A Knickerbocker Diary

A quick and easy job -- I've used this pattern before.

My linen cycling knickers are patched and won't last the summer; time to make new ones, and I have fabric on order.

So I'd best copy the pattern, cut out the worn area, and replace it with a gusset. Then the gusset, like the patch, can be underlined with broadcloth to make it last longer.

The cloth near the patch is a bit tender, so I traced around the pattern for the patch to mark cutting lines on the new front and back, and drew a line half an inch further in to be the seam line. After tracing the seam line onto a new sheet to make the gusset, add half an inch all around for seam allowance -- that makes the gusset an inch bigger than the patch.

The inseam of the back of the old pattern matches the inseam of the front of the old pattern. The new pattern matches the old pattern. The inseams of the front and back of the new pattern match. But somehow the two parts of the gusset just don't fit together.

I think it's time for my nap.

A few days later I spread the patterns out again and re-start the gusset on a fresh sheet. It goes together without a hitch. But after putting all the supplies away, I realize that I've forgotten to copy the grain lines onto the new patterns. Take old patterns off the nail, dig out the carbon paper and big triangle, quick and easy fix.

Fabric has been delivered and washed and straightened: time to cut out. Before ordering the fabric, I measured the old pattern: the longer piece is less than a yard, and the two widest parts add up to thirty inches. I'm going to cut off those points, so one yard of sixty-inch fabric should make one pair with room to spare. I intended to make a spare later in the summer, so I ordered two yards.

And so it is. Indeed, a yard of fifty-nine inch fabric would have been ample. But this is fifty-eight inch fabric, and it just won't go. After half an hour of fiddling, I lay the pieces out along both selvages and resolve to worry about making use of the strip left in the middle later. Who knows, I may cut it all up into scarves before it gets to be time to make the second pair.

26 June 2007:

I am finally assembling the knickers, and I find that the curves at the corners of the gusset are needlessly sharp; flat-felling the seam was a real bear, and I had to pick out a couple of inches of stitching and do it over. So I'll want to draft a whole new pattern before making the second pair.

Should be easy -- trivial you might say -- to copy the front and back, re-draw the cutaway as one curve without corners, and draft a new gusset.

28 June 2007

The other gusset went in much easier -- perhaps because I used the iron more -- but I still intend to redraft the pattern.

Also sewed a patch pocket to each back. If I should wear the knickers with a shirt instead of a jersey, I'll need a place to carry dog repellent, and when I install only one pocket, I always get confused and put it on the wrong side.

Halt can clip onto a waistband, but there will be no waistband, just a casing with quarter-inch elastic, as if these were knickers in the British sense.

I have decided that it will be easier to sew the outseams before the center seam, and have pinned one, but now it's time for my nap. But supper tonight is steak; I may have more time to work today.

I did, and sewing the outseams before the crotch seam was wise; it was awkward enough with the pants in two parts. I usually sew the outseam before the shorter inseam, but that would have made installing the gussets unreasonably difficult.

Or maybe it wouldn't. And the inseams in this design are *really* short.

I very briefly considered my new way of making an opening for elastic in a flat-felled seam. But leaving a gap when sewing the casing, then mending it after the elastic is in, works fine when there is only one strand of elastic. Re-opening the hem to replace the elastic isn't all that difficult, and pants made of blouse-weight linen aren't likely to outlast cased elastic.

Now the crotch seam is pinned, but there is a movie tonight, so I may not get any more work done.

3 July 2007

Despite hosting an open house, I got the pinned seam sewn. Need two rows of top-stitching and three casings -- the knees are elastic too. I'd better get at it between loads of wash today; yesterday I came back from an all-day bike ride with a hole in the seat of my pants.

5 July 2007

Got the casings pinned. Also pressed a shirt while I had the iron hot to press the turn-under for the casings.

10 July 2007

Finally actually put the elastics into the casings.

Sewed the casings a few days ago -- discovering in the process that I hadn't squared the waist end of the center-back seam properly, making a little peak that is hard to hem. (Really must make that new pattern while these changes are fresh in mind.)

Then I opened my box of elastic and discovered that I had only a few short scraps of black quarter-inch, and an already-sewn waist elastic salvaged from something or the other that wore out. (Remember when you worked buttonholes in casings to make it easy to replace the elastic several times? In some respects, the twenty-first century *rocks*.)

