Tuesday 3 September 2013

Completed: Simplicity 7148, the Experimental Culottes

I am not a shorts person.

I will admit that I am a short person, at 5'2"... but I am not a shorts person.

The last time I remember wearing shorts before this was in the ninth grade. Part of it is that I really don't like the shorts that you can buy... or at least the ones you can buy at the stores I used to shop at. They're too short, they're unflattering, and they're uncomfortable! I honestly don't see how most girls my age parade around in them all summer.

Speaking of summer (or... lack thereof), I started grade 12 today. I haven't had any classes yet - you just get your schedule, your locker, and your picture taken on the first day. Everyone seems so excited... but honestly? I just want to get high school over with.

So, why am I wearing shorts in these photos? Well, this was a bit of an experiment. I found this pattern, Simplicity 7148, at a thrift store for 99 cents. It's funny, because the newer patterns are $1.99, and anything older, including great vintage patterns, they price at 99 cents! I found an amazing Vogue Couturier Design for a skirt, vest, blazer, and shorts from the 70's, uncut and in my size, for 99 cents - more on that later.

Definitely not my favourite era - but I thought the shorts had potential.

Anyways, back to the shorts. I had recently been admiring all the Megan Nielson Tania Culottes when I found this pattern. Okay, Simplicity 7148 are definitely not culottes that you would mistake for a circle skirt like the Tania Culottes are, but I thought they were worth a try.

These sit slightly above the natural waist, but not quite at am empire waist. They have pleats in the front, and darts at the back.

The pattern is from 1990, which is definitely not my usual fashion era. I love 50's-style full skirted dresses, and 40's dresses with lovely gathered details and shoulder darts. 20's and 30's are great, but definitely aren't the most flattering on me. 60's and 70's have some nice designs too, but it really depends. 80's and 90's, however, I usually see as just plain tacky. Ugly sweaters? Neon colours? Big hair? No, thanks. I thought I should give these shorts a try, though. For 99 cents, how could I go wrong?

The pattern was cut out in a size 10, which is my size at the hips. I didn't try to grade down to an 8 at the waist like I usually would, and instead just took generous seam allowances. The facings were missing, but I drafted some easily enough. They were also cut out in view 2, the shorter version, and I *thought* that I wanted the longer version. They looked more like a skirt than the shorter version, and that's the length that I wear my skirts. Looking at the instructions, it was clear that both views came from the same piece, but view 1 was just 5 inches longer, so it wasn't a problem at all to re-create the view 1 piece. 

Looking at them in more detail, these photos aren't actually focused all that well. I was experimenting with timed shots because my photographer (aka my brother) is no longer home for the summer. I could have retaken them, but it was raining today - not the best weather for modelling shorts in.

However, this was a project of many mistakes - they spent a lot of time as a UFO (unfinished object) while I tried to figure out how to deal with them. My first mistake was not tracing and laying out the pattern before going to the store to buy fabric. I trace all my patterns, so I'm not sure why I didn't trace this one right away. I like to trace them before I buy fabric, so that I can lay them out and see how much fabric I will need - since I usually make the smallest size, I find the fabric allowances are often quite generous.

When I went to the store and realized I hadn't traced it, the salesperson let me lay it out to see how much fabric I needed. I looked like I could get away with one metre, so that's how much I bought. The only fabric that I liked that I thought would work for the pattern was this lovely lightweight linen. It looks brown in the pictures (or maybe more like grey?), but it's actually black and beige woven together. It has a lovely feel and drape, and is a very versatile colour without being too plain. It was a little more than I wanted to spend on fabric at $25 a metre, but I figured since the pattern was 99 cents, I could splurge. It was actually on sale, but I didn't realize that until I went to pay. It ended up being about $18 in total, I think.

Here comes my second mistake. After tracing the pattern and going to cut it, I realized that I had laid out the view 2 pieces, and hadn't accounted for the view 1 pieces being 5 inches longer.... oops. I was planning on making these before my second Cambie dress, since they were so summery, whereas the dress could transition to fall, but wasn't in a mood to make a decision on what to do next. So, these sat for a week while I started and finished my dress. After finishing my dress, I decided that if I shortened the shorts by about and inch and took out a half inch at the bottom of the sides, then I could fit them... ignoring the straight of grain. They fit nicely crosswise. Was it worth it? I figured it was. I couldn't feel any difference in the strength of the lengthwise and crosswise directions, and the fabric looked fine either way.

They BARELY fit, even after the alterations and ignoring the straight of grain.

