Sewing Hiking Clothes: PATTERNS

As with any sewing project, the first place I tend to start – after I have a general idea of what type of garment I want to make – is a search for possible patterns. I’m confident that I’ll be able to make some shirts for myself using patterns I already own and love (as long as I find some good wicking fabric) so the pattern search is mainly for hiking pants.

How to Make Hiking Pants from trails.com
I honestly love this. It doesn’t help me AT ALL, but I am amused by the idea that someone outdoorsy with no sewing experience might read this and think, “Oh it’s so simple!” (FYI their steps are: buy a pattern, alter it to match your measurements, buy fabric, cut it out, sew the pieces together, and VOILA! Which, honestly, is a straightforward explanation of how to sew your own clothes. I just think most people would want more details.)

Women’s Korouoma Hiking Pants by Shelby Outdoor
These are a fairly classic hiking pant – elastic waist, cargo pockets, articulated knee, reinforced cuffs. Unfortunately, their technical drawing and product photo are EXACTLY THE SAME as for the men’s pants. (After clicking around, it appears that these same pants are also for sale as a custom-made product, so I’m slightly more interested having seen them on a body.) Other considerations: They’re only available in printed version, which ships from Finland. And based on reviews I found, there are no instructions – just the pattern pieces, which you still have to tape together like with PDF patterns.

Women’s Wind & Rain Pants by Green Pepper
These pants came up a lot in my searching. It seems that Green Pepper has been around for a while, and has a good reputation. However, I’m not sure whether they’ve updated any of their patterns since the 90s. These fit into that theory – they remind me of the “wind-proof” pants that ice skaters and gymnasts slip off right before their routines.

This brings up another thing I’ve discovered – a lot of brands that make patterns for outdoor gear tend to focus more on winter sports. There are a LOT of patterns for hats and gloves and overalls, and honestly it made me wish I lived somewhere colder so I’d have an excuse to try sewing some of them! If you want to peruse the collection of patterns I found, The Rain Shed seems to carry the widest assortment.

Sequoia Cargos and Shorts by Itch to Stitch
I found these on a Pattern Review discussion board, and they seem to have a lot of great features! I’ve purchased a few Itch to Stitch patterns, so I can confirm that she has well-designed instructions. (I’ve not sewn up any of the patterns, but you can find a lot of blog reviews if you search.) These could be a winner for a lot of people, though I’ll admit that the pocket shapes are all of my least favorite.

Trousers 3035 by Patrones Y Moldes
I can’t even figure out HOW I found these, but they popped up on Pinterest and I was fascinated by the technical drawing. I liked the slash pockets, the interesting seaming, and what looks like some reinforced cuffs. (Of course, I have no idea what this company is. I didn’t even find the English language version at first! I had to use google translate to figure out what size might fit me, and it’s very strange to me that they sell the pattern as a single size. But I took a risk, and I ordered one, and the next day they sent me a PDF pattern with no instructions. Interestingly, I think the pattern is designed with no inseam, which would be great for reducing friction. Will I ever sew them? Who even knows!)

At this point I was also browsing a number of outdoor gear websites – especially in Europe, because I was convinced they were better at this – and I realized that my favorite pants had a shape similar to the high-waisted, skinny leg sweatpants that are super-trendy right now. So I though, could I find an indie sweatpant pattern that I love, and then sew it up in a more technical fabric? The No Sweat Pants by Seamly are one great option, but they weren’t as exciting to me as…

Ruri Sweatpants by Named
Look at the technical drawing! They have a half-elastic waistband! They have a faux fly front! They have an on-seam pocket (which could be easily sewn up, or could be changed to look like something more outdoorsy). They have that interesting pleat on the cuff, which means the leg opening can be larger! These might not work, but I’m very interested in trying. And, unlike most of these other pants, when I make a test pair in a non-technical fabric, they’ll be something that I’ll likely want to wear in real life. (Lounge pants FTW!)

Confession: while I was doing this research, I also discovered that Eddie Bauer offers a number of hiking pants in tall lengths. I ordered a few, assuming they wouldn’t fit – because of my history with hiking pants – but I ended up liking them! And they were on sale for $50-60. So I’m feeling less urgency to pursue this path. BUT, I still have 10 months until the trip, and I think the lounge pants are going to happen sooner than later.

STAY TUNED for more lists: of online sources for technical fabrics, and various techniques I’ve discovered!

