Wednesday 22 June 2016

Sew bossy and culotte road test

Squeezing two things in here. The first is a pair of culottes that I made myself way back in late 2014

The pattern is the Girl Friday Culottes by Liesl & Co. They're the first ever pants I've made myself and while they have their problems (which I'll go into more detail about in a moment) I have worn them a lot over the two summers since they were made.

A "day in the life" of my culottes blog post is over on the Oliver + S website. Click on the image below to go to the blog post.


I made the culottes when they were first released and there was an errata with the pattern. Turned out the markings for the deep box pleats in front and back were accidentally reversed and labelled with the incorrect sizes.

If you made a small size your pleats were too shallow and the waistband ended up too short for the culottes. Conversely, if, like me, you made a larger size (size 14) the pleats were too deep and the pants ended up much smaller than the waistband. Eventually, via confused pleas for help on the Oliver + S forum, Liesl found the error and corrected it, sending out new copies of the pattern to everyone who had purchased it up to that date.

However I still had some trouble with one section of my waistband being too long. All the other notches lined up and only one back side was too long. Fearful the culottes wound end up too small I kept the waistband length and eased the culottes onto the waistband ignoring all the notches.

But.... they've always been a bit big in the waist. They tend to drop down a bit, and then with the spread of my hips the pockets gape open.

The way the pockets are designed is really genius and the side zip is hidden neatly in one of the pockets. But, if you have a low waist to hip ratio then the culottes have to spread and the pockets end up opening. If I hoick mine up to high waist (just above belly button level) then they fall much better and the pockets don't open at all.

The other problem might be my fabric choice. This fabric was a mystery stretch twill/denim that I picked up cheaply somewhere. I think I may have been better without the stretch component.

All of that aside I've worn them a lot, and I really should have bothered making the adjustments that Sew Brunswick details here in her review of them. Given how old/faded these ones are now I think I might just sew a new pair and get the fit right. Perhaps navy linen for next summer.

The reason it's taken me over a year and a half to get them on the blog? There was a lot of talk in fashion mags and newspapers at the time of the pattern launch about the resurgence of culottes - aka man repelling pants. I'd been planning a much more complete "road test" of them. It was going to include all the things that a girl can do in her culottes and culminate with a photo of the one thing a girl probably couldn't do - that is, picking up a bloke at a party.

But therein lay my problem. I needed a party scene, a room full of eligible looking blokes and a photographer to capture me, standing alone with my wine glass. Turns out I just don't get out enough or know enough men that aren't my dad's age to have made that happen.

Anyway, for a reasonably complete photo series of me in my culottes, go check out the Oliver + S blog post.

Next up: Sew Bossy

I didn't know that was a "thing" until the fabulous Ute sent me a pattern, some fabric and a bossy edict about what to do with it! ;)

Here's the result: (- and some more photos of my Girl Friday culottes)

The pattern is a German pattern: Schnittmuster's FrauMia

Ute had made a few translations for me, but by and large the construction did look very simple.
It's a raglan sleeved t-shirt designed for woven fabrics, with a facing to finish the neckline.

At first I was kinda excited as a raglan sleeve top is one pattern I don't yet have. But then I looked at the pattern pieces and thought how on earth could this possibly work for me...

You see, the pattern pieces for the top are at their widest at the shoulders/upper chest and then narrow from there, with the narrowest point being the hips. That certainly is not how my body is shaped. I've got reasonably wide shoulders, not much of a bust, then I get a bit narrower and then a whole lot wider.

(see what I mean about the culotte pockets opening up?)
I thought about making a muslin, but the more I looked at the pattern pieces the more I thought that IF I were to make a muslin I would undoubtedly never make the pattern at all. Stiff, muslin like fabric was never going to help get this pattern over the line.

Ute had sent me this beautiful Atelier Brunette cotton lawn (chalk charcoal) and while I didn't want to waste it, I figured I was "under orders" so to speak, and surely the whole point of Sew Bossy was to try something you might otherwise not have tried....

