Turn Four

I used to live in Indianapolis, so forgive me if I make a few race or basketball analogies here and there. It seeps into your blood there, much like the corn and soy pollen from all the farmland.

In racing, turn four is the last turn on the track, and that’s where I am on this year’s garment goals. My goal, set back in May, was to make 32 garments by the end of the year. Here are numbers 29 and 30.


That’s another Warm Thing (knee length hoodie with a kangaroo pocket) and a matching pair of fleece track pants. We’ve seen this pattern before. The pants are identical to the other pair I made in charcoal, and the only change to the hoodie was that I added a sleeve cuff, lengthened the hem about an inch to better cover my knees, and used a straight hem instead of a shirt-tail hem.

This feels like an insignificant project because it is what I think of as utility sewing — not a high fashion outfit, no special occasion, not even something I’ll wear in public. This is something to wear in my cold house during the cold months. I’ve been sewing multiples of these in fleece lately because I know I need them, and I need them now. It’s not particularly fun sewing, but it serves a purpose.

To meet my sewing goal for the year, I have to complete two more garments. That’s well within reach, barring calamity. I have two more pairs of these track pants cut out, another warm thing, and a v-neck sweatshirt, all sitting within easy reach of my sewing machine and ready to go. I have other things cut and ready to sew, too, and with the end of the year approaching, I feel like I want to clear out as many of these cut items as possible. Out with the old projects, make room for the new.

Because I’m on an academic calendar (I’m a fellow at a major public university), the next few weeks will be a bit slow on the work front. I’ll have to clean up after the fall semester and prepare for the spring semester, but that’s a light load compared to my usual pace. Even with holiday prep and parties, this should leave plenty of time to reach my sewing goals for the year.

That’s a good feeling. I know better than to celebrate the end of the race while I’m still at turn four, but I can see the finish line now. Time to push the pedal to the floor and go, go, go! I confess that I won’t make all of my goals for 2014, but that’s because 2014 was incredibly challenging on the personal front. The best I can say about 2014 is that it appears the members of my family will all live through it, and that was uncertain for much of the year. 2015 is bound to be better, and for now, at least I can make my sewing goals and truly celebrate the knowledge that we’ve come through the worst and things can only get better now.

And I’ll have 32 new garments to wear on my fitter body. That’s also something to celebrate — or it will be, once I can actually wave the checkered flag at the finish line.

Did you set goals for this year? Will you make them?



The track pants banded cuff

Track pants have been all over the runway this year. Many designers showed them in luxe fabrics, such as this textured chiffon pair from Gucci. Notice the banded cuff at the ankle, which is the detail I’m most interested in.

Gucci sheer track pants

Rag & Bone did something similar in a shiny satin — notice the drawstring waist and banded cuff. I love this color, but I can’t wear it at all. sadface

Rag and Bone track pants

I was kind of knocked out by the leather version from Balmain. These are so rock and roll. And with cargo pockets? Yes, please.

Balmain leather track pants

Derek Lam went the other direction, making them in a more familiar fleecy fabric.

Derek Lam track pants

So, yeah. Track pants on the runway. My first impulse was to make a pair in a luxe fabric like a washed silk, and I might still do that, who knows. I have a pattern and anything is possible in my sewing room. 🙂  But given my interest in this detail from the runway, it’s probably not too shocking that I decided to make a pretty ordinary pair of fleece track pants with a banded cuff. I started with this Green Pepper pattern (505 Polar Pants).

Green Pepper 505

This pattern was made for polar fleece, and I had some leftover from the gray Warm Thing, so this was my starting point. I didn’t have any suitable tricot or jersey for the pockets, so I skipped those. The pockets are made in welt fashion over the hip, with zipper closures, and I thought adding two more layers of fleece there would add bulk in a bad way. That’s not something I need. Ever.

It’s worth mentioning that the pant legs are all in one piece. It’s not a front and a back, but a whole leg. There is an inside leg seam and a crotch seam, and that’s it. With a bulky, stubborn fabric like polar fleece, eliminating seams is a good idea. I wouldn’t want to do this with a lighter weight fabric, which would need the stability provided by the side seams. But for a bulky fabric, this works pretty well.

This is a unisex pattern, and I’m always skeptical of those. Most unisex patterns are shaped more for men than women, and I am shaped more like a woman than a man. You know. Hips. Waist. No need to accommodate the twig and berries out front. It’s also a multi-size pattern, so I scaled from a small hip to an extra small waist. I shortened the crotch depth by about 3/4″ (a little under 2cm), and that gave me a more womanly fit.

The pattern called for something like a 1.625″ (4cm-ish) hem. I eliminated that and removed enough length at the bottom to have the pants end about an inch or two above my ankle before adding the cuff. This isn’t rocket science. Approximate measures are fine — if you look at the pictures above, most of them are a little puffy above the banded cuff, so a bit of extra length there won’t hurt anything.

I wanted my cuff to be about 2.5″ long when finished. To figure out the size of the cuff piece, the first thing I did was measure the stretch in the fabric. I had an 8″ scrap, and it stretched to just over 11″, so that’s in the neighborhood of 37% stretch. That’s a good amount of stretch, so I knew I could make the band a little tightish and it would still stretch to go over my ankle.

Next, I measured my ankle at the widest part. That’s kind of a weird angled measure, so the easiest thing is to show you where to place the tape measure in case you ever need to measure this, too.


Yes, I have white carpet in my sewing room, and yes, that’s a stupid place to have white carpet. In my defense, it came with the house and we just haven’t replaced it yet. I would never put white carpet in any room other than a shrine with a velvet rope across the door barring entry. But that’s me. Obviously, my house’s first owner had other ideas.

Wait, what were we talking about? Oh, right, pants cuffs. So, my ankle is 12″ around the widest part, and I wanted a more or less 2.5″ cuff, so I cut the cuff piece like so.


I love the gridded Pellon stuff for pattern drafting. Those lines are all 1″ apart, so I just cut a piece that was 11.5″ by 6.25″ and called it a cuff. With a half inch seam allowance at the side, this makes the circumference 10.5″, plenty big enough to fit over my 12″ ankle given the almost 40% stretch in the fabric.

The pant legs themselves were several inches wider than that at the bottom, so I just stretched the cuff to match the pant leg as I sewed. This is the beauty of knits. You can ease as you go just by stretching the pieces to be the same size. This meant that, after it was sewn, the pant leg piece had a bit of rippling in the seam allowance from the extra ease there. So I trimmed that seam allowance to eliminate the bulk, and this is what it looked like.


That looks like the mouth of a sea creature that is about to do something very bad to a nearby swimmer! The next step was to turn up the cuff and stitch in the ditch on the right side to encase those raw edges inside the cuff piece. I should mention, I used a narrow zigzag for these seams because that lets the seam stretch as it goes over the ankle.

Here’s the finished cuff. You can see that there is just a bit of ease in the pant leg above that stitching line.


And here are the finished pants.


I’m pretty happy with the way these turned out, and the fit through the waist and hip is good enough for this kind of garment. This strikes me as a strange low/high/low circular fashion moment — the uber casual track pant, converted to a runway garment, that inspires a pair of fleece pants to wear around the house. But these were easy enough that I might make some more from some other leftover fleece. Might as well. There’s almost no work involved now that I’ve drafted the cuff and worked out the fitting kinks.

How do runway pieces inspire your creations?