 

 

 

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Sewing Hiking Clothes

I have a tendency to fall down sewing project rabbit holes.

This latest one was jump-started when my mom, sister-in-law, and I decided to go on a vacation together next summer. We plan on walking the Great Glen Way in Scotland, which is a path some friends have traveled and highly recommended.

Of course after signing off on the dates and the cost of the trip, the next question in my mind is “WHAT DOES ONE WEAR ON A WALKING PATH IN SCOTLAND?”

The answers that I’ve gathered include: long pants, waterproof  items, comfortable/breathable activewear, and sturdy shoes that are well-broken-in.

Which is similar to the list of requirements for hiking gear, something that I theoretically use frequently but which has historically eluded me. (I generally hike in cotton leggings or running shorts.)

Why has hiking gear eluded me in the past?
-I am a lady, and the availability of technical gear for women hasn’t always been great. It’s getting better, of course, but…
-I am a tall lady. Maybe 10% of technical gear made for women is also available in longer lengths. (Let’s not even discuss whether they think to increase the rise in addition to lengthening the inseam.)
-I am larger than a size 10. Back when I was still a size 10 – aka when I was a teenager – I would go to outdoor stores and only fit into the LARGEST PANT SIZE.

So, over the past decade, I’ve mostly avoided the hunt for hiking pants. I would occasionally find something that sort-of-worked, but the other reality is that technical gear is EXPENSIVE. I’m not willing to spend $100+ on a pair of pants that sort-of-work.

Having tackled jeans-making in the last six months (hello, neglected blog, I have definitely not told you about this), I’m feeling much more confident in my ability to tackle this project. However, the jeans were made by using an incredible indie pattern AND some thorough teaching tools. So my first step in this process was to research the heck out of it! Since I found a lot of small pieces of information in various places, I figured it could be helpful to share them here. Stay tuned!

random thoughts during Me Made May

1. In the lead-up to May, I always wonder if I’m going to participate. I always think, “I should sit down and set a clear intention/plan.” I never do this pre-work. And instead, I wear something me-made on May 1st (sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally), and make a game-time decision.

2. The dress I’m wearing today brings me immense joy.

I made this dress yesterday. I'm wearing it today. Not sure what #MeMadeMay2017 will look like since homeownership continues to claim my extra money and time. BUT I'm thankful for this fabric in my stash and for the minor alterations that made this favori

3. It’s one more iteration of a dress that I made for the first time in April 2016 – this is a shocking detail to have uncovered, because I can’t quite remember my life before these perfect (for me) dresses. One of the best lessons I’ve learned through Me Made May, and from this evaluative process of sewing, is that I should invest in high-value projects like this one. If the delight-to-effort ratio is too low on too many sewing projects, I’m going to lose interest. A dress like this, I can now assemble in a few hours (especially since my pattern pieces and process notes improve slightly each time) and I’ll likely wear it once a week until it falls apart – this is the type of project that refills my sewing mojo tank.

4. Things that fill my sewing mojo tank: learning a new skill and applying it effectively, quick/easy garments that I will wear frequently, making minor alterations that dramatically improve the fit of a garment. Things that empty my tank: making a garment for the first time and discovering that it does not fit me well (this should NOT be a surprise/disappointment, since my main motivation for sewing is that I’m not sample sized, yet it’s still a frustration), making alterations and discovering that they do NOT improve the fit of a garment, fear/anticipation of iterative sewing (which often includes the previous two frustrations).

5. I’m trying to re-conceptualize my sewing hobby based on this article, which encourages you to collect achievements through your hobby instead of collecting stuff for your hobby. One way I’m trying to do this is by attempting to sew every pattern I own. This has always been a vague goal, though my pattern-collection has more to do with what patterns appeal to me than with what I need/want to wear. Sometimes the purchase of a pattern is more accurately the purchase of an idea of who I might become if I were the type of person who wore that garment. And my previous goal of sewing each pattern included within it a sub-goal of becoming each of those potential versions of myself. That…was obviously subconscious, because it’s EXHAUSTING and IMPOSSIBLE to achieve those goals!

So the new goal is to sew each pattern once, and to decide whether or not the pattern is worth more of my time after that initial trial. I might discover that the pattern was a representation of some far-fetched ideal, and if I have to make a garment and try it on in order to cast off that ideal, that supposed failure can be re-framed.

