A waistcoat-and-trousers combo has been marinating in my head for a while, and I finally managed to bring this sewing project into fruition when I worked on it in the last week of 2020, and into the first week of 2021. It’s a new year so I thought I’d start off with a brand new look for myself, while trying out some new techniques. Happy New Year! Happy New Me! These are pieces I don’t already own in my me-made wardrobe, and I think this combo is a keeper.
As I said, there were a few things that were new to me while sewing up these Tatjana Trousers by Just Patterns. Working with wool was one of them. This is one big perk of being in the Minerva Makers Team because it allows me to work with fabrics that I otherwise wouldn’t get any access to. I can get wool fabrics in the Tel Aviv shops but definitely not of this quality. So a huge thank you to Minerva for gifting this gorgeous wool to me. This scrumptious deep chocolate Lady McElroy fabric is 100% wool with cream windowpane lines. In the description, it is categorised as a heavy coating fabric, so when it arrived in the mail and I held it in my hands, I couldn’t believe that it also had a certain airiness or lightness to it. It feels soft and incredibly smooth on the skin and yet has the right amount of structural drape for a pair of handsome trousers. In addition, the completed garments in this fabric provide so much warmth without making me feel overheated.
My main obstacle with my first-time experience with wool was my indecision over how to pre-treat it. I read extensively about it and discovered that some care must be taken with wool because of its ability to shrink. So I can’t just throw it into the washer and dryer like I usually do with most other fabrics. In my research, I found out various methods for pre-treating wool:
1) Dry-cleaning. A sure way of pre-treating because you’re leaving the job to professionals but also the most expensive option. Or ask the professionals to steam it for you.
2) The London Shrink Method. A way of wetting the wool by rolling it between wet sheets or towels, and then letting it air-dry slowly.
3) Washing and drying. Some people are actually successful putting it into the washer on the gentle or wool cycle with special soap like Eucalan Wool Wash, then drying it with a combination of a cool dryer or drying it by laying it out flat. This sounded like the riskiest method of all, since there’s a big chance of felting the wool with all that handling and agitation. Anyway, not a viable option for me because I can’t find this washing product in the shops here.
4) Steam Steam Steam. There were 2 ways of doing this. Method #1 is to wet the fabric, by placing a wet pressing cloth on it, and steam it with an iron. This sounded really labour-intensive, and will take forever with large lengths of fabric. Method #2 is to throw the wool into a hot dryer with wet towels, and allow the steam to steam it out.
There were also people who don’t pre-treat the wool at all. That was actually the advice handed out to me when I ventured into a Tel Aviv shop that specialised in suiting fabrics. They thought I was mad when I consulted with them on how I should pre-wash or pre-treat wool. Their answer: Prewash Hogwash! Well, that’s not exactly what the grumpy old men said, but it’s a close translation. They were utterly aghast at the notion of pre-treating wool fabrics. “Dry-clean ONLY after sewing up the garments” – and that’s the actual quote. He made sure to say it in English to me in case I didn’t understand his Hebrew.
In the end, after lots of internal deliberation (to prewash or not to prewash – that is the question), I decided that pre-treating is a must after doing a steam test to see how much the wool might shrink. The small sample shrank about 5%. If I ever get caught in a wet winter storm, or if my kids spill chicken soup on me, my pants would be in deep shrinking trouble. Definitely a yes to pre-treating. So the next question – how should I do it? What helped me finally decide on this was when I went through the Jasika Blazer online course by Closet Core Patterns, and Heather Lou recommended the hot-dryer-with-wet-towels method.
Thank goodness that the method worked really well and the wool came out of the dryer unscathed and just as beautiful. After the whole pre-treating business was done, then the whole project went relatively smoothly. There was the challenge of pattern-matching, which I find a delightful albeit time-eating exercise. I find it really satisfying to line up all the lines at the seams, but it’s so much work! Jeez laweez! Even though I like doing it, I always have to go lie down to nap, or eat 3 donuts, or binge-watch Netflix, (or do all aforementioned activities) after the task is done. A huge break is definitely needed after cutting up the pattern-matched fabric. For the trousers, I was mostly successful with pattern matching except for the waistband at the centre front and the 2 back welt pockets, but hey, perfection is overrated. I did a better job with the waistcoat, but I’ll get into that in my next post.
Sizes for the trousers come in sizes 34-56. With body measurements at 66cm (waist) and 90 cm (hip), I redrafted an in-between size of 36 and 38. I probably could have just stuck with size 36, because I took in about 1/4 at the side seams for a better fit, but I didn’t want to take any chances with a too-small waist that can’t be adjusted at all.
The waistband is 5cm in width and is a long straight pattern piece instead of a curved one. I was worried it wouldn’t sit right on my waist, but because it is high-waisted, the fit turned out really well. This is probably because there are 4 back darts and four front pleats that provide good shaping around the waist and hip areas. The instructions are very very thorough and I felt very comfortable installing in a front zipper in a way that I’ve never done before. The only thing I couldn’t wrap my head around was how to deal with a bias-bound internal waistband seam with a waistband extension. It’s a new technique and I failed on this try. It made me all sweaty and anxious. I would have been able to figure it out, but the day was getting long and my patience ran out here. In the end, I forfeited the bias and just folded the seam into the waistband. But I want to understand how to do this for my next pair. Because I plan to make many other pairs of Tatjanas in different types of fabric, and I want to get this new technique right.
I really like this masculine cut with a 1940s flair. It’s a nod to fashion icon, Marlene Dietrich who paved the way for women to embrace wearing menswear. She broke some societal taboos for us by rocking it hard in tuxedos and suits. I think women ooze femininity and confidence when they adorn menswear. It’s also very functional and comfortable as well.
I first spotted this pattern in the designer’s (Delphine’s) Instagram post (@sewingtidbits) when she was posting her process while working on it. Then when I saw Kate (@timetosew) and the Tatjanas that she pattern-tested, I was sold! This pattern is a great pair of stylish pants. It comes highly recommended. And the wool is just heavenly to wear and work with. In my next post, I will write about the waistcoat pattern. See you then!