, on the other hand, was a bit of a disaster. I had purchased it online last December, in hopes of making pants. It was called a suiting fabric with 5% spandex. Well, it has all the instability of a knit fabric, with all the fraying of a woven. The worst of both worlds! The fabric actually irreparably warped and stretched in some spots during construction (especially the sleeve hems), which I’m not pleased about. But this will still be wearable for casual purposes.


Knitting adventures

The highlight of these past few months has been the release of my Demeter tank, made in the lovely Iachos yarn from A Hundred Ravens. (Note the Mabel skirt in the picture!).

Iachos_seated_flowers1_medium2_adj copy

I made two patterns from Tanja Luescher, Gemma’s Cowl


and Thunder and Lightning shawl:

Thunder&Lightning_back_sm Thunder&Lightning_front_sm

(And there’s the Oolong dress again!).

I made a very quick baby sweater for a friend’s kid, using bulky yarn, and taking the dimensions from a 1970s Woman’s Day pattern magazine:


And then there’s a surprise design coming at the end of the month in Holla Knits. But it won’t be too much of a surprise to readers here, because it’ll revisit something that’s been featured in a previous post. I won’t give away too much more, but here’s a sneak preview:


That’s all for now. I’d love to hear what your spring/ summer projects have been!

More details on the Holla Knits design coming soon– the release is scheduled for Oct. 26th!


It has come to my attention that seaming can be quite a cause for anxiety. Having grown up with vintage patterns (which would lead one to think that knitting in the round had not yet been invented), seaming has become an essential part of my knitting repertoire. I took some pictures today to show how I seam. My basic technique is the mattress stitch. Unfortunately, unlike the diagrams in most mattress stitch tutorials, I typically don’t have a straight, tidy row of edge sts. Not even if I slip an edge stitch for seaming, though that does help somewhat. Nevertheless, sometimes there are circumstances (e.g. lack of forethought) when you don’t have a tidy edge.

I’m starting with this swatch, which I’ll fold in half and seam as if it were a sleeve:

I fold it in half and pin it together, as if it were a piece of fabric. I then place the pins a couple of stitches in from the edge, making sure to pin at the top and bottom edges, and at the transitions between stitch patterns that need to align. If the piece has a clear center, I align the centers and pin there. It doesn’t matter that the pin heads are small enough to slip through the knitted fabric. There won’t be much tension applied to them in the process, their main purpose is to keep things from shifiting around.

I remove the first pin and insert the threaded needle through the base of the first stitch on one side of the seam, leaving a tail to weave in later. I’m using one stitch for selvedge on each side:

Then I go into the equivalent spot on the opposite side of the seam, pick up a strand of thread from the swatch, and pull through:

I repeat on the opposite side of the seam:

Note that I am not pulling as tight as I should, in order for the stitches to be clear for photos. Normally you’ll want to pull enough for the sewing yarn to disappear into the fabric.

When pulling through, I make sure the seam is flat, as shown above. The swatch in this case is in the shape of a tube as I pull through. Don’t hold the swatch like a folded rectangle, like this:

Now that the very ends of the swatch are secure, I’m a little more careful about stitch placement. I run the sewing yarn perpendicularly across the seam line, and insert my needle one stitch from the edge, along the line that the thread marks:

Now that things are going smoothly, I might run the needle under two strands of knitting to make the stitch (especially if it’s a long seam and I want it to go faster):

Sometimes, despite my best efforts, a bubble forms:

I could be tidy and undo the seam until the bubble disappears, and then redo it. But I’m too lazy for that. As soon as I notice the bubble, with the yarn opposite to the side that’s bubbling (has excess fabric), I determine the position of the next stitch by pulling the sewing yarn diagonally across the seam line (instead of perpendicularly as above), and insert the needle at that point:

If I were to pull the yarn perpendicularly, it would look like this. I DON’T want to insert the needle at this point:

I insert the needle and take a large-ish stitch:

On the opposite side, I lay the yarn diagonally backwards to mark the next needle insertion site:

And then I take a small-ish stitch:

The bubble is significantly reduced:

One more stitch like this (with maybe less of a difference in stitch size on the two sides of the seams) resolves the bubble:

Continue as before all the way up the seam, and you’ll have a perfectly seamed garment!

In defense of seamed knit garments

Most of the garments I design are knit flat and seamed, and I’m often asked why. Seaming appears to have become the black sheep of the family of knitting techniques, now that we can work seamlessly on DPNs, 1 circular needle, 2 circulars or even knitting looms. Here are some reasons that I make seamed garments:

1) It’s much easier to measure the work in progress. I keep a close eye on the total size of each piece as I’m making it: by distributing the stitches over two straight needles, it’s easy to pin it out on a blocking board and measure it’s full width. It is much more difficult to work a pullover in the round and measure its circumference in progress. It is also easier to spot errors while working flat, as compared to having the knitting all scrunched up on the cable of a circular needle.


2) If you make a mistake, there’s far less knitting to rip back. I can’t bear the thought of ripping out an entire sweater’s worth of stitches just to fix a single error in the sleeve.

3) It is easier to adjust sections of the garment independently of each other. The number of rows in the sleeve cap does not have to match the rows in armhole, for example, if the body and sleeve are made separately. It’s possible, but much trickier, to make this kind of adjustment when knitting seamlessly.


4) Seaming gives you a little wiggle-room in the final size of the garment. Are you worried that the garment will be a little snug? Then you can use a half-stitch for seaming rather than a full selvedge stitch. If it looks a bit loose, you can use a slightly larger seam allowance, maybe 1.5 stitches one each side. You can even vary the seam allowances in different sections of the garment, e.g. a half-stitch if it’s too tight around the hips, and a full stitch at the waist.


5) Garment sections are much more portable than the entire WIP is. When I was working on the Raindrops Tunic for Knit Now, I left the front and back pieces at home and knit the sleeves while on vacation in India.

One argument I often see is that working a sweater top-down seamlessly allows you to try it on as you go. While this statement is true, the problem is that it’s impossible to diagnose fitting issues until the sleeves are separated and the body is joined for working in the round. However, any adjustments that are needed have to be made far before getting to this point, which means that you’ll be ripping back an entire sweater’s worth of stitches to make the necessary fixes. I find it much more efficient to know what my target dimensions for each section are, and to measure the work often as I go along.

Since I have detected a lot of anxiety surrounding seaming, I’ll be posting a tutorial soon on how I manage it. But for now I’ll leave you to ponder the benefits of seamed garments, and perhaps give one a try if you haven’t already.