6. THIS HAPPENED LAST WEEK. I connected all of those dots last week when I made what I assumed would be the base of my new professional wardrobe – a return to woven fabrics, a dress with some structure, but clean and simple and totally pulled together. (As if I’m not pulled together while wearing comfortable knit dresses, please give me a moment while I continue to rip apart this ridiculous ideal I’d created for myself.) This is the pattern – look at how unflappable those sketched ladies are! Now notice (like I did not) that the fabric wobbles/gapes ever so slightly at the neckline and armsyce on the real life model – an indication that this simple pattern is far too boxy/flat to allow for real life lady curves. My optimism and the allure of this ideal self were significant blinders – I even made a muslin (draft) of the bodice with leftover/wadder fabric, and managed to overlook those pattern flaws! It was only after I carefully made the full garment, using a VERY nice fabric, that I put on the dress and was confronted with how dramatically flawed the ideal was.

Serious devotion to using up the fabric stash: cutting into some Liberty lawn. 😳

There are no photos of the finished garment. I attempted to take in a few seams to improve the fit, but the problems were too dramatic for that small fix. Instead of wallowing (or taking photos), I pulled off the bodice and inserted a shorter zipper on the skirt (which is still incredibly cute).

7. Whoops! I didn’t intend for this to turn into a rant about one particular garment, but this must be where I needed to go with it. This attempt still brings me great disappointment. It emptied my sewing mojo tank significantly. I’m sad to have cut into some beloved fabric – though one of my goals this year is to do exactly that. (So by this measure, I was boldly successful.) I am tempted to work and rework this pattern until it fits me perfectly, but one of the best lessons I’ve learned, which I’m reminded of as I wear the perfect purple dress pictured above, is that successful iterations start with something that fits. I don’t think this pattern will ever fit me without significant re-working. I did learn a few neat new skills – the dress is/was fully lined, and I put in the effort to understitch every seam. I can get rid of this pattern now – and firmly place it in the “tried, and rejected” category.

thoughts one encounters when taking/editing/posting photos of oneself in clothes

I had no idea my neck looked like that. Interesting.

Can I make the neck look different? What if I stretch it out a bit?

Nope. That just looks haughty.

Okay, make some goofy faces to loosen up. You can just delete them later.

WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY HANDS?

omg Are my hands disproportionately small?

Does the disproportionately small size of my hands indicate that my ENTIRE BODY is too large? That the weight I have accepted as ideal for my bone structure is actually much larger than ideal?

Dude, what? Why do you think about bone structure so much?

It’s the default comfort for tall girls. Don’t take that way from me.

Okay, fine. Smile at the camera. DO NOT LEER AT THE CAMERA.

CRAZY EYES. Delete.

Though, it’s not much worse than all the others. Bring back that crazy eye photo.

Maybe when I see “crazy eyes,” other people see “totally normal person who is alluringly passionate about life.”

Why is my face doing that weird thing? THAT IS NOT WHAT MY FACE LOOKS LIKE.

It happened again. Okay. Maybe this is my face. This is my face. It’s a great face. PEOPLE LIKE ME, WILLINGLY SPEND TIME LOOKING AT ME, AND DON’T MAKE COMMENTS ABOUT HOW WEIRD MY FACE IS SO MAYBE IT’S NOT WEIRD.

Some have even called me beautiful. I tend to interpret this as a not-just-skin-deep kind of beauty that expresses itself in the experience more than the image of me. Which is a preferable form of beauty.

Can this experiential beauty be captured in a photo? Let’s try.

Too sultry. DELETE.

Pretty-not-sexy. Pretty-not-sexy. Relax your shoulders. Lengthen your neck. Try not to be too intense in the eye. Smile.

Oh shit I started moving after the countdown but before the shutter so now this is blurry, but…I think…everything that’s not blurry is PERFECT.

Just do the same thing again. Just be perfect on command.

Ummm…I look like I’m farting in this photo. I didn’t even know I had a Passing Gas Face.

Look at the camera. Don’t look at the camera. Don’t look at the camera but look at a very specific area to the left of the camera.

Oh, no, that’s too far. You look distracted, not bemused.

Hrm. Too close. You just look like you’re incapable of making eye contact.

Smile? Not smile?

Resting Grimace Face is not the look I was going for.

How about an open-mouth smile.

Muppet Smile.

Try a fake laugh?