With that decision made, I made the only measurement that would matter - my hip measurement and then tried to work out which size. Curiously, the hip measurement was about the only one missing from the pattern, so I measured the flat pattern pieces and worked out I was a Medium. Seriously, I'm a medium? how enormous would a lady's bust have to be to justify a larger size than this one??
If it had been a PDF that I'd printed myself, I would have assumed I'd made some scaling error.

OK, here's a pretty unflattering photo, but just to show how "1980s eastern block female shotputter on steroids" the shape of this top is:

The only part in the construction that had me a bit confused was how to add the seam allowance to the sleeves. That's hard to describe without showing the sleeve pattern piece, but a diagram of how/where to add the seam allowance would have been appreciated. The Japanese pattern books I've used tend to do this: the seam allowance is not included, but the pattern cutting layout shows the seam allowances drawn in so you can see how and where to add them and how much.

My seam allowance on the sleeve ended being an academic problem, as once I'd sewn the sleeve underarm seam they were far too tight and I couldn't flex a bicep at all - no good for hurling that shotput after all! I had to leave about a third of the sleeve seam unsewn and taper the seam allowance down to the point where the stitching finished.

The fabric is truly lovely. It's light, soft and as pleasant to work with as only a great quality cotton lawn can be. And so, even though the pattern was not a win for me, I have, on hot, hot days, enjoyed wearing this loose, boxy top.

I wonder if the pattern would perhaps suit someone with a bigger bust and narrow hips. Those of you who can wear big, boxy tops with your skinny, tight jeans and look fabulous.

Of course I feel dreadful that the idea that Ute had for me did not turn out as marvelous as she might have imagined it. I'm also very nervous that the fabric and pattern that I sent her shall be a success. Here's hoping.


  1. Bwa ha ha ha- "1980s eastern block female shotputter on steroids." I, too, struggle with the boxy top. In some way, I love it, but there is a fine line between boxy-cool and boxy-looks-like-I-am-wearing-a-box.

    1. There is some subtle magic required to make it look like you could not possibly be box shaped under that boxy top! Always a gamble, hey?!

  2. Oh,thank you for making me laugh so hard! 😄 What a great review and what a sad fail! I am honored you gave your best to make this work.I am going to try your pattern and fabric when my summer break starts, too stresed right now and too afraid I'll ruin this lovely fabric! Xoxo

    1. I'm so glad you got a chuckle at least rather than crying at the fool who uses the good fabric on the first go. Truth be told, with a gathered skirt, on a hot day, this will still be a very wearable top. And all that freedom of movement for playing Frisbee!

  3. I think that pattern needs to come & live at my house! Ute has been bossy with me. I must get into that!

  4. Oh you had me snorting my morning coffee out my nose. Thank you for that! Total eastern bloc shotputter. The pattern does seem a bit odd by your description. Are Europeans fundamentally of different shapes to us? LOL! And incidentally I have teeny shoulders, no bust at all and broad childbearing hips and I totally rock the boxy top/skinny jean combo. Well, in my own mind anyway and that's all that matters. This top is clearly made for an inverted triangle, not lovely pear shapes like us xx

    1. I wonder though, if an inverted triangle (man?!) wore it, it would emphasise that body shape. I think it would actually look better on the little frame where there's no doubt it's a boxy top on a slim frame. But then doesn't almost everything look better on model types....
      If you get the boxy top length right (as you've done recently) those hips disappear and it's just the slim pins that are visible. Problem for me is that means a knee length tunic! :)

  5. Oh too bad! Any chance of a refash to save the fabric?

    1. Perhaps if I were to create a shaped centre seam and bring it in a lot at the top and middle.
      The beauty of having kids to sew for is that I can always refashion into something much smaller!

  6. Very interesting shape and those sleeves sound very slim. Glad that you could refashion it as the fabric does sound divine.


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