So, I sewed the staystitching, the darts, and the pleats, and then... mistake #3. I'm not sure why, but I sewed the two back pieces together at their inner leg seams. Duh. I have no idea what I was thinking. I mean, this may be my first pair of shorts, but I know enough about how they go together that I know that the back pieces do not get sewn together at the inner seams. The saddest part is that it took me a really long time to notice. The next step was to sew the crotch seam, and I spent a good five minutes trying to figure out how on earth the four pieces went together. You have no idea how stupid I felt when I realised my mistake.

After unpicking and sewing the inner leg seams properly, I pinned the side seams and tried them on to see how they looked, but I can't say I really liked them. Something needed to change, but I wasn't sure what. These then spent a little more time as a UFO while I returned to my knitting. When I got back to them, I ended up tapering the shorts a little from the hips to make them less flared. They just seemed a little bit over-the-top! I'm okay with over-the-top when it comes to full skirts, crinolines, and heels, but I wasn't sure I wanted over-the-top 90's culottes. 

Since taking these pictures, I put a better hook and eye in. My first attempt wasn't so great - I tried to put them in between the facing and the main fabric after they had been slipstitched together... not the greatest idea.

I inserted my first ever lapped zipper, which turned out pretty nicely, I think. I used this Craftsy course as a guide, because the instructions with the pattern were clearly intended for someone who had experience with lapped zippers. I altered the method slightly, though, for a couple reasons. First, I didn't have a zipper foot that can sew on both sides (but I do now! More on that later...). Because of this, my zipper ended up a little closer to the opening than I would have liked because I had to sew it a little differently, but I'm still pretty happy with it. Second, I hand-picked it instead of topstitching, which I love the look of. Oh, and I didn't use interfacing, but that was a mistake on my part - it just slipped my mind. I really should have, especially since the place the zipper is is slightly on the bias and has stretched out a little. Overall, though, I really like this method and would definitely use it again.

My facings don't quite match up, and I'm not sure why! They are the exact same width, and I took the same seam allowances on both of them. It will be one of those mysteries of life. Oh, and I know the black zipper looks out of place, but believe me, brown looked much stranger! 

I drafted the facings and cut them out in this purple batik quilting cotton from my mom's stash. I didn't want to use the same linen since it stretches with body heat, and this went well with the linen. I interfaced them with pretty solid interfacing, since they're no waistband, then sewed them as per the instructions. (Although, mistake #4 was not accounting for the seam allowances being taken in at the centre front and back of the shorts when I drafted the facings. I ended up with facings that were 1 1/4" too long, but didn't feel like interfacing another piece and cutting them out again, so I just took it in at the sides.)

It was hard to get good flat shots of these - they don't like being laid flat - but these pictures show the facings.

These spent a little more time as a UFO before hemming. I decided they needed to be shorter. At the knee, they looked tacky and still very over-the-top 90's. I pinned them up 4", and liked the length. The only problem was that after pinning them up, they stuck out quite a bit. I tried a sample hem (a narrow hem with the raw edge folded inside, like the pattern suggests) and realised that it made it quite stiff and my shorts would definitely not have the drape I was imagining. Not wanting to come up with an alternative, I started a new project (to be blogged once I take pictures) and left the shorts to hang (which was actually a good idea, because the bias stretched during all their time abandoned). 

Finally, on September 1st, I decided it would be a good idea to finish my "summer" shorts. At this point, I won't get much more wear out of them this year, but I definitely didn't want these hanging, unfinished, in my sewing room until next summer. I got my mom to pin them so they were even all the way around and at the length I wanted, and then serged the edge 1 1/2" below the line, gathering it slightly with my serger because the legs are flared. After pinning up the hem, they draped nicely again, so I went ahead and sewed the hem like that. I guess they just didn't hang nicely with a 4" hem!

I decided to do a blind hem by machine, something I haven't done in a really long time. I usually prefer to do it by hand, but I couldn't be bothered for this project - I just wanted these finished. 

I looked up online how to do one because I hadn't in so long (I think the last time was on a skirt I made in grade 8). I honestly don't see what all the fuss is over blind hem feet! I didn't even know such a thing existed until I looked it up. I've always used a standard, all-purpose foot, and so has my mom. So, I ignored all the advice on the internet, did it my own way, and it worked just fine - I don't think it would have been any more invisible if I had done it by hand. I think I might be using this method more often.

So, the verdict? I love these! I honestly have no idea how much I'll wear them, but they're comfortable, fun, and great for hot weather (which is awesome, seeing as I finished them on September 1st...). Oh well! I'll actually have a pair of shorts I can break out on the first day of hot weather next spring. They're not my usual style, but I think they suit me much more than a pair of cutoffs would. I have a feeling they'll be really good when I'm going somewhere a little more laid-back during the summer, and would feel really out of place in one of my homemade dresses. 