Okay, this is PERFECT, facially. POST IT.

Wait. No. WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY HANDS? HOW IS THAT EVEN HUMAN?

Salme Olsen Dress

Real talk: I’d like to be one of those people who posts extensive reviews/photos of every finished garment, with a thoughtful recap of the alterations and sourcing information. I know these are useful. I search for them ALL THE TIME. I want to see what people of different body shapes/sizes look like in a pattern before I try it. (Or, to be more specific, I want to see what someone with MY body shape/size looks like in a pattern before I try it.) And even apart from the Greater Good argument, I happen to enjoy browsing my archives for notes/photos to remind myself of what I made. It’s lovely to have a personal record.

BUT: updating this blog is one of my lowest life priorities. I only post when I’m excited about something. Or when I have a stack of about 6 finished books and I force myself to photograph them and write reviews.

What I’m trying to say right now is that I am REALLY FREAKIN EXCITED ABOUT THIS DRESS.

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(Facial expression does not properly convey excitement. Trust me, it’s there.)

First, it’s got that whole “early 80s summer loungewear” vibe that is one of my particular weaknesses. (I’ve mentioned Red Oaks on Amazon recently, but seriously, if you have an affinity for 70s/80s clothing you will want to watch it for that alone.)

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Second, I’ve been trying to nail the perfect neckline/armsyce/strap for a loose drapey tank top, which has been fairly elusive. Either they’re too tight around the back, or too floppy at the clavicle, and I’ve yet to find the arm curve that sit’s close without pinching. I thought I was as close as I was going to get with the last test version – made by comparing a composite of every pattern whose bodice fit I love with the straps of the Seamwork Adelaide. And then Salme releases this free pattern, and I make it without any alterations, and it fits like magic!*

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*One of these days, I’m going to take a pattern drafting class, and a well-drafted pattern will no longer seem like magic to me. But until then, I actually enjoy this trial-and-error+magic approach to sewing.

Okay, so what will you (or future me) want to know about the construction of this particular version?

-Pattern: Salme Olsen Dress
-I cut a straight size 16. (I think. The bust measurement would have been what I tried to match, knowing that this was the only place where it would sit snugly on the body.)
-The fabric is a cotton lawn (maybe this), which was very sheer so I lined the bodice with the same fabric and found some matching lining in my stash for the skirt.
-Since I was lining the bodice, I hid all the seams inside the two layers, using the fabulous order-of-assembly from the Sallie Jumpsuit. (I’m sure there are other great examples of this assembly, particularly the enclosed strap seams, but I’d been trying to conceptualize it myself for a while and it hadn’t made sense until I followed Heather’s instructions.)
-Because of the above assembly, I didn’t use the bias binding. And the straps are narrower than they would be with binding.
-I basted the skirt layers together, then attached them to the outer bodice. After that, creased the bodice lining, stitched most of the way around, then added an elastic casing, AGAIN using the Sallie Jumpsuit as a reference, because it was so intuitive (and because I love to see that little ruffled tunnel).

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-I french seamed the skirt layers (and, doh, even french seamed the bodice sides, which I now realize was unnecessary). This used to feel like SUCH a burden, because I was an impatient sewer who wanted to finish garments IMMEDIATELY so I could wear them, but I’ve slowly become more patient and now the french seaming is a habit.**

**I am still an impatient sewer, but I now break sewing into multiple sessions instead of just one. I try to stop just before the point-of-no-return, so I can make finishing choices with a fresh head. Also, I don’t let myself compromise, no matter how excited I am to wear the finished product.

Oh man. That was so boring. Useful information, but SO BORING.

How do I feel about this dress? IT IS AMAZING! This is not the first time I’ve tried to bring my 80s summer loungewear dreams to life (see: this chevron situation made with quilting cotton which I still love with my whole heart even though I don’t wear it in public; the Seamwork Catarina which was VERY close to successful, but I need to be honest about my willingness to wear a strapless bra for more than 2 hours a month), but I think this might be the first time I’ve done it SUCCESSFULLY.

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The first night I wore this, I felt both casual AND sexy. This is a dress I would wear to a picnic or on a date. I am DEFINITELY packing this (or another version in a different fabric) for my Paris vacation.

The only change I’m going to make for the next version: add those little bra-strap securing tabs. I’ve never attempted that, but I love this dress so much, I think it’ll be worth the extra effort.

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