I had a piece of pink elastic and a whole roll of white elastic, and color doesn't matter here -- but I got stubborn. This morning I threaded cord elastic into the knees, then went out on the patio where the light is better and picked out the waist stitching. It answered to cutting the bobbin thread every inch, then pulling out out the needle thread, so this wasn't too long a chore.

I pinned the casing as I removed the stitching, then took out a pin, shoved the elastic into the crease, and stuck the pin back in well away from the stitching line to make sure the elastic didn't get involved. Repeat all around, pulling more elastic out of the already-pinned area at intervals toward the end. Stitch in usual way, beginning with the part that lies flat, working elastic into the already-sewn part toward the end. But not too energetically, since I hold a hem taut while stitching it anyway.

Then pick out the puckers at that center-back peak. I'm going to have to stitch that part by hand.

11 July 2007

I discovered while sewing it that the weight of the pants obviated the need for a sewing bird to keep the fabric taut.

Though all the old books inveigh against wrapping the fabric over your finger, when you are sewing a longer piece to a shorter one, it's a good idea -- for the same reasons that made the old writers inveigh against it.

And when I put them on this morning, I already found a use for that extra pocket: it corresponds to the pocket in my jeans where I keep my spectacle-wiping handkerchief, and I never did find a good place to keep it in my jersey.

15 July 2007

Last week, I traced my old pattern onto fresh paper, wondering why CAD fans make such a big deal out of this step -- even though the old pattern was on newsprint and not oaktag, it was significantly easier than taping six or eight sheets of letter paper together, not to mention that I dislike working with taped-together patterns.

I do have a printer capable of printing on fifteen-inch wide strips of paper -- if they are still making wide pinfeed paper -- which would make computer design a tad more attractive.

About the time I got to the stage where I'd have to start thinking, it was nap time, so I put it away until the following day.

When I went to square off the center-back seam that had troubled me, I discovered that it was already as square as square could be. Maybe it's because that corner is on the bias? Perhaps the fabric was pulled a little when I cut it out? At any rate, if it happens again, I'll just shear off the little point.

Long as I was fussing around in the neighborhood, I made the waist a quarter inch higher.

It took a while to find a dish just the right size to round off the corners of the cut-out; I presume that in CAD you can expand and contract a circle until it's the correct size. If I remember my high-school geometry, the center of the desired circle would lie on the bisector of the angle formed by the two lines. It would also lie on a perpendicular erected at the point where you want it to touch one of the lines -- in this case, the intersection of the gusset seam and the inseam. Then draw a circle with its center at that point and there you have it.

Come to think of it, I could easily do this with a straight-edge and compass. But grabbing a saucer or a dessert dish, shoving it against the corner to be cut, and tracing around it is even easier.

Whatever, the new line was nowhere more than a quarter inch from the old line, which shows you the importance of subtle changes in sewing.

I'd have to move a lot of stuff to get at the tracing paper, so I cut off half a sheet of white gift-wrap tissue, reflecting that I wouldn't use this pattern very often and my underpants pattern, which is also on tissue and has been used a lot, is holding up fine.

Must have used better tisssue for the underpants pattern, or perhaps I handled it more gently. I tore the paper several times while erasing mistakes.

Anyhow, I copied the crotch corners of the original jeans pattern onto the copy of the knickers pattern, then traced the front half of the gusset, marked the a grain line along the seam line, matched this grain line to the seam line on the back, and traced the rest of the gusset. I somehow managed to smooth the seam line of the front into the cutting line of the back while performing this task, and took a few minutes to figure out what I had done and correct it, but everything went together quite easily.

Save that the paper was in such a sorry state that I felt obliged to copy the pattern onto a piece of obsolete spreadsheet paper. (We never made spreadsheets before getting spreadsheet software, so I haven't the foggiest idea how I came by spreadsheet paper, but two packets of ledger-size sheets of sturdy, archive-quality paper do come in handy now and again.) I was careful to line the grain line up with the lines that were already on the paper, so it doesn't matter that I forgot to put a second piece of carbon paper underneath it. The only registration marks are the ends of the grain line, which I match to the inseams.

Next question: do I try to piece this pattern out of the scraps left from making up the first one, order a new piece of fabric, or forget the whole thing until the current knickers show signs of wear? The last, I think.