Mind you, I feel pretty out of place in anything I wear these days. To school, I love wearing jeans with heels, blazers, and dangly earrings, when most girls wear leggings or sweats with Uggs and a hoodie. Oh well! If blending in means dressing like a slob, I'd way rather stand out.

They're not quite as flattering from the back, and they look less like a skirt. I like the pleats in the front better than the darts in the back. Oh well!

Incidentally, I also made the shirt I'm wearing in these photos. I believe I was entering grade 10 when I made it, and it was self-drafted after a shirt I already had. It's so old that I never will do a proper blog post about it, so I'll talk a little about it here. I bought the fabric for a dollar a metre as an end-of-summer clearance sale, and loved the print... but it sure didn't take long to find out why it was so cheap! For starters, the print is going the wrong way. I had to ignore the straight of grain and cut it crosswise (I think we have a theme going on with this outfit...) to get the pattern going the right way. You can't actually tell because the shorts cover most of the print, but it has burnout flowers on it. There are more at the bottom, and then less as you go up the shirt. It's kind of hard to describe! So, if I had cut it out properly, there would have been lots of burnout on one side of the shirt and not so much at the other.

The fabric was also horrible to work with. I'm not a huge fan of knits in the first place, and this was so flimsy and stretchy (although I don't think it has spandex - it just stretches and stays there) that it was impossible to get it to look nice. This was also before I sewed enough to actually get any good at it, so that might have been part of the problem. This shirt is horribly made, so I would never take close up pictures of it to show to the sewing community! Although, I must confess that I wear this quite a bit. Kind of like these shorts will be, it's a piece that's not my usual style but I wear it when I feel like blending in a little more. It's starting to pill quite badly and barely stretches over my hips now, so I have a feeling it's nearing the end of its life with me.

So, back to the shorts! I really do like them - I guess I'll just have to wait and see how much I actually wear them. If they do get worn, I'm thinking about making a nautical version, what with the high waist and pleats. I could make them up in navy, and use white piping and red buttons (not sure where I would put the buttons, but I would find a way). Not sure how much wear I would get out of those, but they sure would be cute!

I think the biggest challenge when I wear them will be wearing anything that short! They actually ended up only 1" longer than view 2. I know, compared to the shorts most girls my age wear, they're not bad at all, but they're definitely shorter than I like my skirts to be. If I'm perfectly honest, this isn't the most flattering length on me, but I didn't like how they looked when they were longer. And anyways, they're more fun and summery this length.

I'm really glad I went with the linen - it was definitely worth it. It was really nice to sew with, drapes beautifully, and feels wonderful in unlined shorts. My only complaint is that it wrinkles like crazy! But hey, linen will be linen.

More construction photos on my flickr.

Shorts: Simplicity 7148

Shirt: Self-drafted
Shoes: Orthaheel


  1. I have had this pattern made for me! Love it. Even the top.

    1. Yes, I agree! The view 2 top especially is nice, but I don't think it will be the most flattering style on me, so I don't know if I would ever make it. Oh well, I think I got my 99 cents' worth on this pattern already

  2. The shorts are lovely and really suit you (I know just what you mean about normal shorts). I hope high school turns out to be ok. I didn't t have a good time and never felt I fitted, and what was worse people kept saying these are the best days of your life! Well they weren't and life got much better. Hope you find a really good friend which will make all the difference and who knows your future career might involve sewing, blogging or designing. Good luck this week.

    1. Thank you! I'm definitely looking forward to life after high school, although I don't know about a career in sewing. For me, it's more of a hobby. I'm a total science nerd (and always have been!) so I'm planning on studying that after high school. Although, who knows? It's good to have lots of options. I will keep sewing as a hobby as long as I can, though!

  3. These look great! They definitely have a 40s feel to them, as opposed to 90s :) I too am not really a shorts person but can totally get behind these!

  4. These shorts are adorable on you! You did a very nice job making them too. The style reminds me of the original version of the movie "The Women" (1939? or so). There is a scene with Rosalind Russell and Joan Fontaine at the "beauty parlor" going through their exercises wearing shorts sort of like these. The ones they wear are white and a little closer-fitting. The pleats at the front waistband might be box pleats and are stitched down from the waistband down to about where leg bends at the hip, allowing for the active girl lifestyle. Theirs are a bit shorter too. I like yours because they are more versatile. You can dress them up with heels, or more casual with sandals or espadrille-type wedges. Well done!

    1. Thank you! I did actually try them on with heels and it looked pretty good, but I decided I wanted to keep it simple for these photos.